By Mike Handley
This 400-plus-pound whitetail is legit, but most of the e-mails about it aren’t. It was not taken in Maine or Ontario; it was shot within a high-fenced Wisconsin ranch.
-- You can’t believe everything you read in your e-mail inbox, but there’s usually at least a nugget of truth.
Although whitetails pushing or even exceeding the 500-pound mark have been documented, you’re more apt to run across a Sasquatch eating beef jerky. If you want to set hunters’ tongues wagging, show ‘em a 400-pounder — and it does happen on occasion.
One such wagger that hit my inbox in December featured a photo of a smiling hunter kneeling behind a buck (purportedly from Maine … or Ontario) that was labeled as a “440-pounder.” The deer was so friggin’ big, its 200-class rack almost went unnoticed.
“Please be real,” I said while looking at it, eager to track down the fortunate hunter.
The photo was indeed real. The weight might’ve been legit, too, though I suspect the actual figure was as fabricated as the whitetail’s state of residence. It was taken neither in Maine nor in Ontario, and it’s not a free-ranging deer.
Someone, probably named Beevis, yanked the photo off the Wisconsin ranch Wilderness Whitetails’ website — www.wildernesswhitetails.com — and thought he’d play a prank on a buddy. Next thing ya know, that prank circled the world.
This 2005 buck is for real, too, or at least it’s close to the reported 412 pounds. The hunter shot it while hunting a Nebraska Indian reservation — NOT in Arkansas or Pennsylvania, as some e-mails suggested.
If I were the myth-debunking Snopes of the deer hunting world, I’d have to judge this one as “Partly True,” only because the deer is legit, and it very well could tip the scales at 400 or more pounds. It takes a buck of that caliber to make a 200-inch rack look like a 160-incher.
Actually, while researching the above deer, I wound up at Snopes.com and saw the same ruling — Partly True — for an entirely different whitetail that was rumored to be a 412-pounder.
When photos of that buck first circled cyberspace, they carried the news that it was shot in Nebraska. The next round of forwards — probably originating from someone named Butthead — claimed it was taken in northwest Pennsylvania.
Naysayers, including DNR officials, newspaper writers, bloggers and Joe Hunters, were quick to express doubts. One writer opined: “A guy kills the biggest, fattest whitetail almost anyone has ever heard of, and his name isn’t plastered all over the country? Not very likely.”
After expressing his own skepticism in January 2006, a writer with the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote a follow-up piece that pretty much solved the mystery. The hunter contacted him.
The man’s name was Stan Whitt of Arkansas. He arrowed the deer while hunting at a Nebraska Indian reservation in November 2005 — which explains why the state DNR had never issued him a license.
The buck was never weighed, but reservation officers measured the girth of its chest and pronounced it a 412-pounder — a system they claim has only a 6 percent margin of error.
Snopes decided that the 412 was only an estimate and possibly inflated due to the “somewhat bloated” condition of the deer. Thus: Partly True ... except for the claims that it was shot in Arkansas and Pennsylvania.
Note: Rack Magazine editor and Buckmasters whitetail guru Mike Handley will be the host of an exciting new feature coming this summer to Buckmasters.com. Mike’s stories and updates about giant bucks new and old will anchor the Big Buck Central page, which also will allow visitors to search through the Buckmasters Trophy Records database of record-book whitetails.