In the late 1980s and early ’90s, there was no shortage of rumors about “new” world record typical whitetails. Jim Jordan’s long-standing world record from Wisconsin, with a net Boone and Crockett score of 206 1/8 points, was still the target to shoot for, but tales of bigger typicals abounded. As most serious hunters know, until Milo Hanson’s 1993 Saskatchewan buck (final score 213 5/8 points) was taken, all of these “world record” rumors proved to be no more than wishful thinking. But in 1992, a very real buck came onto the scene that refueled the hope that a new world record typical could show up at any time. While he didn’t actually pose a serious threat to the Jordan Buck’s No. 1 position, had a couple of very possible “what ifs” been so, the annals of deer hunting history might have told a different story.
Shot in Iowa in 1974, this buck was known to the “in” crowd of the whitetail fraternity for many years before he was officially entered into the B&C record book. However, the vast majority of hunters knew nothing of the buck prior to his appearance at the B&C Awards Program in Milwaukee in 1992, where his panel-confirmed net score of 201 4/8 points was announced. Overnight, the deer was propelled onto the elite list of typicals officially in the book at over 200 points.
It doesn’t take long to tell the story of the hunt for this monster. In the fall of 1974, Wayne Bills was asked by some friends to go on a deer hunt. He was relatively new to the sport; in fact, he had never shot a deer. Figuring a shotgun hunt would be a lot of fun, he agreed to take part in the hunt, which was to occur in Hamilton County about 70 miles north of Des Moines.
In Iowa, “party” hunting is both legal and popular. Large groups commonly get together and conduct deer drives, with each hunter carrying a tag. If a hunter is fortunate enough to shoot more than one deer, he can tag the extra one with another party member’s unfilled tag. The only restriction is that the total number of deer taken can’t exceed the number of tags.
Not long into this particular hunt, Wayne heard several shots coming from behind him. He looked back in time to see a huge buck running down an open draw between two hills. The hunter moved into position and drew a bead on the rapidly moving buck, which was still some distance away. Not having enough experience to realize that the opportunity for a clean kill at that range was marginal at best, Wayne steadied his shotgun and fired. The hunter was somewhat surprised to see the buck go down immediately. To his credit, Wayne didn’t just stand there and hope the shot was fatal; he hurried over to where the deer was lying, just in time to see him try to get to his feet. A final shot ended it.
At the time, Wayne knew he’d shot a big buck, but he didn’t realize just how big. Over the next few weeks, the response from taxidermists, other hunters, friends, etc., made him realize that the deer was much more noteworthy than he’d even imagined. Eventually, the rack was scored at 199 5/8 typical points, making it the state record. However, that score never was entered into B&C, which explains why the rack remained unknown to many trophy hunters for so long.
In time, collector Larry Huffman acquired the antlers, and in 1991, he had them measured again—this time by Dave Boland of Minnesota, one of the top scorers for B&C. Dave gave the head an entry score of 201 4/8 typical points as a basic 5×5 typical, and Larry submitted the application to B&C. That entry score was confirmed by the judges’ panel in Milwaukee.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this buck is that he probably was a “walking world record” in the weeks before he was shot. The reason I make this claim is that the left brow tine has a large piece missing off the end, badly hurting the final score. The portion that remains is 4 7/8 inches in length. The right brow, by contrast, is unbroken and measures 7 1/8 inches. Because of deductions for asymmetry, the buck gets a total of 9 6/8 inches (by doubling the shorter measurement) as his net total for the two brow points combined. The left brow, however, appears to have been at least as long as the right one originally, judging from the fine’s diameter at the break. So, it seems safe to assume that the Bills Buck would have scored much better had the brow tine not been damaged.
Had that tine been at least as long as its mate, the buck would have received another 4 4/8 inches of credit on his net score (double the current 2 2/8 inches of difference), which would have made his net score 206 points even. That, of course, would have put him just 1/8 inch below the James Jordan Buck.
It’s unclear exactly how the brow tine was damaged. However, the break apparently was fresh at the time the deer was shot, because it doesn’t look to have been smoothed by rubbing. It’s quite possible that during all of that shooting before the buck reached Wayne, somebody shot the tip of the tine off. (Wayne’s first shot hit the deer on the bridge of the nose.)
Another “what if” to consider when discussing this buck’s run at the record is the fact that he was officially scored nearly two decades after he was shot. Although B&C’s mandatory drying period for trophies is 60 days, shrinkage certainly doesn’t end then. It’s safe to assume that with the extra portion of the left brow tine, and with the buck being scored within the first year after he was shot, the deer easily could have scored as much as one to three points higher than he did when officially measured. This would have given him a final score of around 207 to 209, making him the world record for many years.
Of course, you could make the same argument that the Jordan Buck (killed in 1914) and the John Breen Buck (a 202 typical shot in Minnesota in 1918) also would have scored higher than they do today had they been scored soon after they were taken. They certainly would have, but the B&C scoring system wasn’t even formulated until 1950. So, there’s no way these two giants could have been scored 60 days after they were taken. But, Wayne’s buck could have been. Of course, that broken brow tine renders moot the question of whether or not he was a “world record” on the hoof. But, it makes for interesting speculation.
The symmetry of the rack is reflected in the fact that there is a total difference of only 8 1/8 inches between the two antlers — 2 2/8 of which is a result of the broken brow tine alone. The “natural” difference from one antler to the other appears to have been only 5 7/8 inches, an incredibly small amount for a rack that grosses 212 7/8 typical. As is, the typical frame score of 204 6/8 (before 3 2/8 inches of abnormal deductions) is still most impressive, particularly for a 5×5 with a broken point!