Buckmasters Magazine

Looking for Bone?

Looking for Bone?

By Mike Handley

Searching the right haystacks is the best way to find needles.

Pursuers of whitetails, this continent’s favorite and most widespread big game animal, take to the woods each fall for a variety of reasons. Many deer hunters simply enjoy communing with nature. Some are more driven to collect venison for the freezer. For others, the quest is all about antlers, and the bigger the better.

Size really does matter to the 10 million-plus hunters smitten with white-tailed deer, whether it’s the driving force behind their passion or simply a bonus. Success depends on luck, skill and, most important, location.

For the second time since Buckmasters launched its own Full-Credit (antler) Scoring System back in 1993, the nation’s largest deer hunting organization has tapped into its massive database to show exactly where hunters are felling this country’s best white-tailed bucks.

By examining hundreds of recent entries into “Buckmasters Whitetail Trophy Records,” we’ve put together a Top 10 list showing which states and even counties are yielding the most jaw-droppers.

The findings range from the expected, such as Kansas, Ohio and Louisiana taking the No. 1, 2 and 3 spots, respectively, to the surprising: that Illinois has fallen out of the top three. Also astonishing, at least to outsiders, is that Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama made the cut.

Some people will view this with skepticism, especially since historically heralded Wisconsin and Iowa do not appear on the list. It comes down to how many residents seek to have their deer measured and actually entered into the books. And fewer people are doing so.

Some hunters will never have their bucks measured. The ones who do might choose one system over another because of familiarity or even the proximity of a measurer.

The choices include the Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young clubs (mirroring systems with different minimums), Buckmasters, Safari Club International and, in some states, homegrown agencies like Commemorative Bucks of Michigan, the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club, and the Ohio Big Buck Club.

The mechanics of scoring deer antlers are almost identical among the various keepers of records. The chief differences between the B&C-based and our BTR systems are inside spread credit and deductions. (continued)

B&C counts the inside spread. The BTR doesn’t, except to produce a composite or true gross score. B&C deducts the differences between matching typical points, like subtracting 7 inches from a score if one brow tine is 5 inches long and the other is 12. The BTR would give full credit to the 17 inches present; B&C would allow 10.

Another difference between the two systems is in the number of antler categories. B&C has two, typical and non-typical, while the BTR has four to accommodate square-peg racks that fall somewhere in the middle.

And, finally, the BTR recognizes and classifies antlers according to how they came to be in the hands of hunters. There are categories for all types of bows and firearms, as well as for shed antlers and racks that are found. B&C maintains only two categories, paying no mind to whether a deer was harvested by bow, gun or Chevrolet; it’s either a Booner, or it’s not.

The 22-year-old Buckmasters system still might be considered the Johnny-come-lately among record-keepers, but it’s by no means small potatoes. The BTR published the sixth edition of its record book in 2011, which contained almost 10,400 whitetails taken by various means from 1899 through 2007.

Today, that tally is nearing 14,000 deer.

Rather than examine all entries, however, our new Top 10 list covers only those deer entered into the record book during the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons.

We could’ve produced a historical map showing where the best bucks of all time were harvested, but that wouldn’t necessarily help someone who wants to plan a deer hunt right now. We were more interested in developing a tool for hunters, and this three-year report is very telling.

The Top 10 trophy-producing states, in order, are Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Missouri.

The leading counties are Madison Parish (Louisiana), Franklin (Ohio), Jefferson (Kansas), Adams (Ohio), Jackson (Kansas), Tensas and Catahoula parishes (Louisiana), and Pottawatomie, Osage, Barber and Shawnee counties (Kansas).

We’re not talking about obscenely huge bucks. These rankings are based purely on record book entries, which range from those that barely squeak past the minimum score to those that shatter records.

A trophy is in the eye of the beholder, whether or not it qualifies for a record book. We’re not antler snobs.

The true purpose of a record book is to honor outstanding deer, not to glorify the hunters who harvest them. Since this information about location was at our fingertips, we thought we’d share it. You could call it a report card for states, their wildlife agencies, landowners and hunters.

For more information about the BTR or to find the nearest measurer, visit here.

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This article was published in the October 2015 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

Copyright 2023 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd