BREAKING NEWS! Deer and Deer Hunting learned today that the 12-point Johnny King Buck will be called to a special scoring session by the Boone and Crockett Club to determine if the rack is indeed the biggest typical-antlered whitetail ever killed by a North American hunter. If it is, it will unseat the Milo Hanson Buck as the B&C world-record whitetail.
What are the odds of killing a wild, free-ranging buck like this? About 1 in 320 million! That makes Johnny King the luckiest hunter alive!
by Daniel E. Schmidt and Keri Butt
Copyright 2012 Deer & Deer Hunting
All Rights Reserved
This stunning development comes nearly six years after Johnny King killed the big deer with a borrowed .30-30 while deer hunting on family property in western Wisconsin. The massive 12-pointer — a 6-by-6 with no abnormal points — is believed to gross more than 220 inches and quite possibly net more than the current world record Milo Hanson Buck which scored 213-5/8 B&C. Hanson shot his buck in Saskatchewan in 1993. Ironically, both men were hunting whitetail properties that were very similar: strips of woods surrounded by agricultural land. They also shot their big bucks while conducting deer drives.
The panel scorers are being asked to score the buck in about two weeks. That was the recommendation by the 32-man records committee to the B&C board, which concurred. They will decide whether the buck’s right G-3 meets the requirements of a typical point.
King’s buck, however, has been shrouded in controversy almost since the day it was killed. Despite convictions by many longtime certified B&C scorers that the buck is a typical 12-pointer, some, including at least one high-ranking B&C official, believed the buck’s right G-3 tine was an “abnormal point” because of the way it appeared on the main beam. Those beliefs led to a scandal of epic proportions in the deer hunting world that had remained out of the public eye for years until Deer & Deer Hunting broke Duncan Dobie’s expose cover story in the magazine’s Summer 2011 edition.
Dobie, one of America’s foremost outdoor writers for the last 30 years, has covered the King Buck saga since the deer was killed. He is the former editor of North American Whitetail Magazine, has authored six books about big bucks and is an accomplished trophy buck hunter in his own right.
Now, a year and many bitter developments later, the club has apparently decided to score the rack as a typical. According to B&C officials who chose not to be identified, the club will ask a panel of its official scorers to measure the antlers in Montana in about three weeks. The club needs to arrange to have the antlers brought to Montana by Jay Fish, an antler collector who bought the rack from Johnny King several years ago. King previously told D&DH that he sold the rack because he thought he would never have the energy, expenses or ability to fight for its justice.
This recent development comes after two prominent antler scoring experts (including one longtime B&C scorer) produced step-by-step videos of them scoring the rack while explaining in detail the club’s official rules in their measurement determinations. This video proof apparently was enough to convince the B&C records committee that the buck is indeed a typical and should be scored as such. Hence, the panel scorers will not determine if the rack is nontypical. They will score it as a typical and let the chips fall where they may, so to speak.
The panel-scoring session will allegedly take place at the Boone and Crockett Club’s national headquarters in Missoula, Mont. D&DH could not find out when this session will occur, but an inside source said it will most likely happen the third or fourth week of September. It is believed the panel will consist of six official B&C scorers, but no more than two of them will be from the B&C records committee. The panel will also apparently not include any of the men who weighed in on the buck’s rack in the past. This would include Glenn and Kevin Hisey of the Pope and Young Club, and former B&C executive secretary Jack Reneau.
When contacted this morning, B&C Records Director Eldon “Buck” Buckner confirmed the scoring panel is slated to occur in September.
“Yes,” Buckner said when asked if the club requested a panel score for late September. “That’s what we have planned. However, I haven’t heard from the trophy owner.”
Buckner said B&C must hear from the trophy owner to validate proof that he owns the head. The King Buck is owned by Jay Fish of Edgar, Wis.
Deer and Deer Hunting also tried contacting several other B&C officials. B&C Assistant Director of Big Game Records Justin Spring declined to comment this week, while Tony Schoonen, B&C chief of staff, did not return phone calls.
When told of the news, King expressed guarded optimism.
“It’s about time,” said King, an everday deer hunter from Mount Horeb, Wis.
“I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but why did it have to take this long, and why did we have to go through all of this?” he continued. “It’s a shame that (some scorers) had to threaten B&C for them to do what’s right. On the other hand, if it wasn’t for the deer and the controversy, I wouldn’t have met so many great people who have become friends to my wife and me.
“I guess I’m hesitant to believe them (B&C),” King added. “We’ve been here before. I just feel like they still might have something in their back pocket.”
When told of the forthcoming panel-scoring session, longtime B&C and Wisconsin Buck and Bear scorer Craig Cousins was not as guarded in his optimism.
“The Jordan Buck’s reign was long and glorious,” Cousins said. “Its fame and awesomeness are legendary. But there is a new king in Wisconsin. Long live the King!”
How Antlers are Panel Scored
The official protocol of for how to score antlers by a panel is quite simple and consistent. In official panels, six scorers (two teams of three) are used. In this case, B&C will select two groups of two official scorers. All four scorers will travel to Montana to partake in the ruling.
The two groups are placed in separate rooms and are not allowed to confer with each other before or during the process. First, the rack will be given to one group, where two scorers will work together to score the antlers.
One scorer will use a straight edge and lead pencil to draw measurement lines on the antlers. The other scorer will then use a thin, flexible steel measuring cable to determine the lengths of the spread, each point, circumference and main beam measurement. One scorer usually puts the cable in place and announces the measurement. The other scorer will also look at the ruler and agree or disagree with the measurement. The measurer who drew the lines normally writes down the score. All scorers must agree on each measurement before moving to the next measurement.
The process is continued until the entire rack is scored. The group then tallies up the score and determines the net score. After they are done, the rack is then taken to the second group of scorers who complete the same process. When that group arrives at its final score, the two groups convene and come up with one score. This score is then given to the chairman of the B&C records committee.
Unless there is a discrepancy in judgment (nontypical points, etc.), a panel score is usually an exercise in precision.
“We’re talking about a matter of eighths of an inch,” Cousins said. “Sometimes the scores match identically. You must understand that the scorers select for panel are extremely experienced. They are trained enough in scoring antlers that they will usually be within a fraction of each other.”
In short? Not much. Contrary to popular belief, whitetail antlers do not normally shrink much from the time the deer is killed until the mandatory 60-day “drying period” required by clubs like B&C.
In most cases of a B&C class typical, the rack won’t shrink more than 1 or 2 inches from when it is “green” until it is considered dry.
“It all depends on atmospheric conditions,” Cousins said. “However, the King Buck was hung above fireplace. That is the worst place to put a rack. Heat and dryness could have shrunk it by 3 to 4 inches.”
There is a caveat, however, to this reality. There are B&C rules in place that take shrinkage into account.
For example, if the original entry score has no glaring differences — and as long as it is within a certain percentage (2 percent) — the records committee will accept the original score. It appears that this won’t be the case for the King Buck. In a statement released Sept. 6, B&C said the panel’s final scorer will be the score assessed to the King Buck.
Therein lies the rub for the King Buck. The antlers were first scored by John Ramsey of Wisconsin. Ramsey, who was not available for comment, is believed to have netted the rack at 215-4/8 typical. This final score would obviously shatter Milo Hanson’s near 20-year-old record.
Other scores that have been bandied about include a score of 215-1/8 by Wisconsin Buck and Bear’s Marlin Laidlaw, and 213-6/8 score by Ron Boucher. Boucher didn’t score the rack, however, until well more than a year after the deer was killed. Any of the scores, however, would still place the King Buck as the new world record.
“I think Ramsey’s score is the one that should be submitted,” Cousins said. It was the first one conducted after the legal drying period, which is what B&C rules call for.”
Why the Controversy?
Some called is a cover up. Others called it a public relations nightmare. No matter how you slice it, the King Buck story blew up in B&C’s collective face because of the role Jack Reneau played in the saga.
Reneau came under extreme criticism for his role in the King Buck debacle for what many scorers classified as an arrogant, dictator-like treatment of the process. He ultimately made the decision the rack was nontypical without ever having seen it in person. In a statement earlier this year, Reneau tried to put the issue to rest without further review.
“There is no need to re-measure it,” Reneau said. “Those (G-3s) are abnormal points. A B&C panel would come to the same conclusion. I’m not trying to be tyrannical. Once the decision is made, that’s how it is. It’s nothing personal (against Johnny King), but I have to try and maintain the integrity of the program.”
Reneau said he employed the rules of the B&C scoring system and determined the G-3s were abnormal points. “Kevin Hisey, Glen Hisey and another official measurer all agreed with my opinion.”
He went on to say that many trophy owners disagree with final B&C scores and attempt to “shop” their trophies for better scores.
Despite his ruling, Reneau stopped short of completely closing the door on the King Buck back then. He explained that B&C officials have noticed there’s a new class of typical white-tailed deer antlers that are starting to surface that “we’ve never seen before, and Johnny King’s deer falls into that category.”
This recent development changes all of that.
The panel will also not include Richard Hale, B&C vice-president of records; Larry Strife; or Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club scorer Steve Ashley, who is now a Pope and Young Club employee. Ashely recently retired his position of records director at WBBC after 25 years of dedicated service. He still maintains status as an official scorer with the club.
The stunning decision to call the deer to panel is being credited to Eldon “Buck” Buckner, president of B&C’s records committee. It is believed that Buckner made the decision after reviewing videotaped scoring explanations by prominent experts Wisconsin Buck & Bear member Marlin Laidlaw and former B&C official scorer Craig Cousins. Both Laidlaw and Cousins are from Wisconsin.
Cousins, a 25-year B&C scorer, was stripped of his B&C status earlier this year for “conduct unbecoming of a B&C member” after quotes of his were published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Another B&C scorer, Ron Boucher of Vermont, was also let go from the club for publicly speaking out in favor of the deer being classified as a typical. Boucher is one of the most visible B&C scorers in the club’s history. He had been a B&C scorer for nearly 30 years and is the only scorer to have sat in on more than one panel-scoring session. In fact, he panel-scored the Hanson Buck.
When contacted earlier today, Boucher said he is happy that justice might prevail in this story.
“There came a point where I thought this day would never happen,” he said. “This tells you a lot about the change in course by the Boone and Crockett Club.
“I’m glad for Johnny, that’s for sure.”
Boucher has been the buck’s staunchest advocate since the first time he laid eyes on the rack in 2007. In fact, the deer probably would have languished in obscurity had Boucher not stood firm in his beliefs that it was a typical 6-by-6.
“Finally, one of the greatest deer of all time will get its due. But it’s not a done deal yet,” he said. “It is a good first step by Boone and Crockett to restore some of the lost faith among the general public. They have recognized something had to be done; that this wasn’t going to go away. People can now come back and have a better feeling about the club.”
Nearly a year into his fight to get the King Buck a fair hearing, Boucher was let go from his scoring position in Spring 2012 after he re-stated his beliefs to Deer and Deer Hunting. After being let go, Boucher received parting shots from Hale, who publicly questioned Boucher’s integrity.
When asked if he thought these recent events might lead the club to reinstate him as an official scorer, Boucher said he actually had not even entertained the thought.
“To be quite honest, I wouldn’t accept an automatic reinstatement,” he said. “First, I would need to have a few things clarified, including why would they want to reinstate me, and, second, why was I dismissed in the first place?
“Richard Hale’s comments on my character were quite hurtful. That has to be cleared up first,” Boucher said. “He did damage to my reputation.
“Sure, I would like to measure for Boone and Crockett again. I miss meeting people who have shot big deer. It’s something you can’t get out of your system very easily. Especially when you’ve done it for 30 years. But we’ll see what happens. If not, I will keep planting my garden and playing with my grandchildren. Life goes on.”
Boucher did express admiration of Buck Buckner.
“Buck Buckner made this (panel scoring session) happen, because he decided to do the right thing. Buck has taken steps to save the Boone and Crockett Club. It was his lead to move these events along.”
It is not immediately known if these latest developments will include reconsideration by the club to reinstate Cousins and Boucher as official scorers.
Why the Change in Opinion?
The list of individuals who have gone to bat for the King Buck is long and detailed. Among the key contributors to keeping this buck’s fate in the minds of hunters and scorers across the country were Boucher, Cousins, Laidlaw, Herman Feller and Jay Fish. Fish now owns the antlers. He bought them King several years ago, pledging to get the deer — and the state of Wisconsin — what he called “the recognition it deserves.”
Persistent watchdog journalism by Deer and Deer Hunting contributors Duncan Dobie and Keri Butt was also instrumental in helping the King Buck get its day in court, so to speak. Despite a year’s worth of articles in the printed magazine and, more notably, blogs, features and videos posted here on deeranddeerhunting.com, it appeared the King Buck would never get past the stone wall erected by a few stubborn individuals.
Then, earlier in 2012, Illinois outdoor writer Keri Butt immersed herself in the story, which resulted in some of the most dogged investigative reporting seen in the hunting industry in many years. Butt persisted to dig deeper into the story, and was unwavering in her efforts to get straight answers out of top B&C officials. Her dedication to the story collective caught the eye of many Wisconsin scorers who had been essentially watching the story unfold from the sidelines. It also triggered others to become more involved in fighting for what they believed was a gross injustice.
“Keri’s contributions cannot be overemphasized,” said a B&C scorer. “She is the spark plug and the cheerleader for our team. She is amazing. She inspires us.”
Craig Cousins was also among those who went to bat for the deer. He produced an extensive, in-depth video that explained step-by-step instructions on why the deer should be considered as a typical. Cousins had been an official scorer for 29 years, including 25 as an B&C scorer from Wisconsin.
“This is all that we hoped for and it is really the only resolution to this situation,” Cousins said of the panel score. “This was not going to go away.”
When questioned further on his thoughts about the King Buck, and antler worship in general, Cousins offered these insightful views:
“God created this deer to be a typical deer. It’s almost as man — in his so-called wisdom — says, “here are the rules we are going to go by … this is typical, this is not.” Then God goes, “Oh, really? And then He puts one right on the fence. It’s almost as though He has a sense of humor sometimes about these things that we put so much importance on.
Jay Fish is right when he says, ‘It’s only a set of deer antlers. It’s not life itself. It’s really not that important.’
“That mindset has helped us accomplish what we did,” Cousins continued. “It’s important enough, however, to stand up and fight for.”
Piling on the ‘Promoter’
Much of the controversy stemmed from the fact that Fish, a passionate antler collector, bought the Johnny King rack in 2009. At that moment he instantly became 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,” Dobie wrote in an early D&DH article. “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,” Dobie continued. “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 controversy has also thrown criticism at Fish, 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.”
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