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.


"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

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Deer Factory: Northern Climate Warm-Season Food Plots

Deer Factory: Northern Climate Warm-Season Food Plots

Dr. James Kroll and Pat Hogan discuss warm-season food plots on this deer factory in Minnesota.

Gear Wise

Gear Wise

Jace Bauserman explains what bowhunters can do to ease the physical and mental rigors of being caught at full draw.

Deer Dog: Puppy Pitfalls

Deer Dog: Puppy Pitfalls

On this edition of "Deer Dog," Jeremy Moore explores the pitfalls of puppy training.

Dr. Deer: Balance the Herd

Dr. Deer: Balance the Herd

Proper doe harvest is critical to herd balance and health.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Here's a look at some of the new deer rifles from SHOT Show 2020! Guns

Best New Deer Hunting Rifles for 2020

Lynn Burkhead - January 29, 2020

Here's a look at some of the new deer rifles from SHOT Show 2020!

The right arrow for your setup will boost your whitetail body count. Bowhunting

Building The Ultimate Whitetail Arrow

Jace Bauserman

The right arrow for your setup will boost your whitetail body count.

Whitetail deer probably represent more protein hitting the table than any other game species in Venison Recipes

How to Cook Venison - A Wild Game Chef's Guide

Jesse Griffiths

Whitetail deer probably represent more protein hitting the table than any other game species in

Watching and studying the bucks of summer could lead to great success in this fall! Scouting

Scouting and Learning from Velvet Bucks

Alex Comstock

Watching and studying the bucks of summer could lead to great success in this fall!

See More Trending Articles

More Industry

Pregnancy can't stop a hardcore woman from capturing her fall 2017 deer goals.


How many women do Industry

Deadly Determination: Hunting While Pregnant

Darron McDougal - December 27, 2017

Pregnancy can't stop a hardcore woman from capturing her fall 2017 deer goals. How many...

As Hurricane Harvey struck the upper Texas coast in late August, video and photos of swimming deer Industry

Texas Whitetails Riding Out Hurricane Harvey

Gordon Whittington - March 08, 2018

As Hurricane Harvey struck the upper Texas coast in late August, video and photos of swimming...






A number of well-known deer hunters and other outdoorsmen from across North America have Industry

Living with Lyme Disease

Alli Armstrong - October 01, 2015

A number of well-known deer hunters and other outdoorsmen from across North America have

These hunters represent what many have come to love about the quest for DIY success. Industry

The Hunting Public

Paul Annear

These hunters represent what many have come to love about the quest for DIY success.

See More Industry

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

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

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