Kansas-shot buck has the second-largest antler size of any hunter-taken deer on record

Tim Hrenchir
Topeka Capital-Journal
This 67-point buck shot in October 2019 in Chase County was confirmed last month to have the second-largest antler size of any hunter-taken deer on record.

Brian Butcher shot a deer with massive antlers, but he won't let that give him a big head.

"All I did was get lucky," the Kansas bowhunter told The Topeka Capital-Journal this past week.

Gratitude was the main thing Butcher said he felt last month when the whitetail deer he shot in October 2019 in Chase County was officially confirmed to have the second-largest rack score of any hunter-taken buck on record. 

When he heard the news in mid-July, the 40-year-old Butcher was attending the 32nd Biennial Convention of the Pope & Young Club, one of North America's leading bowhunting and conservation groups, in Reno, Nev.

Pope & Young confirmed the 67-point buck Butcher shot has a net score of 321 3/8 inches.

That was determined using a method developed for scoring whitetail deer by the Boone & Crockett Club, an American nonprofit organization that advocates habitat conservation. 

Its score made the "Butcher Buck" the second largest non-typical whitetail ever taken by a hunter and the fourth largest non-typical whitetail in history, according to the North American Whitetail website.

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It said the Butcher Buck was exceeded only by rack scores of:

• 327 7/8 inches for the "Brewster Buck," shot in 2018 in Illinois by bowhunter Luke Brewster.

• 328 2/8 inches for the "Hole-in-the-Horn" buck, found dead in 1940 in Ohio.

• And 333 7/8 inches for the "Missouri Monarch" buck, found dead in 1981 in Missouri.

Butcher's score of 321 3/8 inches also demolished the Kansas archery non-typical whitetail record of 264 1/8 inches, shot by Dale Larson in 1998 in Pottawatomie County.

For firearms, the current state's record non-typical whitetail score is 280 4/8 inches, recorded in 1987 by Joseph Waters in Shawnee County.

'Tangled by a tumbleweed'

Brian Butcher, in the middle, posed last year with the 67-point rack of a whitetail buck he shot in October 2019 in Chase County. The photo also shows Marc Murrell, on the left, and Ken Witt, on the right, who did the initial scoring for what's become known as the "Butcher Buck."

The Butcher Buck gained a place in the record book only after undergoing intense scrutiny to ensure the scoring rules were applied correctly.

Butcher, a lifelong Kansan who works as a mover for United Van Lines and lives with his wife and two children in the Wichita suburb of Andover, shot the buck on property where he'd been hunting for more than a decade in rural Chase County, west of Emporia.

Buck shared his memories of that day in a trailer posted online last year for "Buck Fever," a documentary film being created by Brian Crowe.

"I just saw a buck moving my way," Butcher said. "I could tell there were some solid antlers on it. I stopped focusing on his antlers and really just focused on me, trying to stay calm."

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Butcher used a compound bow to shoot the buck from about 25 yards away.

He acknowledged the buck's massive antlers give it an odd appearance, saying they look like they were "tangled by a tumbleweed."

The Butcher Buck has 64 points worth of antlers on one side of its head and three points worth on the other, according to the website bowhunter.com.

The deer's rack includes a large jumble of "tines," which are prongs or sharp points.

An odd set of antlers

The Butcher Buck's rack was measured Jan. 3, 2020, by former Capital-Journal outdoors writer Marc Murrell and Ken Witt, of Burleson, Texas, both measurers for Boone & Crockett. They concluded it had a net score of 321 3/8 inches.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks announced four days later on its Facebook page that the Butcher Buck would have the fourth-highest rack score on record if official measurers for Boone & Crockett accepted and verified that score.

That announcement was shared 4,800 times on KDWP's Facebook page, where users posted 1,300 comments in response.

"Wow!" wrote Nancy Caughman. "I'd hate to have to carry that on my head."

"Deer lord!!" wrote Derek Hilderbrand. "If I see one like that I am going to throw my gun in the air and run!!"

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Other users of the KDWP Facebook page questioned how the Butcher Buck came to grow such an odd set of antlers.

Kevin Wood, a state game warden who is also a certified Boone & Crockett measurer, said last year that various factors might cause a deer to grow such a strange rack.

“Genetics are usually the biggest likelihood," he said. "Injury or illness plays a big part. Sometimes environment or nutritional health can be factors.”

Wood suggested the Butcher Buck's rack may have resulted from a combination of mutation factors, adding that it would be difficult to pinpoint an exact cause.

'Equivalent of hitting the lottery'

Due mostly to the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn't until last month — 18 months after Murrell and Witt measured and scored the Butcher Buck — that its official score was finally determined to be the exact same figure they had come up with.

In the meantime, the Butcher Buck has been the subject of numerous media reports. It's also the topic of its own Facebook page.

The most recent post on that page, made last month, shows the trailer for the "Buck Fever" film Crowe is creating.

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That trailer includes video showing Murrell talking about just how special the Butcher Buck is.

"A deer with that many inches of antler is incredibly rare," he says. "You know, it's equivalent of hitting the lottery."