State-record bucks are big news at any time, but when the two all-time best bucks in the same category fall in the same season, that's a miracle!
By Jeff Brown
It's big news when a muzzleloader hunter connects on a buck that becomes a new state record. It's even bigger news when that new record is broken again just a few weeks later in the same season!
That's exactly what happened during the 2003 season in New Hampshire when hunters took back-to-back record-breaking typical bucks with their muzzleloaders. This "double-take" is one (or should I say two) that New England's deer hunters will want to read about!
According to the Northeast Big Buck Club (NBBC) and the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club (NHASTC), the biggest bucks taken during New Hampshire's 2003 season fell to muzzleloader hunters Chuck Orleans and Joe Dunlap.
Dunlap was the first to connect, dropping his buck on the first day of November. But almost before anyone could say, "Wow, that's our new state-record muzzleloader buck," Orleans had connected on an even bigger typical.
There are many similarities between these two great 10-point bucks, the hunters that killed them and the hunts that led up to the two fateful moments. Let's look at what happened.
THE DUNLAP BUCK
Joe Dunlap started hunting when he was just 10 years old, accompanying his dad, watching, learning and waiting for the day he could hunt on his own. Dunlap's father had hunted for as long as Joe could remember (and still hunts today), and Joe has now been hunting for nearly 30 years.
To say that Dunlap has become a serious deer hunter since those days when he started tagging along with his dad would be a gigantic understatement. In fact, last season alone, Joe took 10 deer while hunting in New Hampshire, Maine, New York and Pennsylvania.
Over his career, Dunlap has taken some very nice bucks with both gun and bow. His best buck prior to the 2003 season would score in the 140s.
Despite all the success with his rifle and bow, the muzzleloader has become Dunlap's new love since he started hunting with it five years ago. He had connected on a few small bucks, but had yet to down a "really good one" with the smokepole, but that was about to change . . .
Dunlap lives in Rockingham County and has hunted that area his entire life. In fact, the first deer he ever shot (a nice doe when he was 16 years old) came from this area, and he has hunted it every year since then. Dunlap loves to hunt with his father and close friends, but he also enjoys the solitude of hunting alone on occasion.
He knows his hunting areas very well, and has gotten to know many of the good bucks in the area. In fact, in 2002, he made the "acquaintance" of a very big buck during archery season. He saw the monster twice, but could never get a shot. When that muzzleloader season rolled around, he had another encounter with this mysterious monster, but this time the buck came up from behind him and busted him before Dunlap could get a shot.
These experiences would have frustrated most hunters, but for Dunlap this was simply the beginning of a challenge. A challenge that he did not intend to lose!
During the off-season, Dunlap continued to prepare for the next encounter with this buck. He moved his stand to a better position, one that would allow him to hunt when the wind was out of the west. When the wind was right, he hunted the stand during archery season, but did not see the buck.
Undaunted, he managed to get photos of the big buck on his trail camera a few days before muzzleloader season opened. He knew that if he could get the wind to cooperate, he might have a shot at this buck after all.
New Hampshire's muzzleloader season runs earlier than most in New England. It begins in October and runs through mid-November.
On Nov. 1, the wind was just right, and Dunlap decided that the time was right to hunt this stand. His wife's uncle was with him, so Dunlap dropped him off first, and then got to his stand around 5:30 a.m. After getting settled, all was quiet until he heard the snap of branch around 6:30 a.m.
The sound was very close to his stand, so instead of risking turning around in the stand, Dunlap turned his head slowly. He saw nothing, but he waited patiently, assuring himself that the sound must be a deer, and the deer might be the deer, so he needed to be very careful not to spook the deer with unnecessary movement.
His patience paid big dividends. To the right he finally saw a deer, and he could tell the deer was a buck. When the buck looked up at him, Dunlop closed his eyes and held his breath, because now he knew it was the buck, and he was only 17 yards away!
Dunlop held still while the buck looked away and visited a nearby scrape.
Dunlop thought to himself, He doesn't even know I am here!
The unsuspecting buck hung around the area for a few minutes, and then started to walk at an angle away from Dunlap's stand.
Dunlap waited until the buck moved into a good position for a shot less than 20 yards away, and then blatted with his mouth to stop him.
The big buck hesitated, and just then the woods reverberated with the noise of the shot and the sound of running hoofs.
Even though the buck took off at the shot, Dunlop knew he had hit him. He climbed down to check for sign, but in his excitement forgot his possibles bag. He had to go back up the tree, get his gear to reload, come back down and find his way back to where the buck had been hit.
When he finally got there, Dunlop found blood everywhere. His heart raced as he thought of the big buck going down somewhere just out of sight. He reloaded his gun, hoping he would not need to use another shot, and then started out on what he hoped would be a very short tracking job.
The big buck had gone only 60 yards before piling up. Dunlap's bullet had gone right through the deer's heart, insuring a quick and merciful end to this giant buck's life.
As Dunlap looked over his great buck, he was relieved that there had been no "ground shrinkage." This buck's rack was even bigger than it had looked on the hoof!
The emotion of the moment overwhelmed him as he realized that he had been hunting his entire life to experience this singular moment. All of the scouting and preparation, the years of experience, culminated in this incredible payoff.
His next thought was to call his father. When he got him on the phone, he said, "You
won't believe this, Dad, but I got him, I got him!"
Dunlap's great New Hampshire buck field dressed at 222 pounds, besting his previous personal record of 215 pounds. He showed the buck around to his friends and enjoyed the genuine excitement that his trophy generated.
Someone suggested they call Jim Gallagher, a measurer for the Northeast Big Buck Club, to have the rack green scored. Gallagher put the green score at roughly 178 inches gross (before deductions).
Just 60 days later, both the Northeast Big Buck Club (NBBC) and the New Hampshire Antler & Skull Trophy Club (NHASTC) confirmed that Dunlap's buck was the biggest muzzleloader buck ever taken in New Hampshire.
But not for long!
Chuck Orleans' huge typical buck scored 186 7/8 Boone and Crockett
points and ranks as New Hampshire's all-time biggest blackpowder buck. Photo courtesy of Chuck Orleans
THE ORLEANS BUCK
Chuck Orleans is also an experienced hunter. He has been hunting for 45 years, spending most of that time roaming the woods of New Hampshire with his bow, rifle and muzzleloader. Orleans has also hunted Maine and Vermont over the years, and figures he has harvested a total of 30 deer, mostly bucks. He had connected on one 200-pounder in his career and many bucks with decent antlers, but he is a self-described deer hunter focused on the quality of the hunt and the taste of the meat, rather than the size of the antlers.
Well, at least until now . . .
On Nov. 21, Orleans entered the woods of Hillsborough County in hopes of seeing a large buck, one he had been hunting for two years. He had seen this buck the previous year, but the wily creature seemed to bust him in every stand, never giving him a good look or a reasonable shot.
Orleans had figured out that the buck was picking up his scent floating on thermals that seemed to carry right to the trail, so he moved his stand and was ready with a new setup this year. This would be his fifth time hunting the buck this season, each time for only a few hours. This day would be no different.
He entered the woods before daylight and planned to stay until 9 a.m. sharp.
Orleans was carrying his favorite .50-caliber muzzleloader even though it was rifle season. He has hunted with a muzzleloader since 1978, and preferred it on this day to his rifle.
The clear and calm morning passed uneventfully, and at 9 a.m., Orleans prepared to leave. He turned to pick up his backpack, and as he bent over, he caught a glimpse of something moving. It was a deer - it was the buck he'd been waiting for!
The big-racked monster was coming in from the opposite direction Orleans had anticipated, and was headed through some cover that offered only one shot opportunity, a small opening through some thick hemlock boughs about 80 yards away.
Orleans raised his rifle and waited for the buck's shoulder to pass into the opening and then squeezed the trigger.
Smoke filled the air, and for precious seconds Orleans couldn't see a thing. When the smoke finally cleared, he saw the big buck walking away, tail down, and Orleans knew the deer wouldn't be going far.
After a five-minute wait, Orleans made his way to where the deer was standing when he shot, but found no blood or hair on the bare ground. Orleans headed along the trail toward the point where the buck had disappeared from sight. The trail split three ways, and Orleans chose to go to the right, all the while scanning the woods in front of him.
And then he saw him!
The buck was standing in some open hardwoods, teetering and shaking his massive antlers - a sight Orleans will never forget. He watched as the mammoth-racked buck crumbled to the ground, taking his last breath.
Later, the big buck was officially weighed in at 228 pounds, Orleans' biggest ever! Biologists officially aged the giant at 4 1/2 years old, but it was the immense rack of antlers that attracted everyone's attention.
While the buck was hanging at the meat processor, local hunter Bob Eden of northern Massachusetts noticed it and encouraged Chuck to contact Scott Tremblay, an NBBC measurer. Eden had taken a giant whitetail the previous year, a huge buck scoring 165 4/8 as an 8-pointer, and Eden was so impressed with Orleans' giant whitetail that he convinced him to get it scored.
Tremblay green scored the buck at a whopping 187 inches, and it was then that Orleans realized he had shot what would be the next state-record muzzleloader typical for New Hampshire!
When the NBBC informed Orleans about the Dunlap buck, Orleans thought it best to contact Roscoe Blaisdell, president of the NHASTC, and also a Boone and Crockett scorer. Roscoe could then score both the Dunlap and Orleans bucks for B&C, NBBC and NHASTC, and there would be no questions about the final scores.
And the rest, as they say, is history!
SCORES AND RANKINGS
The Orleans buck is characterized by long main beams, a wide inside spread and excellent tine length; while the Dunlap buck is characterized by excellent tine length and outstanding mass.
The Orleans buck scores a whopping 186 7/8 gross and 181 6/8 net B&C as a 10-point typical. It is defined by main beams of 30 2/8 and 29 6/8. (Only the biggest bucks of all time break the 30 mark for main beams.)
According to Roscoe Blaisdell, president of the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club, these are the longest main beams of any of the 1,000 entries in that state's record book! The inside spread is 19 3/8 inches, and the beams are only 2 7/8 inches apart at the tips, giving the rack a great sweeping, rising look. The tine lengths are phenomenal, with G-2s and G-3s that all score between 11 7/8 and 12 3/8 inches! The G-4s are very good at 7 6/8 and 7 3/8 inches.
If this rack has any weakness, it is in the brow tines: Both are less than 3 inches. The bases measure 4 5/8 and 4 6/8 inches with good mass all the way out the beams.
This great buck also has 2 5/8 inches of abnormal points on the right side, but thanks to its incredible symmetry, the total deductions are only 5 1/8 inches.
The Dunlap buck scores 178 5/8 gross and 175 1/8 net B&C as a pure 10-point. His main beams are strong at 26 4/8 inches each, and his inside spread is better than average at 18 3/8 inches. This buck has excellent tine length
s, with brow tines over 5 inches, G-2s of 10 3/8 and 8 6/8 inches, and impressive G-3s of 11 3/8 and 11 2/8 inches. The G-4s are 5 6/8 and 6 2/8 inches, but the real defining characteristic of this rack is its outstanding mass, with bases of 5 1/8 and 5 2/8 inches. The mass is carried throughout the rack, with no measurement less than 4 7/8 inches and one measurement exceeding the 6-inch mark!
Like the Orleans buck, the Dunlap buck is very symmetrical with only 3 3/8 inches of deductions.
The bucks rank No. 1 and No. 2 all time in New Hampshire for muzzleloader typical bucks. They beat the previous state record, taken in 1977, by over 15 inches. Both bucks also rank No. 1 and No. 2 in all of New England in the muzzleloader category, according to Northeast Big Buck Club records for all New England states.
The New Hampshire bucks replace Ken Zerbst's former No. 1 buck, a 174 1/8-inch 10-pointer taken in Maine in 2000.
New England's muzzleloader hunters continue to take some of the best bucks of the season. For example, in 2002, Jim Manni took a new state record in Rhode Island with his 172 1/8 11-point typical. In 2000, Henry Konow Jr. took a huge non-typical in Connecticut that scored 206 3/8. In fact, over the last three years, the NBBC has recorded eight bucks over 170 harvested by muzzleloader in New England and New York!
New Hampshire averages only two Boone and Crockett bucks per year out of an average harvest of 10,000 animals.
Either buck would have been big news by itself, but when you consider that both were taken with muzzleloaders just 20 days apart by hunters who were pursuing these specific deer in a state that hasn't produced a B&C-caliber muzzleloader buck in its history, you can't help but assume that this is not likely to ever happen again!
For more information about the Northeast Big Buck Club and all the great bucks harvested in New England and New York last season, or to purchase the NBBC's 2003 Record Book, visit the NBBC Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com; or write to NBBC, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612.
For more information about the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club, e-mail president Roscoe Blaisdell at rblaisdell1@ comcast.net.
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