More than 100 deer seasons have passed since James Jordan pulled the trigger on a gargantuan whitetail that would become one of the best-known trophies of all time — and still stands as the biggest typical buck ever taken in the U.S.
On November 20, 1914, Jordan, 22, hunted with a friend along the Yellow River near Danbury, Wisconsin. Jordan killed a doe on that hunt. His friend agreed to drag the doe home while Jordan continued hunting. Excited about the doe, Jordan light-heartedly tracked a deer into a patch of high grass near a railroad.
Minutes later, an approaching train flushed out a big buck. Jordan fired a shot toward the giant whitetail. Then, he followed the wounded animal. A second shot finally dropped the buck as it crossed to the opposite side of the river. Amazed, locals estimated the buck's weight at approximately 400 pounds.
Catching wind of the giant buck, a local taxidermist, George Van Castle of Webster, Wisconsin, later offered to mount the head for $5. Jordan agreed. The problem? Van Castle took the rack and hide to his home to work on it, but soon moved to Hinckley, Minnesota after the death of his wife. Jordan later heard that Van Castle had moved to Florida, making a trip to Hinckley to recover his trophy useless, although Jordan himself moved to Hinckley in his later life. When Van Castle moved to Florida, he left Jordan’s mounted deer head behind in the home he had occupied. Apparently, it then gathered dust in an attic corner until it was purchased in 1964 at a rummage sale for $3 by Robert Ludwig.
Years passed. And, in 1964, a distant relative of Jordan's bought a massive (but crude) deer mount at a rummage sale in Sandstone, Minnesota for only $3. Jordan was certain that it was his long-lost buck. The new owner requested an official scoring by Boone and Crockett. The Club scored the antlers at 206 5/8 inches and confirmed it as the new World's Record typical whitetail. That said, they were unable to verify Jordan's story — listing the hunter as unknown and the hunting area as Sandstone, Minnesota.
When James Jordan first viewed the huge deer rack owned by Robert Ludwig (a distant relative), he knew it was the same deer he had shot so many years ago. For more than a decade, Jordan would be frustrated in his quest to be recognized as the hunter for this deer in the records book.
Several more years passed and the rack was sold to an antler collector in New Hampshire for $1,500. The trophy was then remounted with a new cape. Then, in 1977, after following outdoor writer Ron Schara's story about the buck in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Boone and Crockett Club re-opened investigation into Jordan's claim that it was in fact his buck. The Boone and Crockett Club officially confirmed the story one year later and officially recognized Jordan as the hunter and Burnett County, Wisconsin, as the location taken. Sadly, Jordan passed away two months before that took place.
After 29 years at the top of Boone and Crockett records, the Jordan Buck was finally overtaken by Milo Hanson's 213 5/8-inch buck from western Saskatchewan, Canada. Today, Bass Pro Shops owns the Jordan Buck mount and its now seen by thousands of sportsmen as part of a touring collection of trophies.
Editor’s Note: The Boone & Crockett Club has long been a conservation organization that stands and strives for the preservation and well-being of all big game animals, but especially the white-tailed deer. As America's most popular game species, it carries a storied history and a promising future.