The true superbuck is a one-in-a-million creature which is perhaps the culmination of perfect circumstances in terms of genetics, habitat and nutrition or perhaps a function of natural experimentation gone awry. It inspires dreams and passions in the mind and soul of hunters and obsessions in the spirit of collectors who aspire to own the biggest racks at any price.
At the outset, we should make the distinction between a trophy buck and a superbuck. A trophy buck is many things to many hunters. For instance, I have on my wall, a plaque sporting a whitetail rack that might rack up a double digit score if measured with an elastic tape measure. I tumbled the big bodied forkhorn with a single shot as it sped through a spruce thicket while a full-blown blizzard raked across the Adirondacks. To me, that deer is as much a trophy as the heavy beamed rack that hangs on yet another wall.
And yet, none of the bucks I've taken in four decades of hunting whitetails qualify as trophies in the strictest sense of the word - a listing in the prestigious Boone & Crockett record books. The reason is quite simple - they all fall far short of the minimum score of 170 inches of antler and spread needed to qualify for a listing. I've seen perhaps a half dozen bucks of that ilk as they faded away into the brush after showing themselves momentarily. I've even had the honour of missing one, but in the grand scheme, trophy bucks are far from rare. In the latest record book, Boone & Crockett Club, North America's official records keeper, there are more than 40 pages of typical whitetail racks that meet and exceed that minimum.
At the top of this list of over 2,500 record-book trophy whitetails, however, there is the triumvirate of truly outstanding heads - the true superbucks. Bucks that carried antlers which can only be described as magnificent and outstanding. They defy all other description.
Some critics point to the fact that they are, in effect, freaks of nature, throwbacks to a time before natural selection had been able to weed out the unworkable experiments. To some extent, the relatively young age of most superbucks seems to support this premise. However, I like to think of them as a product of nature's kindness. After all, we all need something to hang our dreams on.
Number 1 Typical - The Hanson Buck
Score: 213 5/8
Milo Hanson (November 23, 1993)
To stand in front of the glass case which contains the mounted Hanson Buck is a humbling experience. The antlers that crown this head are beyond even your wildest dreams of what a whitetail could possibly grow. To call the Hanson Buck magnificent is an understatement.
It carries a total of 14 scorable points, the longest of which are 13 and 14 inches long. The main beams are over 28 inches long and have circumferences of five and seven inches; the inside spread is a fraction over 27 inches. It may well reign many a year before anyone ever comes across a symmetrical whitetail to top it.
The Hanson Buck was first spotted feeding in an alfalfa field outside the town of Biggar in western Saskatchewan in December, 1992 and, during the following summer and fall, it was seen several more times.
Fired by the sightings of the huge buck, Milo Hanson and his hunting companions actively targeted the animal and though they saw it twice during that first week, no shots were fired. On the morning of November 23, following a fresh snowfall, Hanson joined up with his neighbour, John Yaroshko, and together they drove to rendezvous with the rest of the party - Walter Meger and Rene Igini - who greeted them with news that they had seen the big buck enter a willow run and not come out.
While Igini set out on the fresh track, Yaroshko, Meger and Hanson surrounded the willows. Within minutes, the buck burst from cover and reached an aspen bluff unscathed. Igini stayed on the track, but eventually lost it among the many others that crisscrossed the cover. The hunters were about to give up when the buck again burst out into the open, heading for a willow run on Hanson's own farm. This time, when the buck ran out into the field ahead of Igini, it bounded at full speed past Yaroshko and Hanson, about 150 yards out. Both suffered badly from buck fever by this time and their shots missed.
The scene was repeated at the next patch of willows, but this time, when Hanson fired, the buck stumbled to its knees, only to get up and flee into an aspen bluff. Hanson spotted it standing among the trees, centred the cross hairs of his .308 Winchester lever action on its chest and squeezed off a shot that made deer hunting history.
As he walked up to the deer, Hanson had no idea that he had just taken the new world record typical whitetailed deer. All he knew was that he had never seen a buck that big in his life. But there were anxieties yet to come since that first shot which had knocked the buck to its knees had gone through the base of the right antler.
Over months that followed that eventful November 23 hunt, he had come to grips with the importance of the buck, but he also realized that the rack would be immediately disqualified if the beam broke and no work was permitted until it could be panel scored by the judges of the Boone & Crockett Club. Fortunately, it held long enough to be officially scored and the damage has since been repaired.
This outstanding whitetail was taken On November 23, 1993 by Milo Hanson
near Biggar, Saskatchewan. The 7x7 rack net scored 214 5/8 inches, making
it the Number One typical in the Boone and Crockett record books, a position
it still commands today. (Photo courtesy of Milo Hanson)
Number 2 Typical - The Jordan Buck
Score 206 1/8
Taken in 1914
Burnett County, Wisconsin
Now owned by the North American Whitetailed Deer Museum
Though now the deposed king of whitetails, the Jordan Buck held reign over all typical bucks in the record books for 13 years and it remains, in my mind, one of the most outstanding bucks ever taken. With only five points to a side and a comparatively tight 20-inch inside spread, it stood strong against all contenders and it took Hanson's 14-point buck with an inside spread of 27 inches to beat it.
The story of the Jordan Buck is one of elation and disappointment for the hunter who took this magnificent animal. The date was November 20, 1914, when 22-year-old James Jordan set out with his friend Egus Davis to go deer hunting along the Yellow River in northwestern Wisconsin. Davis had taken a doe shortly after daybreak and had headed back to the farm, leaving Jordan to hunt alone. It wasn't long before Jordan picked up the fresh tracks of several deer in the new fallen snow. One track in particular stood out and Jordan set off in pursuit.
The plainly visible spoor led to a thin patch of heavy brush sandwiched between the river and a curving railway track. As luck would have it, a train came along just at that time, blowing its whistle as it entered the bend. At the sound, three does and an enormous buck burst from their beds. As the buck paused momentarily to stare back at the lumbering engine, Jordan shouldered his .25-20 Winchester and squeezed off a shot. With that, the deer bolted and Jordan desperately emptied his gun at the departing buck.
Trembling from the excitement, Jordan quickly chambered his one remaining round and set off on the big buck's trail. At first, the buck ran strong without a single speck of blood to indicate a hit, but some 100 yards farther, Jordan found a spot of red on the snow. And then another. When the buck crossed the Yellow River and made its way up the bank on the other side, Jordan was able to touch off his last shot to put the buck down for good.
Oblivious to the icy water, Jordan crossed the river to admire the magnificent animal. Realizing that there was no way he could move the 400-pound deer by himself, Jordan set off to get help, but when he arrived back, the buck was gone. In the absence of tracks, Jordan and Davis deduced that it must have somehow rolled back into the river and been washed downstream. Sure enough, they found it draped around a midstream boulder several hundred yards farther down the shallow river.
That first disappearance was an omen of things to come. Jordan entrusted a taxidermist in the nearby town of Webster to mount the prize and, with that, the buck disappeared from view for 44 years. In 1958, Bob Ludwig, an employee with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, bought the badly deteriorated mount for $3 at a rummage sale in Sandstone, Minnesota, and, in 1964, after reading an article about the Boone & Crockett Club's measuring system, the rack was measured for the first time. Ludwig came up with a score of 205 and, in 1971, the head was officially scored by a panel of B&C judges for a score of 206 1/8 to take title as the number one typical whitetail in the record books. At the time, it was pegged as a Minnesota deer with the hunter unknown.
Coincidentally, Ludwig was Jordan's cousin and, in the mid-1960s, Ludwig showed him the antlers. Jordan immediately recognized them as belonging to the buck he'd taken on the banks of the Yellow River, half a century earlier. Trouble was, Ludwig did not believe him and James Jordan spent the next decade trying to convince people of the real story behind the king of whitetails.
James Jordan died in October 1978 at the age of 86, unvindicated. In December of that same year, the Boone & Crockett Club officially recognized that perhaps the greatest whitetail of all time was indeed taken by James Jordan that cold autumn morning, November 20, 1914.
Number Three Typical -- The Gibson Buck
Larry Gibson (1971)
Randolph County, Missouri
Now owned by the Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club
While the history of virtually every other superbuck is well documented, virtually nothing is known about the third place typical buck or the man who took it during the fall of 1971 in Randolph County of northcentral Missouri. We do know that Larry Gibson was out to fill his freezer with a supply of venison the morning he stepped into the bush, gun in hand. He was out to take the first deer that crossed his path and he did. Only difference was that the deer he took happened to carry a 12-point rack that was dwarfed only by the Jordan Buck.
But that meant little to Gibson. He gladly took the meat and sold the antlers to the Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club for $200. The club which maintains records of Missouri deer with some 1,844 typical and 330 nontypical deer on file admits that it has been offered as much as $50,000 for the rack, but has no intention of selling, no matter what the price. In the meantime, Larry Gibson has simply disappeared into the background, leaving no address. Relatives say he moved to Kansas or Colorado, but has absolutely no wish to be contacted in respect to the superbuck that's known by his name.
Nevertheless, in this story there's an inspiration and a hidden promise in the fact that virtually anybody has a chance at taking a superbuck. These animals are not reserved for the highly sophisticated hunters who are lucky enough to live in superbuck country and capable of deploying endless resources in the single-minded quest for one particular monster whitetail. Rather, it drives home the realization that the next deer that steps out in front of ordinary hunters like you and I might be a young spikehorn as easily as it might be the buck of a lifetime.
It is a reason to keep the dreams alive.
George Gruenefeld has been hunting big game for over four decades and his travels have taken him to several continents. Most of the time, though, he concentrates his efforts on the Prairies and mountains of Western Canada.