Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hunter shatters Pennsylvania record with non-typical buck

Few hunters ever will have an experience like this one.
Eric Carns of Hesston in Huntingdon County was out with his crossbow Nov. 5, on family property in Clearfield County. He was on the ground when a deer spooked by his father ran to within 20 yards of him. He made a quick decision to shoot.
Good move.
The buck's rack had 26 points and a 196/8-inch spread. This past week, it was certified as the new state record nontypical archery buck. It scored 2286/8.
The previous record was an Allegheny County deer killed in 2007 that scored 209 18.
What's more, Carns' buck ranks as the No. 3 nontypical in state history even when considering deer taken with firearms. The only two bigger bucks were one taken in 1942 that scored 2386/8 and one taken in 2001 that scored 2302/8.
“I've scored maybe a handful of deer over 200 inches. But that's the biggest I've ever scored,” said Bob D'Angelo, state records program coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“It had everything — the points, the length, the mass.”
What made it score so well, he said, were its odd points. It had 13 on each side and was symmetrical that way. But each of the main points had another coming off them. They added nearly 51 inches to the rack's score.
“That's just tremendous. That just piled on the points,” D'Angelo said.
Carns himself hasn't said much. He asked the commission not hand out his contact information.
Tracked down anyway, he did not return any of several phone calls.
His only comments, in fact, were those made to WTAJ-TV, an Altoona television station.
“I shot a 10-point last year and got it mounted. It was 20 inches wide,” Carns told WTAJ. “This year's just makes it look small.”
His deer was the cream of what has apparently been an excellent crop across Pennsylvania. D'Angelo said large-racked bucks have become commonplace in recent years, with this past season especially good.
“A 140-class deer, I don't even get excited anymore. Although I've never killed one that big myself, I don't get excited when they come in to be scored because I see them all the time,” D'Angelo said.
That's the trend all across the country, it seems.
This past fall, a hunter in Tennessee killed what is now officially the new world record nontypical. It scored 312 38.
There have been media reports, too, of possible state-record deer being taken in Minnesota, Mississippi and Louisiana, where not one but two hunters might have broken the state's 70-year-old whitetail record.
While all those deer have yet to be certified, there's no doubt there are plenty of big bucks on the landscape these days.
That's not by accident, said Johnathan Bordelon, deer program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
To reach their potential antler-wise, bucks need to live relatively long lives, he said. Once, hunters didn't permit that.
In 1981 in Louisiana, for example, Bordelon said, yearling bucks made up 80 percent of the annual harvest.
Now, things have flipped completely. Eighty percent of the harvest typically is made up of deer at least 2 12 years old, these days, and 67 percent 3 12 years, he said.
“Older-age harvest has allowed deer to grow larger and reach their growth potential. The result has been an increase in the number of large bucks harvested,” Bordelon said.
Much the same thing has happened in Pennsylvania.
In 2015, more than half of the bucks killed in Pennsylvania were 2 12 years or older. Mandatory antler restrictions that require hunters to pass on smaller, younger bucks partly explain that and are also the “most obvious” reason so many big bucks are showing up, said Chris Rosenberry, the Game Commission's chief deer biologist.
Those older deer grow larger antlers, he said.
But there's more to it than that, at least nationally.
Louisiana has some of the longest deer seasons in the country and no mandatory antler restrictions, for example.
“The increase in age structure is tied to hunter desires,” Bordelon said. “Long seasons have provided hunters a long window in which to be selective.”
At the same time, increasing numbers of hunters have come to grips with the idea that the key to large, healthy, big-racked deer is maintaining whitetails in “appropriate numbers,” said Adam Murkowski, big game program leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' division of fish and wildlife.
That can mean fewer deer than in decades past, he said.
“But I think a lot of hunters are coming to realize that the answer to growing big bucks is not to increase the size of the whole pyramid and hope to get a few more big ones at the top,” Murkowski said.
“It's to maintain that appropriate number of deer. You get more big bucks as a result of that.”
Still, bucks as large as the one Carns took will always be rare, D'Angelo said. It was, he said, “incredible.”
But every hunter who heads out can hope. Sometimes, he said, that's all it takes.
“You hate to say it, but a lot of these are just luck,” D'Angelo said.
Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via @bobfryeoutdoors.

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