-- You can shoot a buck with a rifle in Mississippi or Kansas and wind up on the cover of a magazine. But if you used that same centerfire to nail a buck in Illinois, your name will wind up on a court docket. You'd lose your gun, along with your hunting privileges, and you might even go to jail.
You can "corn" up a sendero in South Texas and climb into the back of your truck to wait for dinnertime. But try that in Alabama, and you're going to be arrested. Even using a cell phone could result in your buck being confiscated in Ohio, though it's perfectly acceptable in Missouri.
It's fairly easy to determine what is or isn't legal in any state, if you take a look at the regulations before hunting. You might or might not agree with the rules, but you'll have to abide by them.
This is why Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records has its own "When in Rome" yardstick. In order for someone's deer to be entered into the record book, the hunter must sign an affidavit stating that the deer was taken in accordance with the game laws of the state or province in which the animal was harvested.
Actually, before this year, Buckmasters' rule went a step farther in defining what isn't considered "fair chase." Unacceptable practices included hunting with the use of aircraft, motorized vehicles and water craft, and electronic communications devices.
The lines have since become blurred, as the following true stories demonstrate.
Case No. 1
Randy Simonitch of Bowling Green, Mo., was at home on the morning of Oct. 3, 2000, when his telephone rang. His neighbor, Mary Lou Dempsey, called to tell him that a monstrous buck -- the very one that they'd observed and even videotaped -- was bedded in the soybeans next to her house.
"You want to come down and try for him?" she asked.
Randy wasted no time in driving over there. He mounted an hour-long stalk in the wide open -- keeping to the buck's backside -- and made it to within 30 yards, as close as he dared go. He grunted, the buck stood, and an arrow stung it in the right place. Afterward, Randy was sorry that he'd declined Mary Lou's invitation to film his hunt.
Photo: Randy Simonitch's Missouri whitetail from 2000 now sits in the No. 5 slot in its class.
At the time, the giant whitetail was second only to the world record in its class -- although its runner-up status was squashed a month later when Mike Beatty arrowed an Ohio buck that sailed into first place, knocking Randy/s into third. Even without the 20 1/8-inch inside spread, the Simonitch Buck tallies 260 5/8 inches.
Flash forward to Dec. 12, 2005.
Case No. 2
Bill Wise of Columbia, Mo., met a friend about 2:30 that afternoon. His buddy, Donald, was carrying a rifle and literally loaded for doe -- the only legal option for a rifleman that time of year. Bill, on the other hand, was going to hunt with his bow.
Donald went north so that he could watch a pasture. Bill headed for his usual bow stand. When Donald reached his destination and glassed the terrain, he saw what had to be the enormous buck over which Bill had been obsessing all season. It was lying down at the edge of the distant woods.
Photo: Bill Wise's 2005 buck is No. 2 among velvet-clad irregulars taken by bow. Photo by Bill Wise
He whipped out his cell phone and called Bill, who quickly reversed direction.
The buck was still in its bed when Bill arrived less than half an hour later. With the wind in his favor, Bill managed to stalk to within bow range and arrowed the 216 3/8-inch buck, whose antlers were still clad in velvet.
Randy Simonitch's Missouri buck never raised an eyebrow among keepers of whitetail records. Bill Wise's, however, was rejected by the Pope and Young Club, and it almost was disqualified by Buckmasters.
At issue was the use of the cellular telephone, an electronic communications device. While the state of Missouri has no game regulation banning the use of them, both P&Y and the BTR did. Buckmasters' rule, made long before cell phones were the norm, is stated plainly on the backside of each scoresheet: "Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records does not consider fair chase hunting to include the use of aircraft, motorized land vehicles, motorized water craft or any electronic communications devices in the act of harvesting wild game."
Other than the fact that the phones used by Mary Lou Dempsey and Randy Simonitch had cords, there's really very little difference between the two scenarios described above. So why penalize one deer and not the other, when both were harvested within the legal guidelines established by the Missouri Department of Conservation?
After considering the matter for many weeks, Buckmasters has decided to accept Bill Wise's 2005 buck. And in doing so, the rule quoted above is being dropped.
Left standing is the rule on the back of all scoresheets that states: "All entries into the Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records must have been taken by legal and honorable hunting methods which comply with the spirit of true sportsmanship and fair chase according to the game laws of the state or province where the deer was taken."
"By adhering to this fundamental standard, which has been around since we began, the BTR is simply allowing individual states and provinces to determine what is or isn't acceptable," says BTR Chairman Mike Handley.
"For example, the use of the cell phone is illegal in some states, but it's perfectly acceptable in Missouri. The same goes for the practice of baiting and even the use of centerfire rifles; fine in places, illegal in others," Handley continued. "We're in this business to record and recognize Mother Nature's handiwork with antlers, not to declare that one state's rules are better or worse than another's."
The change is effective immediately, he added. New scoresheets will be mailed to every measurer in the coming weeks.