November 20, 2023
Some call them freaks of nature. Some call them monstrosities. Either will suffice when referring to the heaviest weighing whitetails known. Most of us hunters have always questioned how big a whitetail can grow. Unfortunately, there isn't much information available that refers to heavyweight bucks. Most information found online about the subject is incomplete at best.
As Bergman's rule indicates, you need to head north to find the largest subspecies, which certainly holds true with whitetails. The Great Lakes states that border Canada are renowned for their large-bodied bucks, while most of Canada has a flourishing outfitting industry built around their larger-than-life whitetails. These regions are home to the two largest subspecies of whitetail deer, the Dakota Whitetail (O.v. dacotensis) and the Northern Woodland Whitetail (O.v. borealis).
Finding evidence of deer dressing out at 300 pounds and above can be likened to searching for a needle in a haystack. Add in the fact that we also wanted photos of those deer, so now there were two haystacks to pick through.
The rules for making this list are simple: The deer must be from the wild. There had to be witnesses present to verify the weight, and there needed to be photos of the deer, preferably while on the scale.
One thing is certain, no matter where you look, an actual 300-pound-dressed whitetail is almost impossible to find. We can look to the state of Maine for an idea of how rare these unique deer are. For over 70 years, deer hunters in Maine have had a rewards program for documenting a heavyweight buck taken within the state. The reward is a sleeve patch for any whitetail that dresses over 200 pounds, and these patches have become highly esteemed by the hunters in Maine. Over the 70-plus years of the program’s existence, Maine has documented only 15 whitetails with a dressed weight of 300 pounds or better.
Undoubtedly, there are more heavyweights out there than we know; so, hopefully, this list can be ever evolving.
That said, let's get into our list of heavyweights. But first let’s look at a few whitetails that didn't make the list for one reason or another.
Although these deer have no photo to support their existence, they still have a reverential impact on the documented history of giant deer. Here are a couple noteworthy whitetails that have certified weights but no photos.
The Ontario Mystery: An Ontario buck is recorded as having a hanging weight of 278 pounds (not including the hide, legs, head with antlers or entrails), and it’s speculated to have a dressed weight near 365-375 pounds.
Minnesota 400-pounder: During the fall of 1981, Minnesota resident and Native American hunter George Himongo was hunting on the Fond du Lac Indian Reserve in northeast Minnesota. He downed an enormous buck with an official and certified weight of 402 pounds. This weight matches the dressed weight of the Carl Lenander buck from Minnesota, which was taken about one hundred miles away from where Himongo shot his deer.
Lisa Lefort Buck: No list would be complete without mentioning the deer Lisa Lefort killed in Saskatchewan during November 1994. When the attempt was made to put the deer on a scale, the enormous animal stripped the winch. “At this point, the scale read 350 pounds, but his head, antlers and neck were still on the ground,” Lisa explained.
The Lefort buck was a giant in every sense of the word; the deer likely was one of the top three or four ever weighed. Its estimated dressed weight could have pushed 400 pounds. Regardless, this buck must be mentioned in any conversation about the all-time heavy weight whitetails. Unfortunately, all the score sheets, documentation for the buck and photos were lost in a house fire.
Here are the 10 heaviest whitetails we could find with a documented weight and a supporting photo.
TOP 10 FULLY DOCUMENTED
Tied for No. 10: Two Alberta whitetails are recorded as top-10 finishers. The first was taken by Jeanette Reim during the 2010 hunting season, and the other by Kelly Fausak in 2015. Each of these Alberta bucks tipped the scale at 400 pounds live weight and 320 pounds dressed. “That was the first time, and the only time with a deer, that I ever threw out my back," Kelly says.
Tied for No. 8: North Carolina resident Doug Willard traveled to western Saskatchewan in the fall of 1999, where he rifled a pot-bellied buck with scaled weights of 407 pounds live and 327 pounds dressed. Those weights were matched in 2010 by an Ohio deer taken by resident hunter Joshua Ray. Joshua took his buck with a recurve bow.
No. 6: The sixth-place deer on our list became an internet sensation soon after it was taken in 2005. Over the years since, the chubby buck has been credited as originating from a handful of different states. It was also rumored the photos had been photo-shopped to make the buck look bigger than it actually was. It took some digging to find the truth behind this one, but I can now say with certainty that the photos are authentic, and so is the deer. Taken in Nebraska in 2005 by resident hunter Stan Whitt, the big deer officially tipped the scale at 412 pounds live weight and 332 pounds dressed.
No. 5: Another Saskatchewan buck makes the list; this one at the No. 5 spot. Ohio resident Dwayne Lallathin hunted the central part of the province in 2004. During his archery hunt with Circle B-Bar Outfitters, he was able to put an arrow in this jumbo-sized whitetail that tipped the scales at 435 pounds live weight and 340 pounds dressed. “We didn't have any trail cameras, but we knew the area held some studs. Up there, you just never know what may step out.” Dwayne shares. This deer is the heaviest known taken with archery gear.
No. 4: Dean Coffman is the hunter credited with taking the fourth heaviest whitetail on the list. The Iowa buck was taken with a shotgun slug during the 1962 season. The Coffman buck was officially weighed with several witnesses present, including State Conservation Commission representative Bill Welker, who verified the scale measurement at 440 pounds live weight. This would give the Iowa buck an approximate dressed weight of 345 pounds.
No. 3: It was the fall of 1955 when Maine hunter Horace Hinkley felled our No. 3 buck. Hunting with several family members, Hinkley killed his buck while posting over a clear-cut from a recent logging operation. He wasn’t the only successful hunter that day, as other group members also took three other large-bodied bucks. It was a few days before Horace could get his buck to an official scale. Even with that, the buck still bent the scale to 355 pounds dressed weight, which, according to wildlife officials, would give the deer an estimated live weight of 488 pounds.
No. 2: It was 1926 when a young Carl J. Lenander Jr. killed a colossal buck while hunting near the shores of Lake Superior in the legendary Minnesota Arrow Head Region. This deer pulled the scale to an incredible 402 pounds dressed weight. Wildlife officials have long held the estimate on this buck at 511 pounds live weight. The Lenander buck held the undisputed title of the world's heaviest whitetail for over 50 years.
No. 1: The number one heaviest Whitetail buck on record comes from Ontario, Canada. Many experts feel Ontario produces the highest average whitetail body weight in all of North America. If that is the case, then this buck did not disappoint.
Taken in 1977 by Ontario resident John Arnette, this monstrosity of a whitetail crushed a certified scale to 431 pounds dressed weight, and wildlife officials estimate the deer had a live weight of 540 pounds! The accompanying photo of the deer noted that, “The back hooves are touching the ground.” If this is true, the photo gives us an incredible visual comparison of the size of a 540-pound whitetail. However, there is some speculation surrounding the credibility of these numbers. After weighing the deer, Arnette took it home and butchered it before it could be inspected and certified.
True giants are rare, so recording and preserving their existence is critical. The heavyweights serve as a testament to the already impressive capabilities of these extraordinary animals.
These records create a small window for us to see the biggest and exceptional. They also point out achievements in management and conservation. Documenting the weight and size of these bucks is another window for assessing the population’s overall health and genetic quality. Doing so will also help preserve our hunting history and heritage, allowing the information to be passed on to future generations.
Please contact the author if you know of a heavyweight that could make our list. Long live the giants and the stories surrounding them.