Guidelines set for deer hunters

 

A crowd of hunters clad in orange surrounded the bed of a pick-up truck parked near the Wildlife Management Area’s weigh station.

Many “oohs” and “ahhhs” were uttered as members of the gang admired the majestically crowned king of the hardwoods, a 10-point whitetail buck – its wide rack glistening with splendor in the rays of the mid-morning sun.

Another wave of admiration was experienced when one of the WMA’s biologists reported the buck’s weight to be a hefty 275 pounds.

“These antlers will measure at least 160,” stated the biologist keenly examining the slain king’s crown.

“One hundred and sixty … just what do you mean?” asked the elated owner of the buck. “It’s only got 10 points on its head.”

” One hundred and sixty Boone & Crockett points, sir. That’s a tremendous animal. It’s probably only one in a few thousand bucks or so. You certainly killed a good deer,” contended the biologist.

“I’ve never heard of that Boone & Crockett stuff,” admitted the owner. “I’m just glad I got him before he went into that thicket.”

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The above scenario has been played out over and again during opening day hunts on many of Louisiana’s public lands. I know this to be true since I have spent many an opening morning at Thistlethwaite WMA near Washington as well as many other WMAs over the years.

Many deer hunters know full well when they’ve taken a trophy whitetail, but many just do not understand the requirements for such a buck to make the record books.

In Louisiana, the official records of choice for whitetails and wild turkeys are the Louisiana Big Game Records (LBGR) founded conjointly by members of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) and the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association (LOWA) in 1978.

All rules pertaining to the measuring and scoring of eligible species (deer and turkey) as prescribed by the nationally acclaimed Boone & Crockett Records are followed in the Louisiana program. Animals have to be killed in fair chase, whereas the use of airplanes, helicopters and other types of vehicles or drugs is not permitted.

Louisiana has several official Boone & Crockett recorders who are also recognized by the Pope & Young Club (national archery records). These recorders are either active or retired biologists with the LDWF and they compile these records on an annual basis. They are also measurers of non-native trophies such as antelope, elk and mule deer.

Although the Boone & Crockett measuring system is used, the Louisiana Big Game Records have a lower starting score for whitetails.

For example, the Louisiana Big Game Records begin at 160 B&C points for typical antlered bucks taken by gun, whereas the Boone & Crockett records begin such national rankings at 170. For non-typical trophies taken by gun, LBGR begin ranking them at 185 B&C points, whereas B&C records begin at 195 B&C points.

Louisiana’s archery records for whitetails follow many of the guidelines set forth by the nationally acclaimed Pope & Young (P&Y) Club headquartered in Chatfield, Minnesota. P&Y entries begin at 125 B&C points for typicals and 155 B&C for non-typicals. The LBGR begin such rankings at 110 B&C and 140 B&C for typicals and non-typicals, respectively.

“Generally, it takes a ten point or better rack with relatively long tines to be considered for the records in Louisiana,” said Kerney Sonnier, Game Supervisor in LDWF District VI and one of the state’s certified Boone & Crockett scorers.

“The system is based on mass and symmetry. The rack can be large, yet asymmetrical — and its asymmetry will keep it of the records. By the same token, the rack can be symmetrical yet not very large, and its lack of size will keep it off the charts,” Sonnier added.

Just how do you measure such trophies?

First, measurements of the antlers are taken in 1/8-inch increments.

Usually the inside spread is measured at its greatest width as the first measurement. Then the lengths of both main beams (outer side of beams) are measured (from burr to tip). These numbers are then placed in different columns for right and left sides for future addition and subtraction purposes.

In the columns under each main beam are placed the length measurements of all points beginning with the brow tines (first point). Points are measured from tip to burr.

Circumference measures are then taken at the smallest place between the burr and the first point, as well as between all other points on the antlers – and these are also placed under the column corresponding to the appropriate main beam.

The last column is reserved for measurements taken of all abnormal points and differences in symmetry observed between corresponding left and right main beams, their points and respective circumferences.

To obtain the final score, the spread credit and measurements taken on each antler are summed. The asymmetrical differences in the final column as well as the total inches of abnormal points are subtracted from the above sum resulting in a final tally.

For non-typical trophies, the asymmetrical differences from both sides are still subtracted but the lengths of the abnormal points are added (instead of subtracted).

Other rules associated with the Louisiana Big Game records and the Boone & Crockett rankings require the skull to be intact on any animal to be measured.

Also, there is a 60-day waiting period from the day the animal was harvested until the day it can be officially measured. This waiting period is to take into account any shrinkage due to drying out, since 1/8 of an inch or more can be lost in this manner.

The Boone & Crockett Record Club publishes books and pamphlets on scoring whitetails and other big game species.

Their website at www.boone-crockett.org displays a program that will actually greenscore your trophy. All one has to do is enter the measurements. Their address is: Boone & Crockett Club, 250 Station Drive, Missoula, MT 59801.

Sonnier said a good percentage of hunting clubs have also taken advantage of the Deer Management Assistance Program offered by the LDWF in an effort to manage their herd for quality whitetails.

However, Sonnier also said that many of these clubs hurriedly abandon this program because they usually expect immediate results.

“The farther down the line you are in mismanagement, the longer it takes for you to get on track,” he said.

Just what kind of buck does it take to reach trophy status?

Presently, the biological experts on the issue maintain that age, nutrition and genetics all play key roles in quality antler development.

However, age is one variable that can be readily manipulated and it appears that most quality deer managers increase the harvestable age of the buck segment on their lands – only if the deer herd is within carrying capacity of the area’s habitat.

Few biologists would disagree that the odds favor three- and four-year-old whitetail bucks as prime candidates for Louisiana Big Game Record potential.

As one peruses the whitetails ranked in the Louisiana Big Game records, a few details are noteworthy. Pope & Young (archery) enthusiasts have fared better in recent years than their Boone & Crockett (gun hunting) counterparts.

This may be due to the fact that the minimum starting scores for the archery division of the records markedly lower, thereby allowing more 2 1/2-year-old bucks to make such records.

The Boone & Crockett Club and the Louisiana Big Game Records (whitetails by gun) will consider the antlers of bucks that were taken many years ago, as long as they were legally harvested.

Indeed, there are many “found on the wall” type racks discovered nearly every year in Louisiana, and the stories of such bucks make a campfire entertaining and informative.