When Mark Watson earned the King of Kansas crown during the 2019 Kansas Monster Buck Classic in Wichita for his 273 2/8-inch nontypical whitetail, most people probably thought the giant rack would stay King of Kansas for at least a decade.

Imagine his surprise, then, when he found out he'd been dethroned just a year later, and it wasn't even close.

Watson was on hand last weekend at the Stormont Vail Events Center to pass the crown over to his successor, Andover's Brian Butcher, whose absolutely absurd 67-point buck was entered into the 2020 Classic here in Topeka. That absolute freak of a deer outscored his trophy rack by almost 50 inches.

“Yes, I would have liked my reign to last a little bit longer,” Watson quipped during the presentation, “but I am more than happy to congratulate the Butcher Buck, over 300 inches B&C, that’s mass!”

In truth, Watson was thrilled for Butcher for shooting a deer that most people could only dream of, as he explained to me after the presentation. He said he'd had his moment of glory, and was glad someone else had an opportunity to step up and get recognized.

"I'm not upset about this deer at all," he told me, patting his monster rack.

Nor should he be.

He even gave me the opportunity to pick up the former champion's rack, and it was unreal to feel just how heavy the monster buck was. Anything that could beat this monster certainly deserved the title of King of Kansas.

It wasn't all about trophies and prizes for Butcher, however, though he was told prior to coming by organizer Tyler Kirby that his deer would be more or less guaranteed the top spot.

"They kinda led me to believe that would happen," he laughed.

The real reason Butcher made the trip with his family to Topeka for last weekend's Monster Buck Classic was to give the people of Kansas a chance to see and interact with a set of antlers so bizarre that most of them will never see anything like it in person again.

"A lot of people (were) confused," he said. "A lot of people just look at it. It doesn't make sense. It's not what deer look like."

When he originally made plans to come to the show, he had planned on having the antlers behind a glass case to keep it safe, but he soon decided that would be a disservice to those who came to see it from far and wide and removed the case so people could get up close and examine it.

"It was a decision yesterday morning," he said Sunday. "As soon as we put it up here, I started thinking, you know, this crowd here is people that are just like me in a sense. We're just average Kansas hunters, we're limited on our time, we're limited on our resources. We don't have the big food plots, we don't have all the extra stuff, just wild deer. Mother Nature did its thing, I don't know why. It's kind of a freak in its own right."

Many have struggled to come up with an explanation for what would cause such a strange mutation, with suggestions ranging from a supplemented diet to some elk ancestry to nuclear testing. One person asked me what a deer would have to eat to grow antlers like that. My only logical response: Other deer.

Butcher, however, had a much simpler explanation.

"The best explanation is an injury," Butcher said of the odd antlers. "That being said, we had one picture of it in April and it was already growing abnormally, very off-balance. As we cleaned the deer, there was no physical evidence of an injury, but something had to have happened. I'm just not sure what."

Whatever the case, nothing can take away from the excitement he felt when he took down the monster deer. Buck fever was in full bloom that day.

"As soon as I shot it, that's when it all kicked in," Butcher said. "I couldn't believe it. I've got some pretty funny pictures as I climbed out of the stand. I jumped in front of one of the trail cameras. There's some pretty funny ones. I was out there by myself though, so I had to make a little fun of it. It was pure excitement from the moment I released that arrow."

The next Kansas Monster Buck Classic will be Jan. 29-31, 2021, also at the Stormont Vail Events Center in Topeka.

 

RMEF events coming up

For big antlers of a different sort, there's good news, as well.

Fans of elk hunting will have several opportunities to get together with others and raise money for conservation in the coming months thanks to the Kansas/Missouri Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

• The Flint Hills chapter of the RMEF will host its banquet from 5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 8 at the Anderson Building on the Lyon County Fairgrounds, 2700 US-50 highway in Emporia.

• The Big Creek chapter of the RMEF will host its banquet from 5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Rose Garden Banquet Hall, 2350 E. 8th in Hays.

• The Greater Kansas City chapter of the RMEF will host its banquet from 5 to 10 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Abdallah Shriners building, 5300 Metcalf Ave. in Overland Park.

• The Tri-Rivers chapter of the RMEF will host its banquet from 5 to 10 p.m. April 4 at 900 Greeley Avenue in Salina.

For more information on these chapter banquets or to purchase tickets, go to https://www.rmef.org/.