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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do You Have One For the Books?

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, June 26, 2010.)

What if there was a ‘book’ that
recognizes bucks on a regional basis?
I’ve never seen – alive and in the field – a buck that meets the minimum standard for the Boone and Crockett record book. It takes some mighty big bones to reach a cumulative net score of 160 inches (for a typical buck) and 185 (for a non-typical buck), and that’s only for the B & C three-year awards recognition. To make the “All-Time” B & C list, the minimum scores are 170 for typical antlers, and 195 for non-typical.

That doesn’t mean record book bucks don’t live where I hunt. It just depends on what record is being kept. The Pope & Young Club keeps one. It has lower standards for entry because only archery bucks are eligible. Then there’s the Northeast Big Buck Club (www.BigBuckClub.com.) I’ve seen many bucks that qualify for that book. In fact, maybe you have one.

Until recently, the Northeast Big Buck Club admitted bucks from New York, Maine, and the New England states. Now, it includes Pennsylvania. If you’d like to enter a buck in the NBBC, I can tell you how. But first, a few comments on why bucks grow big antlers, what big antlers mean to me (and maybe to most of us.)

Antlers get big because of age, nutrition and genetics.

Age: In states with high hunting pressure, world-class bucks are uncommon because few bucks live to the age of five – generally the earliest age at which bucks can grow their biggest antlers. Heavy hunting pressure means most of our bucks are harvested long before their prime, so they tend to be on the young side.

Nutrition: On poorer soils, bucks don’t eat as well as bucks that benefit from more fertile soils. Nutrition shows up in antlers. Our bucks do well on a little corn and a spotty acorn crop, but Midwestern farm bucks do much better. They eat more, grow faster, and put more of their food resources into antler growth.

Genetics: Most hunters know little about genetic potential in antlers. Genetics are best exhibited where bucks grow to maturity with quality nourishment year ’round, so few bucks reach their potential. However, we do see a few bucks with strong antler genetics.

Many northeast bucks don’t have the “maturity factor” on their side, and they seldom have the “well-fed factor” going for them, so they rarely exhibit their full genetic potential. These factors drag the odds of producing a “world-class” buck way down.

Lots of hunters don’t focus on antlers. I respect that. There is no shame in hunting for meat. But if a hunter wants to be challenged, it’s a greater challenge to harvest a buck well on his way to maturity at three or more years of age, than it is to shoot a tender young buck sporting his first rack. So, I respect hunters who hold out for older bucks, too.

Most hunters enjoy looking at big antlers. They’re unique, and always interesting. To my way of thinking, putting one in a record book doesn’t earn bragging rights because these magnificent animals are God-given as much as they’re trophies of an expert hunter. Besides, someone always has a bigger buck.

Does a big buck ever establish a hunter as an expert? Maybe, but one big buck can be a stroke of luck. When a hunter consistently gets bucks that are bigger than the norm in the area he hunts, he’s definitely a skilled hunter.

So, maybe there ought to be a place that records bucks representative of what is realistic in the area you hunt – nice bucks taken by everyday hunters who have little hope of ever seeing a B & C buck in the wild. What if there was a “book” that recognizes bucks on a regional basis?

That book is produced by the Northeast Big Buck Club. I’m working on an opportunity later this summer when you’ll be able to have your buck taped, and possibly entered in the NBBC program. Check it out at www.BigBuckClub.com. (It takes 110 inches for buck harvested by rifle.)

When that day arrives, don’t come popping your buttons or strutting like a wild gobbler. But if you have a nice buck that others would like to see and you’d like to have measured, watch this space. In the next month or so I’ll provide more details.


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