The West Virginia DNR is hoping to get a look at all of the biggest racked deer killed in West Virginia this hunting season. The DNR’s Big Buck Contest is now open to all bucks that meet the minimum scoring requirements killed in the 2008 hunting season.
Although it is a contest for the biggest bucks taken, it’s moreover a way for the DNR to gather valuable data on the size of antlers in the Mountain State and the geographical locations from where they are taken.
"We’ve had the contest and records keeping program since around 1963,” said Gene Thorn who’s in charge of the program at DNR. "A lot of the deer that were scored early in the program were killed further back than that."
All racks are measured and scored by a certified scorer from DNR are eligible for the contest. The scoring must be done by January 30th to be qualified.
"We score a lot out of our district offices and out in the field, but we also score a lot at the Hunting and Fishing Show in Charleston in January," said Thorn.
Those who have a big buck to show off can call their local DNR office for an appointment or just bring it to the Charleston show.
"I’ve heard of some in Wyoming County, I’ve had some guys calling me that have sets of antlers that are going to be really good sized sounds like,” Thorn said.
To qualify for the record book and the contest any buck killed with a gun must score a minimum of 140 typical and 165 non-typical on the Boone and Crockett scoring system. Archery kills must score a minimum of 125 typical and 155 non-typical on the Pope and Young scoring system.
A year ago, the DNR added two new categories to the contest. A category for crossbow kills, which are legal to those with a Class Q handicap-hunting license. Trophy bucks killed with muzzleloaders will also be recognized in a separate class. The minimum requirements for the crossbow are the same as archery and muzzleloader are same as the gun.
"We had a couple of deer killed last year that were record book category and one was with a crossbow. We didn’t have any way in our contest to recognize that deer,” said Thorn. "We had a meeting of the committee and decided to add those categories."
"We don’t have a lot of deer in that category, but we wanted to recognize those muzzleloader deer also,” Thorn added.
Over the years, the contest reflects the abundance of quality deer in Wyoming, Logan, McDowell, and Mingo Counties–where hunters are limited to archery hunting only. The data also reflects counties that border those four in southern West Virginia also have a wealth of high quality antler sets. Many of the biggest deer killed with a gun have come from those counties, including last year’s champion from Kanawha County.
A rack must dry for 60-days before the score is certified for the Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young record books. The highest scoring racks in each category will be awarded a plaque from the DNR in September at National Hunting and Fishing Days. All deer that meet the minimum score will receive a trophy deer certificate and have their deer recorded in the official state record books.