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How to get a Book Buck
It was way too hot to be bowhunting whitetails.
Back in November, a heat wave rolled through Illinois like a runaway freight train. Daytime highs were in the 70’s, nighttime lows in the upper 40’s. For a serious deer hunter primed to take advantage of the deer rut, it could not have been worse.
Still, the bowhunter grabbed his compound and headed out every morning and afternoon. On a hot, humid afternoon near the end of his deer hunt, he trekked to a small greenfield set on the edge of a deep, thick bedding area. Nobody had hunted here in weeks, and his thought was, why not, let’s try something different and see what happens. What happened was, the biggest buck of his life strolled into the field with plenty of shooting light left and walked 42 steps from his treestand, where he put his nose on a scent bomb the deer hunter had set over a field scrape. He was shooting a little Mathews MQ32 compound bow at the time, and it sent the arrow right through the buck’s ribs. The typical 10-pointer later netted 181 2/8 Boone & Crockett points.
That deer he killed was somewhat of a miracle, given the conditions. What was not a miracle was the fact that he was hunting in a place where the chances of seeing a record-book buck were pretty good. He had meticulously researched the area prior to the season, and knew that this was a place with a history of kicking out a handful of record bucks each year for many years.
Over a career in outdoor writing that has spanned some 35 years and included more whitetail hunts than possible to remember, he has learned several important things about the game. For the trophy deer hunter – the guy or gal who wants to maximize their chances at taking a true record-class buck in a fair chase manner – the most important lesson is simply this: you have to hunt where the big bucks are if you want to have a chance at tying your tag around one’s antlers. And the way to find out where they live is research.
Boone and Crockett Record Book Research
There are several ways to locate potential trophy buck hot spots. Word of mouth from your hunting buddies is certainly one. Articles in outdoor magazines and on the internet are another. The problem with all this is the fact that, as often as not, the actual size of bucks seen and/or killed is often exaggerated. “Ground shrinkage” is commonplace, and the numbers are fudged. When someone says he shot a “160-class” buck that usually means it was a 140-something that photographs bigger. Actually taking a typical buck that nets over 170 points or a non-typical netting over 195 points doesn’t happen every day.
That’s why you need to stick to hard data. When it comes to locating potential trophy hunting hot spots, the Boone & Crockett Club’s Records of North American Big Game are an invaluable source of research material. Sure, there are other sources of information, but this book is like the cornerstone of a well-built house. It’s where you turn first. (The other record book source is, of course, the Pope & Young Club’s record book. But with the P&Y minimum score just 125, that’s not the size of buck serious trophy hunters are after. The B&C minimum score for all time inclusion in the record book is 170 for typical antlers, and 195 for non-typical antlers. That’s more like it.)
When it comes to whitetail hunting, one must first understand that the game is not played the way it was when our grandfathers were hunting. Today there are so many more deer and their range keeps expanding. In many cases, suburbia holds some of the largest bucks found anywhere. Farm country is still the best bet for big bucks, though. Also, technology has improved by leaps and bounds. Rifles, slug guns, inline muzzleloaders and ammunition are as reliable and accurate as they have ever been. Compound bows and arrows are incredibly reliable and efficient, and crossbows are coming on like gangbusters. And there is more information on deer hunting available than ever before, available in a flash with the click of a mouse or a channel changer as well as magazines and books.
All that’s good stuff, but be that as it may, if you want to kill a monster buck you still have to hunt in areas where they live. So let’s use the B&C records data base and decide where we can find the very best odds of hunting a trophy buck today.
First, a quick disclaimer. Record book animals of any species are where you find them. Yet while some lucky guy might bang a 200-class buck in the Louisiana bayou this fall, the odds are very much against it. And this game is all about stacking the odds in your favor. Also, know that not every buck killed is entered into any of the “official” record books, so any database of record book entries is at best incomplete.
Boone & Crockett Trophy Search
While you can use the B&C record book to do your research, a far more convenient method is to use the Boone & Crockett Club’s new Trophy Search section on the club website, www.Boone-Crockett.org. This is a member’s only section, but the value for the minimal fee is priceless when it comes to quickly and efficiently searching the records.
To plan a future hunt in which you hope to have any hope of seeing a record-class whitetail buck, here’s what you need to do. Go to the Trophy Search area of the website and search typical whitetail deer. Your first inquiry is to find out where, historically, the majority of record-book bulls in both the typical and non-typical categories have come from.
According to the records kept between 1830-2008 for typical whitetails, the top 10 all-time states are Wisconsin (709 entries), followed by Illinois (602), Iowa (545), Minnesota (473), Saskatchewan (450), Kentucky (396), Missouri (341), Ohio (329), Texas (307), and Kansas (278).