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Saturday, July 24, 2010

NBBC Antler Scoring Event

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, July 24, 2010.)

If you have a nice buck,
you’ll soon have an opportunity
to enter it in the NBBC book.
“In your dreams!” That’s where most of us can expect to harvest a Boone & Crockett record book buck. But that doesn’t mean you can’t qualify for another record book – maybe with a buck taken right in your back yard.

The Boone and Crockett Club is the most well known keeper of antler records. Teddy Roosevelt started the organization in 1887, but it wasn’t until 1932 that the club began recognizing outstanding big game trophies from North America. The method of scoring evolved until 1950, when the current scoring system became settled.

Since then, other “books” have come along, including Safari Club, Pope and Young (for archery only), Buckmasters, plus various state and regional record books.

The regional record book for Pennsylvania whitetails is kept by the Northeast Big Buck Club (www.BigBuckClub.com), founded in 1996. It started out entering bucks from Maine, the New England states and New York. A few years ago, it added Pennsylvania.

The NBBC calculates the gross B&C score – but doesn’t deduct for asymmetry, so it gives the buck credit for everything he grew. The NBBC minimum score requirement for typical bucks is 110", and 125" for non-typical. (Archery and muzzleloader minimums are 100", and 115" for non-typical.) The NBBC also has categories for pickups and sheds.

If you have a nice buck (no matter when it was harvested), you’ll soon have an opportunity to enter it in the NBBC book. The Northeast Big Buck Club will hold a scoring session in Warren County. Two official scorers, Brian Kightlinger and Tim Fox of Erie, will spend the day measuring antlers brought in by hunters like you and me.

Show up at Tall Tales Sporting Goods at 8330 Market St. (Route 62 North) in Russell, PA on Saturday, August 14 between 10 AM and 4 PM. Have your best set of antlers in one hand and $25 in the other. (They have a stand to which mounted bucks can be safely attached for scoring.)

Brian and Tim volunteer their services, so the $25 doesn’t go to them. The money supports the NBBC and its awards program. Besides entry into the Club’s official book – it also gets you a 1-year subscription to the NBBC bi-monthly magazine Northeast Big Bucks, as well as a supporting membership patch.

Most deer hunters, for lots of reasons, will never harvest a Boone & Crockett buck. But that’s not because they’re not good enough hunters. They probably don’t have access to property that holds a world-class monster buck, or they might not have enough C-notes to hire a guided whitetail hunt for Midwestern corn-fed giants.

But the truth is that some of the best whitetail hunters consistently kill mature bucks on their own home turf right here in the hills of Pennsylvania. Who cares if they’re not Booners? They’re still great bucks, and have a legitimate shot at making the NBBC book.

The NBBC records program doesn’t diminish the value of bucks that don’t make its minimums. Every hunter has his own trophy standards. Every set of antlers preserves a memory. And, every set of antlers is special.

But if you have an antler rack that might quality for the NBBC record book, take advantage of this opportunity to have it scored.

To see some background on Brian and Tim, and pictures of some of the bucks that they’ve scored, take a look at the website for the Pennsylvania chapter of the NBBC at www.nbbcpa.wikispaces.com.

If you have questions, feel free to email me and I’ll do my best to answer them. Otherwise, show up with your nicest set of antlers. Or, just show up – it’s time to start thinking about the fall hunting seasons anyway, and to start dreaming about your next big buck.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

“Gonna Get Him Mounted?”

by Steve Sorensen
(Originally published in the Warren Times Observer, July 10, 2010.)

Consider preserving your deer, bear,
bobcat or coyote with a skull mount.
You’ve shot a nice buck. It’s your personal best, and they don’t get much bigger where you hunt. Someone is sure to ask the question you’re already asking yourself, “You gonna get him mounted?”

Is he big enough? Yes, but once you’ve settled the question in your own mind you might need to convince a spouse that the cost won’t break the family budget, and that the mount will look great in the family room.

A whitetail head mount generally costs between $300 and $600. But cost isn’t the first consideration. Low-priced taxidermists usually use inferior materials that will not last.

But cost is a consideration, especially in today’s economy, and, there’s a way to bring it way down by opting for a European mount, or what some people call a dry skull, Texas, desert or Western mount.

You’ve probably seen them in those old TV westerns. The Dodge City saloon surely had one hanging on the wall. Ben Cartwright’s Ponderosa ranch house also had one. Certainly, there’s a place in your house for one – or at least your man-cave.

The lowest cost will be a do-it-yourself job. First, the skull must be clean of skin and as much flesh as you can trim off. If you want to keep the lower jaws, remove the tongue and its adjacent muscles by cutting them out from the bottom.

The next step is to remove the brain. Insert a spade bit into the cranium, scramble the brain, and rinse it out – a step best done outside.

Dermastid beetles are the easiest method to completely deflesh the bone, but most people don’t want the trouble and risks of keeping a colony of bugs that want to eat anything that’s organic. As an alternative, you can freeze it until summer and then put the skull into a plastic bucket with holes drilled in the bottom. Anchor it to an ant hill. The risks here are losing it to a thief, a dog, or a wild animal, or offending neighbors with the smell.

Some people soak the skull in water for an extended period, but it’s stinky and difficult to monitor. Others have buried the skull in the ground, but you’ll end up with dirt and stains in places where they’ll never come out.

The most common method, and one many taxidermists use, is to simmer the skull in a pot of water with sal soda, also known as washing soda or sodium carbonate (not sodium bi-carbonate.)

Sal soda turns all the remaining soft tissue to a jelly-like substance which is easily scraped off. It also begins the degreasing process.

The next step is degreasing. Use a strong grease-cutting dishwashing detergent in water. Keep the solution at about 120 degrees with the skull immersed. It can take days, or in the case of a greasy bear skull or a wild boar skull, maybe weeks.

After degreasing, whiten the skull. Never use bleach. It will leach into the tiny pores where the grease used to be and eventually destroy the bone. Soak it in peroxide. Buy the strong stuff used in beauty shops – what’s called “40-volume,” or 12%. Then rinse well, dry, and spray with a clear coat.

It’s likely that you’ve loosened some teeth. Save them, and after the skull is degreased and dried, glue them back in with Elmer’s white glue or super glue.

You’ll find more details on the Internet, but if a D-I-Y job is not for you, the benefits of using a taxidermist are several. First, they have a much faster turn-around time than a mount using the deer’s skin. Second, the cost is much lower because it requires less time and fewer materials. Third, it’s better to stink up his shop rather than your home.

When hunting season rolls around, consider preserving your deer, bear, bobcat or coyote with a skull mount. It’s becoming a popular way to display your trophy, whether you do it yourself, or take it to the taxidermist.