November 24, 2010
The largest non-typical buck ever recorded in Michigan was, in the end, the one we knew the least about.
Ron Waldron (rt.) and Washtenaw County Sheriff's Deputy Keith Monsell admire the rack after Waldron received his tag. Photo courtesy of Dennis Sheats.
Ron Waldron from Ann Arbor, Michigan, has been hunting whitetails for more than 50 years and he now owns the highest-scoring non-typical rack on record for the state. Although Waldron wishes he would have shot the Lenawee County buck that grew those impressive antlers, he didn't. The rack is far bigger than any he -- as well as most of the other hunters in the state -- have seen while hunting.
In fact, the biggest buck on record in Michigan died of unknown causes about a month after the end of the last deer season for 2009 and was found dead by Sharon Weidmayer, a nonhunting friend of Ron's, while walking her dog on brushy property she owns. Sharon was walking along a creek on the property when she spotted antlers sticking up.
Most of the carcass had been picked over by coyotes, but the antlers looked big to the landowner and she knew Ron hunted deer, so she called him to see if he wanted the rack. When Waldron saw the antlers the first time, he knew they were big, too, but he was amazed when he eventually found out how big they really are. After official measuring by a panel of three measurers from the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM), one of whom is also a Boone and Crockett scorer, the 26-pointer grossed 257 1/8 and netted 246 2/8.
The proportions of the antlers are truly amazing. The beams are about 31 inches long, the inside spread is 28 5/8 inches and several of the longest tines are between 12 and 13 inches in length. Even more amazing is the fact that few, if any, deer hunters saw this outstanding buck during hunting season. To say that deer hunting is popular in Michigan is an understatement and seasons are lengthy, starting on October 1 and ending on January 1 of the following year.
Likewise, many hunters now use trail cameras to try to determine what deer are in the areas they hunt. So far, months after the deer's remains were discovered, no one has come forward with a trail camera photo of the buck.
The buck was seen and photographed by a 15-year-old girl on July 11, 2009, on property bordering the parcel where the animal was later found dead. The girl and her family hunt whitetails and they were impressed by the images of the antlers developing on the buck's head, but they never saw the deer again. Another neighbor of Sharon's reported having seen the buck cross a road one night in the vehicle headlights.
Measurers score the outside spread of what would become Michigan's largest non-
typical whitetail ever recorded.
It appears as though the buck might have been primarily nocturnal and it might have spent most of its life on the parcel where it died. Sharon does not hunt, so her land would have been a refuge from hunters, and the deer most likely knew that. The fact that Sharon found one of the buck's shed antlers from 2008 confirms it was a resident animal.
There's no doubt the shed right antler is from the same deer. Forked brow tines from each beam match. What's most interesting about the shed is that the beam was broken just past the second tine. The buck's headgear certainly wouldn't have been too impressive during the fall of 2008, with most of one beam missing.
Waldron said that the right antler that the buck grew during 2007 had also been found on neighboring property, once again confirming the whitetail was a home body. He added that the beam had the same number of points as when the deer died, but the overall size of antler was smaller.
Another factor that might have enabled a buck of this caliber to avoid hunters during the fall of 2009 is the late harvest of some cornfields due to a wet fall. Some cornfields in southern Michigan were still standing by the end of December. Such a field would have been a perfect hideout for both bucks and does. Standing cornfields certainly played a role in the survival of many whitetails in Michigan last fall.
The age of this whitetail is also worthy of note. Based upon input from several Department of Natural Resources and Environment biologists who looked at its teeth, it was either 3 1/2 or 4 1/2 years old. That is phenomenal antler development, but it goes to show how much antler growth is possible in ideal habitat. A number of southern Michigan bucks that were 3 1/2 years old have grown Boone and Crockett-caliber racks, but this deer obviously raises the bar.
The cause of this exceptional buck's death remains as much a mystery as its life, but there is a strong possibility it may have been hit by a vehicle on a nearby road. Its remains were 150 yards from a paved road. It could have made it that far after being struck. CBM scorer Dennis Sheats from Milan said two of the deer's lower front teeth had been knocked loose and were on the ground where it died. He added that there was a rub mark on the outside of the right beam that could have been from hitting the pavement.
As mentioned previously, this 26-point rack is the highest scoring non-typical on record for Michigan. It scores eight inches higher than the previous benchmark. Paul Mickey from Kawlawlin shot a 29-pointer in Bay County during 1976 that nets 238 2/8. That buck will remain Michigan's state-record non-typical even though the Waldron Buck scores more because CBM bylaws reserves the title of state record to bucks bagged by hunters. Since the Waldron buck was found dead, it will be listed in the pickup category.
For detailed coverage about how, when, where and by whom Michigan's biggest bucks were bagged, refer to a five-volume set of books titled Great Michigan Deer Tales and written by the author of this article. Ordering information is available on his Web site: www.richardpsmith.com.