By Mike Handley
Some of you might've seen photographs of the (gross) 316-incher shot in Indiana last season, a buck we're hoping to measure for "Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records."
Or you probably saw the 309-incher from Iowa that HAS been scored for our record book, a deer we posted on Facebook last weekend.
Neither, however, was the largest to hit the dirt in 2012.
'Twas a tiny female fly — not a bullet, broadhead or Buick — that brought down the largest antlered (wild) whitetail in North America last year. And it might have gone undiscovered had a Kansas man not taken a stroll along a creek bank in search of the buck that had dropped off his nephew's radar.
The deer, while alive, was a well guarded secret within the family. Even now, few people have had the pleasure of ogling its rack.
Photographed regularly by trail camera until late summer 2012, the buck with unfathomable antlers (in velvet at the time) simply disappeared. Clearly, it was either dead or had switched zip codes.
Considering that numerous deer throughout the Midwest succumbed to epizootic hemorrhagic disease last year, and since bucks in velvet rarely seek greener pastures unless pressured, it wasn't difficult to connect the dots.
The deer, in fact, was dead, lying next to the creek with no holes in it — an almost sure sign that it died from contracting EHD. Even more convincing is that the skull and 55-point rack weigh almost nothing; having never reached the dense hard-antler state.
An official BTR score of 315 makes it the largest free-ranging buck ever recorded from Kansas, fifth-largest in the world, and it's No. 3 among the world's biggest pickups, second only to the Barnacle and Hole in the Horn bucks. Its composite score (with the inside spread) is 330 7/8 inches.
The rack's most outstanding feature, other than its 55 scoreable points, is its mass: 67 4/8 inches in circumference measurements. That's nearly 30 more than the Hole in the Horn Buck carries.
Before anyone cries foul, the deer is legit. It wasn't poached. It isn't an escaped breeder buck. The property owner has numerous trail camera photographs of the animal. The man who found it, uncle to the young hunter who set out and monitored the cameras, has a salvage tag issued by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
So why isn't his name given?
The man's not interested in notoriety. Neither does he want to draw attention to the family's ground. But he does recognize that the buck he found on Sept. 20 and the state that produced it should get their due.
This fabulous buck wasn't the only high-scoring whitetail that fell victim to the flies in 2012, and Kansas wasn't the only state hit hard by the EHD virus, which typically surfaces as early as late July and as late as September. It's almost never seen after the year's first frost.
EHD is transmitted by little biting flies called midges. The size of gnats, they look more like corpulent low-riding mosquitoes under a microscope. And as with mosquitoes, it's the females who bite, the blood necessary for the production of eggs.
I'll take an in-depth look at EHD and some of the giant whitetails that succumbed to it last season in the September issue of RACK magazine, which will also contain the story behind the Iowa giant mentioned at the top of this story.
I'll offer more information on that buck next week, so stay tuned.