Nothing commands our attention like a trophy white-tail rack. A magnificent set of antlers stirs something primal in us, but few associate the Hoosier state with record book white-tailed deer. That all changed on November 17, 2012. On that day Tim Beck presented to the world what Indiana’s deer genetics can produce. Scoring at 305 7/8” non-typical, the 37-point buck now ranks as the second largest white-tailed deer ever taken by a hunter in North America. What makes it even more rewarding is the fact that white-tailed deer were extirpated from the state in the late 1800s, and for over 40 years Indiana didn’t even have deer.
While the world was shocked that the Hoosier state produced such a monster, there were some that predicted it. They see evidence every year of what lurks in the hills, river bottoms, and fields of Indiana, and that’s massive bucks. They’ve watched as the average trophy size has inched its way up over the years. Who are these people in the know? They’re the volunteers of the Hoosier Record Buck Program.
Few hunters realize that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources doesn’t track the quality of bucks harvested in Indiana. While that wasn’t always the case, budget cutbacks forced the IDNR to hand off their trophy record keeping program to the Indian Deer Hunters Association (IDHA) in 1993.
From that time forward all scoring and record keeping has been done by an army of volunteers under the guidance of the IDHA. The IDHA is a non-profit organization of sportsmen who are concerned about all things related to the health of Indiana’s deer population, from habitat and environmental issues to game laws and landowner rights.
Members of the IDHA are impassioned to preserve and promote the quality of deer in Indiana. Helping hunters score their trophies furthers that goal. The data on how high the buck scored, where it was taken, when it was taken, how it was taken, and by whom is complied and added to an ever increasing Hoosier Record Buck Program book that is published every three years. For most, the book is a memorial to trophy deer and the hunters that put in the time required to get them. To others, the book is a tool to take their passion to the next level. Along with the stories and honor rolls of trophies, what’s really of value is the ability to read where the trophy bucks are coming from and then pursue hunting opportunities in that area.
Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons, some hunters don’t feel the need to get their trophy officially scored. One of the big reasons is confusion about the scoring process and just what qualifies as a “record” buck. That’s both an easy and hard question to answer. Through a complex method of measuring the antlers, a final score is attributed. If that score meets or beats set criteria, it’s a trophy. The Indiana Deer Hunter’s Association considers any legally taken, fair-chase whitetail typical buck (those that are normal, symmetrical, and well-balanced) with a minimum score of 140 inches and any non-typical (those that possess points that are abnormal in shape or position) with a minimum score of 160 inches, to be a trophy. While other organizations (Pope and Young, Boone and Crockett, Safari Club International and others) measure the antlers in the same manner, their trophy criterion varies.
While the method of measuring and scoring antlers is complex, there is an easy way to find out if a buck is a trophy; bring it to the IDHA booth at the Ford Indianapolis Boat, Sport, and Travel Show that is produced each year by Renfro Productions. For a small fee, a buck can be officially scored. If the buck meets the criteria, the owner of the trophy will receive a certificate and will be listed for all eternity in the Hoosier Record Buck Program book. Another perk to having the antlers scored by IDHA, is that they will assist hunters in applying for their certification with the Pope and Young Association or Boone and Crocket Club. (Please be aware each of those associations requires an additional entry fee.) Hunters should realize that the scoring fee, which is small in comparison to what is charged in neighboring states, and continued book sales are what keeps the program going.
If having a buck officially scored isn’t already enough of a draw, no deer hunter can see the IDHA Hoosier Wall of Fame and not go home motivated to hunt harder the next fall. Each year, hunters from across the state bring in their trophy mounts to show the rest of us why we need to stay in the woods longer and hunt harder. Many would argue that the Hoosier Wall of Fame display is one of the largest draws of the show. IDHA member Dave Delany agrees, “It is a once-a-year display dedicated to the magnificence of Indiana white-tailed deer, that can’t be seen anywhere else.”
Nothing could be a more fitting tribute to the generations of people that worked hard to make Indiana’s deer herd what it is today. Seeing the Hoosier Wall of Fame loaded with Indiana trophy white-tailed deer is a pure inspiration to continue that work for generations to come.
The Wall of Fame will only be up during the 20th Annual Deer, Turkey & Waterfowl Expo portion of the show that runs from Thursday, February 23 through Sunday, February 26.
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