This has been an unreal year for deer hunters around the state. While I didn’t get my buck, I had the privilege of writing about a bunch of others who did, stories that appeared in LA Sportsman magazine or on the magazine’s web site.
While this year’s crop of successful hunters featured all sorts of stories and situations, I got to write a story a couple of years ago for North American Whitetail magazine that topped them all. In a nutshell, I wrote about a Louisiana buck that made the Boone and Crockett list. There are a handful from Louisiana on that prestigious list but this one in particular stands out, not necessarily because of the score, which was indeed impressive. What sets this buck apart was the fact that it was shot 118 years ago and the antlers are still around.
Thirty-four year old Joe Sam Rolfe, who lived in the village of Oak Ridge in Morehouse Parish, attended a family camp out along the Boeuf River in the year 1900. Strapped to his side was a .38 caliber sidearm possibly to ward off a bear, cougar or another other creature inhabiting the area in 1900.
While he was there attending a camp out, Rolfe encountered neither bear nor cougar but another creature even more rare. It was a huge buck, an animal seldom seen in that part of the state back then. The big buck took off running, Rolfe had but one shot and he took it — right in the rear end. The buck was recovered and the massive set of antlers now graces the wall of his grandson, Joe Cooper Rolfe in Oak Ridge.
The fact that Rolfe was able to down a trophy buck with a single shot from his pistol is a story in itself. However, the fact that he accomplished this feat in the year 1900 blows all other details out of the water.
“My granddad was born in 1866 and passed away in 1946 before I was born,” Joe explained. “Deer were almost non-existent back then. From stories I have heard, my granddad didn’t see another deer until the big flood in 1927.
“The rack of granddad’s buck had been handed down to a cousin who hung it on the wall at the family’s old home place near Oak Ridge. When she passed away, another cousin told me if I wanted anything out of the old house, I could have it; they were afraid that since nobody would be living in it, the house and its contents would eventually deteriorate. I went down, collected a few things from the house, including my granddad’s set of antlers.”
Soon after acquiring the rack, Rolfe showed the antlers to Robert Barham, Oak Ridge resident and former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Rolfe asked Barham if he could score it. Barham put a tape to the rack and came up with an unofficial score that was above the minimum for a typical Boone and Crockett rack. He urged Rolfe to have it officially scored, which was later done by a certified scorer. The 10-point rack officially measured 172 4/8 inches.
The rack having the appearance of a piece of antique china, is impressive indeed. Inside spread is 20 6/8 inches, main beams are 27 and 26 4/8 each with bases 5 ½ inches each. The mass carries throughout the sturdy rack.
According to current big game records for Louisiana, Joe Sam Rolfe’s buck sits in 23rd place on the all time Boone and Crockett list for typical whitetails. I dare say that none of those above him on the list has the longevity of Rolfe’s buck. It tool this beautiful 10-point buck 115 years to make the book but it is well worth the wait. Kudos to Joe Cooper Rolfe for seeing that it got done and to Robert Barham for sharing this remarkable story with me.