Originally published March 4, 2013.
The deer harvest in Indiana during the 2012 hunting season hit record levels.
That didn't hold true in Huntington County, where the deer harvest continued a three-year slide.
Huntington County, however, can boast of a near-record - a buck taken Nov. 17 in Huntington County by hunter Tim Beck.
The Boone and Crockett Club, a Montana-based hunter-conservationist organization that documents big game records, says that Beck's buck is the fourth largest non-typical whitetail ever seen and the second largest hunter taken non-typical whitetail ever submitted to the organization.
On the Boone and Crockett scale, the Huntington County buck is fewer than two points behind the record holder for non-typical hunter taken whitetail, which was harvested in Iowa in 2003.
It's apparently also the new record-holder for Indiana, surpassing a whitetail harvested in Switzerland County in 1977 which scored a 254-1/8.
The animals are scored on the basis of antler measurements, explains Justin Spring, assistant director of big game records at the Boone and Crockett Club.
Records for whitetail are divided into typical and non-typical antlers. In scoring a typical whitetail, the total score is lowered for points coming off the antler at abnormal angles or locations. For a non-typical whitetail, such abnormal points result in a higher score.
Beck's whitetail scored 305 7/8 on the Boone and Crockett scale, just behind the Iowa record of 307-5/8.
Beck took the buck by shotgun on Nov. 17, 2012, on private property in Huntington County.
Spring says a hunter who takes a possible record-setter must wait 60 days, then have the animal scored by an official Boone and Crockett measurer. The score chart and photos are sent to the organization's office in Missoula, MT, for examination. With that step completed, Spring says, Beck's buck is just one step away from the final verification.
"It must be verified by a judges' panel," Spring says.
That won't happen until 2016, but in the meantime the animal will be acknowledged as the number two hunter taken non-typical whitetail.
"It will have an accepted entry score of 305-7/8," Spring says.
An average corn-fed whitetail could have a Boone and Crockett score of around 115.
While the Huntington County buck is the second largest among hunter harvested animals, Spring says, it's the fourth largest of all animals on record.
"The top two were found heads," he explains.
The Boone and Crockett Club offers nothing more than recognition to the record holders, Spring says. The reason for keeping records is to monitor the management of big game.
"It's a tool to gauge conservation success," he says.
And the records are showing that whitetail management in Indiana is on the right track.
"Indiana, in the last few years, has been coming on strong," he says.
Over the last 10 years, top states for non-typical whitetails have been, in order, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas and, in seventh place, Indiana.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources recently announced that Hoosier hunters harvested a record 136,248 deer during the 2012 season, up 6 percent from the 2011 season and topping the previous record of 134,004 deer set in 2010.
In Huntington County, the 2012 deer harvest of 1,089 was down 6 percent from the previous year's take of 1,155.
"I don't know if that's significant or not," says Jeff Reed, property manager at Roush Lake in Huntington County, a popular spot for hunters. "It's not drastic."
Huntington County hunters' best year over the past five yeas was in 2009, when they harvested 1,232 deer.
Mitch Marcus, wildlife chief for the DNR's Division of Fish & Wildlife, said in a news release that the state increase can be attributed to new equipment regulations and extra hunting dates.
The total Indiana harvest for 2012 was made up of 45,936 antlered deer and 90,312 antlerless deer. The proportion of antlered deer, 34 percent, is the lowest in Indiana's history.
"Despite the record harvest, trends within the harvest data showed that deer numbers were down this year," Marcus said. "The number of antlered deer in the harvest was at its lowest point since 2000, an indicator of a reduced deer herd."
Chad Stewart, DNR deer management biologist, said in the news release that the antlered deer harvest tracks the total population about as well as anything because there are fewer variables to consider.
"Year-to-year hunter efforts don't change much, so people aren't all of a sudden taking three bucks or eight bucks; they're locked into one buck," he said, noting the one-buck limit in Indiana. "If there are fewer bucks to kill with the same amount of hunter effort, not as many bucks get killed, which tells us the overall population is down."
An outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a viral disease transmitted by biting flies affected deer in nearly 60 counties, including Huntington County, and Marcus said that might be part of the reason for the population decline.
Reed says that EHD has had a minimal impact on deer in Huntington County.