Hundreds of Kansas deer hunters gathered last weekend to see how they measured up.
Or rather, to see how the big bucks they shot during deer season measured up.
They were among the crowd of almost 10,000 that streamed into the Monster Buck Classic last weekend at the Kansas Expocentre.
Their goal? To see if their hunch about how much their buck of a lifetime would score was even close to truth.
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Scorers sat at tables and conducted a series of measurements on whitetail racks, including number of points on each antler, the inside spread of the main beam, length of normal points and the main beam, circumference and other tabulations.
Nervous hunters watched, almost as if they were waiting for a teacher to grade a final exam. The results usually brought a smile.
This, after all, was Kansas— Land of the Giants.
“I’ve scored deer in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, and other states known for their big bucks, but this is as good as it gets,” said Dan Hollingsworth,, a scorer from Jefferson City. “The average rack brought through here is just amazing.
“They really are a testament to what Kansas has. We’ll have people drive from all over the state, even from other states, to attend this event.
“Some of them are so excited when they bring their buck up to have it scored, they’re shaking.”
That’s what the Monster Buck Classic: We Are Kansas is all about.
It’s like a convention for deer hunters who are obsessed with trophy racks. Walk into the Monster Buck Classic, and you’re in a Kansas deer hunter’s dream world.
Long rows of mounts are displayed under spotlights like masterpieces at an art gallery. Live trophy deer feed in cages, pausing to exchange stares with the people who are gawking at them. Vendors selling everything from guided trips to memberships in hunting clubs to the newest deer-hunting products fill the arena. Seminars by nationally known hunters attract archers and rifle shooters thirsting for the latest tips on how to take a huge deer. And visitors sit in stands, waiting to see hunters display deer that have just been scored.
Yeah, this is big-buck country. Right here in Kansas, often referred to as the big-buck capital of the United States.
“Asking ‘Does Kansas have monster bucks?’ is like asking, ‘Does Waffle House sell waffles?’,” said Mike Hanley of Buckmasters Trophy Records on the Monster Bucks website.
“Kansas has some of the the biggest non-typical whitetails (bucks with an asymmetrical racks) in the world, but in the past there was nowhere to show them off,” said Dan Thurston, the emcee of the event and one of the stars of the “Bow Madness” television show. “In the past, some of these big bucks that were taken kind of went other the radar.
“But not now.”
Brian Smith, brand developer for Mossy Oak Properties, brought the concept to Kansas in 2012. As he sold land to hunters in Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri, he heard plenty of stories about giant deer that were shot in the Sunflower State. He also heard stories about the the lack of events to recognize those trophies.
“Other states had big-buck shows, but Kansas really didn’t have anything,” said Smith, who lives in Springdale, Ark. “I couldn’t believe it. Kansas is known for its big bucks and deer hunting is becoming so big here.
“Hunters needed a place to celebrate deer hunting and some of the magnificent animals that have been harvested here.”
Smith started the show in 2012, and it has been drawing big crowds ever since.
The King of Kansas title recognizes the largest bucks scored in the history of the show. This year’s bucks couldn’t match the show records — a non-typical rack that had a net score of 2386/8 and a typical rack that a score of 1946/8.the leader in the non-typical category
Still, there were an impressive array of trophy racks brought in. Todd Gast of Higginsville, Mo., was one of the hunters who brought in his buck to have it measured.
Hunting on his wife’s family land north of Manhattan, he took an impressive buck with is bow last fall. Not only was it Gast’s biggest buck ever, it had a story behind it.
He hit the monster with a bow he bought in 1993, a bow that was destined for retirement after the 2014 hunting season.
He guessed the deer would score in the 175 to 190 range. When he came to Monster Bucks, he got a pleasant surprise.
“It netted 2121/8, which really surprised me,” Gast said. “That’s a green (preliminary) score. I still have to wait to get the official score.
“But I underestimated what I had.”
Kansas deer records
Dennis Finger, Netawaka
William Mikijanis, McClouth
Samuel Schuetz, Hiawatha
Joseph Waters, Topeka
Chris Theis, Shawnee
Gerald Rightmyer, Brockport, N.Y.
Brad Henry, Topeka
Stephen Weilert, Humboldt
Robin Austin, Stafford
Dale Larson, Olsburg
Kenneth Fowler, Buhler
Clifford Pickell, Wichita