December 23, 2020
I'm not going to lie. I love seeing big antlers, hearing the stories, and looking at the final numbers that end up in the various deer hunting record books out there.
Maybe that's why over the years I've gone through the training process to become an official measurer with Boone and Crockett, Pope and Young, and the Texas Big Game Awards program.
In fact, I'm so much of an antler geek, that if the big fella in the red suit is looking for a great Christmas gift idea for me this year, I've got a great suggestion. That's the new sixth edition of the Boone and Crockett Club’s Records of North American Whitetail Deer, which is printed and due out any day now as Christmas Day approaches on the calendar.
With more than 17,000 whitetail deer listings, this new volume features the usual B&C scores, location of kill, date of the hunt, hunter, owner, state/provincial rank, and all-time rank. There are also numerous color photographs, state maps showing which counties are producing the most record book deer, and an included full-sized, full-color wall poster that shows distribution of entries.
You'll also find photos of each state and provincial record deer, 17 new such records accepted since the last edition, stories of some of the biggest and best whitetails (yours truly was fortunate enough to write a couple of those), and all B&C whitetail entries from the late 1800's up until Dec. 31, 2019.
But let me also note that there's plenty of other whitetail record books out there worthy of a last-minute holiday gift or through perusing the Internet to gain a jump start for whitetail hunting plans in 2021.
One of those is the Pope and Young Club’s fourth edition of the Bowhunting Records of North America, which is a great resource for whitetail bowhunters to consider.
If books aren't your thing, there's also fee-based online databases with B&C and P&Y, as well as free online state-level databases from sites like the Texas Big Game Awards Program, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Cy Curtis Awards Program, the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks Magnolia Records Program, or Ohio DNR's Big Buck Club to name a few.
Look for Trends, Hotspots
But aside from looking at books, databases, photos, score sheets and reading the stories of fortunate hunters who have tagged the biggest and best bucks down through the years, is there any other practical value from being a record-book enthusiast?
Yes, in many cases, since you can observe recent trends and see where the latest hotspots are across the country. While that might not help you actually locate a place to hunt for next fall, it can help in that process, particularly in this day and age of smartphone apps and online resources like onX Hunt maps and such.
But looking at record-book material also serves a purpose for this year as the final days tick by. Because in the post-rut weeks of December and January, when the alarm clock blares and the idea of sleeping in grows, such repositories of big-buck data provide the fuel and determination to keep going all the way to a season's last drop.
Like a football team scoring a last-second "Hail Mary" touchdown to score a big win, the record books show definitive proof that some of the best whitetails taken over the years have come close to the end of the season.
Late-Season Monster Deer
Want proof of that statement? Well, one of the more famous examples is a true-blue Texas monster buck taken back in December 1963. That's when Tom McCulloch went hunting on a Maverick County ranch in the South Texas brush country and downed the largest typical buck ever taken in the Lone Star State.
That bruiser, McCulloch's second good buck of the day as he worked on filling his deer tags that year, gross-scored 211 3/8 inches and net-scored 196 4/8. What's more, longtime B&C measurer, antler collector, and author John Stein reports in his Big Rack IV: Texas Whitetail Record Book that the buck—which was shot at a distance of 50 yards as it trailed behind a doe—has incredible main beam lengths of 28 6/8 and 27 5/8 inches, respectively, and an equally impressive inside spread measurement of 24 2/8.
That puts the McCulloch buck as the No. 1 typical whitetail in Texas history, as well as No. 38 in the current B&C record book.
Further to the north, another late season giant fell on Jan. 11, 2011 when Claremore, Okla., resident Wade Ward convinced himself to keep hunting even though the Sooner State's Jan. 15 archery season closure was only a few days away.
Ward is glad he kept pushing on and persevering until the end. Because he did, the crossbow hunter arrowed a net 188 4/8-inch typical buck in Rogers County on one of the season's last-gasp hunts.
If you're keeping score at home, that's currently the sixth biggest typical buck ever recorded in the ODWC's Cy Curtis Awards program. And until Oklahoma State college student Guner Womack’s 188 5/8-inch state archery record buck in the fall of 2019, the Ward buck was the Sooner State’s archery state-record typical whitetail.
Not bad for an Oklahoma giant that fell in the final week of the season.
Last-Minute Christmas Gift
But as you might suspect, that's not the only last-second giant whitetail entry into the record books either. Because just two days before Christmas on Dec. 23, 1992, Edmond, Okla., bowhunter Chris Foutz arrowed a net 179 6/8 inch typical in Oklahoma County, a buck that still ranks 11th on the all-time Cy Curtis list. Better yet, the Foutz buck—which had only a 16 7/8-inch-wide inside spread—was the Sooner State's overall typical state record for several years after it was taken.
How many of us would like to have Santa Claus deliver a taxidermy mount like that under the Christmas tree? Most of us, I'm sure.
That's the kind of last-minute Christmas gift that Dallas, Tex., hunter Sherman Wyman found under the tree back in 2005. Hunting on a low-fence ranch that he owned not far from Wichita Falls, Wyman—a big believer in hunting bucks during the secondary rut—was sitting in a deer stand near a reopened scrape on Dec. 24 that year.
It's a good thing he was because before old St. Nick made his annual Christmas Eve sleigh ride later that night, Wyman was putting a monster non-typical buck into the cooler, a bruiser that net scored 226 4/8 inches.
"I've shot a lot of big deer around Christmas time," Wyman told me back then. "(Up in North Texas), everyone thinks once Thanksgiving or the first of December has come and gone, you're done."
Obviously not, certainly in Wyman's mind as well, as the minds of those who like to peruse the data found in whitetail record books.
End-of-Year Bruiser Whitetail
For a couple of last bits of proof for late-season big buck potential, let me remind readers about one of Texas' most fascinating big buck stories, the whopper whitetail taken in Grayson County by Robert Taylor at the tail end of the year.
That's when Taylor arrowed one of the largest bucks ever shot in North Texas with any weapon, a giant non-typical buck that made headlines across the state and the nation—more on that in a moment.
While punching the clock to the end and focusing on late-season does and fawns coming into estrous were keys on a couple of hunts mentioned above, the key to Taylor's hunt — which came on the evening of Dec. 29 as cold weather and the remains of the region's 2012 White Christmas dotted the landscape — was food.
That food was the combination of a corn feeder and a planted food plot that promised local deer a high-caloric intake during the frigid Texas cold snap. That late-season banquet table was enough to lure in several does, a good 10-point buck and eventually, the huge bruiser that Taylor arrowed.
When Taylor's buck was initially scored after the mandatory 60-day drying period was complete, it produced an eye-popping net entry score of 254 4/8 inches. That put the Taylor buck into an on-going duel with the A.J. Downs archery buck, a big East Texas whitetail taken on opening day of the 2012 archery season, and also scoring in the mid-250's.
At stake? Nothing more than the Pope & Young Club's state record benchmark spot for non-typical whitetails.
Eventually, panel scoring—a process applied to world-class and state-record caliber bucks in an effort to ensure that B&C and P&Y measuring techniques and rules have been correctly followed and applied—found a mistake in the scoring process of the complicated rack of Taylor's buck.
While that caused the final score of the Taylor buck to be revised downward to 219 1/8 inches and handed the state record to Downs, it didn't nullify the fact that Taylor had downed an amazing archery buck in the final days of the 2012 season.
Or the fact that even when it comes to chasing world-class giant whitetails, sometimes, as the record books often show, late can be great for deer hunters willing to resist the urge to punch the snooze button when the alarm clock sounds off on a cold, bleak winter morning.
Because as long as there is sand spilling out of the hourglass of the current season, you should keep going out and punching the clock.
Because as these stories and the record books they come from show, you just never know, now do you?