An examination of the Oklahoma whitetail records in the Boone & Crockett Club reveals a couple of interesting trends.
First, it shows that almost every county in Oklahoma ï¿½ if not all - has the potential to produce a Boone & Crockett class buck (a minimum score of 160 typical and 185 non-typical.)
Second, it shows that Oklahoma grows some really gnarly bucks, maybe more than any other state.
All but 18 Oklahoma counties now have a buck listed in Boone & Crockett.
Most of them were killed in the last 15 years, perhaps proof that the old adage "if it's brown, it's down" is no longer the prevalent thought among Oklahoma deer hunters.
More Oklahoma landowners are managing for trophy bucks today than they were 10 and 20 years ago.
In recent years, the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation has sent more of its employees to Boone & Crockett school to become official measurers. That's because more Oklahoma hunters prize the head gear that deer wear.
"In the 15 years I've been with the department, it's at least doubled, if not tripled," said Jerry Shaw, big game biologist for Wildlife Department, on the growing interest in antler scoring.
The Wildlife Department's regulations have moved toward managing more for trophy bucks by liberalizing the doe harvest and reducing the buck limit from three to two.
But Shaw thinks the widespread use of trail cameras is a big reason Oklahoma deer hunters are becoming more selective about what they shoot.
They are seeing trophy bucks on their trail cameras that they never knew existed, he said.
He often receives trail camera photos from people who want to know what that big buck in the picture would score.
"In the past, they never knew what happened on their property at night," Shaw said. "Now, they are seeing some of these good bucks and thinking, 'Wow, I never knew about that deer."'
Age and nutrition are the biggest factors in determining antler growth, Shaw said.
Age can be determined by hunters. If Oklahoma hunters want trophy bucks, they need to be willing to pass on young bucks and let them grow into potentially Boone & Crockett class animals.
As far as nutrition, calcium and phosphorus are the most important minerals for antler growth. Shaw said.
Providing supplements to a deer herd can help if the animals are not getting those minerals in their forage, but Shaw cautions that "there's not a sack out there you can throw on the ground and grow you a big deer."
Oklahoma also seems to produce more non-typical trophy bucks than other states, at least by Boone & Crockett standards.
Non-typical whitetail entries represent 37 percent of the total whitetails listed in Boone & Crockett records.
But in Oklahoma, the non-typical ratio is much higher, as 89 of the 163 Oklahoma whitetail entries in Boone & Crockett are non-typical bucks, or 55 percent.
Shaw doesn't have an explanation for it, other than it is a little easier to get a non-typical in the Boone & Crockett record book.
Genetics or an injury can produce a non-typical rack, antlers with abnormal points.
Some hunters prefer a trophy buck with a perfect symmetrical rack. Others want antlers with unique characteristics, such as drop tines.
"That's what keeps Braum's in business," Shaw said. "Different flavors."
Oklahoma's Cy Curtis Record Book lists trophy bucks
While a Boone & Crockett class buck can turn up just about anywhere in Oklahoma, they are plentiful nowhere. Most Oklahoma hunters will not see one. In fact, less than 1 percent of sportsmen in this country will take a Boone & Crockett qualifying animal.
Making the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Cy Curtis Record Book is more realistic.
Named for the state deer biologist credited the most for bringing back whitetail deer in Oklahoma, the Cy Curtis record book lists Oklahoma whitetails with a minimum score of 135 for typical bucks and 150 for non-typical bucks.
Think you have a Boone & Crockett buck?
If you have a potential Boone & Crockett class buck, you should:
Score the buck using the online forms found at www.boone-crockett.org.
If the antlers meet Boone & Crockett minimums (160 typical, 185 non-typical), allow the antlers to dry for 60 days.
Contact an official Boone and Crockett measurer. There's a search feature on its website. Oklahoma has almost 50 and many are employees of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.
There is a $40 entry fee.
The Boone and Crockett Club's Big Game Awards Book is published every three years.
Records are also kept online but there is a $50 annual fee to access the database called TrophySearch.
Boone & Crockett Club Records
Oklahoma Typical Whitetails
1, Jason Boyett, Pushmataha County, 2007, 192 5/8 (overall rank 79th)
2, Larry Luman, Bryan County, 1997, 185 6/8
3, Dane Weippert, Texas County, 2007, 179 3/8
4, Matt Parker, Blaine County, 1999, 179 2/8
5, Johnny Watkin, McCurtain County, 2006, 178 2/8
Oklahoma Non-Typical Whitetails
1, Bill Foster, Johnston County, 1970, 247 2/8 (overall rank 106th)
2, David Lambert, Hughes County, 2003, 240 3/8
3, Charles Tullis, Delaware County, 1998, 237 3/8
4, Loren Tarrant, Alfalfa County, 1984, 234 2/8
5, C. Steve Risinger, Carter County, 2005, 231 7/8
Editor's note: The two top bucks in the state as listed in the Cy Curtis Record Book - John Ehmer, Pushmataha County, 2007, 194 0/8 typical and Mike Crossland, Tillman County, 2004, 248 6/8 non-typical were not submitted by hunters to the Boone & Crockett Club.