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Did two Americans poach and abandon a near-world-record whitetail in northwest Ontario? On November 10, 2003, locals north of Dryden reported hearing gunshots an hour after legal shooting hours.

Conservation Officer Mike Humberstone responded and found a giant whitetail buck dead on private land. Further investigation led Humberstone to suspect two Americans, who had fled the country.

At press time, Canadian investigators state that they are days away from issuing summonses for the shooters. If the suspects ignore the request to appear in a Canadian court, they can be tried in absentia. Meanwhile, the antlers are locked in an evidence room; the meat was donated to a local charity.

The 18-point buck generated huge Internet buzz in December. Preliminary scoring by Scott Ellery of the Foundation for the Recognition of Ontario Wildlife put the buck at a gross score of 223, with a net green score of 199-potentially the biggest whitetail ever scored in Ontario. “It is a shame such a magnificent animal wasn’t taken by a law-abiding sportsman,” says Bryan Merritt, Dryden district enforcement supervisor.

“We’ve had lots more American hunters in the last three years or so,” Merritt says. He expects that now even more hunters will obtain nonresident licenses. “We’ve seen hunters from Vermont who must have driven past thousands of deer to get here.”