Solving the mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch

Minnesota Monarch

Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch

Thank you for reading The Whitetail Shooters Big Buck Blog, and the article about the Minnesota Monarch. The intent of this article to shed light on the sheds antlers and answer the following questions; are there three sets of sheds from the Minnesota Monarch? And did a hunter shoot the Minnesota Monarch?

Whatever became of the Minnesota Monarch? Are the three sets of sheds attributed to him truly all from this great buck? Was the deer finally killed by a fortunate hunter?  Today there are still just as many unanswered questions surrounding the disappearance and demise of this great buck as there were at the turn of the decade of the 1990’s. In fact, none of those questions have ever been answered.

The intent of this article is to shed some light onto little known facts surrounding this great buck, and to hopefully help solve the question of whether the Minnesota Monarch fell to a lucky hunter’s bullet, or simply walked into the wilderness to never be seen again. We’ll examine evidence by comparing antler configuration and characteristics from the supposed three sets of sheds, and a final comparison of antlers from what some feel may be the actual hunter killed buck.

How Big are the Minnesota Monarch Shed Antlers

The reigning world record non typical whitetail shed antlers have long been considered one of the most awe inspiring whitetails to ever grace the pages of history. As the highest net scoring whitetail ever recorded from the wild, the beautifully curved antlers have long been a publisher’s favorite, appearing on over 50 magazine covers and featured within countless articles, a true testament to its beauty and grace.

solving the mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch
Solving the mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch; this side view shows the beauty and grace of the largest set of antlers ever recorded from a wild whitetail.

As the antlers are mounted in the above photo, which is an exact replica of the bucks 1990 set, finished and mounted by Klaus Lebrecht of Antlers by Klaus, the sheds have a 23 3/8 inch inside spread. By all practical reasoning this appears to be a very conservative width. On the typical portion for each side the right antler scores 87 7/8 inches while the left side goes 84 4/8. Adding the spread credit gives the buck a 195 6/8 gross typical frame. Deductions for side to side symmetry differences total 8 7/8 inches, which gives the deer a respectable 186 7/8 net typical score. Another impressive feature of these antlers is the 50 inches of combined mass measurements. That places the Minnesota Monarch within exclusive company as very few wild deer have recorded 50 or more inches of mass.

minnesota monarch live photos
Solving the mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch; a rare live photo of the legend himself, the Minnesota Monarch

The numbers get even more interesting when we look at the 147 1/8 inches of total non-typical antler the buck grew. The right antler alone carries 92 1/8 inches of extra antler, which is a record in its own. The right antler has a total non-typical score of 180 inches! It is also the existing single antler non-typical world record shed. The left antler, with its 55 total inches of extra antler, has a final score of 139 4/8 inches. As for the shed antler record book, the great deer is listed as the world record non-typical matching set at 310 5/8 net inches. Remember, the shed antler record book does not allow a spread credit in its scores, so 310 5/8 is pure bone! As the sheds are mounted in the above photo the deer grosses and unreal 342 7/8 inches and net scores 334 even! Those types of numbers are rivaled only by the Boone & Crockett world record Missouri Monarch, and Ohio’s famous Hole in the Horn buck.

The Minnesota Monarch Mystery #1, Are There Really Three Sets of Shed Antlers?

Yes, there are three sets of sheds entered in the shed antler record book that are credited as being from the Minnesota Monarch. The 1990 set pictured above, a 1989 set that would score in the 230’s on the B&C system. These were followed up with a 1991 set that had 30 points and would score a little over 200 inches with a modest spread credit. All three sets are entered in the shed antler record book and are claimed to be from one deer. There are however, several people, including myself, that believe differently. Let’s examine the antlers themselves, and in particular the areas between the burrs and brow points.

The Minnesota Monarch shed antlers
Solving the mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch; are all these sheds from this great buck?

Whitetails have proven that when it comes to antler growth we need to expect anything and everything. What a buck grows one year may be quite different in the following years. There are however, a few “genetic locks” when it comes to antlers. For instance, the beading and veining within antlers from individual bucks will often remain relatively the same from year to year even with configuration changes. Also, the brow points usually stay very close to the same from year to year and their placement on the beams, at least within the several thousands of antlers I’ve looked at over the years, will remain the same. Color is also another characteristic that seldom changes from year to year.  These are important attributes that need to be examined  if we are to solve the mysteries around the Minnesota Monarch.

Look at the photo below, from left to right are the same side antler burrs from the three consecutive years of sheds attributed to the Minnesota Monarch, 1989, 1990 and 1991. A couple things really jump out at me. The first is the spacing between the burr and brow points. With two of the sets, 1990 & 1991, the base of the brow points sit very close to the burr. This fact is very rare in whitetails and it should be one of the genetic locks that we can count on from year to year. When comparing this distance on the 1989 set, it is obvious these antlers have a more “normal” space between the burr and base of the brow points. Another point is the burring and veining of the antlers. The sets from years 1990 and 1991 are nearly identical, but the 1989 set doesn’t match the later year sets.

Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch
Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch; are all three sets of sheds really from the Minnesota Monarch?

One more point: Biologists have told us that the pedicels on a buck are similar to a human fingerprint. Meaning, they will remain similar from year to year unless distorted from injury. Again, the pedicels on the 1990 and 1991 sets appear to be very similar while the 1989 set looks to be different in size, shape, and texture. It is this writer’s belief that the 1989 set of sheds belonged to a different buck than the 1990 and 1991 sets.

Was The Minnesota Monarch Ever Killed? Mystery #2, the Eye Witness Accounts

Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch.

This is one of the greatest mysteries surrounding the Minnesota Monarch. Some will say that yes, the buck was killed in 1991 by a female hunter. Others are of the impression that the hunter killed a different deer altogether. Let’s examine the facts and find a reasonable conclusion.

The person that picked up all three sets of shed antlers has from the beginning said there were two bucks using his winter feed pile that looked nearly identical. These bucks were so close in resemblance that he most always referred to them as being twins. They were each on his property for a couple years, and they both disappeared the same year. Now, let’s consider some things surrounding this great mystery.

Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch
Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch; one question always asked is whether the Minnesota Monarch was ever killed by a hunter? Some feel this rack is from the Minnesota Monarch

There is no question that during the deer hunting season of 1991 there was a huge buck killed by a female hunter, and that it was killed very close too, if not right on, the shed finders property. This deer came to light during the 1992 Minnesota Deer Classic. It was brought in by Lisa Baxter and it has long been believed to be the final set of antlers from the Minnesota Monarch. The Baxter buck scored an impressive 228 4/8 net inches. However, there are a couple details with Lisa’s deer that bring a conflict to what was previously known about the Minnesota Monarch.

One such conflict comes directly from the landowner and shed finder himself. He mentioned within a couple early interviews that the “Big One”, as he often referred to the Minnesota Monarch, didn’t show up on his property until “mid-February”. In fact, the deer was so consistent with this pattern that he actually knew when to expect the buck to show up. With the landowner being so certain of when this buck would arrive each year, how is it the buck would be there in November of 1991? As we know, whitetails are creatures of habits and patterns and are quite consistent with daily and seasonal structuring. Because of this I have strong doubts the Minnesota Monarch was killed by a hunter.

But there’s one more very compelling piece of evidence, and this is within the antlers themselves. As was brought out earlier in this article, the spacing between the burrs and the base of the brow points were nearly identical with the 1990 and 1991 sets, and the 1989 set was completely different. If we examine the burrs and compare them to the burrs of the killed buck, what conclusion would you draw? Minnesota Monarch; Solving the Mysteries, take a close look at the picture I posted below, in my opinion; the kill buck matches the burr to brow spacing, the beading, and the veining, of the 1989 set of sheds. I am of the belief the deer killed by Lisa Baxter was not the Minnesota Monarch, but was a second buck, the same buck the landowner referred to as being a twin of the Minnesota Monarch.

Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch
Solving the Mysteries of the Minnesota Monarch; comparing the bases of the three sets of sheds and the hunter killed buck
Minnesota Monarch; Solving the Mysteries

I am curious to hear your thoughts on the mysteries surrounding the Minnesota Monarch. Do you believe he was killed by Lisa Baxter? Do you believe all three sets of sheds are from the Minnesota Monarch, or only two? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what you think.

Obviously, a big reason this deer is so popular is because of the celebrity status achieved from the countless magazine appearances, but another reason hunters have an interest in this deer is because of the unanswered questions surrounding him. Many are still asking, and speculating about the circumstances surrounding his disappearance and eventual demise. It is my opinion, based on what I have presented within this article that the Minnesota Monarch simply walked away like a ghost into the wilderness, to never be seen again. A fitting end to the largest net scoring whitetail to ever grace the earth!

Be sure and sign up for the FREE Buck-Tales Newsletter and grab a copy of How To Find Whitetail Deer Sheds while you’re here.

27 thoughts on “Minnesota Monarch”

  1. I’ve been collecting and gathering sheds, 100s of them, personally for 18 years. My fascination is directly related to following bucks for as many years in a row as possible. I have found they bases and brows absolutely tend to be the best indicators but they do change drastically. I am confidently saying, based on photos above alone, every antler pictured is from the same buck. The Baxter buck is nearly identical…Baxter buck left side compared to left side to the middle set. If the sheds and Baxter bucks were from consecutive years and same 20 square mile area, there is no doubt all from the same buck. A simple DNA test of the antlers would prove this. A friend of mine killed a 232 (216 net typical frame)….had two consecutive sets from the previous year and a quick DNA test proved they were from the buck he killed. I did the same with a buck I took….4 sets of typical sheds the third set being the largest at a gross 198 typical (30 in beams)…the year I harvested him…25 Inch beams with a non-typical right side and bases and brows were drastically different. The distance between burs and brows had changed considerably. I could go on and on with examples.

  2. Already this spring and early summer, 15 of the adult moose have died. Sometimes they’re too distant or difficult to bring back to the lab, and Pauly and his field crews conduct necropsies on the spot. But whenever possible, they use their rubber sleds and chainsaw winches to heave the carcass out of the forest for a full examination.

  3. Thanks Dan for sharing the story of your work on the monarch buck I would like to view this mount in person sometime do you ever do any shows with this mount.

    1. I had this one at the MN State Fair a few times when I had my display. This replica is of the old material and is as fragile as glass so I hated to move it at all. The mount is now hanging in Wall Drug in Wall, SD

    1. They could pass some similarities but most of those genetics will come from the doe. It’s my understanding the deer breeders believe as much is 80% of antler genetics are passed from the doe. With that in mind, those two bucks could easily have been litter mates or at least from the same doe.

  4. I would agree with your article. Having held the antlers without knowing the background as in depth as you, I instantly thought they were from different deer. Genetics are very close, but different. I was surprised to see my picture of the three sets and single in the article;-) I guess once it’s on Facebook it’s public property anyways. Great read. I do think the mystery behind the two stories make for an even bigger appeal to an already famous animal.

    1. We’ve had 25 years to uncover the answers. Hunters have been asking these questions from the very beginning. This is as closest the four sets of antlers have been to being side by side. Many people doubted the Baxter was actually the Monarch, and maybe it is? However, to people that know antlers and are familiar with their characteristics that point has always been questioned because of the points u brought out in the article. The photo was forwarded to me by a friend, I’m pretty sure it’s made its rounds.

  5. I have a very good friend that grew up in Ely and knows this buck well. He personally saw the Baxter buck after it was killed and said no doubt it was a different deer. The Monarch began to draw large crowds of hunters and spectators as he was seen several times around the landowner’s spot. My belief is that the deer finally wised up and left the area because his routine was interrupted too many times. Ely is quite a remote area, and very easy for a deer to disappear out there… Fascinating story.

  6. I heard the landowner was very bitter how the publicity of the Monarch was the downfall to the wintering bucks in his area. It would be great if someday he would release some pictures of the Monarch or possinly the Twins.

    1. He’s on record as saying it was a huge mistake. Once the story came out, which never identified his name or location, the hunters started pouring into the area. He said that “within five years they had killed all the big bucks”. Yes, he’s quite bitter about the entire ordeal. Not many people involved that lived up to their word.

  7. Nicely done, here are my thoughts. Deer are creatures of habit, however they will change with age. I have proven to myself that deer will change their routine and become more tolerant with age on certain properties. In fact I am proving that as we speak. Also I believe you are exactly correct with your belief on the two bucks. In 2012 I was getting pics of a mature buck, several pics, not the greatest scoring deer but mature. I killed him only to find out a neighbor killed his twin. Going back to all the pics I came to realize there was two and the only way to tell the difference was a scare on the inside of a rear leg. Nice work Dan peticals don’t lie.

    1. Dave thats an interesting scenario with those two bucks. I wonder how often this actually happenes where there are two deer instead of just the one we think we know of? One year in Ontario I had two 8pts I was getting trail pics of, it took me over a month to finally figure out there were two different deer.

  8. I have to agree with you that the Baxter buck is not The Monarch. The mystery bucks are the most intriguing to me with all the unknown and speculation. Maybe The Monarch’s skull was picked up and is hidden away in an attic or basement to be revealed at a later date. Good read Dan

  9. Great article Dan. Question for you. do you know if there is any other photos of the buck alive on the hoof? I have only ever seen the one of him on the hay pile until the photo you have posted above today. I have never held or seen the 3 sets or the single personally. Going from photos and from what I can see I have alwAys thought the 89 set looks a lot like the buck the lady shot. If you go by odds. There probably all the same deer. But like he said, there was 2 twin Giants. So I think it’s very possible it could be 2 deer. Would be fun to see a DNA test to solve the mystery.

    1. Thanks Nick!
      Yes, there are many more photos of the deer. I was given several from the landowner when I purchased his replica, which is the one shown in the article, which is also the same mount that has appeared in all the different magazine articles and covers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *