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Adventures from the Archives - Roosevelt Luckey’s World’s Record Whitetail

New York 1939 

Antlers make people do weird things. In this case, it wasn’t the antlers attached to this World’s Record, but its sheds that caused the problems. 


In the 1930s, Roosevelt Luckey owned a Ford dealership and garage in western New York’s Allegany County. Every year, he’d drive a Ford across the state to the Adirondacks in the northeast corner to hunt deer at a cabin owned by him and a few friends. He killed his first deer there in 1926. He would make the long drive because there were relatively few places open to hunting in New York until the late 1930s. That’s when state game managers opened a short season in Allegany County. 

In the fall of 1939, Roosevelt, his brother, and a few other hunting buddies gathered for a classic deer drive close to home. Late in the day, Roosevelt saw coming toward him a buck bounding in 20-foot leaps. Roosevelt set up at an opening. When the buck crossed it, he pulled the trigger on his Remington Model 11 shotgun. The buck stumbled at the slug, but it kept going. After trailing the buck, the men found it piled up. They saw its rack up close for the first time—all 14 points of it. 


In those days—and still today in some parts of the country—a deer’s weight is just as important, if not more important, than the size of the rack. Roosevelt’s field-dressed buck weighed 195 pounds, which makes a lot of meatloaf. But meat doesn’t stick around as long as antlers. 

Records suggest the Luckey buck hung in Roosevelt’s Ford dealership for years. When the garage closed, the rack made its way to Albany and became the property of the New York State Conservation Department. 

In May 1955, Grancel Fitz wrote to the department on behalf of the Boone and Crockett Club. Grancel wanted to measure the buck with the Club’s new scoring system, which he helped devise. After putting a tape to the antlers, the Luckey buck was declared the New York state record typical whitetail—and still is to this day, according to Big Game Records LIVE. At the time, it was also declared the biggest typical buck in the records, crowning it the World’s Record. 

The Case of the Unlucky Sheds

The Luckey buck has since been dethroned from World’s Record status, but there is one mysterious twist to this story that involves a pair of its sheds. An in-depth article in the February 2010 issue of the New York State Conservationist tells how it went down. 

In 1978, the largest set of shed antlers in New York disappeared from a display at the Erie County Fairgrounds. A good 16 years later, New York Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Robert Lucas got an anonymous phone call. The caller told Lucas he would find an “item of interest” tied to a road sign in a remote area of Cattaraugus County. When he investigated, Lucas found a very big set of antlers. 

A full-blown investigation ensued. The officers brought the sheds to meetings, contacted eyewitnesses, and spoke with the state’s Big Buck Club. It didn’t take long to sniff out the backstory. The sheds were found on the old Merwin farm by Joseph Merwin in 1938. In 1939, Roosevelt Luckey killed the deer that most likely grew those antlers. Merwin kept the sheds in a barn for decades until 1972, when they were loaned to the Big Buck Club. While on loan, they disappeared from the Erie County Fairgrounds. 

As part of the investigation, the ECOs ran a front-page story in a local newspaper, which generated several leads. One of those leads led to a man who had worked at the fairgrounds when they disappeared. Although he never admitted to stealing them, as part of a plea deal, he admitted to possessing the antlers after they were reported missing. In 1995, the antlers were returned to Joseph Merwin’s widow, who donated them to the Department of Environmental Conservation. Today, those giant sheds and the final pair of antlers that the Luckey buck ever grew belong to the people of New York. 



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About Adventures from the Archives

The Boone and Crockett Club’s records contain more than 70,000 big game entries, from musk ox to mule deer. Among those entries are more than a few stories of adventures afield. To celebrate those trophies, their habitat, and the hunter, we’re bringing those stories back to life with each installment of Boone and Crockett’s Adventures from the Archives.



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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt