These deer all went wildly viral on the internet.
Without fail, a new deer photo or two goes wildly viral all over every major hunting website and social media every year. It's been happening for years now, and often the actual truths behind the photos get totally lost in the process.
For today's #WhitetailWednesday, here's the real story behind seven bucks that went wildly viral.
The Dryden Buck
This 18-point was one of the first bucks to ever go wildly viral back in 2003. It was usually accompanied with text along the lines of: "New world-record buck poached in Canada." Only the location and poaching parts of the statement were true. Two Louisiana residents poached this buck after legal shooting hours outside Dryden, Ontario, Nov. 10, 2003.
In truth, though, the big boy wasn't anywhere near Milo Hanson's typical world record. It was probably the buck's gross score of 223 inches that pushed it into the stuff of deer hunting internet legend. But once deductions are taken into account, the big rack's net score is 199 7/8--far below world-record status.
The deer would've been a new record for Ontario had it been taken legally. Unfortunately, local hunters were robbed of that chance forever.
The 400-Pound "Michigan" Buck
If I had a dollar for every time I've seen this photo on the internet, I wouldn't have to write for a living. The one photo of this monster buck absolutely set the internet ablaze in 2009. The deer was attached to many different places like Canada, New York and Maine.
But the place most often attached to the deer was Hartford, Michigan and was said to weigh 400 pounds. I was immediately skeptical of that, considering I hunt less than 20 miles from there in the same county, and the biggest buck I've heard of in this area was maybe 250 pounds.
It turns out the deer was actually from Wisconsin and it wasn't even a wild deer. It was later confirmed to have come from a high-fence game ranch called Wilderness Whitetails. In fact, if you go to their website and look at trophies from 2009, it's the first photo in the gallery. They also have a seldom-seen second photo of the buck there, too.
So the deer was real and was obviously overfed on food plots in captivity, but the story behind it was total bologna. It still hasn't stopped photos of this animal from being shared around many deer campfires throughout the years.
The "Calico" Buck
This piebald buck first started making the internet rounds back in the 2008 deer season mis-captioned as a "calico buck." The story got crazier and crazier the more it spread.
As usual, the nice buck was said to be from a number of different places all across the country, including Wisconsin, Arkansas, Georgia, West Virginia and Michigan. Most of the posts also claimed "Calico deer are rarer than albinos," which isn't true, according to the QDMA. But the craziest addition to this story was the tall tale that the buck was sold to Cabela's for the sum of $13,000. Who knows where that addition to the story came from?
But eventually, the real story came out when the wife of the man in the photos (James Curtis) came forward with the real details. The buck was actually shot in Palestine, Texas, and no, Cabela's wasn't involved in any way. In fact, James was having a full-body mount made of the 138-5/8-inch buck made, and as far as we know, it was for no one but himself.
The Austin Pontier Buck
Hunters have been waiting more than 20 years for someone to break Milo Hanson's long-held, coveted title of the typical-world-record whitetail. The same can be said for Mel Johnson's even-longer-held bowhunting typical world record. So many were expecting the buck taken by 18-year-old Austin Pontier in the 2016 deer hunting season to break at least one, if not both records.
To be fair, the pictures of the big deer were deceiving and the huge antlers really did look the part. Even the experts were fooled. But some of the estimated scores of 230 or even 240 typical inches were way off. In reality, the buck grossed 202 3/8 inches and netted 194 1/8.
While that is still a big rack and definitely the deer of a lifetime, it was nowhere near being a world record. At least in this case, the location wasn't misrepresented, and most of the viral posts correctly identified Iowa the locale of the kill.
The Marcus Peecher Buck
As soon as photos of Marcus Peecher's massive Ohio whitetail hit the net in 2016, it had deer hunters everywhere wondering if the Hanson buck's days at the top were numbered.
To be fair, the 234-inch green score attached to the 18-point buck in many viral posts was correct. But there was some question as to whether to classify the buck as typical or non-typical.
The buck's final net score of 217 4/8 does in fact make this deer bigger than the Hanson buck, but the Peecher buck ended up being classified as a non-typical, taking it well out of any world-record contention. On another interesting note, this was Peecher's first deer with a bow and he had only shot it about six times before he bagged this buck. Talk about beginner's luck!
The Dan Miller Buck
Amish hunter Dan Miller dropped this 246-3/8-inch Kentucky giant in 2006. As with most big buck stories, the facts started getting muddied the second several grainy photos hit the internet. Miller, due to his religious beliefs, has never appeared in a photo with his buck, which probably only helped fan the internet-rumor flames.
Somehow, most of the early shares of this buck claimed it was shot by a 14-year-old Amish boy with a longbow. The post at least got the part about Miller being Amish correct, but the other details were miles off the mark. Miller, a schoolteacher, actually took the old buck with a rifle in a 14,000-acre section of public land known as Pennyrile State Forest that is only opened up to a limited quota hunt. At least two sets of sheds were also recovered from this animal.
Even though the story is easily found through a Google search, the photos of this whitetail buck still circulate the internet every hunting season to this day. For some reason, this buck is often shared as being roadkill and the location is changed frequently to places like Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania. We can only wonder how rumors like this get attached to photos like this.
The Other 400-Pound Whitetail
Yes, believe it or not, there's more than one viral photo of a "400-pound whitetail buck." The photos of this big buck first started making the rounds via email sometime in 2006 and left many hunters scratching their heads.
Most of the emails and social media posts claimed the buck weighed 412 pounds. It should be no surprise the location of the harvest bounced between Nebraska and Pennsylvania. In the wake of the photos going viral, several reporters tried to track down their origins. But Nebraska officials couldn't provide any more info than was already out there. It's worth noting officials said they'd never heard of a whitetail deer over 300 pounds.
Some were wondering if the photos were fakes when an Arkansas hunter, Stan Whitt, contacted a reporter with the Minneapolis Star Tribune and revealed he was the hunter in the photos and the buck had actually been shot in November the year before.
There was also an explanation for why state officials knew nothing of the animal. It'd been shot on a Nebraska Native American reservation. As for the buck's odd appearance, Whitt said the buck wasn't recovered until the day after it was shot and it became somewhat bloated.
And that 412-pound claim? That was nothing more than a guess determined by measuring the buck's girth. It also seems likely there's a bit of forced-perspective camerawork being done here as the men are sitting as far back in the photos as possible. It seems we'll never know the true weight of this Nebraska whitetail, but at least we know where and when it was taken.