Editors Blog

True Heavyweights

There was a day not so long ago when deer hunters across North America were absolutely fascinated with big bucks.

No, not big racks — big bucks. Huge, giant, monstrous creatures. Or, as the old-timers called them, “real slobberknockers.”

Antlers were adored, but they were almost secondary when it came to describing a buck’s status. “What did he weigh?” was often the first question asked of a successful hunter. This infatuation hasn’t died completely. A buck’s hog-dressed weight is still a badge of honor for hunters in the Northeast, Upper Great Lakes and Canada.

Research has taught us that bucks reach peak weights when they’re 5½ to 6½ years old. Does attain top weights when they are 4½ years old.

From what we can gather, the heaviest whitetail ever shot was killed by a bow-hunter, John Annett of Ontario, in 1977. The deer field dressed 431 pounds on government-certified scales. That would have given it an estimated live weight of more than 540 pounds. However,  reports indicate the buck was butchered before Canadian authorities could inspect it.

Second place seemingly belongs to a 402-pound Minnesota buck killed by Carl Lenander Jr. in 1926.  Conservation officials estimated the live weight at 511 pounds.

Third place would go to a Maine buck killed by Horace R. Hinckley in 1955. Hinckley reportedly spent three days searching for a scale large enough to properly weigh his buck. With a Maine Sealer of Weights witness present, the buck officially tipped the scales at 355 pounds, giving it a live weight of 451 pounds. Hinckley’s buck had a 28-inch neck girth and a 56-inch chest girth.

Fourth place goes to a 321-pound buck killed in Bayfield County, Wisconsin, in 1938. We don’t know the hunter’s name, but the weight was verified. Fifth place would have to go to a buck killed in New York in 1946. That deer officially weighed 291 pounds dressed.

These rankings are open for debate. While researching this topic with my friend Keith McCaffery, retired deer research biologist, we found several mentions of heavier deer.

However, none of those weights were verified. Included in that list are a 1907 Wisconsin buck that allegedly weighed 437 pounds dressed, and a 1924 Wisconsin buck that weighed 386 pounds.

Does a buck’s rack size or weight matter more to you as a measure of success? Click here to take the home page poll until June 11, 2009.