For years now, the state of Nevada has been known as one of the hotbeds for some of the North American continent's biggest mule deer.
Now, the Silver State and its rugged desert mountains and surrounding uplands will be known as the home of the new Pope & Young Club world record, a massive typical mulie arrowed on Aug. 13, 2016 by Pioche, Nevada bowhunter Frank Cheeney.
The Cheeney buck, a 5 x 5 typical mulie that net scores as a 205 6/8-inch world record, now officially overtakes the George Harms buck, a 205 0/8-inch bruiser taken by bow back in 2009 in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Editor's Note: Often described as the Western U.S.'s most difficult to obtain world class trophy, there isn't a lot of movement in the upper reaches of the Pope & Young Club's listings for a typical mule deer. In fact, the previous world record Harms mule deer buck had overtaken the longstanding world record Bill Barcus mule deer bow buck, a 203 1/8-inch animal taken in Colorado back in 1979.
The news of the new world record mulie buck tagged by Cheeney came at the April 2017 Pope & Young Club convention in St. Louis, Missouri when an unprecedented special panel scoring session was called to measure the deer and see if it added up as the new mulie benchmark.
With the buck initially reported last August to be in the neighborhood of 214-inches net (by posters on the popular MonsterMuleys.com website), the buck was later said to be in the 210-inch range by a March 2017 magazine story in Eastman's Bowhunting Journal (published by Outdoor Channel television show hosts Guy and Ike Eastman).
But after months of drying - and after being stripped of its velvet, which is a requirement for world record consideration in the P&Y Club's all-time record book listings - the Cheeney buck checked in at its final score obtained by measurers at the recent convention.
That scoring session, which included two separate panels comprised of three experienced P&Y measurers and a Boone & Crockett Club representative, was called for by Pope & Young Club records chairman Ed Fanchin under a rule change that allows him to make such a call.
What's more, the special called panel scoring session was actually filmed live and posted on the Pope & Young Club's Facebook page, another unprecedented move for the Club founded back in January 1961.
Editor's Note: This special panel scoring session and the world record announcement can be seen in these three Pope & Young Club Facebook page videos:
"This was the first time the Pope & Young Club has used a special panel for verification of a potential world record trophy," said Ed Fanchin, the records chairman for P&Y, in a news release.
"The score was authenticated and this tremendous mule deer was declared the new Pope & Young Club world record typical mule deer," added Fanchin.
"Congratulations to Frank Cheeney and to the Nevada Department of Wildlife for using successful wildlife management practices.
"It’s great to know that deer of this caliber are still roaming the wilds of North America."
Indeed it is.
For the record, Cheeney, described by many as a do-it-yourself, average Joe kind of bowhunter on various Internet hunting forums, targeted this world class mule deer buck on August 13, 2016 when he and his son arrived at their chosen spot within the hunting unit they had drawn a tag for.
Official measurers (left to right) Ken Witt, Roy E. Grace, Gil Hernandez and Ed Fanchin smile after certifying the Frank Cheeny mule deer as the Pope and Young Club's new typical world record buck with a final net score of 205 6/8 inches. (Photo courtesy of the Pope & Young Club/Rick Mowery)
"My son Aaron and I headed out a bit late that morning, and we began glassing the area as soon as we arrived," said Frank.
"We spotted a bunch of bucks bedded down in a sagebrush flat and after some discussion - I use the word discussion lightly - Aaron decided that I needed to try to put a stalk on the bedded bucks in the hopes of getting a shot."
With the bachelor group of mulie bucks appearing calm and looking away, that's what the elder Cheeney did.
"Putting a stalk on a group of bucks with sagebrush as your only cover usually does not end well for the hunter, but Aaron felt strongly that I could put the sneak on them and end up with a good shot," said Frank.
"I reluctantly kicked off my shoes and crouched down behind the taller brush and began my approach," he added. "As luck would have it, the breeze was blowing straight in my face as I headed towards the bucks. They seemed oblivious to my presence."
As the bowhunter closed ranks into shooting range, the biggest buck in the group suddenly stood up from his mid-day bedding spot.
"I drew my bow and with the deer in my sights I let the arrow fly," said Frank of a bowshot eventually heard around the world.
The arrow hit home and the rest, as they say, is history as now Cheeney and his celebrated mule deer buck are now the benchmark that all other mule deer bowhunters will be shooting for.
While that's a great thing for the elder Cheeney, like many hunting fathers, Frank is most interested in his family being able to carry on their hunting traditions together.
"I grew up in the outdoors hunting and trapping with my dad," he said. "He passed on his knowledge and love of hunting to me and it has always been important to me to continue that tradition."
While a Nevada mule deer tag is a coveted item in many big game bowhunting circles, it's the act of actually getting out and hunting that motivates Cheeney and his family these days.
"In my family, hunting has never been about killing a high-scoring trophy," said Cheeney. "We have always looked for nice bucks, but score has really never meant that much to us.
"It's always been about the time spent together with friends and family preparing for and carrying out hunting activities," he added. "It’s about passing on skills and traditions that are a part of our heritage and way of life. It’s about sharing a campfire, good food and, even better, stories with family and neighbors.
"It’s about teaching my three kids to be ethical hunters and (conservationists) so that they can pass these same traditions on to their children."
Now, one of those time-honored traditions that the family possesses is being the owner of the world's best typical mule deer bow buck, an honor that Cheeney and his family will carry forward.
Until the next world class mulie buck gets arrowed, that is.
For now, the Cheeney buck is entered into the P&Y Club's 31st biennium recording period which will run from Jan. 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2019.
As the first new and official Pope & Young Club world record of the 31st recording period, the race is now on to see when and where the next best monster mulie gets tagged.
While history suggests that wait might be awhile, you just never know in these golden days of Western bowhunting when news comes every autumn of more world class big game animals being arrowed by hunters.
But until that next benchmark, the current world record honor will reside in the state of Nevada, one of the most special places in North America where an archer can draw back a bowstring.
Just ask Frank Cheeney, the current king of the mule deer bowhunting world.