large whitetailed deer buck standing on a hillside on a foggy morning in Cades Cove in Smoky Mountain National Park
Getty Images, EEI_Tony

The Truth Behind the Viral 430-Pound Michigan Deer

A 2009 Facebook photo of the monster went viral. But was it real?

It's the stuff of urban legend (or, really, rural): A Facebook post in 2009 boasted of a 430-pound whitetail deer supposedly harvested in Hartford, Michigan. Rumors and controversy have swirled ever since, now for more than a decade. The biggest question of them all: Was it real?

The buck, which in the photo appears so large that it almost looks photoshopped, ignited a debate among deer hunters. Some claimed it was, indeed, fake—that the deer could not possibly have grown that large. Others insisted it was the real deal.

When the photo first surfaced on the internet in 2009, various descriptions gave it different weights, with most stating it weighed between 400 and 500 pounds. The location of where the monster buck was shot was often changed, too, which made it seem even more like a hoax. Every few years the photo would reemerge, and a new round of viral shares—and arguments—would begin.

So, what's the truth? The truth is that the photo is real, and the buck was real, but it actually weighed in at 420 pounds, not the rumored 430 pounds. To be clear, a 420-pound deer is still an anomaly. Deer don't usually grow that large. It's very rare.

the 430-pound buck of michigan

Wilderness Whitetails

This particular deer was raised on a high-fence hunting farm in Wisconsin—not Michigan—that specializes in big deer. Throughout the years many huge bucks have come from this farm, called Wilderness Whitetails. The buck's photo is proudly displayed in the 2009 trophy gallery album on the game farm's website and social pages. The farm's owner, Shorty Flees, confirmed the information about the legendary 430-pound deer in 2010 to the factchecking website Snopes.

"Yes, it is a legitimate buck,' Flees said. "I mean, we are a high-fence operation, I want to be clear about that, but this is a real buck. It was taken last September and weighed 420 pounds live-weight. The heaviest deer that's ever been shot on our place. Our client hunted this deer for 11 days. We'd had very warm weather and this buck just would leave his bed in a cedar swamp during the day. But it finally cooled off, and the hunter caught the buck making its way from the swamp to a food plot. He was so pumped, he just went nuts. He was kissing the deer."

We can't really blame him.

READ MORE: 5 Biggest Whitetail Bucks Found After They Died