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What is a Trophy Whitetail Buck?
 

What is a Trophy Whitetail Buck
I’ve been hunting whitetail deer for nearly 30 years now, and have been fortunate enough to watch the hunt industry evolve. As a whitetail deer outfitter for 13 years I’ve seen all breeds of trophy hunters. I’ve seen those that simply want to take a Pope and Young Buck scoring 125 inches or above and glad to do so. I’ve also seen the whitetail deer hunter that is wanting to take a buck only over 170 inches in order to make the Boone and Crockett Record Books. I’ve also seen the wide eyed youth whitetail hunter that just wanted to shoot a deer and was happy to kill any whitetail walking in the woods. So what constitutes a trophy whitetail buck?
Tell you a little story. Three years ago I had a camp of hunters on a Missouri Deer Hunt. Two of the hunters went out on day 1 of their hunt and both harvested trophy whitetail bucks. One of the whitetail bucks scored 162 while the other buck his buddy harvested scored 157. Both of these animals were outstanding by my thinking, however when all the whitetail hunters met at the skinning shed at dark, the two hunters mentioned above literally kicked the carcasses of their trophy bucks and began literally cussing about the fact they did not score over 170 inches so that they could be entered into Boone and Crockett Record Books. I was thoroughly ashamed of the two men. I took them aside and told them that both the bucks they harvested were great specimens of the species and that many a whitetail deer hunter would give just about anything to harvest the two whitetail bucks they had taken. In return they continued to cuss and were mad. The next day these same two hunters wanted to rebook a whitetail hunt with us for the following year. I declined and decided not to accept their business for the following year. I just couldn’t stand the thought of them returning to camp the following year and acting the same way.
Wanna hear another one? Two years ago in Pike County, Illinois I had three hunters that had paid $15,000 a piece to hunt all 5 states with us on what we call an annual pass as we sell deer hunts in Illinois, deer hunts in Iowa, deer hunts in Kansas, deer hunts in Missouri, and deer hunts in Nebraska. Anyway these three gentlemen all paid $15,000 a piece so that they could access all our states on an unlimited basis. The first hunt they went on was out of our 4 Starr Lodge in Pike County, Illinois. After one morning of hunting the three whitetail hunters ask if they could speak to me after they had gotten out of the woods on their morning hunt. Since nothing had gone wrong with their hunt and it was their first morning out in the woods with us I couldn’t figure out what they wanted to talk about. In closed quarters the leader of the three whitetail deer hunters literally stated, “We didn’t see any deer this morning scoring over 170 inches.” (Boone and Crockett) I was shocked but calmly replied, “This is just the first morning of your hunt. Pike County Illinois has a lot of Boone and Crockett whitetail deer, but their isn’t a “Booner” (170 inches or better) behind every tree and you won’t see one every time you go out to hunt everyday. This is the first morning you’ve hunted with us. Please be patient and give it some time, we’ve got the whole season ahead of us. I’ll get you on some big whitetail deer.” They replied, “Well that’s all we had to hear. Keep our money we are going home to Texas to hunt our high fence.” While it was the easiest $45,000 I’ve ever made, it is also a perfect example of how high the standards have been painted by Outdoor Television and hard copy publication. It was obvious to me these guys had been watching too much Outdoor Television.
So what constitutes a trophy whitetail buck? There are 4 well recognized clubs that offer entrance of National Record Book Whitetail Deer. They include Pope and Young Record Book Club, Boone and Crockett Record Book Club, Safari Club International, and Buckmasters, however I will elaborate further after you see what the National Record Books require as a minimum standard of net inches scored.
Pope and Young Record Book Club
The Pope and Young Club is a non-profit, charitable, membership-based organization whose mission is to ensure bowhunting existence for future generations by promoting and protecting our rich bowhunting heritage and values.
From its beginnings, the Pope and Young Club established, defined and maintains an ethical code of hunting referred to as FAIR CHASE. The concept of fair chase bowhunting is the very core of the Club’s belief system and one of our major advocacy focuses.
The fair chase philosophy reaches to the very foundations of the hunting spirit; it should be a dominant factor in the personal hunting ethic of every responsible individual; it is key to bowhunting’s future with deep roots in America’s hunting heritage. Simply defined, fair chase is the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit of free-ranging wild game animals in a manner which does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the animal.
The Rules of Fair Chase
The term “Fair Chase” shall not include the taking of animals under the following conditions:
• Helpless in a trap, deep snow or water, or on ice.
• From any power vehicle or power boat.
• By “jacklighting” or shining at night.
• By the use of any tranquilizers or poisons.
• While inside escape-proof fenced enclosures.
• By the use of any power vehicle or power boats for herding or driving animals, including use of aircraft to land alongside or to communicate with or direct a hunter on the ground.
• By the use of electronic devices for attracting, locating or pursuing game or guiding the hunter to such game, or by the use of a bow or arrow to which any electronic device is attached.
• Any other condition considered by the Board of Directors as unacceptable.
The fair chase concept does, however, extend beyond the hunt itself; it is an attitude and a way of life based in a deep-seated respect for wildlife, for the environment, and for other individuals who share the bounty of this vast continent’s natural resources
Minimum Standard for Pope and Young Record Book Typical Whitetail Buck 125 inches
Minimum Standard for Pope and Young Record Book Non Typical Whitetail Buck 155 inches
Boone and Crockett Record Book Club
The Club has long been recognized for its conservation and ethics leadership. The Club’s Fair Chase statement was the cornerstone of the establishment of hunting seasons, bag limits, and the abolishment of market hunting practices at the turn of the century. This legacy will continue through activities and accomplishments in hunter ethics, and ethics for other outdoor users; ethics emphasizing shared use of natural resources to protect multiple options for use and enjoyment, and especially to protect and preserve wildlife populations, public and private land habitats, and associated outdoor recreation experiences.
Recreational hunting is under attack as never before. A principle target is the image of the “unethical hunter,” a person without respect for wildlife, land, or other wildlife users. In response, a major Club intent under the “Fair Chase Code” is to advocate an ethic of respect in all hunters for wildlife, land, and other users of wildlife.
FAIR CHASE STATEMENT
FAIR CHASE, as defined by the Boone and Crockett Club, is the ethical, sportsmanlike, and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild, native North American big game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper advantage over such animals.
HUNTER ETHICS
Fundamental to all hunting is the concept of conservation of natural resources. Hunting in today's world involves the regulated harvest of individual animals in a manner that conserves, protects, and perpetuates the hunted population. The hunter engages in a one-to-one relationship with the quarry and his or her hunting should be guided by a hierarchy of ethics related to hunting, which includes the following tenets:
1. Obey all applicable laws and regulations.
2. Respect the customs of the locale where the hunting occurs.
3. Exercise a personal code of behavior that reflects favorably on your abilities and sensibilities as a hunter.
4. Attain and maintain the skills necessary to make the kill as certain and quick as possible.
5. Behave in a way that will bring no dishonor to either the hunter, the hunted, or the environment.
6. Recognize that these tenets are intended to enhance the hunter's experience of the relationship between predator and prey, which is one of the most fundamental relationships of humans and their environment.
Minimum Standard for Boone and Crockett Record Book Typical Whitetail Buck 170 inches
Minimum Standard for Boone and Crockett Book Record Book Non Typical Whitetail Buck 190 inches
Safari Club International Club
Since inception, Safari Club International (SCI) has become a truly amazing organization. Our approximately 190 chapters provide us with a way to make and gather with friends, our Convention is a place to celebrate and enjoy our hunting heritage, and our Foundation is recognized as a world leader in wildlife conservation and education programs.
A quick look at our financial reports to the US Internal Revenue Service reveals that SCI spent nearly $300 million on hunter advocacy and wildlife conservation since inception (actual value is $278,186,963 from 1979 to 2008). The growth of the organization in both hunter advocacy and conservation led to a strategic decision to separate the two efforts into separate businesses in 1999: Safari Club International, a 501( c )4 hunter advocacy organization, and Safari Club International Foundation, a 501( c )3 charitable organization.
The SCI Record Book of Trophy Animals uses SCI’s unique all-inclusive record keeping system, the most used system in the world, to document our hunting heritage. The scoring system recognizes typical and non typical animals and both free range and estate taken animals.

NO deductions are enforced penalizing animals for asymmetry in the SCI scoring system.
Minimum Standard for SCI Record Book Typical Whitetail Buck 115 inches
Minimum Standard for SCI Record Book Non Typical Whitetail Buck 125 inches
Buckmaster’s Scoring System
Founded by Jackie Bushman, of Buckmasters fame in 1994, The Buckmasters BTR Full-Credit Scoring System's mandate is to "record what nature produced, without making any assessment of its aesthetic value to the human eye."
The BTR is acknowledging a deer's antlers without deduction, their Full-Credit Scoring System measures and records whitetail deer antlers without forcing them to "conform to an ideal of perfect symmetry." To the sheer joy of many hunters, this method acknowledges a whitetail rack for everything it is. Where B & C incorporates deductions for abnormalities and lack of symmetry, the BTR does not. It simply measures every inch of antler and classifies it accordingly.
A number of important features make the BTR system unique from the other. First, it does not deduct differences between lengths of opposing typical points. Second, it does not include the inside-spread measurement, because it is a measurement of air, not antler. Equally unique is the eligibility of antlers with a broken skull plate. The fact that they are severed is a non-issue as the inside spread between the main beams is not added into the rack's score.
Instead of simply using the two categories of typical and non-typical, the BTR incorporates four scoring categories.
Another unique feature is the provision of categories for all types of firearms including centerfire rifles, shotguns, handguns, and blackpowder guns. The archery category acknowledges all compounds, recurves, and longbows, with a separate category for crossbows. The "Pick-Up" category is for antlers found rather than harvested by a hunter. The minimum score for this category is 140 inches. There is even a category for antlers still in velvet. Minimum score for a shed antler is 75 inches.
The biggest attraction for most whitetail fanatics, is the opportunity to record their trophies with an unbiased, record-keeping agency in acknowledgement of the natural genetic diversity among whitetailed deer across the continent.
Buckmaster’s Minimum Requirement for Record Book Whitetail Bucks with gun is 140 inches.
Buckmaster’s Minimum Requirement for Record Book Whitetail Bucks with bow is 105 inches.
So What is a Record Book Whitetail Buck?
While we have reviewed the 4 major scoring systems for record book whitetail deer, on what premise does the whitetail hunter base what a trophy buck really is? I have my own opinion. As a whitetail deer outfitter my camps base minimum requirements based upon the Pope and Young Record Book Club and the Boone and Crockett Record Book Club. This is not to diminish the programs set forth by other scoring systems.
However, the problem I see in the hunting industry is that with the introduction of Outdoor Television and the focus on big buck profiles today’s whitetail hunter sometimes has expectations that can be unrealistic. Just days ago I was watching an Outdoor Television show. Prior to the kill shot on the deer the hunt celebrity harvested the buck had a numbered tag in its ear. This told me the buck was in a high fence and possibly near domesticated. When the deer was shown after the harvest the deer had the tag removed. Only the “quick eye” would have caught such a trick. Also many of today’s hunt celebrities are hunting high fence deer and presenting them as deer killed in the wild or in free range environments.
Four years ago a MAJOR hunt celebrity ask if he could film a series on IMB Outfitters and since we are located in 5 midwestern states he suggested he could kill up to 7 record book whitetail deer. He indicated he would make an entire DVD on IMB Outfitters and promote IMB Outfitters to the brink of fame. Then he told me to come down to his ranch and we would shoot all 7 record book bucks in his 20 acre holding area. I ask him if this was legal. He said, “Sure as long as we use high fence ranch tags on the whitetail bucks.” I then told him I was a Christian and couldn’t get on National Television and lie to millions of hunters. I will never forget what he replied. He stated, “Boy, this aint the hunt industry. This is the entertainment industry.” I declined his offer. Point is, a lot of what we are seeing on television isn’t real fair chase conditions. Thus the result is many whitetail deer hunters believe harvesting a record book buck is much easier than it is.
I have taken 15 Pope and Young Whitetail Bucks in my hunt career. Some score as low as 126 inches while others score in excess of 162 inches. Each of these whitetail deer I have harvested have a story and each mean something to me personally. In fact my biggest buck isn’t the one I treasure the most.
In fact when I took the 126 inch whitetail deer that made the Pope and Young Record Books by a mere 1 inch I was happy but disappointed as well. Crazy huh? The truth is a trophy buck is in essence whatever the whitetail hunter believes in his heart to be a trophy. For a youth hunter a doe might be a trophy. For the novice whitetail deer hunter a forkhorn might be a trophy. For the hunter that hasn’t been in the presence of a 125 inch Pope and Young Deer, it may take only a 125 inch deer to be a trophy. For the guy that thinks a whitetail buck must score 170 inches or better to be worthy of harvest then so be it.
With all that said, I would emphasize that unless you’re a youth hunter or a novice hunter that a Quality Deer Management Program needs to be implemented wherein a minimum of 125 inches is employed so your herd continues to evolve into larger and larger whitetails. But always remember that some bucks can be trophies without meeting the minimum requirements of any of the aforementioned clubs. We need to be whitetail deer hunting because there is something near and dear to our hearts as outdoorsmen and that whitetail deer hunting is not about just harvesting Boone and Crockett Bucks. Relax and enjoy yourself or your going drive yourself crazy.






Darrin Bradley

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