In the Summer 2011 issue of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, I wrote a story about the potential world-record Johnny King Buck from Wisconsin. The purpose of the article was to make the public aware of the controversy surrounding the significant difference in opinion on the scoring of the King Buck. This article (and additional photos and video interviews) also appeared on this website.
As I pointed out in the story, many people, including experienced antler measurers, provided their opinion after the right G-3 tine on the King rack was declared abnormal by B&C. The article was not intended to be an attack on the Boone and Crockett Club or anyone in it. The integrity of the Club as a century old institution has never been in question. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the Johnny King Buck is far from any kind of reasonable resolution. Rather, the story pointed out that a buck of this magnitude should not be subject to a final ruling based on one man’s opinion, particularly when there are so many opposing views — especially those of individuals who have been official B&C scorers for decades.
During my nearly 30-year career as an outdoor writer, I have always been a huge fan and avid supporter of B&C. I can’t say enough about the great things this unique conservation organization has done over the past century, not to mention the last few decades. Jack Reneau and I have worked together in numerous ways over the years, and I have the highest respect for him and his vast experience.
However, as citizens of our free country, I do believe that we have a right to question decisions made by others. In this case, dozens of experienced measurers around the country who have seen and examined the Johnny King Buck in person believe that the decision to label the right G-3 as an abnormal point was a bad judgment call. These measurers believe that the rack should be scored as a 6×6 typical with no abnormal points.
PA Meeting was Not a ‘Mini-Panel’
When Johnny King drove to Pennsylvania to have Jack Reneau look at his deer in the spring of 2007, his primary reason for driving 1,200 miles was to see if the break in the main beam was clean enough to allow entry in the all-time record book. It was that important to him to travel such a great distance. The rack had already been green-scored as a world-class typical, possibly even a world record. As such, Johnny was told that if the damaged rack could be accepted by B&C, then it would at some point probably be invited to be scored by a panel of judges since potential world records or new state records usually are panel scored.
When Reneau looked at the rack (he did not score it) and made his ruling that the right G-3 was an abnormal point, several other Pope and Young measurers and at least one other B&C measurer were present in the room. B&C suggests that all four measurers weighed in on the ruling. The ruling has even been characterized by some as a “mini-panel.” This is not true.
In truth, it was an impromtu meeting that was nowhere close to being a mini-panel. Official B&C panels are assembled every three years at the end of every three-year awards period. The panels usually consist of 10 top measurers from around the country who re-measure the top big game trophies taken during that awards period. Sometimes the panel of judges arrive at a final score that is different than the original entry score. More on that in a minute.
While in Pennsylvania, Johnny King’s rack was never panel-scored by any official body. In fact, it was never scored at all because this was not an official gathering of B&C scorers. It was a spontaneous "look-see" with Reneau to determine if the King rack could be entered in the record book due to the break in the beam. The meeting happened to occur during a Pope and Young function that Reneau was attending. The Pope and Young officials who were in the room, Glen and Kevin Hisey, are both distinguished authorities in their own right. However, they were there as Pope and Young authorities overseeing the measuring of Pope and Young trophies. The King deer was a rifle kill. At best, if the other scorers present voiced an opinion, that’s all it was – a simple opinion.
So, in truth, the only opinion that mattered was that of Jack Reneau. The other scorers present might have agreed with him and they might not have agreed with him. However, Reneau stated the G-3 was an abnormal point and this ruling was the bottom line. Like many B&C rulings, it was a judgement call and this has been the basis for the entire controversy.
Nothing can be found in the B&C measurer’s manual that would indicate the right G-3 is an abnormal point. In fact, if you score the point according to the guidelines in the manual, you can’t help but score the tine as a typical tine. The right G-3 tine rises upward from the top of the main beam and it has a match on the other side; all the more reason why the King buck should be given an opportunity to be re-examined.
As mentioned, dozens of experienced scorers who have examined the rack in person disagree with B&C’s ruling. And this is the primary reason the controversy has reached such epic proportions. In reality, when both G-3s were declared to be abnormal, the other three scorers present had no reason to argue. After all, it was not any sort of official gathering. It was not a “mini-panel” in any sense of the word. Basically it was no more than several measurers giving an opinion. However, as executive secretary of the Boone and Crockett Club, Jack Reneau’s ruling was cast and appears to be set in stone.
Sadly, once the ruling was made, the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club felt compelled to accept it without further discussion. So … the rack was never even officially scored for the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club record book. Even if it wasn’t a world’s record, the King buck might easily have been a new Wisconsin state record, beating the score of the James Jordan buck (206 1/8) taken nearly 100 years ago. And that would have been big news! It would have been big for Johnny King, for the state of Wisconsin and for the whitetail fraternity as a whole.
Unfortunately, it appears to be an open and shut case that cannot be reconsidered. However, there are precedents for reconsidering or changing entry scores. And as mentioned, those changes are usually initiated by a select panel of measurers.
A Similar Scenario
In 1983, the well-known Hole-in-the-Horn buck from Ohio was discovered and purchased by antler collector Dick Idol. Phil Wright, a highly respected professor at the University of Montana in Missoula, scored the huge 45-point non-typical rack as a 5×5 main frame. His entry score was 343-3/8 non-typical points. At that time, Phil was chairman of the records committee for the Boone and Crockett Club. You can’t get much better than that. With years of experience behind him, he was considered to be the dean of antler measurers across North America.
A year earlier a buck known as the Missouri Monarch had been found dead along a road just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. The Missouri Monarch was scored by Dean Murphy, who also happened to be a high ranking official with the Missouri Department of Conservation. Murphy’s entry score was 325-3/8 non-typical points. Certainly Murphy had every motivation for wanting the deer to be a new world record since it had been found in his state.
As soon as the deer was officially scored, it was treated as a new world record by the press. However, in order for that title to stick, the buck would have to be panel-scored by a team of judges at B&C’s 18th Awards Program to be held in the summer of 1983. Dean Murphy just happened to be a member of the panel of judges that scored the rack during that awards program. The final score was upped to 333-7/8 non-typical points and the Missouri Monarch officially became a new world’s record non-typical whitetail.
When the Hole-in-the-Horn buck was discovered, the same kind of treatment by the press followed. With an entry score of 343 3/8, the Hole-in-the-Horn buck was widely publicized as a new world’s record surpassing even the Missouri Monarch, subject to a panel score at the end of the next three-year awards program to be held in the summer of 1986. The extensive publicity received by the Hole-in the-Horn buck did not sit well with Dean Murphy or the Boone and Crockett Club. Both Murphy and the Club publicly denounced magazines like North American Whitetail because they had characterized the Hole-in-the-Horn Buck as a “new world’s record.”
When the next panel session was held in 1986, Phil Wright’s entry score was lowered to 328-2/8 points, a stunning 15 1/8 points less than the entry score. This ensured that the Missouri Monarch would remain a world’s record. So, entry scores can be changed – even those submitted by the records chairman of the Club. And they often are changed for one reason or another by B&C panels.
In the case of the King buck, the 6-by-6 rack was green-scored in excess of 215 typical points, making it a potential world’s record. But as soon as Reneau ruled both G-3 tines to be abnormal, that typical score dropped to 180-1/8 inches. The rack was never officially scored or recognized in any way by the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club and no one from the club ever contacted Johnny King about having his great buck scored for the state of Wisconsin.
It’s a shame that one of the nation’s oldest and most respected state scoring organizations has chosen to remain totally silent on this issue. At the very least, the club could have petitioned B&C to reopen the case so that the deer might get a fair hearing. Apparently, there is no middle ground with B&C in this particular case. A ruling has been made and if you happen to disagree with that decision, you run the risk of being chastised.
Piling on the ‘Promoter’
My good friend Jay Fish, one of the most ethical hunters I know, as well as a passionate antler collector who bought the Johnny King rack in 2009, has been characterized by B&C as a “purchaser/promoter” interested only in making money on the deer – especially if it were to be recognized as a new world’s record by B&C. Jay bought the rack because it was a unique, one-of-a-kind whitetail rack. He was deeply infatuated with it the first time he ever saw it. He paid a lot of money for it, and after he bought it, he promised Johnny King that he would do everything he could to see that it might some day get a fair hearing. Sadly, in the midst of all the controversy, there has been little consideration for the great deer itself.
Over the past few years, Jay the “promoter” has personally taken the Johnny King rack (as well as many other racks in his collection) to numerous deer shows across the country at his own expense to let people see it and even hold it in their own hands. He has been generous to a fault because he believes in the deer. He also believes with every fiber of his being that the rack is a typical 6×6 and should be recognized as such.
If he’s a promoter of anything, it’s in the area of ethical hunting, taking kids hunting and getting more youngsters involved in all sort of outdoor endeavors. To him, antler collecting is a labor of love – a passion! All he has ever asked is that someone – either B&C or the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club – give the deer a fair shake.
The current controversy has also thrown criticism at Jay, questioned his motives and his ability to make a profit, should he decide to sell the rack. If he were to sell the rack and make a profit on it, would that be a crime? Jay is a businessman. Isn’t making a profit the American way? Isn’t that what we all try to do with any business venture?
To criticize him for trying to make a profit is absolutely absurd.
—Duncan Dobie is a D&DH contributor from Georgia.