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Antler scores grow in popularity in West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The changing culture of deer hunting has created more and more demand for those who are certified scorers with the Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young scoring systems. West Virginia has had a program in place for many years to offer the service to successful hunters in the Mountain State to see how their buck’s rack stacks up to others.

The program was formerly called the “DNR Big Buck Contest”, but over the years it evolved into the “West Virginia Big Buck Certification Program.”

“The purpose is to highlight the variety of quality deer being harvested throughout the state,” said Tyler Evans who heads up the program for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Records from the program date back decades and the data includes bucks killed well before anybody ever thought about putting a tape measure to the antlers.

“In the past a big push was to score a lot of deer that were killed decades back. They were killed by a grandfather or father or by somebody who wasn’t there to see it scored. It was kids and grandkids wanting to see how a loved one’s deer would score. A lot of that is caught up and now it’s mostly deer that have been harvested in the last year or two,” he said.

According to Evans, the number of deer which are being scored in West Virginia is on the rise and the number of bucks which qualify for the record books is also increasing. A couple of factors may play into the increase. Hunters are becoming more patient and disciplined about what size buck they will kill. Evans added their discipline is also letting a lot of bucks survive to an older age which is the key to producing a bigger set of antlers.

Half of all the bucks scored in West Virginia this year will be done this weekend at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.

Evans admitted the bulk of the biggest bucks, especially those killed with a bow, come from Wyoming, Logan, Mingo, and McDowell Counties. Those four counties are restricted to archery hunting only. But Evans said what is not as well known is the numbers of bucks being killed in other parts of West Virginia which are equally impressive in stature.

“Everywhere you look there seem to be a few harvested each year that mirror those killed in the coalfields. While there may not be as many concentrated in one area as they are in the southern part of the state, there are still deer that are reaching that size and able to provide a lot of great hunting opportunities to hunters of the state,” Evans said.

The DNR’s antler scoring teams will be at this weekends West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show to score antlers brought to the show. Evans indicated about half of all the antlers the DNR will score this year are done during the three days at the show.

“We get just as many deer at the Charleston hunt show that we score as we do in all other areas of the state combined during the year. It’s a great opportunity,” said Evans.

A buck’s score must be a minimum of 125 inches to qualify for the Pope and Young record books and for a West Virginia trophy buck certificate. A Boone and Crockett record book entry requires a minimum 160 score, but the West Virginia minimum score for a trophy citation for a buck killed with a gun is 140. Pope and Young is used for scoring bucks killed with archery equipment. Boone and Crockett entries are most often the bucks killed with a firearm.

Hunters are reminded a deer’s antlers must have dried for 60 days before they are eligible to be officially scored and the hunter needs the confirmation number which was generated when the deer was checked in on-line.

Hours for the race scoring at the West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show this weekend are Friday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. , Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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