20th Anniversary: Milo Hanson's World Record Buck
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 1914â€”and rarely seriously challengedâ€”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 someplaceâ€”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 farmâ€”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 dayâ€”and had only a jacket and no glovesâ€”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. 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 recordâ€”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.
1. Milo Hanson
Talking to a local school bus driver is probably not the way we'd normally scout for deer, but it proved successful for Milo Hansen, who killed the No. 1 typical whitetail of all time in 1993. Hansen killed the world record holder, which scored 213 5/8 B&C, in Saskatchewan after the bus driver told him which field it had been hanging out in.
While many hunters in the area attempted to track down the massive buck, Hansen beat them all to the punch, taking down the buck with two steady shots from his rifle. Hansen had the buck scored and re-scored, maybe because he didn't believe his own eyes. Nevertheless, his record stands as the biggest typical whitetail in history.
2. James Jordan
The No. 2 spot on our list belongs to James Jordan, who killed this 206 1/8 B&C buck in Wisconsin way back in 1914, long before trophy hunting or deer management were mainstream practices. Even then, Jordan knew he had a monster on his hands and took it to a local taxidermist. That's where the story gets bizarre.
The taxidermist apparently moved, first to Minnesota and then to Florida, taking the massive rack with him. At that point the buck was lost to history. Some time later, a relative of Jordan's told him about a trophy whitetail mount he bought at a garage sale for $3. When Jordan went to check it out, he was shocked to see the buck he killed many years prior. The buck was given back to him, and his longstanding place as the No. 1 typical whitetail in the world was cemented.
3. Larry Gibson
Generations ago, deer management for trophy production wasn't the main reason most hunters took to the field. There were no celebrity hunters or TV shows, and most hunters didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what kind of mount they'd get — if they even kept the rack. That's certainly the case for Larry Gibson, who killed this 205 B&C trophy in 1971 in Randolph Co., Mo.
With the buck of a lifetime within 20 yards, Gibson sealed the deal with a solid shot from his .308. As a simple meat hunter, he sold the rack to the Show-Me Big Bucks Club for $200 and didn't look back. The club still owns the trophy today, and despite offers of up to $50,000, it says the buck is not for sale.
4. Mel Johnson
Mel Johnson's 204 4/8 B&C whitetail may be No. 4 on our list, but it actually holds another distinct honor: it is the No. 1 typical archery world record. Because of that, Johnson is a modern day archery hero. Keep in mind, Johnson killed this world record holder in the 1960s, well before archery became what it is today. As the story goes, Johnson was a diehard archer who'd sneak out to hunt every chance he got, whether it was after work or on the weekend.
On October 29, 1965, Johnson left work and hid in a bush along a bean field. He saw the buck emerge nearly 300 yards away, and he waited patiently until he had an ethical shot. With his 72-pound recurve, Johnson arrowed the buck, which field dressed at 270 pounds.
5. Robert Smith
You can't quite call Kentucky a sleeper state for whitetails anymore, but it has steadily gotten more attention over the last decade. One reason is Robert Smith's Pendleton County buck, which was killed in 2000 and scored 204 2/8 B&C. At the No. 5 spot, Smith's trophy has 30-inch beams, a 20-inch inside spread and field dressed at over 245 pounds. The buck was killed Nov. 11 during rifle season and is one of the largest 10-pointers ever.
6. Stephen Jansen
After all the stories we hear of people who've kept trophies in their basements for years before having them scored, it really makes us wonder how many world record animals are out there. A good example is Stephen Jansen, of Beaverdam Creek, Alberta, who killed this 204 2/8 B&C whitetail in 1967. Jansen kept the antlers for years in his shop, where he hung belts off of them. Years later, Jansen's curious nephew took the rack in for scoring. As it turns out, Jansen's whitetail is the No. 6 largest typical whitetail in history.
7. Hubert Collins
In the fall of 2003, Hubert 'œTiggy' Collins headed out on a bowhunt looking to kill a good doe. As it turns out, Collins got a whole lot more than he bargained for. He first saw deer feet moving in his direction, then realized it was a decent sized buck. Collins sent a well-placed arrow at the deer but was surprised when he saw just how big the rack was. This buck rests at the No. 10 spot on our list, scoring 203 3/8 B&C.
8. Bruce Ewen
Bruce Ewen was hunting in Saskatchewan in 1992 when he downed this massive buck, which scored 202 6/8 B&C. As with many hunters, Ewen said he was simply at the right place at the right time. When the opportunity came to kill the No. 8 typical whitetail of all time, Ewen never faltered, firing his rifle and ensuring his place in the record books.
9. John Tarala & Maurice Berezowski
As any parent knows, it's not always easy to teach your kids how to share. It certainly doesn't get any easier with adults, although hunters John Tarala and Maurice Berezowski are the exception to that rule. While on a hunt on the North Saskatchewan River in 2006, Tarala and Berezowski both fired on the same deer, at exactly the same time. In a show of good sportsmanship, they came to the mutual decision to share the deer, which holds the No. 9 spot on our list. The buck scored 202 3/8 B&C and is officially listed under both names.
10. John Breen
John Breen caught a train to Minnesota in 1918 to try his luck at some whitetail hunting at a time when the state was still as wild as ever. Breen had an extremely successful hunt, too, killing this 202 B&C trophy buck, which is the No. 10 typical whitetail of all time. When he finally arrived home with his enormous trophy, Breen half-jokingly told his friends that it wouldn't fit through his front door — a problem every serious whitetail hunter would love to have.
11. Wayne Bills
As a rookie deer hunter, Wayne Bills had one of the best cases of beginner's luck in recent memory. Bills, who hadn't killed a deer before 1974, heard shots a few hills over and turned to see what the commotion was all about. Bills saw the buck headed his way in a hurry and took aim with his shotgun. Bills made the fateful shot, killing the No. 11 typical whitetail of all time, scoring 201 4/8 B&C from the state of Iowa. Interestingly enough, the buck had a broken brow tine but was still able to place high in the record book.
12. Bradley Jerman
A giant rack will do strange things to a man. Just ask Brad Jerman, who tried sleeping in his tripod stand after spotting the buck of his dreams. After a few hours Jerman came to his senses, crawled back home for some sleep and then went back for another go-round at 3 a.m. He literally crawled back to his blind for the second time in 12 hours to avoid detection. Jerman's crazy scheme worked, however, as later that morning he killed this 201 1/8 B&C trophy in Warren Co., Ohio, and the No. 12 typical whitetail of all time.
13. Wayne Stewart
As with many hunters in the 1960s, Minnesota teenager Wayne Stewart wasn't out looking for a huge set of antlers. Instead, Stewart was on a deer drive with family members, simply looking to fill a tag'¦and his freezer. As it turned out, Stewart shot the No. 13 typical whitetail of all time, which scored 201 B&C. Because he knew the rack was special, Stewart kept the rack in his garage. After his brother — who had accompanied Stewart on the hunt — was killed in a car accident, Stewart decided to have the antlers mounted. Sadly, the rack was stolen from the taxidermist. After years of searching, Stewart located the rack and returned it to his home, where it now resides.
14. James Cartwright
When it comes to trophy whitetails, Washington probably isn't the first place most hunters think of. But plenty of hunters like James Cartwright know what treasures the state holds. Cartwright was hunting in Stevens County in 1992 when he connected with this 200 3/8 B&C trophy, which is the No. 14 all time typical whitetail. Cartwright noticed some sizable bucks frequenting his fields and decided to track their movement patterns. Cartwright connected with his .338 Win. Mag., and later had the buck scored after his friends urged him to do so.
15. Brian Damery
After Illinois hunter Brian Damery got his hands on a massive shed his neighbor's dog had drug in, he was primed and ready to go for deer season in 1993. He spent a few days watching a group of does, then finally put a stalk on a buck that'd been chasing them. He finally caught up with the massive buck, which scored 200 2/8 B&C and is No. 15 all time. He killed it in Macon Co., Ill.
16. Peter Swistun
Peter Swistun was a Saskatchewan farmer who lived in the middle of nowhere. But apparently that was a good place to be, as Switsun's farm was frequented by a giant whitetail he'd kept his eyes on for a long time. With a buddy and an old beat up pickup, Switsun went after the deer after sighting it one evening while doing chores. His friend got off a few shots but couldn't connect, but then Switsun killed the deer with his .30-06. The official score was 200 2/8 B&C, which was good enough for No. 16 on the all-time typical whitetail list.
17. Eugene Kurinka
Like Cinderella, Eugene Kurinka was left at deer camp to do chores while his friends went out for a morning hunt. After the chores were done, Kurinka headed out for some late morning hunting on the Otauwau River in Alberta, Canada. He didn't find a glass slipper, but something even better — a 200 1/8 B&C whitetail and the No. 17 typical on our list. He now has official bragging rights in deer camp.
18. Don McGarvey
There are times when cutting out of work early pays off, and that was certainly the case for Don McGarvey in September 2001 when he got off early to do some bowhunting. With a couple of spots he'd obtained permission to hunt near his work, McGarvey headed out to find a monster closing in from 200 yards away. McGarvey killed the buck — which scored 199 5/8 B&C and holds the No. 18 spot on our list — at 10 yards in Edmonton, Alberta. McGarvey's safety harness got an assist in this case, as he almost fell from his tree after spotting the deer but was held in place by the device.
19. Jeff Brunk
As a college student in 1969, Jeff Brunk didn't have any intent to kill a trophy deer — just to fill his tag. His chances were good, though, since he was hunting prime whitetail country in Clark Co., Mo. Making his way over a small hill, Brunk saw and killed what he originally thought was a fair-sized buck. Only after approaching did he realize what lay before him — a 199 4/8 B&C trophy that ranks No. 19 all time.
20. Tom Dellwo
With its wide open spaces, Montana is the quintessential portrait of the western U.S. It's also home of the No. 20 typical whitetail of all time, killed by Tom Dellwo in 1974. The buck, which was killed in Missoula County, scored a stunning 199 3/8 B&C. Like so many others on our top 20 whitetails of all time list, Dellwo was simply trying to fill his freezer when he killed this trophy whitetail.