I don’t know how many times I’ve had somebody tell me about a “huge buck” only to be underwhelmed when I actually laid eyes on the beast. I guess it’s all relative, and when you’ve lived in the outdoors as long as I have, the uncommon gets pretty common. There are so many fine bucks running through urban areas today that even my office dwelling, latte sipping, urban living brethren are getting numb to the appearance of impressive deer.
But let’s go back to 1940, when deer were so scarce in Ohio that there wasn’t yet a legal hunting season. In that year a deer walked out of the woods by the train tracks, tried to crawl under a chain link fence, got stuck, and died there on the north side of the arsenal at Ravenna, Ohio. This one deer, when recovered by railroad workers, couldn’t even be identified as a deer at first because of its enormous size. Some thought it was an elk, maybe a moose, perhaps a hybrid of one or the other. Most Ohioans had never even seen a wild deer at that time but here was a set of antlers that, when measured, would send the record books into a spin. If you’re a fan of big bucks, you probably know I’m talking about the legendary “Hole in the Horn” buck; now here’s the part of the story you don’t know.
Its history is folklore in large part, because nobody thought to write it down. It was just a stuffed deer head hanging in a smoky bar in a private club in Kent, Ohio. It had no name, it had never been measured or scored, and it collected much dust and the occasional festive hat during the holidays when some celebrating club member included it in the holiday spirit. For forty years it hung in the bar of the Kent Canadian Club, unknown to the world. Then one day, a man from Montana came in with a yellowed newspaper clipping and asked to purchase this deer. That man was Dick Idol.
Via his art gallery in Whitefish, Montana I was able to reach the Idols and ask a few questions about this unlikely find. It seems that Dick was employed as an outfitter in the early 1980’s when a client made a bet he could show Dick the biggest antler rack he’d ever seen. Dick lost the bet and that’s the origin of the newspaper photo. So, the next year, Dick came to Ohio, bought the rack and had it scored by his compadres at North American Whitetail magazine where he had been one of the founders. The tale of the tape was shocking, to say the least, a new world’s record!
There are several systems for scoring deer based upon size, mass, tine length, beam circumference, number of points and symmetry, and it’s my observation that each verifying entity criticizes the others whenever a new “world’s record buck” emerges. When the Hole in the Horn was first discovered and scored by North American Whitetail magazine, there was no doubt he was the new King Daddy of Non-typical Whitetails. That is, unless you asked the Boone and Crocket Club, which is generally accepted today as the authority and keeper of the record books, and one of whose board members had just discovered the number ONE all time non-typical buck. I expect a lot of the argument in these matters amounts to who saw it first and who wants to claim the feature article in their magazine. However, when B& C did their official measurement of the Hole in the Horn, not only did it shrink in size, but it lost points. Your uncle’s old system of, “If you can hang a ring on a point, then it counts” is not universally accepted. At the same time, B&C re-scored their “Missouri Monarch” and decided they needed to add significantly their previous score. Without getting into the technicalities of it all, let’s just say things get pretty weird when scoring a deer that challenges the top of the record book.
What may have been the argument of the century in that time has faded with age as several larger bucks have been found and captive deer breeding programs have produced deer nature will never approach through selective breeding and super nutrition. All of that aside, thirty years later The Hole in the Horn still ranks as the second largest non-typical rack ever recorded in anyone’s book.
You may be wondering what is the hole” in Hole in the Horn, and that’s one of the more interesting stories about this icon of the outdoors. In a drop tine on the buck’s right side there is a small hole, not much bigger than a pencil lead, but through and through. It’s clearly not a bullet hole, not a natural deformity, and it’s presence led experts to speculate that some sort of parasite may have burrowed into the antlers and caused it. It wasn’t until the late 1990’s when an elderly gentleman contacted one of the writers at North American Whitetail magazine and was able to verify that he was working on a maintenance crew at the Ravenna Arsenal when the buck was recovered. At long last the answers to the mystery were revealed, and it turns out the hole was nothing more than the result of a stiff piece of fence wire sticking down and poking its way through the softer porous drop tine. The caller further revealed that there was no body of the buck to measure when it was found; it was badly deteriorated and eaten by scavengers and a head was all that could be recovered.