Record Quest: Whitetail Deer

Near the turn of the 19th century, whitetail deer were on the brink of extinction in many parts of North … Continued

Near the turn of the 19th century, whitetail deer were on the brink of extinction in many parts of North America. In the United States, the herd numbered less than an estimated half million animals. Thanks to strictly enforced game laws and the whitetail’s ability to adapt to a variety of habitats, whitetails are now the most numerous big-game animals in the country. The current herd probably totals more than 25 million.

Although most hunters settle for a buck big enough to photograph and brag about, the gold medal of whitetail hunting is a wall-hanger big enough to qualify for entry in the Boone and Crockett Club’s Records of North American Big Game. Such deer are extremely rare, however. The minimum entry score for the all-time list is 170 inches for a typical whitetail buck and 195 inches for a non-typical buck.

Those are difficult thresholds to cross. For example, in Texas, where the annual deer harvest is more than 400,000 animals, only about 10 bucks in an average season make the B&C book.

The two current world-record whitetails, non-typical and typical, are one-in-a-million animals. In fact, the antlers of these bucks are so massive, some wonder if a whitetail scoring higher than either in their respective categories will ever be taken.

WORLD-RECORD

NON-TYPICAL SCORE: 333 1/4 points LOCATION: St. Louis County, Missouri YEAR: 1981 HUNTER: Picked Up OWNER: Missouri Department of Conservation. Presumably this buck was struck by a car and managed to clear a fence on the property adjoining the roadway before it died. David Beckman, a passing hunter, saw the dead buck as he drove along the highway in northern St. Louis County, Mo. An examination of its teeth revealed that the buck was 5 1/2 years old.

WORLD-RECORD

TYPICAL SCORE: 213 1/4 points LOCATION: Biggar, Saskatchewan YEAR: 1993 HUNTER/OWNER: Milo N. Hanson. While hunting on his property in 1992, Milo Hanson, a grain and cattle farmer in Biggar, Saskatchewan, brought down the biggest typical whitetail on record. Hanson and the other hunters he was with saw the big buck enter a small patch of woods on Hanson’s farm. They surrounded it and closed in. The whitetail emerged on Hanson’s side and he shot it. The buck beat the previous record, taken in Wisconsin in 1914, by 7 1/4 points.

Where’s the next record?

RECORD-BOOK DIFFICULTY FACTOR*: Typical, 9.5; Non-typical, 8.5

Whitetail expert David Morris, author of Advanced Strategies for Trophy Whitetails (Safari Press, www.safaripress.com), thinks the South and the East can be ruled out for world records because of overcrowding and a gene pool that doesn’t produce monster bucks.

“The trophy region of southern Texas and northeastern Mexico has produced many huge bucks, but I don’t think it has the horsepower to turn out a world record,” says Morris. “The Northwest has good genetics, but most deer there don’t have access to the kind of quality agricultural feed necessary.”

Morris likes the Midwest and central Canada for their record potential. For typicals, Iowa, Kansas and Illinois are Morris’s top state picks, in that order. Minnesota and Wisconsin are less likely but serious candidates for a record typical.

Although Midwestern states are also famous for producing huge non-typicals–especially Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Ohio–Morris has a hunch that it’s Canada’s turn to produce a record non-typical.

“I’d place my money on central Canada,” he says. “Saskatchewan, in particular, is capable of producing such a giant non-typical.”

* Ranked from 1 to 10, with 10 being the most difficult.

WHITETAIL LOADS

There is no “best gun” for whitetails. Big bucks have been taken with everything from small-caliber bullets in the .20-caliber family to the .375 H&H Magnum. And while the .30/30 has probably accounted for more deer than any other caliber, popular choices for deer continue to include the .243, .270, .308 and .30/06.

As is the case when hunting any big game, shot placement is the most critical element of success. The traditional just-behind-the-shoulder shot is more important than firepower.

Non-Typicals Rule the Records

Although the whitetail rack with the most inches of antlers in the B&C standings is that of the so-called Missouri Monarch (338 1/4), the biggest whitetail rack ever taken by a hunter scored 307 1/4 and was another non-typical.

Fifteen-year-old Tony Lovstuen of Albia, Iowa, dropped the 38-point buck with a 60-yard shot from his muzzleloader in September 2003. Lovstuen and his father, along with other family members, had hunted the deer for several seasons near their home before the younger Lovstuen was able to get it in his sights.