Some of the biggest bucks known to ever roam this earth never made it to the whitetail world record books. That's not because they didn't qualify. It is because no hunter ever could claim them. These monster bucks weren't killed or tagged by any hunter. These world-class bucks just disappeared, leaving only sheds and stories behind, their demise becoming a whitetail hunting cult mystery. One of these is the Kansas King buck, one of the biggest "what if" stories of buck-hunting lore.
It has been thirty years since Saskatchewan hunter Milo Hanson claimed the title of world record typical whitetail buck with his 213 5/8-inch beast. To this day Hanson holds the throne. In the decades since there have been plenty of close contenders, but several, such as the Johnny King buck, were ruled out on technicalities.
Like the General, there have been several deer reported throughout the years that have driven deer hunters crazy by maturing to magnificent sizes before disappearing into the misty wilderness, never to be harvested by any hunter or seen again. These legendary whitetails grew to world-class sizes and then vanished, leaving only a few shed antlers behind to stir the hunters' minds and make them wonder what may have been. Take for instance "the General," an enormous buck that would likely have outscored the Hanson buck by as much as four inches, except that all he left behind we sheds, one of which had a broken tine.
The Kansas King, like The General, offered up one of the most impressive typical shed sets ever found. Here's its story.
The Legend of the Kansas King
According to an article from North American Whitetail's Dick Idol in 1994, the story of the Kansas King began in the fall of 1992. At the time, the James Jordan buck held the typical world record crown and would for another year until Milo Hanson dropped his monster that November. Details on the full story of the King are a little vague, but we know at least one bowhunter knew about and pursued this monster near Liberal, Kansas, in 1992. We also know the hunter saw the buck several times. The beast just never closed the distance and offered a clear shot.
Fast-forward to the spring of 1993. This is where the story gets even murkier. Mainly because Idol states that the hunter who pursued the buck is the one who found the sheds, but if you start digging around, you'll find there's another story of how the buck's crown was discovered. The story goes that a rancher was checking on one of his stock tanks when he spotted the antlers nearby. This rancher clearly was not a hunter because he left the antlers behind. It is rumored the rancher's son was the one who later realized the significance and retrieved them. Thus, the whitetail world got a glimpse at what might have been.
The two matched sides of the Kansas King show he was a nearly perfect 6x6, although Idol notes the buck had snapped off his G1 and G2 tines on his left side at some point during the rut. A taxidermist later recreated these tines and repaired them based on a description by the hunter who pursued the animal.
There is a lot of speculation about this buck. This buck's main beams were 27 4/8 and 28 inches long, respectively. Many of the tines are above 12 inches, and the G2s were likely 14 inches. The unbroken right antler scores a staggering 98 4/8 inches all by itself. We can only guess at the length of the broken tines on the left side and the inside spread. However, most whitetail historians believe it was very likely an unbroken version of the Kansas King would easily gross 217 inches typical. The rack has no abnormal points either, so there's an excellent chance it would have barely netted higher than Hanson's 213 5/8-inch record.
That means had the Kansas King buck been harvested before he broke those tines, it is very likely that Hanson may have never held the world record. Whitetail hunting history would look a whole lot different than it does now. That's one wild "what if" scenario to think about all these years later.
The Other Set of Sheds
As if one set of sheds was not enough, there is a second set of world-class sheds from the same area that some hunters call the "Kansas Prince." They were allegedly found in the same field as the King's crown. While not nearly as large as the King, it's estimated the second set would likely score around 201 inches. It's exceedingly rare for any wild whitetail to break the 200-inch barrier, so the fact there are two sets of sheds from the same area is mind-boggling.
There is some disagreement among hunters about the Kansas Prince. While some hunters believe it is simply the King's rack from the previous year, rumors swirl that a second monster ran around the area around the same time. There are rumblings that the two bucks often ran together and that perhaps it was the Prince who broke the King's two tines in 1992. The idea of two wild, 200-inch typical whitetails clashing antlers is probably too unlikely to be true, but it's certainly fun to dream about.
As far as we know, the Kansas King was never seen again after 1992 and presumably lived and died a natural death with no other sheds or antlers recovered. In November 1993, Hanson shot his buck in Canada and finally dethroned the Jordan buck for the number one spot. We imagine quite a few people who hunted Kansas in 1992 are probably still wondering what could have been. But these what if scenarios are part of why it's called "hunting" and not killing. There will always be the one that got away.
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