Michael Pearce

Cabela's mystery deer

I'm sure there are many hunters named Brad Hughes.

I'd love to hear from the one who could take credit for possibly one of Kansas' best bucks.

It's a gargantuan mule deer displayed within the Cabela's store in Kansas City, Kan.

As of now, the 209 3/8-inch typical deer Hughes allegedly shot is shrouded by a mystery seemingly as large as the antlers are tall and wide.

The buck is also one of three portrayed in the huge statue in front of the store.

A plaque says the buck was killed in 1984, in Cheyenne County, by Brad Hughes.

But Mike Miller, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks information chief, said they have no record of a Brad Hughes having a firearms deer permit for that area in 1984.

Joe Arterburn, Cabela's corporate communications manager, said they'd been told Wildlife and Parks didn't have records that go that far back.

Miller disagrees.

He heard of the buck when the store was opening in 2002. Since the huge buck wasn't on their list of record bucks, he looked into their licensing records.

No Brad Hughes. He said he told Cabela's representatives.

Boone & Crockett has the buck's official score on record and lists it as the largest typical mule deer from Kansas. It's also one of the top typical mule deer shot in the world.

Boone & Crockett officials said the buck came to Cabela's from a private collector. A request to talk to someone at Cabela's with more information about the buck hasn't been granted.

From time to time, I've asked Cheyenne County acquaintances if they'd heard of such a buck or Brad Hughes.

None had.

It's surprising a buck of such magnitude could slip under the radar.

At 209 3/8 inches, the buck was about 22 inches bigger than the existing state record back in 1984.

That was a buck of 187 4/8 inches shot by Edward Karnes in Sheridan County in 1965.

And word didn't spread quickly at the time? That's like somebody shooting a 302-inch non-typical whitetail or catching a 16-pound walleye these days and it being over-looked.

But it's possible, I guess.

Cheyenne County has long been sparsely populated. Most hunters and landowners know each other.

The first season for out-of-staters to hunt deer was still 10 years away.

But much of the county is so remote, it's possible a hunter could get in and out of the area and nobody else see the buck.

According to Wildlife and Parks, the state-record firearms typical mule deer is 202 2/8 and was shot in 1999 in Kiowa County by Bryan Morehead.

The agency only lists animals proven to be legally killed on their record lists.

Miller said they won't list the Cabela's buck because they have no proof it was legally killed.

That's not to say the 209 3/8 buck, one of several great Kansas deer on display at Cabela's, was killed illegally.

Far from it.

Somewhere along the way, it's possible a mistake was made on the year or location where the buck was killed.

It's quite possible it was shot by someone not named Brad Hughes.

But such a buck deserves more than mystery. Hunters who appreciate great deer would like to know the entire story.

Brad, give me a call. if you're out there, my contact information is below.