Thousands of big bucks get killed every year, but few make waves in the hunting community and get remembered for years like this enormous deer from Michigan did. One of the most famous—or infamous—whitetails ever harvested was the Rompola Buck.
It was one of the first "hunting stories" to ever catch my attention. I vividly remember one evening when my dad was in his hunting room cleaning guns. In his gun case lied a bunch of hunting magazines. The one on top had a massive, unique buck plastered on the cover. The buck's rack and the hunter's face stood out. Before I knew what the Boone and Crockett Club was, I knew this had to be one of the biggest and best deer I'd ever seen in a photograph. The buck didn't look like any other deer—no wonder its story grabbed my attention.
The Mitch Rompola Buck
As you can see, Mitch Rompola is a seasoned deer hunter who knows how to kill big bucks; he has many to prove it. Many record book-caliber deer hang from his wall, and his knowledge and trophies show that he knows how to get it done with a bow.
On Nov. 13, 1998, Rompola released an arrow at a buck and felled what would (allegedly) become the new world record. Yes, the kill even surpassed the Hanson Buck, the deer killed by Milo Hanson that held the top spot at the time.
The Rompola Buck was reported at a typical net score of 218 5/8 inches and had an outside spread of 38 inches. With that score, the buck would have beaten the current world record typical buck by an even 5 inches. Milo Hanson's world-record typical buck officially scored 213 5/8 inches. It was harvested in November of 1993. Rompola's buck was re-scored later, after the drying period, at 216 5/8 inches.
Rompola said he had hunted the deer for three years before killing it and missed it about a week before. He knew it was a good shot when he shot the deer, but he elected to go home and get the video camera. He proceeded to record the recovery, which is reportedly the footage below.
But this is when the story gets extremely weird. After some time and investigation, people called the buck a hoax, and it has yet to be seriously looked into. Many of those that were skeptical of the kill had many ideas about what had happened.
Viewers scrutinized the arrow placement, comparing it to pictures. The skull plate was never examined after reports emerged that it was fabricated. Rompola denied getting X-rays on the deer's rack. The rack is discolored, and the antler burrs are an inch and a half wider than average record holders. Naturally, these features raised suspicion.
The droopy ears in the pictures were also a huge point of emphasis for the doubters. The only possible way a deer's ears would droop like that is if the original skull plate and rack were replaced with fakes. That is what many claimed; I was always uncertain, too.
Oh, and Rompola practically disappeared as soon as the allegations spread. That was evidence enough for people to point fingers and yell scam. And quite frankly, it makes sense. He just wasn't around to hear the accusations anymore. But a part of me wants to believe the deer could have been legit, and that set of antlers could be the record. But why would Rompola not come forth to prove he was right? It's all so strange.
Simply put, we may never know the real deal with the Rompola Buck, and the deer will never be considered the record. I'm not claiming one side of the argument is better than the other. The story is incredibly fascinating. Why did people not seek more answers?
What do you think? There isn't much out there on the scandal. You cannot find more photos of the buck itself, the mount, or the images Mitch "allegedly" took before he shot the buck. I would love to sit down with Mitch and hear his story of this infamous buck and the hunt that produced it. What a conversation that would be.
This article was originally published on December 10, 2020.