20th Anniversary: Milo Hanson's World Record Buck
November 25, 2013
I really didn't think I'd ever write this piece. Not that I didn't think I'd be around to do it. For a long time I really just didn't think there would be any need for it.
When Milo Hanson's 213 5/8-inch Boone & Crockett world record typical buck was shot on the morning of Nov. 23, 1993, it was the biggest whitetail news to come along in a long time. The monster buck, taken by rifle near Hanson's residence outside Biggar, Saskatchewan, was clearly bigger than James Jordan's 206 1/8-incher from Wisconsin, which had long held the world record. As the Jordan buck had been shot way back in 1914 — and rarely seriously challenged — for a new buck to shatter his record by 7 4/8 inches was indeed the stuff of headlines.
And headlines we gladly gave him here at North American Whitetail. In fact, our Feb. 1994 issue broke this incredible news to the public, sending shock waves throughout the deer world. The upper limit of net antler typical antler growth on a whitetail had just been redefined, and in stunning fashion.
So why did I never give any thought to a 20-year retrospective on this landmark event? Because I didn't think Hanson's record would last this long. I assumed that by now some other typical would have usurped him. Maybe even more than one.
In fact, I told Hanson that myself back in 1995. We were at a restaurant in Dallas, celebrating his deer having just been named the new record by a panel of B&C measurers. In fact, I remember telling Hanson I didn't think the record would last 10 years. There were just so many huge sheds being found, especially in the Midwest, that for a deer netting higher than 213 5/8 to come along in the near future seemed to me quite likely.
Time now has proved it wasn't such a gimme after all. Sure, as I write these words a bigger buck could be on his way to a taxidermist someplace — but even if that's the case, the Hanson buck has held the No. 1 spot much longer than I predicted.
As I look back on the events surrounding this story two decades ago, I realize it was a unique time in whitetail history. And certainly one of several noteworthy times in our magazine's coverage of world-class whitetails.
Chasing the Big Buck
Hanson was, and is, a farmer living outside Biggar. So to this day, few people would have heard of him had it not been for what happened on Nov. 23, 1993. That day, he and some friends were doing deer drives. They kept seeing a certain huge buck that had been spotted in the area before the season. And several of the men had shots at him. But as it turned out, Hanson's shot was the one that connected.
That might not sound like a story befitting the greatest typical buck of all time, but that's how it happened. Hanson easily could have trumped up some wild tale about patterning the buck and then getting him only because he wisely used (fill in the blank) product, but he didn't. He told the story as it happened and hasn't wavered a bit in that regard.
You might assume with a deer of this magnitude, the hunter would have realized right off that he had a record breaker. But Hanson wasn't up to speed on antler scoring. Not only did he not know he'd shot a potential record, he didn't even take serious precautions to protect his trophy. For eight days the deer hung in a storage building on the farm — and there wasn't even a lock on the door.
By the way, tooth wear showed that amazing buck to most likely have been only 4 1/2 year old. His teeth weren't even that worn for a deer of such age. And he wasn't of huge body, as many older bucks in the prairie provinces are. Everything pointed to him having lived just long enough to grow a gigantic typical frame but not long enough to have added score-robbing abnormal points to it. The perfect buck had come along at the perfect time, and he'd met up with a hunter who could get the job done when the opportunity presented itself.
Chasing the Story
Eventually, word of the deer reached local whitetail enthusiast Jim Wiebe. On the morning of Dec. 1, Wiebe called our office at NAW to report he felt his neighbor had taken a 6x6 that was very likely to be a new B&C world record. I remember getting that call and then passing along the news to NAW publisher Steve Vaughn. To say we took the rumor seriously would be an understatement; within two hours we were getting on a jet in Atlanta, bound for Saskatoon.
The next morning, Jim, Steve and I walked into Hanson's house and met with him, his wife, Olive, and a few of his hunting buddies. It was a pleasure to visit with them and to see the deer. I remember walking into a downstairs room and seeing the head and cape of the beast on the floor. It took no ciphering to realize this deer was big enough to beat the Jordan buck. Amazingly, perhaps, we were there more than 12 hours, and never did I even reach for a measuring tape. I didn't need one to know we were staring at history in the making.
One of the real curiosities of the rack, aside from its stupendous size and symmetry, was a wad of electrical tape between the left brow and G-2 tines. We learned that as the buck was running away on one of the pushes, a .308 Win. Bullet from Milo's Winchester Model 88 had hit the back of the beam, cracking it significantly. It hadn't broken off, but it was clearly damaged. The tape was there to make sure it didn't break off.
By my Southern standards, it was cold that day we spent at the Hanson farm. The fact I'd worn western boots to the office that day — and had only a jacket and no gloves — made it less hospitable still. But finally I asked Hanson if I could snap a few photos of him with the deer's caped head. Before we left the Hanson farm that night, we had a deal for North American Whitetail to publish the first print feature and photos on this amazing trophy. We immediately returned to Atlanta, and I began writing the story. It appeared in our Feb. 1994 special collector's issue, with one of my photos of Milo with the deer on the cover. And sure enough, that issue went on to become one our all-time bestsellers. Suddenly, people all over the whitetail world knew who Milo Hanson was.
Although it didn't seem so when we were chasing the Hanson buck story, as I look back on it now, it's easy to see how much simpler things were back then. For one thing, I found out about that historic deer by telephone (and a landline, at that), not by text or social media. Word simply traveled more slowly than it does now. But the interest in record-breaking deer was as great then as it is today. Our magazine's reputation for providing in-depth coverage of the world's biggest whitetails, along with our willingness to hop onto a plane and travel to another country on a moment's notice, put us in position to get this story for our readers. Â And we're thrilled it worked out.
It's interesting that a friendship forged that cold day in 1993 is still strong. I'm still welcome at Hanson's house, and he at mine. And he's worn the B&C crown with grace. He was a fine ambassador for hunting when he first became known, and he remains one today. He knew from the start that someone eventually would break his record — it was always just a matter of when. But it hasn't happened yet. This deer's top ranking could last another 20 years, or even longer. All I'm sure of is that I'm done trying to predict when a bigger one might come along.