The whitetail world is a mirror image of the record setting trend of
professional sports. Missouri deer hunter's mouths keep falling wide open as
records continue to topple with amazing frequency. In 1999 Missouri bowhunter
Aaron McCauley arrowed a new state record typical whitetail. Aaron shot the
record class whitetail which scored 191 4/8-inches as a 10-pointer in St. Louis
county. The previous typical archery record was a 181 5/8-inch typical shot in
Chariton County in 1991.
The whitetail records continue to shatter in Missouri. In 1985, Duane Linscott
shot a magnificent 27 point buck in Chariton County which netted a whopping 259
5/8 inches as a non-typical, making it the biggest whitetail ever killed in
Missouri by a hunter. For 16 years, Linscott reigned at the top of the heap of
hunters in the Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club record book. However, the 2001
firearms season ended this record too with a gigantic non-typical buck taken
from a central Missouri farm.
Kevin Thomas of Sweet Springs, MO and his family have a rich tradition of deer
hunting in their history. Kevin and his three brothers are avid whitetail
hunters thanks to their deer hunting parents Robert and Alberta. For years,
Robert Thomas, the patriarch of the family, held the Thomas family whitetail
record with a 163 1/8-inch 10 point buck he bagged in Benton County in 1985.
Little did he know it but Kevin was about to topple his father's record as well
as Missouri's state non-typical hunter-killed whitetail record during the 2001
Kevin Thomas is like most deer hunters in Missouri. He is a hard working family
man who takes his deer hunting seriously. With 16 years of deer hunting
experience under his belt he is not a novice to be sure but he never would have
dreamed what he would tag on Nov. 10, 2001.
It was the opening morning of Missouri's November firearms season and Kevin was
hunting a 300-acre farm in Saline County. In case you didn't know, Saline
County is located in central Missouri, south of the Missouri River, northwest
of Jefferson City and west of Columbia. Neighboring counties south of the
Missouri River are Lafeyette, Johnson, Pettis and Cooper. Counties north of the
river are Carroll, Chariton and Howard. Now that you have an idea of where
Kevin Thomas was hunting let's take a closer look at the habitat on the
300-acre farm he was actually on.
That country music song by the Dixie Chicks, "Wide Open Spaces", best describes
the farm. In fact, the only cover on the place is a five-acre patch of brush,
the rest is all row-crops. Just after 6 a.m. on that fateful opening day last
year, Kevin was carefully walking across one of the fields to his hunting box
he has built which sets about two feet off the ground overlooking a hollow.
Kevin was walking to his stand and was about half-way across a waterway in the
field which contained corn on the top half and beans at the bottom. With just
four rows of corn left in the field Kevin spotted a deer about 150 yards from
It wasn't until Kevin walked over to the fallen deer down at the bottom of the
gully did he know just how unique and large his buck was. The deer had an
enormous rack with antler tines sticking up and in all directions, 33 points
total! Oddly enough, the rack also had lots of velvet on it! Once Kevin saw
this trophy whitetail he started dancing around and once the initial excitement
wore off he sat atop the terrace admiring the gigantic buck. He knew he had
some kind of record.
The Boone & Crockett score sheet says it all. The dimensions of Kevin
Thomas' record book buck are as follows: --Number of points on the right antler
16; left antler 17. --Inside spread is 13 inches; greatest spread is 18 2/8
inches. --Length of right main beam is 20 6/8 inches; left main beam is 22 4/8
inches. --Length of G2 on right antler is 9 1/8 inch; left antler 10 6/8 inch.
--Total inches of abnormal points on right antler is 92 inches; left antler 88
4/8 inches. When you add the 101 6/8 inches from the basic racks subtotal to
the 180 4/8 inches of abnormal point inches, the Kevin Thomas buck nets a
whopping 282 2/8 inches as a non-typical making it Missouri's new #1
hunter-killed buck of all time!
Biologically Speaking If you are like me, you are probably wondering how a deer
could possibly ever grow a rack like this one. I asked Missouri Department of
Conservation wildlife research biologist Lonnie Hansen that question. "It's
hard to say what caused this particular buck to grow such a cactus rack,"
Hansen said. "We would first have to find out whether or not the rack was
completely calcified. If it wasn't, maybe some sort of hormonal imbalance kept
the buck from producing enough testosterone and that's why it still had velvet
Hansen went on to say that some pen-raised deer that were once infected with
hemmoraghic disease (EHD a.k.a blue-tongue) grew an oddly configured rack the
next year. A very distinct possibility is that when the antlers pedicels were
first in development as small velvet covered nubs on the bucks head, the buck
could have possibly hit his head into a tree or some other object, damaging
those pedicels and causing the rack to develop so abnormally. "The fact that
the rack still had velvet suggests a hormonal imbalance," Hansen said.
"However, the buck might have been completely healthy but with the odd
configuration it simply might not have been able to rub off the velvet itself."
When asked about the number of trophy whitetail records that continue to be
broken in Missouri, Hansen suggested that hunter attitudes and the State's
permit system may have something to do with it. "I feel that more and more
hunters are becoming selective and changing their attitudes about the size of
buck they harvest," Hansen said. "I believe this factor alone has a lot to do
with the any-deer and bonus permits that are available to hunters now in
Missouri. I believe that a lot of deer hunters are now filling their freezer
with antlerless deer on their bonus permits and holding out for trophy class
bucks with their any-deer permit."
For The Record Book Dale Ream is director of records for the Missouri Show-Me
Big Bucks Club which is Missouri's whitetail deer record keeping system. Dale
who personally measures and records hundreds of Missouri trophy bucks each year
knows as much as anyone when it comes to record book bucks. "I believe this
buck is a by-product of EHD (epizoic hemmoraghic disease)," Ream said.
"Missouri had a big outbreak of EHD in north Missouri about three years ago and
several smaller outbreaks since then."
According to Ream, the Thomas buck isn't the only buck like this that has been
taken recently in Missouri. The only difference is that the other bucks were
smaller but had the same characteristics. "You can't technically call this buck
a cactus buck because cactus bucks do not ever shed their antlers," Ream said.
"The Thomas buck appears to have been in the process of shedding it's velvet
and it looks like the antlers were solidified so this isn't a cactus racked."
Also, the Thomas buck had testicles and cactus bucks either don't have any
testicles or their testes never drop.
The Missouri Show-Me Big Bucks Club published the first edition of Missouri's
whitetail record book in 1999. If you would like to order a copy of the book or
be put on a mailing list for the 2nd edition which will be published in a
couple of years, or if you have a trophy buck that you would like scored, you
can call Dale Ream at 660-947-3650.
Kevin Thomas will reign at the top of the hunter heap as Missouri's #1
non-typical whitetail. How long he will stay on top remains to be seen. The
only record that seems untouchable is the 333 7/8-inch non-typical state and
world record found dead back in 1981 in St. Louis County. Who know though, with
the way the records keep toppling, maybe you will be sitting on top of the next
world record after this year's deer seasons! END