December 16, 2013
Potential World-Record Buck, But Is It Worthy?
By Scott Bestul
Frankly, I was getting worried. The 2013 deer season is winding down, and to date we have not entertained one rumor—nary a hint—of a world-record whitetail. But that’s all changed. Last week, my friend, veteran B&C scorer, and Heartland Outdoors blogger Tim Walmsley sent several photos (including this blurry one) of this colossal buck. Rumor has it that the buck was arrowed in northeastern Iowa and scores in the neighborhood of 206 inches, which mean this buck could (assuming the measurement is accurate and holds up) threaten one of the most iconic trophies of all time.
In 1965, Illinois bowhunter Mel Johnson shot the reigning world-record typical bow buck, measuring 204-4/8. It and hasn’t had a serious challenge in the 48 seasons since. “The Beanfield Buck” may be my personal favorite whitetail trophy of all time, because it sports such a massive, towering, perfect rack … but also because Johnson shot it with a recurve, from the ground.
Obviously, a whole lot has changed since the mid-1960s. Most of us shoot a compound bow that is far easier to master, inherently more accurate, and much flatter shooting than the recurve Mel Johnson used that day. We also hunt from treestands, know a heckuva lot more about deer behavior, and enjoy a whitetail herd that is dramatically larger, with more big bucks. For those reasons, there’s a bunch of guys who hope Johnson’s buck will not be displaced by a one like this—no matter how big the deer or ethical and hard-working the hunter. Deer hunting today, they argue, is simply a different game than it was when Mel Johnson tagged this giant, much like baseball was a different game in the pre-steroid era. Perhaps we should mark trophies like this with as asterisk in the record book to differentiate them, goes this line of thinking, just like we do to homerun sluggers who might have been on the juice.
Well, having hunted with both recurves and compounds for many years, I don’t buy into this argument. Sure, compounds are easier to shoot and offer plenty of advantages over traditional gear. But for most archers, whitetail hunting is a game played from 25 yards and in, regardless of the bow you use. And while there were fewer mature bucks in the 1960’s than there are now, the number of really high-end, top-of-the-book bucks was probably higher then than it is today (just ask any Illinois hunter if he thinks there are more giant bucks available now than even a decade ago). So sure, the modern hunter may be more knowledgeable and may see more deer, but his chances of killing a monster like Johnson’s are just as slim—if not slimmer.
Finally, I think the record books are all about giving credit to the animal. If this buck outscores the monstrous typical that ruled the record books for almost five decades, then we should all recognize just how special the animal is.