Skip to main content

Hole in the Horn Buck: Truth Revealed

The Hole in the Horn buck is the most famous whitetail in the world, and for good reason.

Some 20th century mysteries live on. What became of Amelia Earhart? Was there alien contact at Roswell? Did O.J. do it? But I think we now can scratch off one enigma: What made a small hole in the "horn" of a gigantic Ohio whitetail that died 75 years ago?

Despite his size, the Hole in the Horn buck was under the radar until he graced our Dec. 1983 cover. The deer was unbelievable. And so was that issue's cover headline: "WORLD RECORD SHATTERED! Ohio's Hole in the Horn Buck Is The Biggest Ever!"

Although the 45-pointer had died near a Portage County railroad track in late 1940, the mount had remained obscure for four decades. It had hung on a wall in a local sportsmen's gathering place called the Kent Canadian Club.


Dick Idol, one of this magazine's founders, was then an active antler collector. In 1983 he struck a deal for the rack and had it taped by veteran B&C measurer Phil Wright. Phil calculated a net score of 342 3/8: more than 8 inches over that of the world-record "Missouri Monarch," which had been found dead near St. Louis in 1981. The initial scoring led to a belief the Ohio deer would become No. 1.


Our 2012 episode was dedicated to monster whitetails, like the Hole in the Horn buck.

But in 1986, a B&C panel decided Phil's Hole in the Horn buck score was off. The final tally was 328 2/8: below the Monarch's 333 7/8 but still an easy No. 2 in B&C. These giants remain the top two wild deer ever.

As great as the Ohio rack was — it weighed 11 1/2 pounds, had an outside spread of 33 inches and sported nearly 200 inches of non-typical growth — the most intriguing trait was that hole through one of the drop tines. Was it a bullet hole? It didn't look to be. And the railroad crew who'd found the dead deer under a security fence surrounding Ravenna Arsenal saw no gunshot wounds. They felt a train had hit the deer. That didn't explain the hole, either.

So the answer remained elusive. Then, in 1995, retiree George Winters told me he'd been present at the Hole in the Horn buck's recovery. He said he'd helped pull the buck from under the fence — and that a stiff fence wire was sticking through that hole. He was sure it had done the damage.




When I reported this in the Feb. 1996 issue, I hoped I'd solved the riddle. By then over 55 years had passed since the buck's death. With George's own death in 1999, I felt whatever there was to write about the beast had been written.

Then, last March, cameraman Bill Owens and I went to Portage County to get video for a North American Whitetail TV episode celebrating the Hole in the Horn buck's 75th anniversary. We went by the Kent Canadian Club, which led to a visit with manager Tony Pampena. And from him I learned another member — 88-year-old Stub Bower — claimed to have firsthand knowledge of what really had formed the hole in the "horn." What's more, Stub was willing to be interviewed about it on camera.

I naturally was skeptical. But as it turned out, not for long.

Recommended


"Whit Nighman was the manager of our club," Stub told me, "and I bartended for him. There wasn't a solid wall to hook the mount on, just some lattice up there. The head had always hung crooked or something. And he says, 'Let's fix that deer head so it stays right.' He got out a quarter-inch drill and we drilled a hole through there and took a wire and put a loop on the end of it and put a cotter key on the back and pulled it tight to the lattice and wired it . . . and that's how it got the hole in the horn."

Tony, Stub and the author stand outside the Kent Canadian Club, where the Hole in the Horn buck hung for more than 40 years.

Really? Could it be just that simple? Stub's been a club member for nearly 60 years, so I can't explain why we're just now hearing his story. But that explanation makes total sense to me. So I'm fine with proclaiming it the "hole" truth — once and for all.

To see that interview with Stub and Tony on the Hole in the Horn buck, plus more on this legendary deer, check out our special episode on Sportsman Channel. It will air several times in late December, the first of those being 8:00 p.m. ET on Dec. 23.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

For years, one of Publisher Laden Force's favorite hunting programs has been the Outdoor Channel's Live 2 Hunt program with Cody and Kelsy Robbins. Their passion for bowhunting and making new hunting buddies is contagious. Additionally, time and time again the pair has undoubtedly confirmed their position as some of the best deer hunters north of the Canadian border. So, Laden quickly accepted when an invite came from friend Mike Tussey of NOMAD Hunting Apparel to test new deer gear on a summer bear hunt with Cody and Kelsy's L2H Outfitting. Join him as he travels to north central Saskatchewan to put new NOMAD, the brand new Bowtech Carbon One and his sense of adventure to the test.
Destination Videos

Live 2 Bowhunt

Opening day is just around the corner, but there is still work to be done! The Forces complete the final prep steps, getting their hunting sites ready for easy access.
Learn

Opening Day Prep

The Forces complete the final investment, one that's not so “instant”, by planting new fruit/mast trees. 
Learn

Investing in the Future

Baseball transitions to football, which means it's time to get oats, clover & chicory in the ground.  
Learn

Cool Season Food Plot

Laden teaches the boys the importance of keeping your property clean to make final adjustments easier and less time consuming.
Learn

Property Management

The new hunting blinds have arrived, but the Forces get busy because the blinds aren't going to assemble and strategically place themselves.
Learn

Blind Placement Strategy

It's time for weed patrol! Laden ventures out to high cut the perineal plots, weedeat the electric fences and spot spray his clover. 
Learn

Plot Maintenance

Laden and the boys plan the off-season “to do's” and prep their equipment needed to execute each exercise. 
Gear

The Plan

Laden and his boys work through a timber management plan, letting Dad safely remove a few unwanted trees, opening up a canopy to help with understory native forage growth.
Learn

Timberstand Improvements

North American Whitetail Magazine Covers Print and Tablet Versions

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the North American Whitetail App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top North American Whitetail stories delivered right to your inbox.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All North American Whitetail subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Get a Full Year
of Guns & Ammo
& Digital Access.

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now