When it comes to the most legendary whitetail deer, the Missouri Monarch undisputedly claims royalty as most impressive buck ever documented. Sporting 44 scorable points going in every conceivable direction, this massive non-typical redefined what was possible with a wild whitetail buck thanks to a final net score of 333 7/8 inches.
Prior to the Monarch's discovery, most deer hunters assumed no deer would ever top the previous record—a 284 3/8-inch beast that has stood as the Texas state record since the late 1890s.
The most layer of the Monarch's story, however, is that this world-class trophy whitetail may have spent some time on public land during the five short years it was alive. This is the story of how St. Louis County, Missour,i and one massive set of antlers changed the record books forever.
Like many big bucks, the Monarch was a ghost of the forest. As far as we know, there are zero confirmed sightings of him prior when he was found dead Nov. 15, 1981, just north of downtown St. Louis.
It was the second day of firearms deer season and hunter Dave Beckman had some success that morning. Beckman checked his kill in with local conservation officer Michael Hellend before going on his way. As Beckman was just driving along the road when he spotted what looked like antlers next to a roadside fence. Thanks to an old article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, we now know the exact location was just off Strodtman Road, across the street from what today serves as the entrance to the Columbia Bottom Conservation Area.
Unfortunately, though, the buck was lying on private property of the local Pipefitters Union. Knowing he couldn't just trespass to pick up the big buck, Beckman went back and told Hellend about his discovery. After retrieving and skinning out the buck, Hellend gave it a thorough examination, during which he determined the deer had only been dead for a few days. He found large scars from an injury that likely happened when the deer was younger, possibly as a result of a run-in with a coyote, according to some biologists. The official cause of death was ruled as natural causes.
The deer was also missing some of its teeth, but biologists were able to estimate his age at somewhere between 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 years old. So, it's possible this deer hadn't even fully reached his prime.
Perhaps the saddest part of the story is that Beckman wasn't able to keep the antlers, despite being the one who first discovered the deer. At that time, Missouri did not have salvage rules that would have legally allowed Beckman to take possession of the antlers, so Hellend had no choice but to take them with him. The Missouri Department of Conservation immediately took possession of the rack, which they had mounted by a taxidermist. They are still the owners of the massive non-typical buck to this day.
Fortunately, the rules have changed since then. Still, Beckman, and many of his fellow hunters were rightfully upset when the MDC made and kept a ton of money from selling artist's prints and replicas of the buck. Last we heard, the MDC did finally decide to recognize Beckman's discovery by giving him one of the replicas. It was just a shame it came more than 30 years after the fact.
The Scoring Controversy
Officially, Boone and Crockett Club recognizes this buck's antlers as the world record non-typical. That title did not come easily. Two years after the Monarch was found, noted antler collector Larry Huffman tracked down the famous, lost "Hole-in-the-Horn" buck from Ohio. Just like the Monarch, it too was found dead next to a fence. The only difference was the Hole-in-the-Horn had been found more than 40 years earlier and had spent most of that time in obscurity in a smoky bar.
In the early 80s, all eyes in the whitetail world were on these two deer because most felt one or the other would become the next world-record buck.
Because the Monarch had been discovered in season during the rut, MDC officials did not do anything with it until the start of 1982. When Boone and Crockett measurer Dean Murphy finally put the tape to bone, he came up with a score of 325 7/8 inches.
Shortly after the Ohio deer was unveiled to the world in early 1983, many scorers were estimating the Hole-in-the-Horn could net anywhere from 340 to 350 inches. However, because B&C's process of certifying world-record deer works slowly, the Monarch was the first to be certified after an official panel scoring at B&C's 18th Awards Program in 1983. To everyone's surprise, this final scoring session added inches, pushing the Monarch's score up to 333 7/8 inches, which was more than enough to ascend the whitetail throne.
Most hunters figured that title would be short-lived once B&C Chairman Phil Wright gave the Hole-in-the-Horn buck an entry score of 342 3/8 inches in August of 1983. According to Legendary Whitetails, Wright believed that a final panel scoring session may find the final score to be even higher, as there are some other abnormal points that weren't counted in his scoring session.
Three more years passed before the next B&C Awards program in 1986, where the Hole-in-the-Horn would get its final panel scoring. When the panel completed its work, the judges determined the Ohio deer had a 4x4 typical frame as opposed to the 5x5 scoring from Wright. As a result, the Hole-in-the-Horn's final score was tallied at 328 2/8 inches, just below the Monarch.
Many hunters still argue the Hole-in-the-Horn is the bigger of the two bucks and deserves the crown as the world record, but B&C determined their ruling on the Ohio buck was final. The Hole-in-the-Horn holds the official No. 2 all-time spot.
Scoring controversy aside, there is no denying the Missouri Monarch is a special deer, especially when you start hearing some of the stats. The Monarch had an inside spread of 25 1/8 inches, an outside spread of 33 3/8 inches, and main beams that measured 24 1/8 and 23 3/8, respectively. The smallest mass measurements are well over 5 inches with mass measurements accounting for more than 40 inches in total. The abnormal points alone account for over 180 inches of the final score.
Because the Monarch has so many drop tines and other non-typical points, the antlers weigh a hefty 11.5 pounds. Just imagine what it was like for this buck to carry around such an incredible mass of bone on its head every day.
Amazingly no non-typical whitetail has been able to top the Monarch since it died 40 years ago. In fact, very few deer have gotten close enough to even be considered a threat. Only a handful of deer over the magical 300-inch mark have surfaced since then, and most of those deer fell far short of the mark, proving just how special the Monarch truly is.
In fact, prior to the year 2000, no hunter had ever taken a buck that netted more than 300 inches non-typical. Mike Beatty's 39-point, 304 4/8-inch Ohio monster was the first, and held the bowhunting world record for the next 18 years.
The next 300-incher fell to then 15-year-old Tony Lovstuen during the Iowa youth season in 2003. Known as "The Albia Buck," the deer became the worst-kept secret in the hunting world a year prior after a story with photos ran in North American Whitetail magazine. Though this buck grossed nearly 322 inches, it netted 307 5/8 inches when it was finally panel scored. While it wasn't close to the Monarch, it did become the new world record for a deer killed by a hunter, and held that title until 2016 when Stephen Tucker of Tennessee downed a massive 47-pointer with his muzzleloader that ended up netting 312 3/8 inches.
Some probably figured it would be a while before we saw another whitetail of that caliber, but just three years later, Luke Brewster broke the Internet when he harvested a massive 38-point non-typical whitetail in Edgar County, Illinois, that ended up netting 320 5/8 inches, taking the archery crown away from the Beatty buck. The fact that the Brewster buck is the only one to come even remotely close in the last 40 years really speaks to just how large the Hole-in-the-Horn and Missouri Monarch bucks are.
The only other buck that could've potentially taken the crown from the Missouri Monarch was on with a similar name: the "Minnesota Monarch." This deer, which is known only from a few photographs and some shed antlers, was sighted repeatedly in the northern part of the state in the late 80s and early 90s.
In 1990, the buck's matched set of sheds scored 310 inches on their own. North American Whitetail notes that adding an estimated inside spread of 23 3/8 gives the sheds a score of 334 inches, which is just barely enough to edge out the Missouri buck. Of course, no record book will accept it because the exact spread measurement is unknown. The Minnesota Monarch eventually disappeared and never met up with a hunter, leaving many to wonder what could've been.
It'll be an incredibly special occasion if a deer comes along to break the record, especially if a hunter can pull it off. But until then, the Missouri Monarch will remain the pinnacle of the whitetail deer hunting world.
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