World-ranking rack from Kansas could have been caused by several factors

Jennifer Stultz
Brian Butcher harvested a whitetail buck in Chase County last October that was recently certified by Boone and Crockett Club as ranking fourth in the world for non-typical whitetail deer. The deer earned a net score of 321 and 3/8 inches.

Kansas bow hunter Brian Butcher, 38, was in complete shock when he shot a large, non-typical antlered buck last October in Chase County. When Boone and Crockett (an internationally recognized non-profit conservation organization that officially scores rack measurements) unofficially assigned the net non-typical score of 321 3/8 inches to the rack on Friday, January 3, 2020, Butcher was all smiles.

“When I first saw it, I thought it had some branches or grass tangled up in its antlers,” said Butcher. “But when I looked at him with binoculars, I realized it was all antlers.”

The deer was unlike anything he had ever seen before, but according to state game warden Kevin Wood, who is based in St. John, strange antler shapes and growth are not that uncommon in Kansas.

"There are a variety of reasons why a deer would grow a strange rack like that one (Butcher buck)," said Wood, a certified Boone and Crockett measurer. "Genetics are usually the biggest likelihood. Injury or illness plays a big part, sometimes environment or nutritional health can be factors."

Wood said he would guess the large rack harvested by Butcher could have actually been caused by a combination of the main rack-mutation factors, but that it would be very hard to pinpoint an exact cause.

"Here in Kansas we have a lot of bucks running around with dropped tines, or some we even call cactus bucks," Wood said. "These bucks are genetically susceptible to abnormal horn growth."

Wood said cactus bucks have many tiny antler points that are not large enough to qualify for measurement by scorers. He also said he has seen bucks that do not shed their racks each year, instead adding abnormal growth under a previous year's rack, resulting in non-typical horns.

"Sometimes you can have a perfectly normal rack on one side, then this strange, layered configuration on the other side," Wood said.

Whether the horn growth on buck racks has been genetically or injury affected, Wood said a deer needs proper nutrition and blood flow to that area to grow a nice set of antlers.

"It takes a lot of energy to produce those horns and if that blood flow is diverted because of an injury or affected by nutrition, then something strange will develop."

As for the non-typical rack harvested by Butcher, Wood said that mass of horns was likely heavier than most he has ever seen. According to Boone and Crockett measurers Marc Murrell, Newton, and Ken Witt, Burleson, Tex., it was the fourth-largest mass in inches in the world. It took the Murrell and Witt nearly five hours to score the deer on January 3, which is when they came up with a pending net non-typical score of 321 3/8 inches.

The score sheet and entry materials on Butcher’s buck have been mailed to the Boone and Crockett Club headquarters for verification and acceptance. Because of its high ranking, the rack will be scored again by a panel of measurers at the Boone and Crockett Club’s next awards ceremony in 2022.

If it stands, Butcher’s buck will rank fourth in the world of non-typical whitetails. Boone and Crockett’s top two non-typical whitetails were found dead in Missouri and Ohio and scored 333 7/8 inches and 328 2/8 inches, respectively.

The current Kansas state record firearm non-typical whitetail was taken in 1987 by Joseph Waters in Shawnee County and scored 280 4/8 inches. The current Kansas state record archery non-typical whitetail was shot by Dale Larson in 1998 in Pottawatomie County and scored 264 1/8 inches.

* Some information provided by Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism.