Is a Record Buck in Your Future?

My sister and I posing with my dad’s 1958 buck. A nice one, but not really a “monster.” Photo by Steve Sorensen

Contributing Writer
Steve Sorensen

Hunting whitetail deer is popular, so it’s no wonder we have so many record books. Many states, maybe most, have record books. Besides states we have a regional record book kept by the Northeast Big Buck Club. Pope and Young keeps records of bucks taken with archery tackle. Safari Club includes wild deer and deer taken on preserves. Buckmasters is another record book. There are more, but I suppose the Boone and Crockett Club is the granddaddy of them all, keeping records for big game animals that cover the continent.

Each organization has its method of scoring antlers. By using various circumferences, tine lengths and main beam lengths, and in most the greatest inside spread (measurement of the space between the main beams), scorers calculate a gross score. Some organizations then apply deductions for lack of symmetry in the measurements.

The various organizations have their required minimum scores. Although Boone and Crockett has two levels of recognition (“Three-Year” and “All-Time”), its minimum scores are high—170″ for the All-Time level for a typical buck. The Pope and Young Club uses the exact same scoring system as Boone and Crockett, but because archery hunting is more challenging it requires a much lower score—only 125″ for a typical buck. The Northeast Big Buck Club requires just 110″ for a typical buck, and doesn’t deduct points for lack of symmetry. They say, “We give the buck full credit for everything he grew!” That idea appeals to a lot of people.

So, it’s not especially hard to get into one record book or another. But the most coveted books seem to be Boone and Crockett and probably the state record books. Both New York and Pennsylvania require a 140″ minimum score for admission into their record books.

My favorite buck was not a record book buck. It was a big six point that scored only around 105″. But I did enter a “dead head” skull with 10-point antlers that met the minimum for entry into the Northeast Big Buck Club.

I’d like to put a buck into the New York or the Pennsylvania book, but 140″ is a lot of inches. The biggest buck in my family was an 11-point killed in 1947 by my grandfather, and although its gross score (before side-to-side deductions) is about 148″, its net score is about 10″ less, so it doesn’t quite measure up to the Pennsylvania record book minimum.

I remember my dad killing a nice 10-point way back in nineteen-never-mind. Some hunters called a buck like that “a monster,” but its score is only about 110″. It was probably 2½ or 3½ years old when he killed it, but looked big because we compared it to the multitude of bucks killed at 1½.
It takes a buck at least four or five years to begin producing his biggest antlers, so most bucks we tie our tags to have not yet reached their potential. I can safely say no buck I have ever killed had yet produced his biggest antlers.

Deer hunting is popular in northwest Pennsylvania and southwest New York, and all that hunting pressure is one reason we don’t produce many mature bucks. However, lots of bucks out there are record book bucks—if they are taken with a bow and arrow. The Northeast Big Buck Club requires only a gross score of 100″ for record book entry if the buck was taken by bow. Which means a few bucks of 1½ years and many bucks of 2½ years could make the NBBC book if they stroll past an archery hunter who decides to shoot it.

Whatever your personal standards, if you kill a nice buck this year why not look into the various record keeping organizations and see if it qualifies for one, or more? Those records are not only a way the various organizations monitor the size and maturity of the bucks we harvest. They’re also a way to keep our hunting stories alive.

When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, writing about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. Contact him at EverydayHunter@gmail.com, and read more of his thoughts about hunting at www.jamestowngazette.com.