I don’t quite understand why we’ve become so competitive. Competition in sports is good, of course, and I enjoy a good baseball or football game as well as the next guy. But today it seems there’s a competition for just about everything. I love to cook, but do I need to watch a television show that pits one chef against the next in what they call the Iron Chef competition? I think not, but there are obviously a lot of people who don’t agree with me since the show is on every week. There are even eating contests where the contestants try to eat (pick one) as much pie, hotdogs, pizza, cake, spaghetti or whatever in the shortest time possible. This may be fun for some but not for me. I only wonder how these people can keep down all that food without heaving.
Every fall and throughout the year, contests are held by sporting goods stores or sportsmen's clubs for the biggest buck, biggest turkey, biggest bass, biggest walleye, biggest coyote, most crows and so on. The contests are popular, fun and rewarding for those who win. They are entered and won by the average guy who plays by the rules and, through hard work or dumb luck, brings in the biggest critter. These contests all offer cash or merchandise as prizes, not to mention bragging rights – and therein lies the problem. It seems some people will do anything to win one of these contests, including hunting or fishing outside a designated contest area, clandestinely stashing additional weight into the fish or carcass, or even poaching a deer out of season.
In an anecdote appearing is this publication a short while ago noted the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries accused a 54-year-old man of shooting a deer with an illegal weapon and then entering it in four different big buck contests. Apparently, contest fraud is taken seriously in Louisiana because a spokesman for the department said the man now faces a penalty of a year in jail, a $3,000 fine and an additional $2,033 for the value of the deer.
Last month, during the Kansas Mossy Oak Monster Buck Classic held in Topeka, wildlife authorities got suspicious of one of the entrants for the Big Buck Contest, a giant 14-point buck that threatened the state record which has stood for more than 35 years.
The event is intended to promote the sport of hunting and to showcase the latest gear and gadgets specifically designed for the deer hunting enthusiast. One of the largest attractions is the display of antlers, where the hunter who takes the state’s biggest buck can earn not just notoriety, but prizes as well.
The hunter bringing in the huge set of antlers claimed he shot the buck while hunting public ground in the northeast part of the state. However, Kansas wildlife officials already had trail camera photos of this buck and quickly determined the buck lived in a county many miles from where the hunter claimed to have shot it.
Following an investigation, the hunter was charged on Feb. 1 with eight separate counts relating to the Nov. 11 shooting of the deer. The charges include hunting with an artificial light, hunting during a closed season, illegal hunting from a vehicle and the use of an illegal rifle caliber for deer hunting. If the charges stand, this would be the third time since 1974 that the Kansas state record typical whitetail has been threatened, with all three of those bucks taken illegally. The current Kansas state record typical whitetail scores 198 2/8 inches, taken in 1974. The deer brought into the contest measured 198 7/8 inches.
Kansas hunters are understandably outraged and are calling for much harsher penalties for poaching. Pennsylvania has already done that, and perhaps New York needs to do the same. A friend of mine turned in a poacher who shot a buck with a rifle during the Southern Zone archery season, and the shooter was subsequently apprehended and fined. The irony was the arresting DEC officer told my friend the fine would have been stiffer if the poacher shot a doe. It seems New York’s law was written decades ago when there were far fewer deer than there are today and does were considered more important for herd expansion. Yes, contests can be fun if everyone plays by the rules, but for me, it’s still no contest.