Brett Johnson's "Montana Mystery Buck"

Even by the standards of world-class bucks, any rack with well over 200 inches of gross typical score and a ton of non-typical points is extremely rare. That’s a combination all antler collectors crave but seldom find outside their wildest dreams. There just aren’t enough such trophies to go around.

The Brett Johnson buck, shot with a rifle on the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana in 1988, is among the few. He has one of the greatest typical frames ever, at a gross of 216 0/8 inches, with another 40 2/8 inches of non-typical growth piled on. Subtract just 5 2/8 inches for typical deductions and you have a giant that ranks just behind the Frank Pleskac buck (252 1/8) to hold the position of Montana’s all-time No. 2 non-typical. But he has such a great frame he looks even bigger.

Racks netting north of 250 inches have never been growing on trees. So why is this stud of a deer still under the radar?

Well, it’s complicated. First off, for many years the Sanders County giant was known in antler-collecting circles simply as the “Montana mystery” buck. No one seemed to know the details of its origin. There was no doubt it had come from the Flathead Indian Reservation, but that didn’t help much. Despite its obvious enormity, the rack got lost in the shuffle of huge whitetails taken by known hunters.

Years passed before the truth became public knowledge. As it turned out, a young hunting guide named Brett Johnson had shot the giant with a rifle during the 1988 season and later had sold the antlers to a private collector.

Well, let’s back up a bit. He’d actually shot the Sanders County deer before the 1988 Montana season. But it wasn’t illegal.

Confused? That’s understandable. As a member of the Flathead Indiana tribe hunting on the reservation, Brett had every right to shoot the deer outside Montana’s standard season. So this buck is a legitimate hunter kill and is in B&C’s listings, just 1 1/8 inches shy of the overall state mark.

Any time there’s a delay in uncovering the details of a magnum buck, it diminishes the deer’s impact on the hunting community. New deer come along, and the older ones never get their turn in the limelight. Of course, that’s hardly the fault of the animal, but it’s the hunting world we live in. And so, even today perhaps more folks know this deer as the “Montana mystery buck” than as the “Brent Johnson buck.” Not that very many hunters know of him either way, though. He remains one of the most obscure mega-bucks of all time.

Note: For details on replicas of the Johnson buck, visit:

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