By Gordon Whittington
Any whitetail buck with a net score of at least 200 inches is among the rarest of big-game trophies. Although literally millions of bucks are shot every year, throughout history only a handful of bucks have reached that lofty plateau. And when you raise the bar to 205 inches net...well, the roster of qualifiers becomes downright minuscule. In fact, to date only three wild deer have been confirmed at that level.
Two of those giants — Milo Hanson’s 213 5/8-inch world record from Saskatchewan and James Jordan’s 206 1/8-inch former record from Wisconsin — are household names, as well they should be. But the remaining buck — a wide 12-pointer shot by Larry Gibson in north-central Missouri in 1971 — remains almost a footnote to history.
Why? Good question. It’s in part because this great deer never actually was No. 1. The Jordan buck had been recognized as the world record in 1966. But the Missouri deer was big enough to bump the legendary John Breen buck from Minnesota from No. 2 down to No. 3. That in itself was an amazing achievement.
In short, the Gibson buck was, and still is, plenty big enough to have garnered a lot more accolades than he did. Instead, Larry —who was just looking for some venison that morning in Randolph County — sold the huge antlers to the Show-Me Big Bucks Club for $200 and went on his way. He apparently never wrote any articles about the hunt, and to my knowledge he made no effort to further capitalize on his achievement.
Of course, at the time there was no trophy whitetail industry to approach in search of product endorsements or pro staff affiliations, and there certainly were no TV teams to join with the idea of becoming a media star in the whitetail world. Larry was just a regular guy who shot a mega-buck long before the current wave of trophy fanaticism began to swell.
Perhaps this deer’s fame would have been far greater had he not bumped his head in summer 1971. On the right antler, the G-2 tine has a noticeable “acorn” tip, a deformity caused by trauma suffered in velvet. It seems likely this injury was sustained in June, when the buck’s G-2 tines were largely developed but still a couple months from being fully formed.
What difference did that make? Possibly enough to keep the Gibson buck, and the man who shot him, from becoming true superstars in the whitetail world. Because had that tine grown normally, it almost certainly would have been at least 5/8 inch longer. And that’s all it would have taken to give Missouri the world record.
The left G-2, which was undamaged, is a whopping 14 4/8 inches in length. The damaged tine on the left is 11 7/8. As the difference between corresponding tines is that amount of deduction from the gross score, it’s easy to see how the injury derailed what could have been a world-record total. Adding a mere 5/8 inch to the damaged right G-2 would have meant an additional 5/8 on the gross score and an additional 5/8 less total deduction from the rack’s gross score. So the net effect, literally, would have been an additional 1 2/8 inches of score: enough to have made the Gibson buck at 206 2/8 net, edging out the Jordan buck by 1/8 inch as the B&C world record. Chances are that damaged tine would have been even longer without the velvet injury, pushing the Missouri monster above 207 net inches and even more clearly the world record.
But you know the old line: “If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, a merry Christmas we’d all have.” The Gibson buck didn’t grow that extra 5/8 inch on his right G-2, so he didn’t break the world record. Still, having what was at the time the No. 2 buck in history — and even today, No. 3 — isn’t such a bad thing for a guy who simply wanted to fill a deer tag that morning in Randolph County. He ended up doing way more than that.