Title fight to the finish


FOR A WORLD RECORD, THE ANTLERS UNDERWHELM: You expect more, somehow, than 43 points sprouting like witch’s fingers from a clump of skull mounted on a tiny metal slab. It is a fine rack, the color of caramel-streaked dark chocolate, yet it hardly seems worthy of a custody battle that began decades ago in Canada and ends here on the cold, green floor of a trophy hunter’s office.

Before Don Schaufler nabbed the rack in an online auction and added it to his collection in this small town framed by the Madison mountain range and river, the rack had a long history of inspiring pride, desire and greed. Brothers and sisters lied, argued and sued over it. One went to jail. How, you wonder, could antlers rip apart a family the way the Broder Buck did?

In the wild

Edmund Broder almost tailed the moose instead of the deer but, with daylight dimming, decided to go for the easier kill. He and two buddies had chugged west in Broder’s 1914 Model T to a sawmill camp about 100 miles from his Edmonton farm. From there, the men hired a horse-drawn sleigh to haul their gear to Chip Lake, a shallow pool dotted with islands. They stumbled upon a cabin that saved them from staking a tent.


It was a late November day in 1926. Broder, a 35-year-old farmer and carpenter, set off alone into the woods around 1 p.m., he recalled years later. He threaded the poplar and aspen, boots crunching a foot of new snow, and soon spied the tracks of a large deer. Its trail meandered off a timbered ridge and through a jack-pine swamp, then crossed paths with fresh moose prints.

Broder paused. Moose move too fast, he figured, and a long chase might take him too far from the cabin after dark. He had time to stalk a mule deer.

As the afternoon waned, the temperature dropped into the teens. Broder puffed out vapor as he trudged along the deer tracks to higher ground. Finally, in a clearing 200 yards away, he spotted the buck. It was foraging on shrubs with its back to him. Broder froze. He raised his .32 Winchester Special, waited for the buck to lift its head, aimed high on its spine and held his breath. Crack. The animal collapsed.

What a rack, he thought.

Others who knew the challenge of stalking the crafty mule deer that roam the Canadian Rockies would be more effusive. To kill a “gray ghost” with antlers as big as Broder’s, says environmental scientist Valerius Geist, “You have to be kissed by the gods.”

Broder had the deer head fastened to a piece of plywood and eventually hung it in the living room of a three-bedroom house that he built. It glared from the wall for nearly half a century. Hazel, Broder’s wife, dangled her stockings on its points to dry them. The eight kids occasionally singed its fur with the kerosene lamp. That made Dad mad.

“That was his treasure,” recalls his son Richard. “That was gold to him.”

Under surveillance

Antlers and the pursuit of antlers define the valley southwest of Bozeman that contains Ennis: Antler chandeliers light the chain-hotel lobbies and silk-screened elk bugle on gas-mart sweatshirts. “Welcome hunters” signs dot the main strip.


In an outbuilding on Schaufler’s nearby property, antler bits litter an office floor and, on one wall, a door opens to one of six antler warehouses. Thousands of smooth racks shed by elk, deer and moose cascade from stacks 15 or 20 feet high.

A transplant from San Diego, Schaufler at first made his living here 30 years ago by logging and guiding big-game hunters into the backcountry. He also began to collect elk antlers that had been shed naturally in the wild and sold them to a local taxidermist, who in turn sold them for export to Asia. In time, he hired workers to craft his cache into rustic home decor including a candelabrum, hallway mirrors, coffee tables and lamps.

While running his business, Schaufler, 58, developed a reputation within the antler trade as a stalker of giant racks. He would scan the record books from hunting clubs such as Boone and Crockett and Pope & Young and cold-call the racks’ owners. Might they want to sell? On vacation in Utah and Arizona with his family, he would grill locals to find out who had bagged the biggest trophy around. By 2001, Schaufler had amassed close to 100 of the top mule deer trophies in North America. He sold them to the outdoors retailer Cabela’s, which displayed them in its Sidney, Neb., and Kansas City, Kan., stores.

But one rack swirling across the pages of his record books remained elusive: the Broder Buck. Of course, he would stalk it like a man with a loaded gun. “This is the crown jewel,” Schaufler explains.

Though a drawing of it was included in the 1939 edition of “Records of North American Big Game,” the rack had never been measured by official record-keepers. Finally, in 1960, after some prodding from outsiders, Ed Broder warily crated and shipped it from Edmonton to New York. “When the deer wasn’t in his house my dad wasn’t the same guy,” the oldest son, Don Broder, once told a Colorado newspaper.

The Boone and Crockett Club tallied the thickness, symmetry and length of its points and, in layman’s terms, deemed it enormous. (In technical terms, it scored 355 2/8.) Record-keepers believe this mark for nontypical mule deer may never be bested. Typical deer have eight points; nontypical deer have more.


Decades ago -- time fuzzes details -- Schaufler phoned the apparent owner, Don Broder, who said he wasn’t interested in letting the rack go. The two men would later meet at a hunting and fishing expo, Schaufler says, but again nothing came of their discussion about the prospect of a purchase. Some insiders gossiped that the Broder kids wanted to sell the buck but couldn’t agree on a price.

No matter; Schaufler was a patient man.

Out of sight

Ed Broder grew old with his astonishing buck.

By 1968, the world-record rack was deteriorating: the puffy wool stuffing in its neck was deflated, the coat worn like carpet. If you stroked the buck’s head, chunks of fur fell into your hand.

Broder was showing his age, 77, as well. Hazel had died a year earlier, and when heart troubles landed Ed in the hospital, son Don sat by his side and dealt hands of cribbage and rummy. Don remembers their conversations about what would happen to Ed’s things after his death.

“He gave it all to me and told me to divide it up as I see fit. I didn’t have to. He gave it to me.”

Long before the local press would dub him “Antler Man” and describe him as “stubborn as a mule deer,” Don took his own sons to retrace Ed’s steps on the day he bagged the deer. They even found his ax and animal-fat candles in the “far shack,” the cabin where Ed Broder slept when he killed the buck.

“My father,” Craig Broder says, “hung onto everything he could of his father’s.”

When he died, Ed left no will, and none of the seven surviving children clamored for the antlers. Over time they divided up the saddle, chaps and rifles. The Model T and the buck remained in the family home, where Richard, Don’s younger brother, still lives. After burying their dad, the children went back to work in construction and bricklaying. Eventually they each chipped in $40 for an ad in Field & Stream magazine inviting offers for the rack. By then, the family legacy was less important than what it might bring in the open market, but none of the 19 replies resulted in a sale.


Two years later, in 1973, Don asked Richard if he could display the buck at a Calgary sportsmen’s show. When Richard said no, Don waited for a time when his brother was not at home and took the rack. He exhibited it, relished the attention it brought from fellow big-game hunters and never returned it, though several of his brothers say they asked him to. When it was not on the road, the rack peered from the wall in Don’s cabin-like trophy room, next to mounts of a whitetail deer, an antelope and an elk with 12 points.

Through all of this, the Broders remained cordial if not close. Everyone knew that Don had the rack, and they assumed he would care for it until the day a potential buyer surfaced.

In the mid-1990s, Don’s son Craig put the antlers to work on the big-game circuit, where hunters and anglers gather in fairgrounds throughout the West to attend seminars and gawk at gear such as spotting scopes. Owners of prestigious racks sometimes display them to draw customers for hunting books, knives, calendars and even packets of deer trading cards.

Eager to protect the antlers, Don and Craig escorted the buck to a Green Bay, Wis., outfit that made plaster replicas of the rack. The ratty rest of the head was discarded.

Craig also banked on income from posters, embroidered baseball caps and T-shirts with the Broder Buck’s image, its Boone and Crockett score and the words “world record.” Profits were minimal, Craig says, but Don prized the notoriety.

“My dad was very proud of his deer and he always enjoyed having people look at it,” Don once told a reporter. “In a sense, we’re fulfilling his wishes here.”


But in 1997, when an Edmonton newspaper announced the buck’s appearance at an upcoming sports show, the Broder siblings turned against Don and Craig, who the article named as the buck’s owners. Feeling slighted and cheated out of profits, they demanded the rack’s return and disclosure of how much money it had made on the circuit.

“We couldn’t steal it and the only way to get it back was to sue him,” says Earl, the youngest Broder.

They filed a lawsuit to wrest it away, and years of wrangling began. At one point, Don produced what he alleged was his dad’s will -- notes scribbled on a paper used to score one of their card games -- but a handwriting expert and an Alberta judge deemed it invalid.

Finally, last spring, a judge ordered Don to produce the antlers. He refused. “If you’re going to take me to jail, take me to jail,” he said, and officials did. Seventy-four years old and frail, he rolled into the Edmonton Remand Centre in a wheelchair.

After six days there, Don reappeared in court, now clutching a cane in each hand and staring at the floor. He was sick of being cooped up, Craig says, and agreed to let his lawyer tell the judge his secret: He had sold the Broder Buck in 2003 after it appeared on EBay.

Craig says even he didn’t know what his dad was up to. “He did it rashly and stupidly and probably out of spite.”


Don later swore that he had no intention of letting the rack go and that he posted it on EBay, with his siblings’ knowledge, to simply assess its value, as the family had done with the Field & Stream ad.

But as the online bids crept higher, he thought of his mounting legal fees -- more than $100,000 -- from the six-year custody battle.

Soon after the auction closed, Don loaded the rack into the back of his van and drove through Canada to Montana. He slid open the doors and handed the blanket-swaddled family legacy to Don Schaufler in exchange for a cashier’s check for $170,000, the amount of the highest bid.

A year later, Schaufler says he got a strange call from Don Broder: If anyone asks if you’ve got the buck, Broder warned, say no. And then Schaufler got an even stranger one, this time from Craig: “My dad’s in jail.”

To win his release, Don and his lawyer agreed to repurchase the buck. They put $170,000 into the estate’s account, but Broder’s siblings remained steely toward him. “He didn’t treasure that buck; he liked the money,” says Earl Broder.

Richard Broder is even harsher: “No one’s going to go to his funeral.”

After 11 days in jail, Broder was released. Schaufler, though, declined to sell and instead offered the Broders $55,000 on top of the $170,000 to keep the buck. “If they would have said to send them [the antlers] back,” he said, “I wouldn’t have sent them back because I own them.”


The Broder siblings liked Schaufler’s offer, but Don Broder thought the buck, after all the trial publicity, could bring more at auction. Because of the unusual circumstances, the Alberta judge ruled that the court would accept bids from other buyers, and that the siblings would share the money from the sale.

On June 8 the bidding period began, with offers to be submitted in writing to the court clerk. After a month, the judge announced that only one bid was received. Of course. It was from Schaufler. He bid $225,000, the same amount he had offered the siblings a month earlier.

Don Broder got a piece of the sales price, about $32,000, but he was fined for contempt of court. Paying off that will wipe out his windfall. And last month, he appealed the judge’s initial decision that he forfeit the buck.

So the antlers are in Ennis. Where Schaufler hides them is a secret. Someone else may be stalking the Broder Buck.

Times researcher Penny Love contributed to this report. Times staff writer Ashley Powers can be reached at



Tracking the deer over seven decades


1926: Ed Broder kills the buck near Chip Lake in Alberta, Canada.

1962: Boone and Crockett Club deems it a world record for a nontypical mule deer.

1968: Ed Broder dies a year after his wife, leaving no will. Hazel Broder’s will specifies that one of their seven children, Richard, may purchase the family home -- with the trophy on the wall -- from the estate.


1969: The Broder siblings decide to sell the trophy.

1971: An ad for the trophy is placed in Field & Stream, but no buyer is found.

1973: Don Broder asks his brother Richard for the trophy because he wants to display it at a Calgary sportsmen’s show. Richard says no, but Don takes the trophy.

March 4, 1997: The Edmonton Sun newspaper runs a story about the trophy, naming Don and his son Craig as owners.

March 6, 1997: The other Broder siblings are upset that they are not listed as owners, court records say. One brother directs his lawyer to send Don a letter demanding that the trophy be returned to the Broder estate.

1997-2004: The siblings sue for custody of the rack so they can sell it. Don argues that his siblings waited too long to contest ownership.

March 9: A judge awards custody to the Broder estate.

April 23: Don, who mostly represented himself in court, is jailed for not returning the buck. He refuses to disclose its whereabouts.

April 26: The judge says one of Don’s sons may take his place in jail after he again refuses to reveal the buck’s location; they decline.


April 29: The judge discovers Don sold the antlers for $170,000 to a dealer in Montana in May 2003. The judge also recommends that Alberta officials investigate Don and his son Craig for perjury and obstruction of justice.

May 3: The judge orders Don’s release after he posts the money he received from the sale into a court-ordered trust account. His lawyer is directed to buy back the antlers with the money and give them to the siblings.

June 8: The court puts the Broder Buck up for auction after Don Schaufler, who bought the antlers, seeks to keep them -- even if it means ponying up more money. Don Broder says the estate should reject Schaufler’s offer and try to get more money for the antlers.

July 13: With no other bidders, Schaufler buys the trophy for $225,000. The money will be split equally among the siblings (including the estate of one who died during the lengthy court proceedings), but Don Broder’s fine for contempt of court will wipe out his portion.

Source: Times research