Mitch Rompola Buck: Behind the Scenes Story You Haven’t Heard Yet

Mitch Rompola shot a huge typical whitetail buck in Grand Traverse County, Michigan, back in 1998. The buck scored higher than the current top Boone & Crockett buck. Apart from the final score, the exceptionally wide inside spread, and the fact that the Mitch Rompola Buck was never entered into the record books, little was known about its measurements.

It is unclear whether the scores on that score sheet are legitimate (more on this later) but a score sheet for the deer has suddenly appeared on social media. In spite of this, many people still believe that the Rompola Buck exists and that if it were ever officially entered into the B&C books, it would be a world record. I am one of those believers who have covered this buck since its inception.

The elusive score sheet has been kept private since the whitetail rack was measured in late March 1999 by a trio of CBM measurers. Gary Berger was one of the three, and he additionally scored big game for Boone & Crockett, Pope & Young and the Longhunter’s Society. Joining him were Lee Holbrook, also on the Pope & Young list of scorers, as well as Al Brown.

As a result, CBM bylaws require panel measurements of any antlers that may be a potential record, so it was assumed the rack would be a new state record typical. He already held the state record for typical bow kills with a 12-pointer he arrowed in 1985. Rompola was also well versed in the rules since he served as the scoring chairman of CBM for several years. He was also a measurer for Boone & Crockett and Pope & Young.

On November 13, 1998, Rompola shot a massive whitetail with a bow and scored 216 58, a record for Michigan typicals, as well as a world record for typicals. In the past, and still today, Milo Hanson shot a Saskatchewan 12-pointer with a score of 213 58, the number one typical whitetail in Boone & Crockett Records.

Many people have once again asked: Why isn’t the Rompola Buck in the Boone & Crockett Records… or any records for that matter?A score sheet was posted on social media and discussed on the Joe Rogan podcast.

Mitch Rompola’s Buck’s Score

Through my involvement with CBM, I wrote and edited the state’s first big game record books and edited the organization’s quarterly magazine, Buck Fax.

I’ve known Mitch since the early 1980s and considered him a friend. I wrote a number of articles about his big buck success using bow and arrow, including the story behind the state-record buck he tagged in 1985. The monster deer he killed in 1998 generated more articles, but it also generated fallout that was beyond any one could have imagined. People couldn’t believe the rack was real because it was so large and so unique.

Rather than growing upward, the antlers grew to the sides of the deer‘s head, contributing to its wide inside spread and long beams. Both antlers were over 32 inches in length and tapered out to 30 38 inches inside. Typically, even the largest trophy whitetails end up with a main beam measurement less than 30 inches. The right beam was 32 6/8 inches and the left was 32 2/8 inches. For reference, the Hanson buck had a main beam measurement of 28 38 and 28 1/8.

In the DNR’s view, the buck was 7 1 2 years old, well over the average age of whitetail bucks in the U.S. Due to the buck’s advanced age, he was able to grow the impressive headgear. The antler bases measured 5 3/8 and 5 5/8 inches in circumference. The other circumference measurements were 4 4⁄8 and 5 inches.

The second and third tines on each side were the longest, ranging from 11 to more than 13 inches long, whereas the brow tines and the last points (G5) were the shortest, ranging from 4 to 5 inches long.

There is a scoresheet

Scoresheet for the Rompola Buck

I found this score sheet for the Mitch Rompola buck in a Facebook group. It may be a replica of the original, but it is unlikely to be the original.

Recently, a scoresheet of the historic Mitch Rompola Buck was shared in a Facebook group dedicated to him and his supporters. The group has over 3,200 members who value his hunting ethics, morals and bowhunting skills.“This group is dedicated to Mitch Rompola and those of us hunters who either know Mitch personally, know of his stature, ethics, morals and credibility as well as his remarkable bowhunting skills, etc. And those of us that believe Mitch isn’t a fake, didn’t fake his legendary bow kill of what would be a record buck as well. Many of us believe that Mitch got a raw deal — his name slandered, disrespected, accused of something that he never falsified or did wrong…”

This scoresheet is unlikely to be the original one completed by the panel of scorers. Several members of the Facebook group noted the sheet has a newer design than the ones from the late 1990s.

According to the administrator of the Facebook group, he found the image on the Internet and was never able to locate its source. In response to my requests for comments on the score sheet, Gary Berger, one of the three original scorers, eventually responded.

He said, “All I know is that’s not my handwriting.”.

Reprinted on the modern B&C score sheet template, it appears to be a replica of the original.

Rompola Buck’s Backstory

A whitetail buck had been in Mitch’s sight for three years. He saw it a number of times and took several photos of it. Rompola’s first attempt to kill the deer failed when his arrow was deflected. But 10 days later, he was able to kill the buck.

Many of Rompola’s friends had been hearing about the big buck he was seeking for many years. As soon as he finally tagged the deer, he showed it to everyone. Bill Bailey, a veteran tribal conservation officer from Honor, Michigan, was one of the people who saw and inspected the impressive whitetail. Bailey, a big buck hunter in his own right, brought his family members to see the buck, as well as several others.

Bailey had no doubt about the legitimacy of the Mitch Rompola Buck when I spoke with him.

“I’m convinced the deer and the antlers are real,” he told me. “I’ve seen them. How can anyone who hasn’t seen the deer claim otherwise?”

The word of a law enforcement officer would be enough in almost any other situation to verify the authenticity of the deer. Additionally, all three of the experienced measurers who inspected and measured the rack spent hours vouching for the deer.

When the buck was examined in late March, its head was partially mounted. However, the back of the mount was yet to be finished, allowing CBM officials to review the skull plate and antlers base. Without noticing anything suspicious, they asserted that it had been assessed thoroughly. Nevertheless, several people still refused to believe that northern Michigan could produce such an impressive whitetail. They claimed it must have been shot from a high fence or illegally and insisted that Mitch’s unwillingness to register the deer in any records was proof of its falseness.

It is completely preposterous to assume that this region of Michigan is not capable of yielding a world-record buck. Grand Traverse County may not be the state’s most exceptional county for producing big bucks, yet other notable whitetails have been harvested from there. The most outstanding example being Tim Bannen’s 15-point non-typical with palmated antlers, taken on October 2nd, 2022 that scored 182 4⁄8. Prior to that in 1976, Jim Thomson harvested an impressive 12-pointer giving it a green score of 174 6⁄8.

Mitch tagged an impressive buck in 1998 that lived until 7 ½ years old. This got him thinking that other deer could be doing the same in portions of Grand Traverse County that are closed to hunting. Indeed, when he encountered a buck in 2004, 70 percent of its time was spent in a sanctuary. Despite his best efforts, Mitch never managed to get it – however this suggests there can be some seriously mature bucks lurking around sanctuaries untouched by hunters.

Video of the Recovery

Mitch’s kill was well-supported by witness testimony, and if that wasn’t enough he also documented the hunt himself. After letting his girlfriend know what happened, Rompola ate something then grabbed his cameras to film the recovery. He shot a 20-minute long video starting at the treestand, right up to where the buck lay. I’ve seen the entire video and there’s no doubt regarding Mitch’s level of excitement – it was real! Captured on screen you could see the arrow stayed in place, and the deer viewed from different angles; authenticity was obvious. It had been an amazing hunting experience for 3 years leading up to this moment; one which will probably never be forgotten.

It was shared with a local news station, which edited it down to a short clip for their outdoor segment. As I visited the station, I saw the full, unedited video in the editing room. The full film, however, has since been lost to time since this was almost 25 years ago.

Why didn’t Rompola enter the Buck into the record books?

The fact that someone took such a massive buck would not qualify as a world record whitetail is hard to believe to some hunters. He is different from everyone else in the sense that he consistently puts himself in position to take trophy whitetails with his bow, and he is also not a people person.

His excitement at taking a world-class buck on Nov. 13, 1998, was similar to that of most hunters. His good fortune was shared with the world, starting with family and friends, followed by numerous interviews for newspapers, magazines, and television shows. In the beginning, he was unable to comprehend why people doubted the authenticity of the buck and did not believe his story.

What he accomplished was enough for him, and he knew it. What had been a highlight of his hunting career was turning into a soap opera, with Rompola painted as a villain by those who never saw the deer or the antlers and knew little, if anything, about them. Having become tired of dealing with false claims and negative comments about the deer and his own character, Rompola said, “The hell with it!”

Despite the Mitch Rompola Buck from 1998 having antlers of world-record size, he never labeled it as such. This was because filing in either Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young records would have been required to obtain that status, something he had no intention of doing. At the time, Pope & Young Records disqualified submissions made with a compound bow with more than 65 percent let-off at full draw – though their regulations have since changed.

Rompola experienced major success with the third deer he bagged; its antlers earned it a place in the all-time Boone & Crockett listing. At only 13 years old, Rompola shot a nontypical 16-pointer that scored 208 6⁄8 in Missouri and this was followed by a 12-point buck in Michigan 1985 which held the state record for many years at 181 7⁄8. Interestingly, he didn’t enter either of these deer into B&C. This is why it seemed appropriate to similarly not enter his 1998 buck. There are plenty of other hunters who choose to follow this path despite having B&C-qualified game under their belts.

After the whitetail was panel scored, Rompola could have entered it in state records, but he didn’t sign the score sheet to avoid getting CBM involved. He chose not to sign the sheet to avoid involving CBM in the controversy. In the event he had entered the rack into CBM records and CBM declared the Mitch Rompola Buck the official Michigan state record, it would have caused enormous controversy and criticism for the relatively small organization.

According to Rompola, “People are insisting that I do certain things to get the buck entered into the record books,” as he wrote in Buck Fax. Well, I’m not interested in the record books, but I’m fascinated by the antler measurements for comparison with my own racks. I used to treasure the record books, but now I don’t.

While I have shot quite a few trophy bucks in Last years, I haven’t entered any of them since 1988. For now, don’t expect this one to be any different. It may be entered someday.

Rompola signed the Hanson agreement for what reason?

Since Mitch had no plans to enter the deer in B&C, he signed a legal agreement drafted by representatives of Milo Hanson’s existing world record without any qualms. According to the agreement, Rompola would not enter the deer and would not claim that it was a world record. This would lower the value of the Hanson buck.

It’s still claimed that Rompola’s signing of that agreement proves there was a problem with the deer, but this is false just like all the other rumors, speculations, and lies about the whitetail and the hunter who killed it.

If they didn’t feel the buck was legitimate, the company that drafted the agreement Mitch signed wouldn’t have done so. Over the past 25 years, no proof has been found that the Rompola Buck was fake or an illegal kill despite all of the rumors and myths surrounding it. The obvious reason for that is because the buck is real, so there is no evidence that it is a fraud.

Rumors: Where Did They Come From?

In 1999, Outdoor Life published the original story on the Mitch Rompola buck.

It is important to know that Craig Calderone from Jackson, Michigan was one of the people who started the rumors about the Rompola Buck being a fake. Calderone killed a 14-point typical deer with a bow in Jackson County in 1986, which scored higher than the top deer in that category.Rompola holds the current record for the category with the buck he bagged last year.

Craig, who had received a ticket and violation for spotlighting deer years earlier, was reminded of his ticket and violation shortly after Calderone’s buck was entered in state records. CBM bylaws stipulated that the Calderone Buck would be suspended for three years. Craig chose not to re-enter the deer after that time, but it is listed in B&C Records as scoring 193 2⁄8.

Calderone blamed Rompola for the loss of his rack from state records, but Rompola had nothing to do with it. Rompola was the previous record holder and a CBM official at the time. Due to potential conflicts of interest, he even excluded himself from deliberations.

In 1998, Calderone immediately called Rompola’s giant buck fake after seeing photos. The buck’s droopy ears and the antler coloration were typical of fabricated racks, Calderone claimed.

Rompola was able to get $10,000 from Calderone if he had the antlers X-rayed to give to a charity of his choosing. He did this knowing Rompola would probably not take him up on the offer. It is still widely believed that Calderone offered Rompola $10,000 directly if he had the rack X-rayed.

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