- Lynn Burkhead
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It has been said that records are made to be broken.
On Saturday morning, Nov. 1, while deer hunting in Buffalo County, Wis., bow hunter Bob Decker of nearby Eau Claire may have done just that, arrowing a massive 16-point whitetail buck that is a potential candidate to topple two longstanding world record marks.
Those records include the nearly 15-year-old Boone and Crockett Club's world record typical buck mark of 213 5/8 inches, currently held by Milo Hansen, and the 43-year-old Pope & Young Club's world record typical archery buck standard of 204 4/8 inches, a mark held by Illinois bowhunter Mel Johnson.
It should be noted however, that the Decker buck believed by many to be a massive velvet-antlered whitetail deer videoed earlier this year by >Buffalo County Outfitters and later aired by Field & Stream has yet to be measured by a scorer.
And that fact has helped to fuel speculation about where the buck's final numbers will eventually land, especially since photos of the whitetail indicate some symmetry deductions and potential abnormal points could keep the buck from scoring extremely high on the typical scale.
But Paul Olson, a best friend and longtime hunting partner with Decker, says that the buck is the trophy of a lifetime, regardless of the buck's final score.
"If it is typical, I firmly believe he could be a world [record]," Olson said. "I feel pretty darned privileged to have been hanging around it for the last several days."
According to Olson, a paper mill coworker with Decker and a friend of nearly two decades, the pair of hunters was familiar with the famous "Walking World Record" video buck.
"We had not seen the deer before, but we both knew the buck was in the area," Olson said. "We were able to identify where the video was taken by some terrain features, so we knew the video was taken in the [general] area [we hunt]."
This past Saturday morning, the two buddies went deer hunting as they have often done over the last 15 years, the last five years or so on the same Buffalo County property.
With mild weather in the upper 40s gripping the area and the pre-rut bowhunting action slow, Decker finally heard a noise that heralded the approach of a deer about 9:30 a.m.
Reportedly seeing the buck at a distance of 40 yards, the 40-something hunter quickly surmised he had a shooter approaching his stand.
When the deer closed to less than 10 yards, Decker unleashed the shot from his bow, watching the arrow strike the vitals. As the deer bolted, it ran a short distance and fell over within the hunter's field of vision.
"I knew it was a nice deer. I figured I'd shot a good-sized 10-pointer," Decker told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.
After backing out of the area, Decker went looking for his longtime hunting buddy.
"He came over ... and explained to me what he had shot," Olson said. "He said that he had gotten an animal, but that he didn't know exactly what it was other than a nice buck."
That might be the deer hunting understatement of this young century thus far.
"We didn't know until we walked up to it a little while later it was that specific animal," Olson said. "We got real excited."
As they should have been since there was no ground shrinkage on this Wisconsin bruiser.
"We knew immediately what it was, the 'Field & Stream' buck," Olson said. "We were only going on what they say that it could be; although our first impression was there was no way this could be a world-record deer."
Why such a first impression?
"Because of the unusual features with the antlers themselves, we figured it would fall into a non-typical category," Olson said. "But we're not scorers, so we're not sure of what all of the rules are."
Decker and his pal Olson spent approximately the next 3 1/2 hours taking photographs, taking care of the animal and field dressing it, removing the buck from woods, showing it to the land owner and officially registering the giant buck.
When Decker invited some family members over that same evening, a crowd quickly grew as word spread of the big buck's demise.
On Sunday, Nov. 2, when the buck, which weighed only 200 pounds field-dressed, was taken to Jack Dodge's taxidermy shop, the crowd grew once again as the monarch was caped.
"He [Dodge] said 'Wow, what a buck!'" Olson recalled. "His first impression was that it could be a possible world record deer and he's had a lot more experience looking at antlers like this than Bob or I have.
"So I guess there's a chance [it might be a world-record buck]," he said. "We just don't know right now. It's really up in the air where this is going to go."
What is known about the Decker buck is that its numbers are certainly impressive, whatever their final tally might be according to the B&C and P&Y scoring rules.
With a total of eight points on each side, the buck's tine lengths range between 6 to 13 inches, while the deer's mass measurements tape out in the 6-inch range, according to Olson.
Throw in main beams that stretch the tape to about 28 inches on both sides and an inside spread that measures about 20 4/8 inches and it is easy to see why there is so much buzz about this Badger State buck.
"It truly is an incredible animal," said Dodge, who believes that the Decker buck is only 3 1/2 years old, based upon its tooth wear. "I caped it out at the studio and spent about three hours on Sunday enjoying the moment.
"It definitely is an impressive whitetail. If it doesn't turn out to be the biggest [typical buck of all-time], then certainly for the moment anyway, it's the most popular one."
Olson agrees, noting that his pal Decker isn't quite sure of what to make about the circus-like atmosphere and media attention that he's been getting over the past few days.
"But he is enjoying the moment, since it's not the kind of thing that everybody gets to enjoy," Olson said.
And as Decker's best friend and longtime hunting buddy, Olson is also enjoying his friend's good fortune and his moment in the continent's deer hunting spotlight.
World record or not, he says.
"The fact is that it is a heck of a trophy," Olson said. "If it is not a world record, then that is not going to break either one of our hearts."
ESPNOutdoors.com will be celebrating this year's deer season with "Deer Camp" a two-week event, covering the big issues that are important to deer hunters and examining the state of the deer nation. We'll also be breaking down and rating deer hunting in all 50 states, with an analysis of what a hunter in that state has to look forward to this year.
10hMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne
19hMarc Stein and Tim MacMahon
1dMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins