Let’s play “Jeopardy,” that game where the question is asked after the answer has been given. And since we can’t get enough of whitetails, let’s make it “Whitetail Jeopardy”!
Whitetail Jeopardy Answer: The state with the earliest world record whitetail.
Whitetail Jeopardy Question: What is Pennsylvania?
Wait! What? That has to be a mistake, doesn’t it? There’s no chance! No one is ever going to find a world record whitetail in Pennsylvania!
Not so fast. Perhaps a lesson in whitetail history is in order. It’s true – Pennsylvania produced the biggest whitetail buck on record from 1830 to 1870. You can look it up. The Boone and Crockett Club will verify it. Not only that, no big game animal in any record book anywhere in the world was harvested earlier than 1830. Maybe we should call it the most historic whitetail ever – arguably the most historic big game animal of all time. It’s a fascinating story.
Arthur Young, born more than 200 years ago in 1813, shot the huge buck when he was only 17 years old. He became a farmer, trapper, and market hunter in the hard scrabble hills of Pennsylvania. By the time of his death in 1878 he was renowned to have killed a greater number of deer, bears, panthers, and wildcats, than any other individual in the county. (Much later, a different Arthur Young helped start the Pope and Young archery organization.)
The author visits the gravesite of Arthur Young and his wife Laurinda. The headstones are very close to the road at Goodwin Cemetery in Farmer’s Valley, PA. Mr. Young was buried there in 1878, and his wife in 1906. Since then the snowplow has damaged the stones, which have been repaired repeatedly. (Photo courtesy of Steve Sorensen)
The hunt happened long before Teddy Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club – 28 years before the great conservation President was even born. The buck’s rack didn’t come to light until 135 years after the buck was shot in Farmers Valley, Pennsylvania, near the town of Smethport in McKean County. It will probably always be the earliest Number One Whitetail on record, not because no bigger buck had ever been taken, but because anything that old is unlikely to have survived, and would be virtually impossible to authenticate.
To stay around that long, any deer rack would have to escape its own jeopardy in various ways. How many times did a knife maker eye it up as a source for his knife handles? Did it ever have to be saved from a burning building? Had it ever been left where a dog could run off with it? Did it ever get dropped, or fall from the wall, shattering those dry, brittle bones? And did anyone ever say, “What are we keeping this old thing around for?” Apparently, none of that happened, which is why we can celebrate this legendary whitetail today.
Even if someone shows up at the Boone and Crockett Club headquarters in Missoula, Montana with a giant whitetail an 18th century pioneer or Native American killed, how could it be proven to be authentic? And how was the Arthur Young buck authenticated so long after it was killed?
The answer is that Young’s wife Laurinda, (whose grandfather served under George Washington during the American Revolution) lived until 1906. Fortunately, she recorded the event in her personal journal (presumably told to her by Arthur himself since he killed the deer before their marriage). No one had a clue about its historical importance when the family decided to keep the antlers as an heirloom. Preserved along with the rack and Laurinda’s journal are the rifle he used to shoot the buck, and the powderhorn he carried for most of his life.
Gordon Whittington of North American Hunter TV gives viewers a sneak peak at the rack, gun, and powderhorn in a NAH TV exclusive. Click the photo above or this link to view the video.
The powderhorn has its own history. Amazingly, it dates from before the American Revolution. Collectors will tell you a plain, unembellished pre-Revolutionary War powderhorn from the original 13 colonies is valuable. This one is much more so, carved with scrimshaw featuring images of animals and the date 1769 which help establish its age. It was brought from Rhode Island in 1802 when Young’s pioneering father moved to Norwich, New York, and then to McKean County in 1821. Young purchased the rifle, made by gunmaker P. Smith of Buffalo, New York, when he was 14. It was originally a flintlock, later converted to a caplock. Certainly few record book animals have such authenticating support pieces from the hunt.
Was the buck’s head ever mounted? No. Taxidermy was barely getting its start in the 1830s, an eventful decade, for sure. The buck was killed before Davy Crockett died at the Alamo, before Sam Colt invented “the Gun That Won the West.” and before Abraham Lincoln got his start in politics by getting elected to the Illinois State Legislature.
Were any photos taken of Arthur Young with his notable buck? No. Photography was in its infancy. It wasn’t until 1839 that anyone even used the word “photography.” Three decades passed between the time Arthur Young killed the buck and Matthew Brady started documenting Civil War history through photographs.
But there is a painting. When I was researching the Arthur Young buck, I ran across Ernest Durphy, an artist who lived only a few miles from where the buck was killed, and he had recently completed a painting of the buck. He based his painting on his knowledge of the area and used photographs of the antlers taken in 1965 as a model. The photographs were taken when the rack was scored by the Pennsylvania Game Commission when the state began to compile its record book, and another from North American Whitetail magazine.
While researching the story of the Arthur Young buck, the author discovered that a painting depicting the buck had recently been completed. Prints are available from the artist. (Photo courtesy of Ernest Durphy.)
The Arthur Young buck is certainly one of the most legendary whitetails of all time, and is the top whitetail on record from 1830 until 1870. The gun, the powderhorn, and the magnificent antlers exist to this day and are closely protected.
Considering the value the collection would have, it’s unlikely you will ever see any of it, but you can have your own piece of this unique whitetail history.
Now let’s use what we know about this truly legendary whitetail to finish our game of Whitetail Jeopardy.
Whitetail Jeopardy Answer: Arthur Young – 19th century Pennsylvania farmer, trapper, market hunter.
Whitetail Jeopardy Question: Who killed the earliest documented whitetail in the Boone & Crockett record book?
Whitetail Jeopardy Answer: The year 1830, and 135 years passed.
Whitetail Jeopardy Question: In what year was the Arthur Young buck killed, and how many years went by before it was entered into the Boone and Crockett record book?
Whitetail Jeopardy Answer: The muzzleloading rifle used to kill the buck, and the powderhorn the hunter carried dating from before the American Revolution.
Whitetail Jeopardy Question: What pieces of whitetail history have been preserved along with the antlers from the Arthur Young buck?
Whitetail Jeopardy Answer: 175 4/8 net B&C inches, on a 6 by 6 typical frame.
Whitetail Jeopardy Question: What are the stats on the oldest whitetail antlers in the record book?
And now you know the facts behind one of the most interesting, historic, and truly Legendary Whitetails of all time.