“Which one would you shoot?”
Standing at an exhibit of outstanding big-game taxidermy mounts on the eve of last weekend’s Pope and Young Club Convention in Reno, Nev., Brian Butcher was asked that question by an important staffer at the event.
Butcher, a quiet man who arrowed a massive non-typical Kansas whitetail in the fall of 2019, looked over at the gentleman, then his two hunting buddies who had traveled with him, and smiled.
“I believe I’d shoot that one,” said Butcher, as he pointed to a unique buck featuring an explosion of points.
After all, what else would you call a whitetail rack with 67 scorable points?
One of Butcher’s hunting friends standing there finally broke the ice and let the gentleman know that Butcher was in fact the hunter who had arrowed the deer.
“Well, I’m not going to be the guy who shows up and says that’s my deer,” said Butcher, a likable and humble bowhunter from Kansas who shot a massive, world-class whitetail in the eastern part of the state on Oct. 10, 2019.
Butcher and his buck have been the subject of numerous conversations — around the campfire and otherwise — after the big deer was initially scored on Jan. 3, 2020. Scent Crusher, a Wichita, Kan. based ozone archery products company not far from Butcher’s Andover, Kan. home, first told the world about the deer’s monstrous numbers via social media. And a few days later, Butcher traveled to the 2020 ATA Archery Trade Show in Indianapolis, where his buck made the Scent Crusher booth the most crowded spot in the Indiana Convention Center a few weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest.
The reason for the big crowds of onlookers is easy to see when you take a first look at the Butcher Buck, one of the most unique whitetail racks to ever be seen. While the deer has a standard looking right side, the massive number of non-typical points on the left side brought careful scrutiny when veteran P&Y and Boone and Crockett Club measurer Ken Witt and B&C measurer Marc Murrell put the measuring tape to the giant Sunflower State non-typical’s rack.
When their 5 ½ hour measuring session was over last year, they had come up with an official 60-day entry score of 343 4/8 gross inches and 321 3/8 net inches. At those numbers, the Butcher Buck would be the #2 non-typical bowkill of all-time, falling only behind the new Pope and Young world record non-typical — a massive 327 7/8-inch non-typical arrowed by Virginia bowhunter Luke Brewster as he hunted in eastern Illinois in November 2018.
What’s more, the Butcher Buck at last year’s entry score figures would also become the second largest hunter-harvested buck in the B&C book, falling only behind Brewster’s huge bowkill in that category. And it would also check in at No. 4 all-time in the B&C record book, which is anchored by the 333 7/8-inch world record “Missouri Monarch” and the 328 2/8-inch “Hole in the Horn Buck” from Ohio. Both of those deer are pick-up entries, something that the B&C Club allows.
While Butcher’s huge whitetail appeared to have a ticket punched to such lofty heights after its entry score, the deer — as one of the biggest of the two-year Pope and Young Club’s record keeping biennium — would also have to survive the scrutiny of panel measurers looking at the rack and entry score sheet in an effort to make sure that the rules of measuring were applied correctly and the deer scored what the bottom of the sheet said it did.
That process would have taken place last year, but then the COVID-19 pandemic in March scuttled the 2020 P&Y Convention and pushed it to this year — the 2021 version of the convention was originally scheduled for this spring and eventually pushed to this summer — in Nevada.
If all of that extra waiting time was difficult for Butcher, it was made even worse since he shipped the antlers off to be panel measured in February (in anticipation of an April convention) and then had to wait until July before finding out what his big buck had finally scored. In fact, he flew to Nevada last week not knowing what the deer’s final disposition was — had the score gone up, had it gone down, or did it remain the same?
“They sent a letter telling me about the antlers and how they would be taken care of,” said Butcher. “I wasn’t nervous about that and I remember sending them off in February and thinking no big deal. It’s easy to say that, but I’ll be honest, the last month or so, I was pretty anxious and nervous about it all. We were on a nearly two-year long journey since I shot the deer and to find out that it’s as high as it is, I’m just blessed and lucky.”
Butcher arrived in Reno last week with his two hunting buddies, Luke Buxton and Clint Pock — who hunt the same property he does in Kansas — nervous and eager to see what the convention floor display sign indicated about his enormous deer.
“I didn’t find out the numbers until I got here,” said Butcher. “I checked into the hotel, got settled in for a few minutes, and then went to the convention center and saw it there. Coincidentally, I think I probably walked by every other animal here until we finally got to mine. It was enjoyable, getting to see all of those great animals taken by bowhunters.”
When Butcher arrived at the spot his giant buck’s rack occupied, he did a double-take, hardly believing what he was seeing on the signage. The numbers had not been changed at all during the panel-scoring process and remained the same as the numbers Witt — one of the world’s best big-game measurers and a veteran of numerous B&C and P&Y panel scoring sessions — and Murrell had originally come up with.
That meant Butcher’s buck will now go into the P&Y record book with a gross score of 343 4/8 inches and a net score of 321 3/8 inches. It’ll also take its place in line behind the “Missouri Monarch,” the “Hole in the Horn Buck,” and the Brewster Buck as the world’s four biggest bucks of all-time and the only ones to score above the hallowed 320-inch mark.
“I didn’t expect that,” Butcher said of his deer receiving no upward or downward corrections. “I thought the score last year by Ken and Marc would be pretty close, but I didn’t expect it to be completely unchanged. I couldn’t feel luckier about it all.”
Coincidentally enough, because of the deer’s unique and controversial nature of having three scorable points on one side and 64 on the other, the buck was very difficult for all to examine. And that was true even though the rack’s skull plate was unmounted at panel, although a replica set of antlers has been cast by Antlers by Klaus to enable Butcher to have a replica mount made.
In fact, the two panels that examined Butcher’s whitetail needed the same exact amount of time that Witt and Murrell needed last January.
“As I understand it, it was 5 ½ hours to measure it for both teams, which is basically what Ken and Marc had to spend on it (measuring the deer) the first time,” said Butcher.
And with that, Butcher’s journey is complete, one that started off with the arrowing of the enormous buck in 2019, a deer that was thrust into the spotlight in late 2019 and early 2020 as the national media all told the story of an incredible whitetail the likes of which the world has rarely, if ever, seen.
“It’s been a very interesting 18 months, for sure,” said Butcher with a wry chuckle.
Since the deer was unveiled to the world via a North American Whitetail magazine feature and NAW.com stories, other OSG publication news stories, and even YouTube videos by the likes of Petersen’s Bowhunting, Butcher has found himself in the sometimes uncomfortable glare of a hunting industry spotlight in a way that he never imagined.
He and his buck were even featured on the Pope and Young Club’s podcast last week, hosted by Zack Walton. There’s also a short film in the works, a work entitled “Buck Fever,” which is being shot by Steve Hebert, Greg Sheffer, and Cody Rolph in an effort to tell the unique deer’s story, Butcher’s experience in the last 18 months, and the journey that many world-class big bucks take from the hunter’s shot to the ink finally being dry in the record book.
“I’ll be honest, when I shot this deer, I had no idea what even the state record was, let alone some of those other deer,” said Butcher, whose buck will also become the new Kansas state record non-typical archery kill. “I just loved to bowhunt and this was a completely unexpected fork in the road. We (Butcher and his two friends) were just a few guys who liked to hunt, and all of a sudden, we were thrown into this world of world-class deer that I had only read about and seen on TV.
“I was so awestruck showing the buck off (in the Scent Crusher booth) at the ATA Show and I felt like the whole time I was there, that I’m not a guy who is supposed to be here.”
But Butcher was there, and after last week’s panel scoring announcement, he’s going to remain there, on the Mount Rushmore of the sport’s biggest bucks, thanks to an incredible moment when a humble bowhunter, a massive whitetail, and a well-placed arrow all came together in a perfect storm in the Kansas woods.
“I’ve heard and read so many stories of deer that were close to world and state record marks, but some of those haven’t panned out,” said Butcher. “I felt like I was teetering on the edge of all of that for about 18 months, and to be here and have it all finalized, it feels like a weight off my shoulders and it was a weight I never knowingly put there.”
Moving forward, Butcher will continue to try and put some venison in his freezer each fall, occasionally show off his buck at different deer shows — including the Iowa Deer Classic in the past year along with Brewster and his buck — and eagerly await the printing of the next edition of the Pope and Young Club’s Bowhunting Big Game Records of North America book, which he looks forward to showing to his kids.
“Yeah, that’s the most exciting part of all, to one day be able to show my name and my buck’s final score in the record book to my kids,” said Butcher, who said one of the best parts of his journey has also been all of the people he’s been privileged to meet, hunters who want to snap a selfie with the buck and just talk about big deer.
“This whole experience, I feel so out of place,” said Butcher. “My hunting buddies and myself, we are just kind of looking at each other out here in Reno and thinking that we’re just three guys from Kansas who like to bowhunt.
“I never thought in a million years that we’d be out here at the Pope and Young Convention and that I’d have a deer like this out here.”
But in the end he does, thanks to an autumn day in Kansas when a unique and really big deer walked by, one that Butcher decided he’d like to shoot.
And when he did, it started a bowhunting odyssey that most of us can only dream about. But not Brian Butcher, he’s got one of history’s biggest bucks ever — a buck for the ages that is now heading home to Kansas once again.