Discover The Largest Mule Deer Ever Caught In Montana

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: April 22, 2023
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The Missouri River Breaks and cliffs in the western part of Montana are a hunter’s dream. Sometimes, it’s a waiting game; other times, it costs a pretty penny to hunt in these environments. Hunters arrive in both public and private lands to bring trophies home along with a state of pride (and plenty of stories to tell). Let’s explore the largest mule deer ever caught in Montana!

What Is A Mule Deer?

Mule deer males typically grow up to 280 pounds.

© Hargrove

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Mule deer are mammals that have several distinctive features, particularly their mule-like large ears. The males typically grow up to 280 pounds, while the females are significantly smaller. Aside from their large ears, they also have a black forehead that’s readily noticeable in contrast to the lighter grey color of their faces. Their coloration differs depending on the season.

During the summer months, mule deer exhibit a tan/brown color and in the winter, they darken a bit to more of a brown/gray. Their white tails are small and have black tips. Along with all of these physical features, they also run in a unique fashion. They use all four of their hooves at the same time to push off the land and advance. This specific motion is referred to as “stotting.”

They are native to North America and can be found in dry, rocky locations. They do well in environments with diverse plant communities, obtaining most of their nutrients from young plant species more than mature plants. If an environment has greater plant diversity, they are able to engage in more stable and abundant foraging. They’re unlike other foragers in that they’re more specific about their plant intake. Instead of relying on low-quality feed, they seek out and select nutrient-dense plants to sustain them.

Mule Deer Hunting Basics

Large Mule Deer Buck on a frosty morning watching for hunters.

Montana may not be the best state for mule deer hunting, but it does offer hunters plenty of opportunities.

©Kirk Geisler/

The hunting season in Montana is generous, running between September 3rd to October 16th for archers and October 22nd through November 27th for rifle hunters. There’s a third, shorter season for muzzleloaders that runs from December 10th through the 18th. Aside from Montana’s plentiful hunting season, there is plenty of big game to harvest in the state.

Montana may not be the best state for mule deer hunting, but it does offer hunters plenty of opportunities. The Bitterroot Valley has a strong reputation for being a fantastic region for a good trophy buck, but over the years, several units have been scarce. Licensed hunters can explore public land or get together with a guide for hunting trips on private land.

Largest Mule Deer Ever Caught in Montana

The largest mule deer killed in Montana was in 2004. It was the typical Letterman Buck that received an official score of 207 7/8 inches. It’s now owned by the MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, and a hunter’s name is not associated with the state record. Its story is unpleasant; the buck was seized because it was considered evidence of a crime.

David Letterman, the famed TV talk show host, owned a ranch near Great Falls. He hired a painter whose name was Kelly Allen Frank. Frank was planning to kidnap Letterman’s son and nanny with the intent to hold them for ransom in the millions. Luckily, an informant came forward with the details before Frank had an opportunity to carry out the devious act.

As part of the investigation, another informant came forward, letting authorities know of another crime Frank had committed. He had gone off to hunt off-season and killed a huge mule deer buck. Police officers obtained a warrant and went off to Frank’s home, where they discovered the buck’s antlers.

Largest Mule Deer Ever Caught: An Illegal Record-Setting Trophy

Although the big game was a record-setting trophy, it was obtained illegally. Police surrendered the antlers to the MT Department of Fish, Wildlife, & Parks, where it’s still found today. The previous record in Montana for mule deer had held its place for 20 years before this new one was discovered.

Although the report that Frank was conspiring to kidnap alerted authorities to his home, he was never charged with that crime. Instead, he was charged with embezzlement, obstruction of justice, and, of course, for possessing those illegally obtained antlers. When questioned, Frank said he was not the one who shot the mule deer but that he did know it had been killed off-season. That’s how the largest mule deer caught in Montana got its name: The Letterman Buck.

Largest Mule Deer In The World  

Deer antlers are extensions of their skulls shed and regrown each year.

© Hargrove

The largest mule deer ever killed was in Chip Lake, Alberta, Canada. It was 1926 when two hunters set out to the south of Chip Lake. They managed to get as far as possible in their touring cars but had to hire both a horse and sleigh to get them to their ultimate destination. Edmund Broder set out around 1 PM, following deer tracks. He came upon two and shot the larger one. It scored 355 2/8 inches and was named the Broder Buck.

Where Is Montana Located On A Map?

Great Falls is located in Central Montana, 180 miles from Glacier National Park in the north and 264 miles from Yellowstone National Park in the south. Montana is located in the Mountain West region in the northwest of the United States. It shares a border with Idaho to the west, Wyoming to the south, North Dakota and South Dakota to the east, and the following Canadian provinces to the North: Alberta, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Kirk Geisler/

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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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