By Dan Cole
There are few constants in the world of giant whitetails, but one of them is clear: Expect the unexpected. Whether we’re sitting in a hunting blind or searching for shed antlers, most of us have learned that the next moment can bring a shocking surprise. A great buck might appear at any moment while we’re hunting, and a monster shed could be found in an area where no buck of that size is known to exist. For that matter, even within North American Whitetail you could turn the page and be treated to a giant that’s never been revealed to the world. Longtime readers have come to expect this, as many of the biggest bucks in history have been introduced through these pages.
Of course, even among elite bucks, not all are created equal. Yes, all deer featured within this publication are special in their own right, but even among this select crowd a few stand above the rest.
Great examples of this can be found among the top heads on record. Non-typicals in that group would include any of the seven recorded deer with net scores of over 300 inches. The fact so few such heads (plus a couple more known through sheds) are known to ever have existed in the wild shows just how special a deer it takes to get there.
On the typical side, the net-200-inch mark is considered to be the rough equivalent of 300 non-typical. While there are more 200-inch typicals than 300-inch non-typicals, the category still includes fewer than two dozen deer. And virtually all are legends. Examples include the current B&C world record Milo Hanson buck (213 5/8, Saskatchewan), the James Jordan buck (206 1/8, Wisconsin) and the John Breen buck (202 0/8, Minnesota). Such deer are always part of the conversation when talk turns to “best” or “biggest” whitetails.
Even within that elite group, however, there are a few surprises. You see, bigger typicals than those listed above have been recorded. The deer I’m referring to are specifically those whose antlers have typical gross scores in excess of 220 inches.
If my research is accurate, there are exactly 10 known typical sets of antlers with gross scores of 220 or over. If we consider that record-keeping organizations have records of trophy antlers dating back to roughly the Civil War era, it makes the list all the more special. Of these 10 deer, one is from the 1950s, one from the 1960s, six from the 1990s and two since. Clearly, these special deer are extremely rare.
All but one of these 10 racks have 6x6 or 7x7 typical frames. The highest-gross-scoring frame of any typical ever is that of the one Brian Damery shot in Illinois during the 1993 firearms season. This colossal buck has an astounding gross typical score of 231 1/8. The Sal Ahrens buck (Minnesota, 1956) is in 10th place, with a gross typical score of 220 5/8. The lone 5x5 on this list is the Lawrence Youngman buck from Alberta. Taken in 1992, this monster has a gross typical score of 220 7/8 and sits at No. 8 within this list of elite 220-plus-gross typicals.
Note that I’m not including non-typicals with typical frames over 220 gross. That list includes include Tim Beck’s Indiana shotgun buck (gross typical score 236 2/8, net non-typical 303 7/8) and crossbow hunter Jonathan Schmucker’s “Amish” buck from Ohio (228 5/8 gross typical, 295 3/8 net non-typical). The fact those are two of the top non-typicals ever drives home the point that 220-plus frames are incredibly rare.
A GIANT UNDER THE RADAR
During the 2016 Indiana firearms season, Andrea Moffett tagged a monster buck. This deer was featured just over a year later in an article Dean Weimer wrote for the January ’18 issue of NAW.
Scored as a basic 8-point typical, the antlers taped an amazing 200 0/8 inches gross, among the highest ever in that category. Even after deducting for asymmetry and a 7 4/8-inch abnormal point, the rack has a final net score of 180 4/8.
That number puts the deer within an elite group; only a handful of 8-pointers with net typical scores over 180 have been recorded. Even so, the deer didn’t shake up the whitetail world. Outside of the printed article, there wasn’t too much talk of the Moffett buck.
But that all was about to change. Ohio antler collector Keith Snider recognized the Moffett buck as a giant, and after some negotiation, he was able to acquire the antlers. Being aware the previous year’s matched sheds had been found, he also negotiated a separate purchase of them.
“When I finally got my hands on the Moffett buck, I was completely shocked,” the collector recalls. “No deer had ever given me shock value like Andrea’s deer has. It was the biggest set of antlers I had ever had in my hands. Then I looked at the sheds and realized they were even bigger!”
In fact, Keith couldn’t remember having ever seen a bigger matched 5x5 set.
“The sheds are just amazingly huge — but they could have been even bigger,” he says. “The third point on the left antler had the end of the point missing. It looked as if maybe five inches were gone.”
BEATING MILLION-TO-ONE ODDS
Keith also noticed something odd about that broken point: “It had what appeared to be a streak of gray or silver on the top of the break,” he notes. “It led me to speculate that the point had been shot off.”
Wanting to get to the bottom of this mystery, Keith called Andrea and asked if she’d heard any rumors of a local hunter having shot at the giant buck. Sure enough, he learned one of the neighbors had missed the deer a couple times during firearms season in ’15.
Keith had an idea that if the point had actually been shot off, it possibly could be located. On a hunch, he ran an ad on a local online forum, asking if anyone had found a broken piece of antler. Of course, that would be a million-to-one longshot; after all, the piece had been lost over two years earlier. Keith was truly looking for a needle in a haystack.
The first response to the ad came the morning after it was posted — and the respondent said he thought he had the missing point! He’d been fishing a local pond and had noticed an antler point lying in the grass near his tackle box. Not thinking much about it, he’d simply dropped it into the bottom of his tackle box. And that’s where it had stayed for over two years, until the fisherman had seen the ad.
The antler piece was mailed to Keith, and it arrived within a couple days. It might have been a huge longshot, but as soon as the shed owner saw the point, he knew he’d beaten the odds. Setting the fragment on top of the broken shed proved it was the missing piece, as it sat antler-on-antler! In fact, it fit so well that it stayed in place even when the shed was handled vigorously!
There’s no doubt as to the match; the veining lines up perfectly, and the break and resulting cracks align perfectly. The configuration and shape match the broken G-3 tine so well it leaves no question that the piece came from this antler.
REPAIRING & SCORING THE SHEDS
Soon after this amazing discovery, Keith sent the sheds to Iowa’s Tom Sexton for repair. The broken point was reattached in its natural position with nothing added. Filler was used only to fill in the cracks surrounding the break. A small rodent chew near the end of the beam was also filled in and colored, That repair didn’t lengthen the beam and so didn’t impact scoring.
Several photos were taken before and during these repairs to document the process. When the sheds were entered into the North American Shed Antler Club record book, X-rays were taken and submitted with the entry, solidifying the claim that no length was added to the repaired point.
Keith wanted to keep info on the sheds quiet until they’d been officially measured, but in today’s world of social media, that turned out to be impossible. It wasn’t long before a “leaked” photo was posted to a popular social site, and from there the sheds took on a life of their own.
Unfortunately, few trail camera photos exist of the deer from the year he wore those antlers, so it became a debate as to exactly how wide his inside spread must have been. A few live photos surfaced, but some skeptics argued that they could have been altered with computer software. But the photos (one of which is on pg. 64) suggest the rack was exceptionally wide.
Eventually, Keith decided to sell the sheds. “I’m not really a shed guy, but I feel these antlers needed to be seen,” he explains. “I don’t travel much, so if I kept them, people weren’t going to see them. That’s when I decided to sell them to become part of the New Legends collection. Now they’re being seen and held at deer shows and gatherings across the country.”
New Legends owner Jay Fish hit the ground running with the sheds. Soon after their acquisition last winter, he took them and the rest of his display to the 2019 Iowa Deer Classic. There the antlers were officially scored by a panel of official measurers representing four record books. A nice crowd of spectators gathered around the measuring table and watched the scoring process unfold.
Once the official numbers had been tallied, a new world record was declared!
As the official NASHC score sheet on pg. 104 shows, each beam exceeds 30 inches, and the tines range from 11 1/8 to 16 5/8 inches! Each base’s circumference is just under 6 inches, and the mass carries throughout the beams and continues into the points. The right antler totals an extremely impressive 90 6/8 inches, while the left is recognized as a new world record 5-point single (and the No. 7 single typical shed overall), at 99 6/8! The rack’s gross score is 190 4/8 inches — and remember, that’s with no spread credit.
The sheds’ final entry score after side-to-side symmetry deductions is 180 0/8 inches. That makes it the world’s new No. 7 all-time matched typical set and the No. 2 5x5 set ever recorded. The only 10-point set outscoring it in NASHC records is the legendary 181 2/8-inch “Fleming” shed set from Saskatchewan.
There’s only so much a score sheet can tell you, of course, and especially with sheds, there’s always the question of how much spread to add to come up with the rack’s estimated gross and net scores.
Only one person could put that question to rest: expert antler replicator Klaus Lebrecht. If anyone knows skull plates, angles, pedicel degrees and antler set, it would be Klaus. But in estimating the spreads of this rack, he didn’t rely only on himself; he respectively garnered the advice and thoughts of several other antler experts and industry leaders. After careful consideration as to the angle of the pedicels, two replicated sheds were placed on a skull plate and set in a position all involved agreed upon. Once the antlers then were attached to the skull plate, the inside spread was measured. It came to 29 5/8 inches.
Adding that spread to the official measurements gives the rack a gross score of 220 1/8 and a net of 209 5/8. If that’s close to accurate, the deer thus was a walking world-record typical in ’15! He’d have netted higher than the vertical bow, crossbow and muzzleloader records: 204 4/8 (Mel Johnson, Illinois), 201 1/8 (Brad Jerman, Ohio) and 193 2/8 (David Wilson, Saskatchewan), respectively. He’d also have been a new No. 2 typical in B&C, nudging out the Jordan buck (206 1/8) to settle in behind the Hanson buck (213 5/8). In fact, even if the spread were 2 3/8 inches narrower, he could have been No. 2 in B&C.
Imagine being the hunter who shot off the end of that point and now knows what could have been! Or the archer (who also will remain nameless) who claims he missed the buck twice in ’15!
Debate over the actual spread of any set of sheds is common. And some observers might question that this buck’s spread was actually as wide as estimated. However, in this case, we have the dead buck to use as an example of how the antlers sat on the head and their degree of angle. No matter how you or I might think the antlers set, this fact remains: This was one of the largest whitetails ever known to exist!
Not even the high paper score reflects this rack’s true size. Its enormity is truly appreciated only when mounted and seen with an inside spread. As Klaus has them set for replication, it’s clear this deer takes a backseat to none of the few that score higher. In fact, if you compare these sheds to the rest of the other wild racks with gross scores of 220-plus, you see they’re as big as, if not bigger than, all the rest.
Klaus, who’s handled virtually all of the greatest wild whitetail racks in history, sums up the antlers’ size very well.
“Every now and then comes a buck that defies the odds and challenges believability,” he says. “The Indiana Legend is just such a buck, with mass, spread and tine length all in abundance and well above the norm. This buck truly fits into the New Legends collection.”
Antler collector Mike Charowhas put it this way when describing the sheds. “An antler can only get so big,” he says, “and these put that to the test. It is the heaviest set of typical sheds I have ever personally held for a 5x5 set, at 8-plus pounds. That in itself is quite incredible.”
Wild whitetail antlers of this magnitude should be celebrated by hunters and antler enthusiasts alike. The rarity of such deer should be enough to grab our attention. After all, statistics suggest we’ll see only a couple like him within our lifetimes.
This buck’s 2015 rack has it all: spread, height, mass and score. It also is marked by missed opportunity and heartbreak. But that directly led to one of the biggest miracles in the history of antler collecting — and that miracle in turn allowed the deer to take his rightful historical position among the largest typicals of all time. Undoubtedly he deserves and has earned the “legend” in his name.