The stories we share in hunting camp and via social media typically revolve around two key topics: hunting gear and big bucks. And the big bucks that stir up the most discussion and debates are the ones that are clouded with controversy or scandal. Hunters love a good story. It’s in our DNA. That’s why the stories featured below are some of the hottest hunting controversies of all time – stories we find ourselves still talking about today. Here’s a look at the top 10 hunting controversies in the last 30 years.
One of the first modern day hunting icons to slip up in the public eye was Noel Feather. Noel Feather was one of a handful of hunters that could be considered a household name among the hunting industry back in the early days. He was at the forefront of the bowhunting video business back in the late 80’s. He was the guru when it came to rattling bucks within bow range.
Feather had a number of legally harvested B&C bucks under his belt and was the go-to expert at seminars and trade shows everywhere. But for all the good Feather was doing, it was one poor decision on tagging a buck illegally that brought it all crashing down. The story goes that Feather tagged a trophy pen-raised buck as a true, wild buck in his home state of Illinois. The controversy brought his booming hunting business and big buck reputation to an end in a hurry.
The Mitch Rompola controversy began on November 13, 1998 when Rompola allegedly released an arrow on the buck that would easily be the new world record, beating out the Milo Hanson world record buck. Rompola’s buck was reported to have scored 218 5/8”, five inches better than the Hanson buck that rang up to 213 5/8”. But things quickly began to unravel when the buck came under fire as being a hoax.
Accusations that the buck had been fabricated began to surface. Antler discoloration, form, size and placement all began to come into question. The droopy ears in the photo were also a hot topic among naysayers. Critics said the droopy ears were a result of fabricated skull plate. Strangely enough, Rompola seemed to disappear without fighting the allegations, further adding fuel to the fire for those calling fraud. The buck was last reported to have been destroyed in a fire.
The Brian Andrews Buck
The controversy around what happened to the Brian Andrews bucks still leaves hunters scratching their heads over who took the buck and where it is now. The story began November 13, 2003 when 16-year-old Brian Andrews borrowed a bow and went on to kill a giant Iowa non-typical buck in Buchanan County.
The 26-point buck would later score 253 1/8”. It was the new state record. However, on June 18, 2004, Brian’s buck went missing. It had been stolen off the wall in the family’s living room while the family was out to dinner. Even after 15 years, and thousands of dollars in reward money being offered, the Brian Andrews buck has yet to be found.
There has been plenty of speculation and theories, no doubt, but the buck’s whereabouts is still an unsolved mystery.
This was the police notice regarding the search for any knowledge of the Andrews buck:
If you have any information or knowledge of the whereabouts of Brian’s buck contact the Buchanan County Sheriffs Department in Independence, Iowa at 319-334-2567.
Spook Spann is another hunter that learned that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to breaking the law. Spann killed a trophy Kansas buck without the proper license in 2007. If the buck had been shot legally, it would have been one of the top bucks shot in Kansas, and one of the top shot in the world at that time. The buck had non-typical antlers at about 230 inches on the Pope & Young rating scale, with a net score of 224 inches.
In November 2012, Spann pleaded guilty to a 2007 violation of the Lacey Act when he transported the illegally tagged buck from Kansas to Tennessee. He killed the deer on land he had permission to hunt, but he didn’t have the proper license. Spann’s side of the story and excuse sounded legit. It could have happened to anyone. Unfortunately, Spann’s trouble didn’t end with the 6-month hunting ban that was placed on him from the first violation. A U.S. Magistrate judge found that Spann had violated the terms of his plea agreement that banned him from hunting for six months. Federal game wardens had obtained video footage and Facebook photos of Spann assisting other hunters on hunts in Tennessee. And while Spann was not carrying the weapon, he was ruled to be hunting because he was calling to turkeys, carrying hunting equipment, carrying dead turkeys and illegally spreading bait to attract turkeys. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and banned from hunting anywhere in the world for a year.
In the fall of 2009 the Illinois deer hunting world was shocked to hear of a buck being taken by Chris Kiernan of Minooka. Taken in November, Kiernan’s buck scored an astonishing 261 5/8 inches and was expected to shatter the state’s non-typical record. It seemed as though its only obstacle was awaiting the 2012 panel scoring by the Pope and Young club. That panel scoring never came.
Kiernan, along with two other men, were charged with 41 counts of criminal complaint, which includes the aforementioned whitetail buck. It seems Kiernan had trespassed on land owned by the Material Service Corporation in Grundy County, Illinois. Kiernan originally reported he took the giant buck from nearby Kendall County. Even more appalling however, the district attorney says Kiernan never had a legal tag for the buck in the first place.
The Johnny King Buck
On a Wisconsin deer drive, Johnny King killed a Wisconsin buck for the ages. The buck gross scored in the 220’s and netted over 215 B&C points. It was enough to potentially beat out Milo Hanson’s world record from Saskatchewan scoring 213 5/8. The question soon would come as to whether or not the official measurer would accept the 12 points as typical tines. The points in question were the buck’s G3 tines. Would they be considered abnormal points? If that were the case, the buck would certainly fall well below record status.
After great anticipation, and many miles bouncing across the country for multiple scoring efforts, the King buck was deemed to be scored as a main-frame 5×5 with abnormal G3 points. This put the buck in the non-typical category and far short of world record status.
It’s reported that prior to the final measurements of the buck, antler collector, Jay Fish, purchased the King Buck rack for $35,000, thinking it would be the new world record. He was obviously beyond disappointment when the news broke that he had purchased a deer that fell far short of the mark.
Remember Marc Anthony? You know, the guy that seemed to be a stone cold killer in a gillie suit? He came on the scene as the guru on killing big bucks from the ground. He became a regular in magazine articles and info on the subject. He had more Boone & Crockett bucks hanging on the wall than anybody. But when he killed a potential record breaking buck with antlers that all-too-closely resembled a rack owned by an antler collector, things began to unravel.
It all started when whitetail enthusiasts and shed collectors on Facebook were discussing the differences between various bucks. One of them posted pictures of a big Kansas dead head once owned by a famous collector. It’s unclear how it snowballed from there, but what we do know is that one of the whitetail enthusiasts recognized the dead head from a past article featured in North American Whitetail written by Marc Anthony. The gates were open and comments began to flood in.
The comparison of the two buck racks seemed uncanny. Except for the possibility of a single sticker point, the two bucks become one. Marc Anthony’s personal Facebook page took the brunt of the heat, ballooning with questions and accusations from deer hunters from all across the country. The Facebook page quickly shutdown. Anthony ultimately released this statement following the ordeal: “I am a by the book hunter. I don’t cheat. I am not a poacher. I have done nothing illegal.” He went on to say he was removing himself from the industry altogether.
The Bowmar/Under Armour Debacle
It was the summer of 2016 when Under Armour ditched the Bowmars due to a bear hunt featuring Josh Bowmar killing a black bear with a spear. The video went viral, and as you might expect, the anti’s were all over it. Unfortunately Under Armour bowed to the anti’s demands to end all sponsorship with the Bowmars. In the mind of hunters across the world, Under Armour had sided with the anti-hunting community. They turned their backs on hunters. Outrage ensued. Hunters burned UA hats, shirts, shoes and other gear in protest. Other hunters sponsored by UA ended their partnerships and hunters across the globe swore off ever wearing UA gear again.
Fortunately for the Bowmars, the turn of events propelled them to “fame” in the hunting community. They picked up a new apparel partnership with NOMAD and seem to be doing okay after the fallout with Under Armour.
Big Bill was the wild and crazy father of the Busbice boys and WildGame Nation TV show. He had a personality that was huge, and somewhat entertaining to watch, regardless of whether you loved him or hated him. But that larger than life personality also got him in huge trouble in 2016 while hunting his family’s ranch in Wyoming.
The story goes that Bill mistakenly shot a calf elk while attempting to shoot a bull. The problem is, he also shot the bull. Unfortunately Big Bill took the bull out and left the calf to rot – all while being watched in the distance by some other hunters who reported the story to the WY Game & Fish department. According to the Start Tribune Busbice appeared before Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Frank Zebre, who sentenced him to one and a half years of unsupervised probation and ordered Busbice to pay $23,000 in fines and restitution and he will lose his hunting and fishing privileges across 45 states until 2019.
It was a bad move that cost Busbice his place on the show, and status with the company he had invested so much time and effort into.
Chris Brackett seemed to be the hunter that hunters loved to hate. He relied on his attitude and arrogance to propel him into the hunting industry, but they were also the same factors that seemed to help his hunting career crash as quickly as it started. His beyond-the-law mindset got the best of him in 2017 when video footage surfaced of him shooting two bucks on one hunt – in Indiana – a state with a one buck limit.
Any attempt to plead ignorant or irresponsible to save face came crashing down when a second video was released of him giving his cameraman a foul-mouthed verbal beatdown in the ground blind following a mishap on one of their hunts. And whether he didn’t know, or just didn’t care, the camera was still rolling, capturing everything Brackett had to say. The heated exchange in the blind was more than enough to reveal to the world Brackett’s true character when he thought no one was watching.
Brackett’s sponsor deals with some of the biggest companies in the hunting industry were pretty much over before the sun set on the day the videos were released.
Top 10 Hunting Controversies – Conclusion
Many of the stories mentioned in our top 10 hunting controversies above serve as a reminder that people are always watching and waiting for us to mess up. They remind us to do right, no matter what. That is the true test of character – doing right, even when we think no one is watching. Do right – shoot straight – enjoy the hunt.