The following article is an accusation of shocking big game
fraud at the highest level of our sport. It represents exhaustive
research by one of the world's formost whitetail antler experts.
Larry Huffman is the owner of the Legendary
Whitetails Collection. He has the Hole-in-the-horn, the Jordan,
the Illinois record bow-kill and hundreds of other world class
racks. He has made a science of scoring racks simply from photographs
using ratios from his famous collection. Larry sent me this article
in the hope that it would shed some light on what he believes
is a great injustice. The opinions expressed are Larry's and
not necessarily those of whitetail.com. At the same time, we
are publishing this so you can evaluate the situation with substantial
John Miglautsch <><
Larry L. Huffman
May 5, 1999
1998 was quite a year. It probably set a record for the number
of scandals within a given year. We had Whitewater Gate, Travel
Gate, File Gate, Zipper Gate, and China Gate just to name a few.
Most of the scandals of 1998 were brought about by our current
federal administration. But not all!
In the hunting world we also had a major scandal which I have
appropriately named Rompola Gate. This scandal, like those at
the federal government level, may never be solved. The world
seams to thrive on controversy. The hunting world is no different.
The Rompola controversy started back on Friday, November 13,
1998. Yes, thats right, Friday the 13th. On that date,
Mitch Rompola claims to have harvested a buck, with bow and arrow
that has a net typical score of 218 5/8 and had an outside spread
of 38 inches. At that score, the buck surpasses the current world
record typical buck by an even 5 inches. Milo Hansons world
record typical buck officially scored 213 5/8. It was harvested
in November of 1993. The Rompola buck was re-scored later at
Rompola claims that he hunted for the deer for three years. He
also claims to have photographed the buck from 20 yards away.
Rompola said that he saw the buck several more times and photographed
it again in 1997. He said he missed a shot at the buck on November
3rd when his arrow hit a twig. He claims to have harvested the
buck 10 days later.
Rompola was using a bow set at about 58 pounds. He said that
he decided to shoot for the middle. The arrow hit the middle
of the deers body and angled forward. He further said that
the buck ran out of sight and he heard it go down. Several minutes
later he climbed down from his tree stand and even though he
had heard the buck go down, he went home to get his video camera,
without first going to see the buck.
Writer Eric Sharp of the Detroit Free Press has written numerous
articles on Mitch Rompola and his controversial buck. His first
article was dated November 20th, 1998 just seven days after Rompola
supposedly killed his mystery buck. The article headline read,
Man Arrows Likely World Record Deer.
All of these articles appeared on the Detroit Free Press web
site of which the address is http://www.freep.com.
After reporting most of the controversy surrounding the buck,
Sharps article of March 18, 1999 stated that Rompola never
claimed his buck was a World Record.
Rompola, a former measurer for both Boone & Crockett and
Pope & Young, would not divulge the green score but said
even if you lopped off two five inch tines projecting
from the inside of the rack, it would still be way bigger than
the Hanson buck. If that is not claiming that he had shot
a New World record buck then I dont know what is.
In the April 1999 issue of Outdoor Life magazine, an Eric Sharp
article was titled, World Record or Record Hoax.
This buck is certainly not a World Record. It will never be a
World Record because it is a fake. It is more than a Record Hoax,
it is another whitetail scam. Thats right, I believe it
is a SCAM. Lets take a close look at all the facts and
see what you think.
Over the years, there have been several scams in the whitetail
world. Two major scams involved Texas hunters. Back a number
of years ago, Austin hunter Bill Day removed the antlers from
a buck he shot in Mexico. He replaced them with a set of antlers
stolen from a taxidermist shop in Canada. Canadian outfitter
Lloyd McMahan took the antlers to Mexico.
After magazine and newspaper articles reported the story of Bill
Days trophy buck, an Alberta taxidermist recognized his
stolen antlers. Day and McMahan were brought to justice. Day
paid a very large fine and was put on community service for a
lengthy period of time. McMahan was sentenced to two years in
prison under the Lacy Act.
The other Texas case involved B. W. Morrow of Dallas. He bought
a large set of antlers. He then killed a buck in Texas and replaced
the antlers with the set he had purchased. Field photos were
taken. Morrow then entered the buck in the Texas Big Game Awards
and signed an affidavit that he had killed the buck in Starr
County, Texas. An article in a magazine was Morrows undoing
and he also was brought to justice.
There was a whitetail scam in Alabama. Back in 1984 a hunter
claimed to have shot a new Alabama State Record white-tailed
deer. Several months later, another man noticed a photo in a
advertisement in a magazine of this new state record buck. He
recognized the antlers as a set of shed antlers he had loaned
to the hunter of record.
Shortly thereafter the Alabama scam artist said that he had sold
the antlers to an unidentified man for $1,000.00. The antlers
disappeared forever and the hunter was never charged with a crime.
His record was thrown out by both the state of Alabama and B
There was a Wisconsin case where a group of hunters shot a doe,
opened up its cranium and installed a set of antlers on the doe.
They sewed up the cape and then entered the doe in a big buck
contest. They took first place. This was many years ago. These
hunters did it more as a joke and not a scam. Obviously, if they
didnt admit their prank, they were just as guilty as those
scam artists previously mentioned.
The above scams were attempted using real antlers. There have
also been several situations where antlers have been fabricated
using parts of other antlers. Main beams have been extended by
splicing them together. Tines have been heightened. Splices are
patched using a product such as Magic Sculpt. The fabricated
antlers are then painted as an artist would paint an original
painting. Some craftsmen are so good, it is almost impossible
to tell a fake from the real thing. Certified measurers have
been fooled by not being able to tell the difference.
The following photos show examples of fabricated antlers. I have
personally held one of these sets in my hands and believe me
they are well done. They are so good its almost scary.
We may be facing the day when the Boone & Crockett Club will
have to x-ray antlers as a standard practice.
240 class fabricated antlers
230 class fabricated antlers
Please notice that the above sets of fabricated whitetail antlers
have real deer skulls. The coloration, especially the 230 class,
is very good. You do not see color changes in any of the tines
like those present in Rompolas antlers. Also the coloring
where the tines join the main beams is very consistent and is
not the brownish/purple stain so prevalent with Rompolas
antlers. Its easy to see how even an expert can be fooled.
As for Rompola, I believe that he fabricated his antlers. The
coloration of the Rompola antlers is very suspect. Back several
years ago, it was common practice to use Potassium Permanganate
to stain antlers. This product produced a brownish/purple color.
Todays experts actually paint antlers using modern techniques.
As I have said, some are so good it is almost impossible to detect.
They no longer use Potassium Permanganate.
Old antlers turn somewhat yellow. Some more than others depending
on where they have been hanging. If they have been hanging in
a smoke filled room they can be quite discolored.
If you examine the photo of the Rompola buck you will notice
a yellow tone on the three longest tines. These tines change
color about three or four inches above the main beams. The color
of the tines where they join the main beams is a brownish/purple
color like that of Potassium Permanganate staining. This color
is also quite evident from the skull out past the brow tines.
The same stain or color appears where all of the tines join the
Another thing that is very suspicious is the distance between
the burrs. I am the owner of the Legendary Whitetail collection.
I have personally measured the distance between the burrs on
most of the 84 trophy heads in this collection. This list includes
the Jordan, Hole In The Horn, Breen, The Mel Johnson and many
more. The widest distance I have found between the burrs on any
of these trophy bucks is 3 ¼.
The Rompola buck is said to have a 38 outside spread. Using
this dimension as a basis, it is very easy to calculate the distance
between the burrs. On the Mitch Rompola buck the distance between
burrs comes out to 4 ¾, a full 1 ½
greater than any buck in the Legendary collection. That would
mean that the skull on the Rompola buck was almost 50% wider
than any previous world record buck.
In the field photo of Rompolas buck there is a very suspicious
indentation in the skull just right of center. This along with
the droopy ears and the blood in the deers right ear are
all clues that the original antlers were removed and replaced
with the fabricated antlers. Examination of the skull plate would
be very interesting, but Rompola has taken steps to make sure
that never happens.
In the video shown on Michigan Out Of Doors, Rompola
is shown holding the antlers after they were removed from the
buck. The skull plate is completely covered with what appears
to be Bondo. It is impossible to see the actual skull
plate or for that matter any portion of the skull. Rompola must
have a reason to conceal the skull plate. What do you think that
Recently, Rompola announced that he had the antlers re-measured.
He named the three measurers who were Gary Berger, Lee Holbrook
and Al Brown. To date no attempt has been made to enter the score
in the Boone & Crockett records. An official of B & C
questioned one of these measurers. The official asked if the
measurer had inspected the skull plate. He answered that he did
not. Obviously he could not see it because of the way it has
been totally encased.
Lets go back to the video that was aired on Michigan
Out Of Doors. The date of showing was November 26, 1998.
The video shows footage of Mitch Rompola walking up to the deer
as it lay on the ground. Many suspicious things show up in this
One of the first things is that the arrow was sticking out about
18 or so. Rompola was using a 58 Pound bow with carbon
arrows. He shot the deer in its midsection. The arrow should
have passed completely through the deer. Even if it had not,
the deer probably would have pulled it out or broken it off while
traveling the 70 yards Rompola said it went before it collapsed
and died. An arrow sticking out of a deer like this usually means
that the death scene was staged.
When a deer is dying there is always violent kicking of its
legs as it expires. In the video the leaves around the deer have
not been disturbed. It appears that the deer had been carefully
placed in this exact position.
Another point that appeared in the video was that the cape was
wet while the body was dry. Obviously the cape was wet because
it had been washed. This is what I believe occurred. Mitch Rompola
shot a buck. He then removed the cranium by skinning back the
skull and sawing off the existing antlers from the skull. The
fake antlers were then attached to the skull of the deer. The
cape was then sewed up to conceal his handiwork. There would
have been substantial bleeding from this operation. The cape
would have to be washed to remove the blood before any field
photos or video could be taken.
The video shows the buck laying on its right side. Later when
still photos were taken, the right ear is covered with blood.
The ear probably was washed out earlier however blood seeped
out of the cranium and down into the ear as the deer was laying
on the ground on its right side.There is truly no other explanation
for the right ear being so bloody. This was overlooked by Rompola
and is truly one of the main clues to why I believe it is a scam.
The droop of the ears is greater then any dead deer I have ever
seen a photo of. I have looked at hundreds of photos and none
of the ears droop to this extreme angle. When the cranium was
skinned out the ear butts would have to be cut. This would allow
the ears to droop in the manner shown in the photograph.
The only other field photo of a deer that I have seen with ears
drooping this bad was Rompolas 1985 buck. He is holding
the deer in such a way that looks very suspicious. One hand is
holding the antler while the other hand reaches under the bucks
jaw. Its almost like he is holding the head together. But
we are not dealing with that deer now. Lets get back to
the Rompola Gate issue.
Recently I had the privilege of meeting with two of the top taxidermists
in the Midwest. We viewed the video. They noticed that the skull
was not of proper configuration but noticed something even more
important. There were wrinkles in the skin on the right side
of the face, just below the antler base. When they seen this,
they immediately announced that this deer is a fake. They said
that the skin had not been reattached in this particular spot.
There are two other points I would like to make. Every deer hunter
knows that bucks rub their antlers on trees. As a result of making
these rubs, bark from the trees gets embedded in and around the
bases of the antlers. On the Rompola buck the bases of the antlers
are clean. There is no bark shavings embedded in these antlers.
Perhaps this buck never rubbed his antlers on a tree.
In the video there appeared to be a visible splice between the
base and the brow tine on the left main beam. Mitch Rompola promptly
places his tag over this spot. Later he ties the tag over this
spot. I believe this was done to conceal a visible flaw in the
It has been said that there are three important factors that
affect antler growth. These factors are; age, nutrition and genetics.
Of these, most biologists believe that genetics is without a
doubt the most important of the three.
The subject can be somewhat complicated. Naturally, if you have
superior genetics but have sub par nutrition the antler growth
will not reach its potential. On the other hand, excellent
nutrition with poor genetics will not produce antlers of trophy
proportions. To produce white-tailed bucks with World Record
antlers you must have outstanding genetics.
Grand Traverse County does not have the genetics required to
produce a buck of the size that Mitch Rompola claimed that he
shot there last November. In the Commemorative Bucks of Michigans
records for Grand Traverse County, there are only two bucks listed
that have made the Boone & Crockett minimum typical score
of 170. One of those lists Mitch Rompola as the hunter. The other
was harvested by Jim Thompson back in 1976. There are no non-typical
There are no listings in any of the neighboring counties. In
the northern half of the lower peninsula of Michigan, there have
only been eight Boone & Crockett bucks listed. Four of these
are typicals and four are non-typicals. The largest typical buck
ever harvested in this area of Michigan scored 182 7/8. The facts
dont lie. The genetics simply do not exist in Grand Traverse
County to produce a trophy whitetail of the size Rompola claims
to have harvested.
The May/June 1999 issue of The Journal of the Texas Trophy Hunters
had a very interesting editorial on the Mitch Rompola buck. They
openly said the antlers were fake. They pointed out that there
must be a good reason that a hunter who claims he shot a world
record buck wont show the antlers to the public.
They mention Rompolas brushes with the law and how he had
been released by both The Boone & Crockett Club and The Pope
& Young Club as an official measurer. The article mentioned
that it was safe to assume that Rompola has an ax to grind with
society. The editorial asks what would a hunter need to pull
off a scam such as this. They went on to ask What if
to every situation they could think of regarding Rompolas
actions. What if he fabricated the antlers, what if he had to
go home to get the antlers, what if he reported his story to
the media, what if he decided to hide from the world because
his story got out of hand and what if the antlers disappear never
to be seen again. The hunter could still exhibit a replica at
deer shows and attempt to elevate his position in society. Naturally
he could never let anyone inspect the fake antlers so they simply
must disappear at some point.
The editorial made an interesting point. They suggested that
when Rompola said he went home to get his camera that he actually
went home to get the fake antlers. That truly makes a lot of
sense because like most hunters you can assume that he always
had his camera with him while hunting. He spoke of all the pictures
he had taken of deer. He would not take the fake antlers with
him until he had a use for them.
There is a standing offer of $10,000.00 if Rompola would have
the antlers x-rayed. Rompola claims that he had it done however
no one has reported seeing the x-rays. By the way, x-rays of
replica antlers dont count. An x-ray should be of the skull
plate as well as the main beams and tines.
I would hope that the Commemorative Bucks of Michigan record
committee would take all the precautions that B & C would
take if they are considering listing Rompolas buck as a
state record. When you consider all of the controversy surrounding
this deer and the fact that it may not be real, it could be embarrassing
to list a fake deer in their records.
Finally, one should examine who is being damaged by the Rompola
Gate scam. There are several companies who are attempting to
profit from this situation. Are these firms part of the scam
or are they victims? I dont have a clue. One of the firms
made a deal with Rompola a full year before Rompola announced
that he had harvested the buck. Milo Hansen has been damaged
as much as any body I can think of. Is legal action a possibility?
You be the judge.
* * * *
Do you think the Rompola Buck is a fake?
(I think it is a fake)
(I think it is genuine)
Please only vote once.
Copyright 1999 Larry Huffman and whitetail.com