In the Stand With Duncan Dobie:
Big Buck Clubs Bullied King Buck Scorers
My father died when I was fairly young. One thing he told me that has always stayed with me throughout my lifetime was to be man enough to admit it when I was wrong. “Sometimes you are going to be wrong about things,” he said. “The mark of a real man is someone who can admit he’s wrong and move ahead.”
The recent firing by B&C of official measurers Ron Boucher of Vermont and Craig Cousins of Wisconsin and by Pope and Young of Herman Fellers of Wisconsin marks a new low with both records keeping organizations. It also demonstrates an incredible amount of arrogance and total disregard for loyal volunteers who have served these clubs so well over the years. Ron Boucher and Craig Cousins were long-time and well respected measurers with B&C. Both men spent decades representing the Club, and they devoted countless hours volunteering their time to measure animals for the record book.
Both men will tell you that being an official measurer was a lifelong passion and a labor of love. It’s something they lived for and something very large in their lives that they were proud to be a part of. Now they are gone. Just like that. The same is true with Herman Feller who was an official P&Y measurer. (Herman still serves as a respected measurer with the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club.)
What is Herman Feller guilty of? He was an outspoken supporter of the Johnny King buck. Mind you, the Johnny King buck was killed with a rifle, not a bow. So why would the Pope and Young Club terminate Herman Feller for advocating for the Johnny King buck? The answer is simple. Sleazy politics at its finest!
The message both B&C and Pope and Young are now sending out to all of their volunteer scorers is: “If you dare to disagree with the home office, your credentials will be terminated.”
Ron and Craig were the sacrificial lambs that prove just how dirty dirty politics can get. The fact that they had over 50 years of combined service to B&C mattered little. Now in the wake of one huge injustice – the mishandling of the Johnny King buck in the first place – three more injustices have been committed. (cont.)
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One year ago, when I wrote a story about the way in which the Johnny King buck was mishandled (Summer 2011 issue of Deer and Deer Hunting), the Boone and Crockett Club’s reaction seemed to be: if we don’t do anything maybe it’ll just go away. Later, when I talked to Eli Randall, chairman of the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club, about a piece I was writing for the D&DH website after the magazine story came out, he told me that very thing. Taking the “company stand” all the way, that is, the position that B&C directed him to take, he said: “We’ve decided not to do anything about this deer in Wisconsin. We just hope the whole thing will go away. It’s not that big a deal anyway because the deer only scores 180 (according to B&C’s ruling.)”
Here was the chairman of one of the nation’s once most respected state records keeping organizations arrogantly discounting one of North America’s greatest bucks of all time as if it were a piece of trash.
Well the controversy hasn’t gone away and it’s not going to. And thanks to the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club’s lack of backbone and initiative, the club has lost a tremendous amount of respect from deer hunters everywhere. In fact, if it wasn’t that big a deal to Eli Randall, why did he call all of his board members within minutes of talking to me on the phone and instruct them not to talk to me under any circumstances? And why did most of them follow his orders? When I called each member on the phone to ask them if they had any thoughts about the Johnny King buck, all but two answered, “No comment.”
The reason none of them would talk to me is because they all knew that they would be terminated from whichever scoring organization they represented: that is B&C, P&Y or WB&BC if they so much as said a word. I understand where these men were coming from. (Note: Some of them were not official B&C measurers at the time although they aspire to some day be certified by B&C or P&Y. They knew that if they talked to me that would never happen.) As with Ron Boucher, Craig Cousins and Herman Feller, their scoring credentials (or future scoring credentials) meant a lot to them. Being a measurer is a big part of their life and none of them wanted to be terminated or black-listed.
However, contrary to what Eli Randall told me on the phone, the Johnny King buck was then and is still today a very big deal! From the beginning, all anyone has asked of B&C and the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club was to give the deer a fair shake. That is, give the deer a reasonable hearing. The deer never got a fair shake, and B&C knows it. Everyone associated with the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club knows it. Dozens of official scorers around the country know it and have privately said so, but they certainly can’t voice their opinions openly because they know what will happen if they do.
So the message both scoring organizations seem to be sending now is: We don’t care if we’re wrong. We made a decision and we’re not changing it, come hell or high water. Don’t ever disagree with us, even if you’re right, because if you do, you’ll be sorry.
Well the high water mark has already arrived, and hell is not far behind. It’s pretty obvious by now that the Johnny King buck will never get a fair hearing by either B&C or the WB&B, but both clubs have paid a huge price for their tyranny. Among other things, they’ve lost an incredible amount of prestige and respect in the hunting community across North America. In their infinite arrogance, it’s quite obvious that they don’t care what the deer hunting community thinks. But a great amount of damage has been done.
I’ve been writing about record-book whitetails since the early 1980s, and I’ve always had the utmost respect for the Boone and Crockett Club. Among true conservation organizations that have been around for most of the 20th century, B&C has no equal. It has been a giant in conservation and in other areas as well, including records keeping. Teddy Roosevelt has always been one of my heroes. I’ve read a number of books about him, and I’ve even written several stories about him.
I have to wonder how he would feel about this situation if he were around today. If he were at the helm, I have to believe the situation with Johnny King would have been resolved. T.R. wouldn’t have run away from it, he would have faced it head on. T.R. was a tough negotiator, but he was also a problem solver. I believe the last thing he would have done in the wake of such an unfortunate scandal is fire two of his most accomplished official measurers for respectfully disagreeing with him or the Club. Instead, I think he would have listened to what they had to say.
Although I’m not an official scorer, I’ve scored many hundreds of whitetail racks over the years. I’ve also been instrumental in having many whitetails entered in the B&C and P&Y record books. That is, I strongly encouraged the hunters to have their trophies entered and in some cases, even walked them through the process. In several situations I actually paid the entry fees out of my pocket because the hunters couldn’t afford to. That’s how much I have believed in those two clubs over the years. I’ve always been proud of my association with them.
But I can’t say that I’m proud of what happened to Johnny King after he killed his deer, and what has recently happened to Ron Boucher, Craig Cousins and Herman Feller is inexcusable. It’s a black eye to both B&C and P&Y, and a black eye to the whitetail community in general. And there are hundreds if not thousands of hunters across North America who feel the same way I do. Most of us have gotten such a bad taste in our mouths that if we ever shoot a record-book animal you can rest assured it’ll never be entered in either of those two record books.
It would have been so simple for B&C to say: “Okay, we’ll take another look.” It would have been so simple for the B&C records committee to say: “In light of the strong evidence that has been presented to us in favour of the deer, we’ll encourage the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club to panel-score the deer in their state so that it goes through proper channels.”
But someone or several someones on the records committee decided a long time ago that the Johnny King buck would never be recognized for what it is. And that individual (or individuals) has never even seen the Johnny King buck in person. In fact, of the 25 or so individuals who serve on B&C’s records committee (who by the way are all official measurers), not a single one of them has seen or touched the Johnny King buck in person. How can a credible organization like B&C continue to insist that the rack of the Johnny King buck has two abnormal points when none of the committee members have even seen it? What’s more, none of them want to see it.
From the outside looking in, there are two primary layers to the B&C Club; the volunteer measurers who measure the trophies and the hunters who shoot the trophies. For many decades, the hunters who shoot the trophies have held the Club in high esteem. Few deer hunters I know do not aspire to shoot a whitetail that will “make the book.” It’s a dream that most whitetail hunters hold onto forever. Then there are the approximately 1,400 or so measurers who score the big game trophies. These men don’t get paid to do what they do. They are volunteers, and for many of them being an official scorer is a very big part of their lives as already mentioned.
Ironically, the last trophy measured by Ron Boucher before he was terminated as an official measurer was a historic moose killed by Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago. Ron has never been a trouble maker. But he is a man of principal. Believing that B&C’s ruling on the score of the Johnny King buck was inaccurate, he respectfully went through all of the various channels at the Club and simply asked for a hearing on behalf of the deer.
Then, after several members of the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club cancelled a scheduled panel session to possibly score the Johnny King buck in October 2010 because B&C got wind of the meeting and warned the various club members not to so much as look at the Johnny King buck, Ron stood tall and measured the deer himself. Like so many veteran measurers around the country, Ron believed then and he still believes today with all his heart that there is nothing in the B&C scorer’s manual to indicate that the Johnny King buck has any abnormal points. Herman Feller assisted Ron in scoring the deer. For the Pope and Young Club to release him over a matter that had nothing to do with an archery trophy is beyond belief.
After scoring the rack and tallying the numbers, Ron and Herman were stunned. They arrived at a typical score of 213 6/8 inches, 1/8 of an inch higher than Milo Hanson’s world record. Ron respectfully submitted his score chart to B&C with a long letter outlining in great detail all the reasons why he believed the rack was a typical 6×6 with no abnormal points. His official score sheet was promptly rejected. He talked to numerous people with the Club about his strong convictions but to no avail. And now, a year later, he is no longer an official measurer.
In March 2012, two officials from B&C attended the Wisconsin Deer Classic in Madison; Justin Spring, assistant director of big game records, and Richard Hale, a member of the big game records committee said to be in line to take over as chairman. By virtue of the fact that theses two representatives of B&C attended the show, those closely associated with the Johnny King buck including the trophy’s owner Jay Fish and official measurer Ron Boucher had high hopes that B&C might be inclined to re-evaluate the King buck.
Jay Fish brought the King buck to the show for them to examine in person. Ron Boucher traveled to the show from Vermont at his own expense to discuss the deer with the two B&C officials in person. Jay and Ron were shocked when they were told by the two B&C officials that they had no intention of even looking at the deer, much less discussing the issue about any abnormal points. One of them stated that he could not to be seen with the deer publicly. It was an open and shut case.
Everyone quickly realized that the two B&C officials did not attend the show to pursue any reasonable talks about the deer. They attended the show to affirm their decree that the rack was abnormal. It goes without saying that the Boone and Crockett Club didn’t make many friends at the show that weekend.
In closing, it’s interesting to note that since the Johnny King buck was originally measured as a 6×6 typical by official B&C scorer John Ramsey of Wisconsin in early 2007, three different reasons have been given by B&C as to why the Club thinks the G-3 tines are abnormal.
Johnny King was originally told by B&C that the right G-3 tine was growing out of the G-2 tine, thereby making it and its match both abnormal points. Later, after that ruling was questioned by numerous people, B&C changed its ruling and stated that the G-3 had a common base with the G-2 and that’s what made it abnormal. Of late, B&C has declared that the right G-3 tine is abnormal because it is growing to the inside of the top of the main beam, thereby making it abnormal.
This third argument is the weakest of all and almost laughable. Marlin Laidlaw, a long time measurer with the Wisconsin Buck and Bear Club, and staunch supporter of the Johnny King buck, laser measured all of the tines on the rack. In so doing, he found that every single tine grows off the top of the main at the same angle. That means that if the right G-3 is abnormal because of the way it grows off the main beam, as B&C insists, then so are the other nine upright tines on the rack. In other words, according to B&C’s latest ruling, an almost perfectly symmetrical, world-class 6×6 typical rack is actually almost 100 percent non-typical.
Maybe B&C should do away with all typical racks in the future and just have a single non-typical category in which every tine is abnormal. That would certainly be in keeping with all of the other poor decisions the Club has made over the past five years
Coming tomorrow at deeranddeerhunting.com, a high-ranking B&C official responds to tough questions on the King Buck.
— Duncan Dobie has been a full-time, free-lance writer and photographer since the early 1980s. He has long specialized in writing about white-tailed deer. Over the years, he has earned a reputation is being one of the nation’s top authorities on whitetails.
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