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To Be or Not to Be?

By C. J. Winand

To Be or Not to Be?

We see it every year on hunting websites: Generally, the title reads, “New WRB!” The WRB stands for World Record Buck. And, you guessed it, although the buck might be impressive, the WRB status turns out to be false. Through the years, there have been many stories about the next WRB, and there are sure to be more. But thanks to emerging technology, it’s getting easier to separate fact from fiction and expose the WRB liars. In fact, I see a time coming very soon when there won’t be a lot of speculation about record bucks; they either will be or won’t be.

And that leaves us with just a few legendary stories of bucks that could have been. Who could forget the Rompola buck controversy? And did the Hole in the Horn buck have the hole when it was originally found or not?

I actually had the pleasure of being part of a possible legendary buck saga, and it goes something like this…

One of the largest set of antlers I’ve ever seen was in Morgantown, W.Va. My good friend and Archery Hall of Fame member, the late Rev. Dr. Stacy Groscup, invited me to his home for an afternoon of target practice with one of his many recurve bows. During the shoot, Stacy was actually shooting the flowering heads off dandelions. As evening fell, he started shooting lightning bugs out of the sky. I was in the presence of a truly gifted and spiritual man.

After practice, Stacy asked if I wanted to go inside and see a photograph of a large buck and his original Ishi bow, which he said was made by “the last wild American Indian.” Once inside, I was amazed. On the wall was an old black-and- white photograph of the largest buck I had ever seen. The buck’s rack was enormous, with too many points to count. I mumbled something under my breath and then asked where he shot such a magnificent buck.

Stacy smiled and showed me an article written by noted bowhunter Gene Wensel, who attempted to score the buck using the photograph. Based on Gene’s best guess, the buck would score about 323 inches and would potentially be a new world record for non-typical whitetails. Stacy informed me that other articles written about the buck suggested that it was a fake. But he maintained that the deer was real and that he could prove it. His brother, Jim Groscup, who was stationed at Kelly Field in Texas during World War II, actually saw and touched the deer.

While stationed at Kelly Field, Jim Groscup frequently visited local taxidermist Alex Schleyer. Jim was a fellow taxidermist, and he and Alex enjoyed trading helpful hints. One day, a young man walked into Alex’s shop and asked if he wanted to buy a 65-point buck. Alex grinned and said, “Sure, why not?” and offered the young man $50. The following day, the young man returned to Alex’s shop with the biggest set of antlers Alex had ever seen. Although old shellac had colored the antlers black, it didn’t hide the enormity of the rack.

Alex cleaned and remounted the antlers onto a fresh hide, and the restored mount hung in his shop until his death in the 1950s. Back then, Alex probably had the largest collection of trophy whitetails in the nation. Alex’s grandson, Ed Schleyer, a third generation taxidermist, told me that his grandfather’s passion was to mount huge whitetails and display them in his saloons. Also noteworthy is that Ed’s grandfather was one of the major contributors to the Lone Star Brewing Company deer collection.

Upon Alex’s death, his grandson, Ed Schleyer, agreed to give or sell the mounted head to a rich Texas oil man who had an impressive collection of longhorn steer heads and deer mounts in his home. When the old man died, he willed everything to his niece, who hired two workers to throw her uncle’s trophies into a landfill outside of San Antonio. There, in the bottom of the dump, is the final resting place of this magnificent buck.

Knowing the Groscup brothers as well as I did, there is no doubt the deer was real. The black and white photograph even has the name of the Schleyer’s taxidermy studio on the back. Also, Ed Schleyer vividly remembers the magnificent buck hanging in his grandfather’s taxidermy shop. Many hunters still question the authenticity of the buck and argue that a “real” buck could never have developed so many pointed drop tines. These skeptics need to be reminded of the former non-typical world record whitetail shot by Jeff Benson in Texas. The Benson buck had 78 scorable tines, many of which were pointed.

Besides, what would be gained by such a hoax, and how could someone fabricate such a set of antlers? Plastic was certainly not used to create the antlers because plastic was only an emerging technology in the 1940s. Back then, deer hunting was not commercialized as it is today, and there was no monetary incentive to have your picture plastered on the cover of a hunting magazine. Hunting was just a part of life and provided a means to put food on the table.

Subscribe Today!But times have changed. All too often, we read or hear about some “hunter” who claims to have shot a record-book buck, only to discover it was a fake or, worse, poached. Others have tried to use replicas in big-buck contests to win cash prizes. Still others have tried to use previous years’ contest winners to fool unsuspecting judges.

The good news is that research has caught up with these so-called hunters. Biologists can now remove a small bone fragment from the base of the antler and analyze it for a specific protein. Depending on the amount of protein present, they can determine if a buck was actually shot in the year that it was entered in a trophy buck contest.

This CSI technology has been successfully used to eliminate questionable entries in the official record book of West Virginia. It would appear that crimologists and forensic scientists have found their way into the world of deer antlers.

Of course, it’s always better to know the truth, and I would give next year’s buck to be able to have that 65-point rack in my hands once again. Would it stand up to a scientist’s test and be the next world record? We’ll never know — and for some strange reason, part of me likes it that way.

This article was published in the November, 2008 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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