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Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
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Collector Takes Deer Antlers to Federal Court

MADISON, Wis. (CN) — A trophy collector who takes it seriously brought a federal complaint to try to make a national conservation club recognize his rack of deer antlers as a world record.

Jay K. Fish, of L'Anse, Mich., sued the Missoula, Mont.-based Boone and Crockett Club, which was founded in 1887 by Theodore Roosevelt and George Bird Grinnell.

The club "maintains the records of native North American big game as a vital conservation record in assessing the success of wildlife management programs," it says on its website. It began a book, Records of North American Big Game, in 1932, using a copyrighted measuring and scoring system.

Fish claims his antlers, the "King Buck," beats the defendant's world record for a whitetail deer rack, a buck killed by Milo Hanson in 1993 with a score of 213-5/8.

The King Buck was killed in 2006 in Wisconsin by John King and the club rated it as a "typical" rack at 218-4/8, "which would rank the King Buck as the highest-scoring typical white-tailed deer among all of the specimens ever recorded by Boone & Crockett," Fish says in his complaint.

But another club official reexamined the King Buck and decided it was a "non-typical" rack, meaning its tines were uneven and not the normal six on each side, lowering its score dramatically.

Fish bought the antlers from King in 2009 and had yet another club official, Ron Boucher, examine them. He says Boucher gave them a score of 213-6/8 for a typical rack, putting the King Buck back on top.

The club itself is the only defendant.

Fish says he sent the club notice of his King Buck score, but it refused to give it the record. Fish says the club did that by changing its measuring and scoring guidelines, "modifications which appear intended to justify Boone & Crockett's refusal to rank the King Buck as the new Boone & Crockett World's Record."

Undismayed, or still dismayed, Fish says he got a panel of club judges to reassess the King Buck in 2012, and they called it atypical, with a low score. Fish claims the fix had been put in, and that the club "permanently terminated two of its official measurers, each of which individually having over 25 years of measuring and scoring experience and one of which was Ron Boucher, as a consequence of their involvement with Mr. Fish."

In a 2012 statement still posted on the Boone & Crockett Club's website, the club says that Fish "began a campaign to dispute the score" of the rack after he bought it, "presumably as an investment."

It claims that Fish "shopped for a Boone and Crockett Club volunteer official measurer willing to perform an unauthorized rescoring of the rack. In doing so, Mr. Ron Boucher crossed a longstanding Club policy and Code of Conduct. Moreover, he rescored the rack incorrectly. ...

"Eventually, Boone and Crockett Club was forced to dismiss two individuals for violating the Club's policies and Code of Conduct. It was not the first time that strong action has been taken to protect the integrity of the Boone and Crockett Club's records program — and the trophy data used by so many professionals in science-based management of whitetails."

The clubs records committee chairman Eldon Buckner said in a statement: "There's a lot of process and due diligence, and through it all, it's important to remember the chief reason why we keep records in the first place. It's not to aggrandize hunters, rank individual animals or monetize trophies, but to document conservation success. I'm confident that our panel has upheld the historic integrity of our records."

Fish seeks money damages and wants to club ordered to give his antlers the record.

He is represented by Daniel Varline with Davczyk & Varline of Wausau, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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