John Breen Buck
Travis Smola

The World Record John Breen Buck Might Be the Greatest 10-Pointer Ever

In the whitetail world there are certain bucks that almost every hunter knows by sight. The gorgeous, 10-point typical frame of the famous John Breen buck from northern Minnesota is just one of those deer. Formerly the world record typical whitetail, the big buck's antlers are an example of the antlers that deer can grow given the right circumstances. Shot first in 1918, the deer also predates the high fence and genetic manipulation craze by a good 70 years.

Hundreds of thousands of bucks are harvested in the U.S. and Canada every deer season, but it takes a truly special buck for hunters to talk about it for more than 100 years! Aside from being an outstanding example of a whitetail deer, there's a great story behind this harvest to boot. This is the story of the John Breen buck and what makes this set of antlers so special in the world of deer hunting.

The Hunt for the Breen Buck

John Breen Buck

Travis Smola

Some of the details of the hunt for this great buck have been lost to time. We do know that Breen was a store clerk near the tiny town of Bemidji in Beltrami County, Minnesota. In November of 1918, World War I was close to its conclusion. Two of Breen's son were involved in the fighting overseas and even though the war was near an end, we imagine his sons probably still weighed heavily on his mind at the time. According to Legendary Whitetails, a regular customer to Breen's store named Knute Week invited Breen out to do some deer hunting near the town of Funkley, about 30 miles to the Northeast of Bemidji.

Today, it's a simple 30-minute drive to get to Funkley from Bemidji, but back in 1918, allegedly the only way to get there was via train. Hoping to ease his tension about his boys overseas, Breen hopped on the train one day with his rifle and rode to Funkley, not knowing he was about to make deer hunting history.

We don't know much about where he was hunting, but we do know Breen toted a classic .30-30 Winchester rifle. According to North American Whitetail, Breen watched a group of does run past his spot while being chased by a buck. While he was lining up for the shot on that buck, he just happened to notice the larger 10-point behind the first buck. Breen didn't need to think twice about which deer he wanted to shoot! The rest was history. Breen returned via the train to Bemidji a few days later with one heck of a story to tell. While most hunters were more concerned with meat back then, many people recognized this was indeed a special animal. Breen's youngest son Ray, who was 12 years old at the time, later described the scene to Legendary Whitetails:

"When he got the buck home, everybody came to see it. A lot of people made a big fuss over it," Ray told the publication. "The rack was so big that even in those days everybody knew that it was something special. The rack was so wide that we had a hard time getting it through the front door of the house."

Ray also told Legendary Whitetails that while the buck had a large body, it was also old, thin, and extremely tough. The Breen family ate the venison from the deer for weeks, but it was of such poor quality that Breen allegedly tried to give some of it away with no success. It's likely the buck was at his peak when he grew that rack and probably would have gone downhill if he survived another year. In any case, Breen eventually decided to have the deer mounted. He even turned down an offer of $50 to buy the rack, which was a lot of money for a set of antlers in those days. Breen was proud of his buck and didn't want to part with it. We can't blame him!

The Breen Buck Becomes the New World Record

John Breen Buck

Travis Smola

John Breen shot this buck so long ago, the deer pre-dates Boone & Crockett's scoring system! The organization released their first edition record book in 1932. However, it wasn't until after Breen died in 1947 that the family finally decided to have the deer scored. When a measurer finally put tape to antler, they were stunned by what they found. The buck's main beams measured a staggering 31 2/8 and 31 inches respectively. The longest tines towered nearly 13 inches, and the buck carried tremendous mass through the whole frame. The inside spread was 23 5/8 inches. This whitetail truly has it all. It even has a short little drop tine and a hint of another jutting off the bottom of the right main beam. It's little wonder you'll hear many hunters cite this buck as their personal favorite all-time typical.

The buck gross scored a whopping 223 3/8 inches. Unfortunately, he lost over 20 inches in deductions due to the drop tine and some non-typical stickers and kickers. Still, the buck made the rare 200-inch typical score club with a net score of 202 inches exactly. When you consider that most 200-inch typical whitetails have at least 12 typical points, that makes what the Breen buck accomplished—even with abnormal points—even more impressive. The buck instantly became the new world record, a title it would hold until 1971.

If you're up to date on your whitetail history, you know that the James Jordan buck—another legendary 10-pointer scoring 206 1/8— was shot approximately four years before the Breen buck in Wisconsin. However, in one of hunting's great mysteries, the antlers from that deer went mysteriously missing for 50 years before being rediscovered in a garage sale by Jordan's nephew.

Ultimately, it was the Jordan buck that dethroned the Breen buck for the title of world record typical whitetail, a record that would stand until the 1990s when the Hanson buck was harvested in Saskatchewan. Breen's family later sold the rack to an antler collector and today the Breen buck has a home at Bass Pro Shops at the Wonders of Wildlife Museum where he can be appreciated by hunters every single day. It's rather fitting he now stands in the collection alongside the Jordan buck, the Hole-in-the-Horn, and many other famous whitetails throughout history. A very fitting place for one of the most impressive 10-pointers ever harvested by a hunter.

For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels