Our Top Blackpowder Buck From 2006?

Frank Waltman had two chances to bag one of the biggest bucks in New York. Here's what happened -- plus a look at some other top-rated bucks taken by Empire State hunters last season. (September 2007)

New York's muzzleloader deer season is one of the most popular hunts in the state, accounting for some of the biggest bucks taken by hunters each year.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt Sr.

Some giant whitetail bucks were taken in New York in 2006, and last year saw an overall increase in the buck harvest of about 8 percent.

According to the Northeast Big Buck Club -- the regional whitetail scoring and record-keeping organization -- New York's trophy deer hunters had a banner year, with monster bucks taken during the archery, muzzleloader and firearms seasons.

Muzzleloader hunters have fared very well in recent years, accounting for some of the state's biggest bucks. Last season, one buck in particular garnered special recognition -- the dark-racked Livingston County 10-point typical taken by Frank Waltman last November could be New York's biggest racked muzzleloader buck of 2006! We'll follow that story with a brief roundup of several other great bucks taken during the 2006 season.

THE WALTMAN BUCK

Frank Waltman learned to hunt over 20 years ago, around the age of 12, by accompanying his dad into the woods of Pennsylvania and New York in search of deer. Filling the freezer was always the goal, but in those days, bucks were plentiful and tags were generally available.

Over the years, Waltman has taken upwards of 40 deer, including many nice bucks. Typical of many hunters today, he takes advantage of the many deer-hunting opportunities in his home state. He hunts with his bow, shotgun and muzzleloader in the woods at every opportunity.

Waltman most often hunts with his dad, and they have been fortunate enough to gain access to some outstanding properties in Livingston County, well known for producing big bucks. In fact, Waltman took a fantastic buck there with his shotgun in 1997 -- a non-typical 12-pointer with a gross score of 163 1/8, and a net Boone and Crockett score of 158 5/8. And during the 2005 archery season, he arrowed a very nice 10-pointer that gross-scored 120 6/8.

Waltman was well aware of the potential of Livingston County to produce big bucks. And in 2006, that realization bore fruit.

During the 2005 season, when Waltman arrowed the big 10-pointer, his dad spotted a big buck one morning while traveling past one of their hunting properties. They nicknamed the buck "Brown Horns" because of his very big -- and very dark -- rack. The buck was unmistakable, and both hunters hoped to get a crack at him.

Sure enough, while hunting with his bow, Waltman saw Brown Horns and coaxed him close enough to his stand with a snort-wheeze call.

Unfortunately, Waltman's arrow sailed harmlessly past the big buck. The pair spent the rest of the season hoping to see the buck again, but they didn't. They spent their time during the winter and throughout the next year looking for some evidence that the buck had survived, but Brown Horns was not seen again.

That is, not until the morning of Nov. 18, opening day of the 2006 shotgun season!

Waltman and his dad chose one of their favorite pieces of hunting land for opening day, not far from where Waltman had killed his big 160-class buck back in 1997. Waltman decided to hunt a tree stand in the middle of a field of goldenrod, surrounded by woods on two sides.

He hadn't hunted from that stand for two years. But the day before, his dad had seen two nice bucks in the field and suggested that Waltman hunt it. That turned out to be a great move!

The morning unfolded quietly, with very little action. Then at 8:30 a.m. to his right, Waltman spotted a doe with a buck on her tail, dogging her every step. Old Brown Horns was obviously alive and well!

The hunter grabbed his .50-caliber Encore muzzleloader (which is legal to use during New York's shotgun season) and cocked the hammer. He had to turn to the right to get a bead on the buck, but as he did so, his gun muzzle bumped the tree.

The sound of the ramrod hitting the barrel spooked the doe, which took off across the field.

The buck stood still and watched for a moment, giving Waltman a chance to get a bead on him. When the buck jogged after the doe, Waltman took the shot at a quartering-away angle as the buck was running, about 80 yards away.

A HIT OR A MISS?

When the smoke cleared, Waltman could see that both the doe and buck were still running. The buck slowed down, however, and then went out of sight. The goldenrod was so tall that Waltman couldn't be sure if the deer was down or not.

Waltman waited in the stand for an agonizing 45 minutes. He then got down and went to where he thought he hit the buck, but found no blood.

He began making small circles, working his way towards where he saw the buck last, hoping to find either blood sign or the deer.

Working his way slowly through the tall goldenrod, Waltman finally found him. It was Old Brown Horns, all right, and he was even bigger than Waltman had remembered!

The shot had hit the big old buck between the last two ribs and had traveled all the way up through the heart and shoulder. The big buck never knew what hit him.

Waltman's dad was hunting nearby, and it did not take him long to find his way over to his son. When he saw the dark rack, he knew it was the same big buck he had seen earlier. His dad was thrilled, especially because he had told Waltman to hunt that particular stand that morning.

As it turned out, Waltman killed Old Brown Horns only 500 yards from where he'd missed him with his bow in 2005. But this time, he had made good on a rare second opportunity at a great buck.

THE SCORE

Waltman's buck is very impressive -- a classic 10-point typical rack with good strength in all aspects, and great character because of its unusually dark color. The gross typical score (before deductions), according to the Northeast Big Buck Club, is 167 3/8. The net B&C score is 160 7/8 after asymmetry deductions.

The main beams are very strong at 26 4/8 (right) and 27 4/8 (left). The beams frame a wide 20 5/8-inch inside spread, giving the rack even more appeal. The l

ongest tines measure over 9 inches each. And the buck has very good mass, with first circumference measurements of 4 7/8 and 5 1/8 inches.

At the time this article was written, Waltman's buck was the largest typical muzzleloader buck entered to the Northeast Big Buck Club records from New York.

The New York State Big Buck Club could not be reached for comment, and the buck had not yet been submitted for its review and/or acceptance.

MORE BIG MUZZLELOADER BUCKS FROM NEW YORK

As mentioned earlier, many other quality muzzleloader bucks have been taken in the Empire State in recent years. The largest gross-scoring buck killed by a muzzleloader hunter was a great non-typical killed by Andrew Carney in Allegany County in 2004. That 16-pointer scored 187 3/8 inches gross and 174 3/8 net B&C points.

In addition to Carney's, several other blackpowder bucks are worth mentioning. In 2003, Blake Burnette took a great Cortland County 15-point non-typical that had a gross B&C score of 185 2/8 and netted 180 2/8 inches.

And in 1999, Donald Hayton connected on a Livingston County 16-pointer that had a gross score of 184 4/8 and netted 181 1/8 inches.

In October 2002, Mike Dupell took a 176-inch 16-point non-typical in Hamilton County that netted 171 5/8 inches. More recently, in 2005 Hugh Matthews took a Saratoga County non-typical 16-pointer that scored 170 3/8 gross and 167 inches net.

The largest typical muzzleloader buck taken in recent years is Gregory Radford's 11-pointer, also from Livingston County in 2002.

That buck had a gross score of 174 inches and netted 166 7/8 inches after deductions.

That is quite a crop of great blackpowder bucks taken in just the last five years! Interestingly, Livingston County produced an unusually high percentage of the best muzzleloader bucks taken in recent years.

BIGGEST GUN BUCK OF 2006

Of course, many other fantastic bucks were taken during the shotgun and rifle seasons throughout the state. Recently, in fact, we brought you the story of the best buck of the year -- Bob Cuozzo's huge 19-point non-typical shotgun buck taken in Chemung County that scored over 215 gross Boone and Crockett points!

You can see the full story, photos and score information in the July issue of New York Game & Fish.

As is often the case when a giant buck is downed, other very impressive bucks can go unnoticed.

Here's a look at several other great firearm bucks from 2006.

Two huge 17-point non-typicals also fell in New York this past year -- the first in Wayne County to Stephan Bailey. His buck had a gross score of 183 2/8 inches and a net B&C score of 177 1/8. This big-racked buck had a big body also, dressing out at 215 pounds.

A second 17-point non-typical, taken in Oneida County by James C. Doyle, scored 181 6/8 gross and 176 7/8 net B&C. Two great 17-pointers in the same season! Another great non-typical worth mentioning was Jeff Robinson's 169 5/8-inch 12-pointer from Steuben County.

In the past two years, New York has produced at least three 200-class gross-scoring hunter-killed bucks.

Some great typical bucks fell to gun hunters as well, with Charles Farney's 11-pointer topping the list at 174 7/8 gross B&C and 162 0/8 inches net.

Other very good typical gun bucks include Marvin Vahue's Monroe County 10-pointer, which gross-scored 166 7/8 B&C, with an inside spread of just under 20 inches. How about Jesse McNitt's 163 6/8-inch 9-pointer from Oswego County, with its huge 24-inch inside spread? And don't forget the Mastroianni typical gun buck, which scored 163 6/8.

Typically, more of each season's best bucks are taken by gun (shotgun and rifle where legal). However, more great bucks are falling to muzzleloader and bowhunters. Some of that success is related to the growing trend for hunters to use primitive weapons during the regular shotgun season.

BIGGEST ARCHERY BUCK OF 2006

During the past few years, archers have been taking an increasing percentage of New York's best bucks. Archers all across the state downed some amazing New York bucks in 2006, such as when Lewis County archer James Mastroianni arrowed a great-looking 17-point non-typical in late October.

Mastroianni's buck grossed 179 2/8 and netted 166 6/8 Pope and Young points. This buck was wide, at 24 3/8 inches inside, but it had short beams of 18 5/8 and 21 3/8 inches.

(A little-known Boone and Crockett scoring rule requires that the inside spread credit may not be more than the length of the longer main beam. Therefore, this buck lost three inches of its inside spread.)

But scoring issues aside, there is plenty to love about this rack, particularly the great character that the eight abnormal points create. Six of those points are 5 7/8 to 9 6/8 inches long!

As if this wasn't enough success for one person, Mastroianni went on to shoot a very nice buck during the gun season as well: a 163 6/8-inch 10-pointer in Schoharie County.

Many other good bucks fell to New York's archers last year.

Joseph Ebel shot a non-typical 16-pointer in Tompkins County that scored a whopping 174 1/8 gross and 169 3/8 net Pope and Young points.

Daniel Nugent arrowed a 164 7/8-inch 10-point typical in Wyoming County. R. Scott Peck shot a 163-inch 10-pointer in Steuben County.

TRENDS & PROSPECTS

Big bucks fell during all of New York's hunting seasons and in most of the counties across the state.

It's difficult to pinpoint a pattern, as hunters from St. Lawrence County up north to Ontario County out west, to Suffolk and Westchester counties in the south -- and just about everywhere in between -- have produced record-book bucks in recent years.

Over the past three seasons, the top 15 gross-scoring bucks have come from 12 different counties -- proof that big ones are found throughout the state and can be taken in any of the varied hunting seasons.

New York State remains one of the most productive trophy buck states in the Northeast, and should be considered a prime destination for the region's hunters. In the past two years, New York has produced at least three 200-class gross-scoring hunter-killed bucks. No 200-class bucks have yet fallen to muzzleloader hunters, but it's only a matter of time.

JOIN THE CLUB

For more information about New York's biggest bucks, or to purchase the latest record book, Northeast Trophy Whitetails V, contact the Northeast Big Buck Club at 390 Marshall Street

, Paxton, MA 01612. You can also visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com, or send an e-mail to jbhunts@aol.com.

Find more about New York fishing and hunting at NewYorkGameandFish.com

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