By Pete Chiodo
Firearms deer season got off to a less than upbeat start for John Scarborough even before he stepped into the woods Monday morning.
Sunday, when he went to put up his tree stand, he found that somebody else had already put up a stand at the site he had scouted and plotted out. On day one, he had no choice but to move on to “plan B.”
Scarborough didn’t know it at the time, but it was a setback with a silver lining.
Around 9:30 a.m. Monday, Scarborough spotted a massive buck about 10 yards away. “He saw me first,” the 29-year-old said. He fired. A miss. He fired again. The deer kept running. The third shot rang out. Another miss! Then, with the buck at about 150 yards running at full speed, Scarborough took what he knew would be his last shot. He squeezed the trigger of his late grandfather’s nearly 100-year-old .300 Savage, nearly beyond hope that the bullet would find its mark. He’s still surprised it was a hit.
Even more surprising was learning that this 12-point buck with a 23-inch spread may set a new record for a typical whitetail deer harvested in Crawford County and should measure in at about the 40th largest trophy buck taken in Pennsylvania, according to state Game Commission records.
The Game Commission uses the Boone and Crockett Club measuring system for trophy bucks. The largest buck taken in Crawford County had a Boone and Crockett score of 166.5, making it the 49th largest buck in Pennsylvania. The unofficial Boone and Crockett score on Scarborough’s buck is 168.5. The number is unofficial because the official score can be tallied by an official Boone and Crockett judge only after the antlers have dried for 60 days. The antlers can shrink some over the 60 days, so Scarborough will have to wait to see if he becomes the new king of Crawford County buckhunters, unseating Charles Burlingame of Cooperstown, who took the current Crawford County record in 1946.
Dennis Crum of Saegertown, who was helping to score deer brought in to Meadville’s Safari Bar contest on Monday, remembers Scarborough’s entry very well. “I was thinking, I wish I was shooting that one myself. He said it was a ‘swamp buck’ from the Townville area. That thing was a real monster.”
Monday’s measuring session was a night to remember, Crum said. “It’s unbelievable how many big bucks we’ve been getting in recent years with this new point (rack) system in place. It took a couple of years, but it’s really paying off now. There were some real monsters brought in. His (Scarborough’s) was a 12-point. We also had a 14-point to measure,” noting it finished in the 150-point range, well below Scarborough’s 168.5.
Dennis Crum’s cousin, Joe Crum, also of Saegertown, was also helping to measure the Safari Bar entries.
“All kinds of people were coming up to him (Scarborough) and asking to take pictures of it. I was probably a minimum of 15 people who wanted to take pictures. Usually it’s just two or three, but there were a lot for this one,” Joe said.
Boone and Crockett’s 60-day waiting period was put in place to ensure like measurements are compared, said Boone and Crockett Club Assistant Director of Big Game Records Justin Spring. At 60 days, the moisture is pretty much evaporated from antlers, he explained. Some antlers shrink more than others, he explained, and other antlers can shrink more or less depending on when in the season the animal is harvested.
However, the antlers on a whitetail taken in Pennsylvania this time of year are not likely to shrink much — likely no more than in the range of eighths of an inch, Spring said.
Regardless of the outcome, Scarborough’s had the hunt of a lifetime, and he was careful to stress where the credit is due. “I give all the credit to God,” he said. “He directed me.”
In that case, the man upstairs was at Scarborough’s side for some time, for this hunter didn’t just luck into a potential recordbreaker. First of all, Scarborough’s been hunting for nearly 18 years. And he’s very familar with the area of the friend’s farm where he took the giant. He’d done preseason scouting and spotlighting and had hunted there during archery season. He knew there were some big bucks in the area. “I may have seen this one before,” he recalled. “I knew there were big ones, just not this big!”
Boone and Crockett Club measuring system for typical whitetail deer involved a series of careful measurements of a buck’s antlers, or rack, and can be done only by an official judge.
All measurements must be made with a 1/4-inch wide flexible steel tape to the nearest one-eighth of an inch. A flexible steel cable can be used to measure points and main beams only. Fractional figures are entered in eighths.
Some of the measurements, as listed at the club’s web site, are:
- Points, which must be at least one inch long, with the length exceeding width at one inch or more of length. The beam tip is counted as a point, but not measured as a point.
- Tip to tip spread
The tip to tip spread is measured between the tips of the main beams.
- Greatest spread
The greatest spread is measured between perpendiculars at a right angle to the center line of the skull at the widest part, whether across main beams or points.
- Inside spread of main beams
The inside spread of main beams is measured at a right angle to the center line of the skull at the widest point between main beams.
- Circumference at smallest place between burr and first point
- Circumference at smallest place each point.
- More information: Go to boone-crockett.org online.