These mysteries are still unsolved to this day.
In the long storied history of whitetail deer hunting, there are a number of notable mysteries that have arose over the years. But some of them are far greater than others and have been the topics of debate around many a hunting campfire.
For today’s #WhitetailWednesday, we’re going to look at five of the greatest deer hunting mysteries that remain unsolved to this day, because everyone loves a good mystery.
1. Why did the Jordan Buck go missing for 50 years?
Taken by then 22-year-old Wisconsin hunter James Jordan on November 20, 1914, the crazy story of this perfect 10-pointer didn’t end when Jordan pulled the trigger. One of the biggest mysteries in deer hunting history began after he took his prize buck to the taxidermist for a neck mount.
The taxidermist, George Van Castle, took the antlers to do the work. But shortly after that, he suddenly moved 30 miles away to neighboring Minnesota. Almost a year went by and Jordan finally decided to go to Minnesota to check on Van Castle’s progress. But to his horror, Van Castle had moved again and there was no sign of his buck.
For most stories, that would be the sad end. But this is where the story gets even wilder. Fast-forward all the way to 1958 and the antlers suddenly turned up on a junky old mount at a Minnesota rummage sale. By an incredible coincidence, they were purchased by Bob Ludwig, who was James Jordan’s nephew!
The antlers were scored a few years later at an incredible 206 1/8 inches. Amazingly, Ludwig still didn’t know it was his uncle’s buck. That is, not until he showed it to him. An eyewitness report from a game warden collaborated Jordan’s claim. It was also later revealed the antlers had come from a house owned by the taxidermist, Van Castle.
All those facts were too much to be coincidence. But it still wasn’t until 1978 that Boone and Crockett officially attached Jordan’s name to the buck in the record book. Sadly, the news came too late for Jordan. He died two months before B&C’s decision.
We still have so many questions… Van Castle obviously finished the mount, so why did he never return it Jordan? If he was going to steal it, why didn’t he take the mount with him when he moved? Did the buck really spend all that time gathering dust in the attic? Or did it change hands numerous times? It’s all very strange, and the worst nightmare of any hunter when dropping off a buck at the taxidermist.
If only the old antlers could talk, we’re sure they’d have some stories to tell.
2. What caused the Hole-in-the-Horn’s iconic hole?
This 328 2/8-inch monster non-typical was found in Portage County, Ohio in 1940, and has been a topic of debate ever since because one of the drop tines on the buck has a clean hole all the way through it.
Early on, it was assumed the hole came from a bullet. It appeared to be about the size of a .22 bullet. But a little later on, rumors came out the buck had actually been tangled in a fence that surrounded the Ravenna Arsenal that sits right next to the tracks.
Drop tines tend to be more fragile than regular tines, and some believe a loose wire bored the hole as the buck struggled to get free. There was even a witness to the discovery that claimed to have seen this firsthand.
But that is not all. There is a third theory, again with witnesses. Before the buck came to the public limelight in 1986, it spent 40 years hanging in the Kent Canadian Club in Kent, Ohio.
In 2015, North American Whitetail writer Gordon Whittington was told a never-heard-before story about the buck’s head always hanging crooked on the wall when it first hung up at the club. To solve the problem, the manager of the club and a bartender drilled a hole through the tine and ran a wire through it to make the head hang straight.
So which is the truth? The world may never know. Whatever the case may be, hunters will likely be debating this iconic buck’s most prominent features for many more years to come.
3. Who stole the Brian Andrews buck? (And where is it now?)
This story is the saddest on the list because it is an unsolved crime. On November 13, 2003, then 16-year-old Brian Andrews borrowed a bow and shot a monster non-typical whitetail in Buchanan County, Iowa.
The monster 26-pointer was later scored at 253 1/8, which made it not only a state record, but the second-biggest buck taken in 2003. Only the 307 5/8-inch Tony Lovstuen buck was bigger.
But the joy of Brian’s harvest was short-lived. On June 18, 2004 the family went out to eat. When they came home, Brian’s monster buck mount was gone, having been stolen right off the wall in the living room.
To this day, 15 years later, the buck has still not been found. Nor have the person or persons responsible for the crime. A $5,000 reward was offered by the Buchanan Wildlife Association for leads in the crime. Even Bass Pro Shops got involved, offering up a $5,000 gift card to anyone with information. But there has never been a single lead.
That same year several other trophy bucks were stolen in Iowa and authorities did believe there was a chance the crimes were related. As far as we know, none of these other stolen bucks were ever recovered either.
This is the one mystery on this list we most want to see solved. If you have any information on the whereabouts of the Brian Andrews buck, contact the Buchanan County Iowa Sheriff’s Office at 319-334-2567.
4. Who shot the Texas state record non-typical?
There are plenty of bucks with unknown origins in the Boone and Crockett record books, but none like the infamous “Brady Buck,” also known as the “Benson Buck.” There are actually two sets of antlers known from this buck. One a set of sheds and the other an actual skull plate from the deer after it was harvested sometime in the late 1890s.
That last set scores an unbelievable 284 3/8 inches. It held the world record for non-typicals until it was dethroned by the “Missouri Monarch” in 1981. This buck STILL stands as the Texas State Record non-typical to this day. But the big mystery with this buck is that no one knows for sure who killed it!
The most common name attached to this buck is Jeff Benson. Some stories say Benson was the hunter who shot the buck. Others say he only found the sheds. We may never know for sure because no one seems to know anything about Benson, either.
The only thing we do know for sure is that a man (believed to be Benson) brought the antlers to the Buckhorn Saloon in San Antonio and sold them to the owner Albert Friedrich for the paltry sum of $100. The saloon is still open and the antlers are still there all these years later.
Unfortunately with a story that goes this far back and with details this murky, it is unlikely we will ever know for sure who holds the top spot in the Lone Star State’s record books.
5. The Rompola Buck
Was it real or a hoax? That is the biggest question surrounding this alleged 218-inch typical supposedly taken in Michigan back in 1998. Mitch Rompola, the hunter who shot the buck has since become the stuff of hunting legend.
At first it seemed like any other big deer story and many in the hunting world figured it was just a matter of time before Rompola’s name replaced Milo Hanson’s in the top spot for typical whitetails in Boone and Crockett’s record books.
But then, after the initial flurry of media activity, the story went quiet. Requests to have the antlers X-rayed to verify their authenticity were denied. Rompola seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. Outdoor show organizers and others with a monetary stake in a world record whitetail wanted answers. Just what was going on?
Milo Hanson had enough after a while and basically asked Rompola to put up or shut up. Eventually Mitch signed an agreement with Hanson that stated Rompola would not enter his deer in Boone and Crockett record books while Hanson’s buck was still on top. Nor could Rompola refer to the deer as a world record.
And that was pretty much it for the story. Hanson continues to hold deer hunting’s most coveted top spot. And no one has really heard from Rompola since. The one exception is a strange, now defunct website that showed up sometime around 2008 or 2009 that showed Mitch was apparently still killing big whitetails.
I went into great detail a while back about why I thought the deer was real, but plenty of others still think it was a hoax. There is really no way to prove it either way. Was it real? Something Rompola constructed in his garage? A farm raised deer? We may never know for sure.