Sixteen-point buck a potential world record

Mondovi, Wis. – An Eau Claire bowhunter harvested a white-tailed
buck Nov. 1 in Buffalo County that is garnering national attention
as a potential world record.

In what is unfolding as something of a storybook script, Bob
Decker of Eau Claire – a paper mill worker described by friends as
just an average guy who likes to hunt – ventured to the woods near
Mondovi for his first hunt of the 2008 archery season.

Although he’d taken several good-sized bucks in his time, the
last several hunting seasons had been a little lean for Decker. As
he climbed into his stand, he was buoyed by the optimism of a new
season – and the knowledge that a very big buck had been seen
within a mile of the land he leases with friends.

So you can imagine his pleasant surprise when, after just 3
hours in the stand, the first deer to come along on his first
morning of hunting was a heavy-antlered buck.

Immediately deciding it was a “shooter” and concentrating more
on the vitals than the rack, Decker watched the deer walk beneath
his treestand and took a well-placed shot from within 10 yards.

“I knew I shot a nice deer,” Decker told the Eau Claire
Leader-Telegram. “I figured I’d shot a good-sized 10-pointer.”

Upon recovering the buck, he learned he had misjudged not only
the number of points but the size of the rack.

The 16-point buck is a “phenomenal animal,” said Jack Dodge, an
Eau Claire taxidermist who viewed the buck over the weekend.

“It’s too early to say if it’s a record, but it’s a deer of a
lifetime,” said Dodge, 58, owner of Dodge’s Taxidermy for 30 years.
“And if it’s not a record, it’s certainly the most popular buck of
the year.”

Video shot in late summer of a very large buck in a Buffalo
County field was posted on several web sites, including that of
Field and Stream. The buck came to be known as the “Field and
Stream” buck.

Talk in the rumor-rich deer-hunting community speculated that
the buck is of world-record size. Dodge said he was certain the
buck Decker killed is the same as the one in the video.

“That buck from the video is no longer walking around the woods
of Buffalo County,” Dodge said.

For trophy purposes, deer antlers are measured in inches. A
total score is calculated with measurements including spread, beam
length, and tine length. Antlers are classified as typical or
non-typical, depending on the shape and formation.

While declining to reveal the score of Decker’s buck, Dodge said
it would likely be “around 200 inches.” The rack has several tines
longer than 13 inches, he said.

According to the Pope and Young Club, the Chatfield, Minn.-based
conservation organization that serves as official record keeper of
trophy game animals taken with archery equipment, the world-record
white-tailed deer scored 2044/8. The deer was shot by Mel Johnson
in Peoria County, Ill., in 1965.

The world-record archery non-typical scored 294; it was shot by
Michael Beatty in Greene County, Ohio, in 2000.

Antlers must undergo a 60-day drying period before they can be
officially scored.

Dodge estimated that Decker’s buck was 31/2 years old – young
for a deer with such massive antlers – based on an examination of
the animal’s teeth.

“What makes one animal grow so huge and another barely get
antlers is one of the things that makes this so fascinating,” Dodge
said.

Buffalo County has become well-known among deer hunters for its
relatively high density of very large bucks. It draws hunters, many
of whom pay large fees for guides or access to certain land, from
across the nation and beyond.

That’s why Dodge said it was so notable that a normal, local
hunter harvested the biggest deer in recent memory.

“It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, let me tell you,” Dodge
said.

Dodge said he was uncertain whether Decker’s buck would be ruled
as typical or non-typical due to two “sticker” points.

He is clear about what Decker should do next.

“I told him to put the deer under lock and key,” Dodge said. “It
will be attracting a lot of interest.”

As for Decker, he appears to be maintaining his modesty.

“I’m not a better hunter after shooting this buck than I was
before,” he said. “I’m just a very lucky person.”

The scoring will play out in the next 60 days.

Record or not, another thing is likely to happen in coming days:
The buck will become known as the Decker buck.

Story reprinted with permission of the Milwaukee
Journal-Sentinel.

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