Official state recognition of bowhunter Jody Dalton’s record-breaking buck took a far different form than those of the past.
In past years, potential state records were measured by a single Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young Club scorer, usually a Division of Natural Resources biologist. When a set of antlers broke an existing record, the DNR usually heralded the new record by issuing a news release.
For Dalton’s buck, the DNR turned the scoring session into a media event.
A team of three agency biologists handled the scoring. DNR director Steve McDaniel presided over the event, held Wednesday afternoon at the agency’s South Charleston headquarters. A videographer and a still photographer recorded the scoring.
A small audience, composed mainly of Dalton’s friends and relatives, watched from tables spaced so as to provide proper social distancing. Everyone in the room wore face masks.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” said Dalton, who occupied the table directly in from of the scoring area. “All this over a deer. That’s crazy, isn’t it?”
The scoring itself took about 45 minutes. Todd Dowdy, the DNR’s District 4 wildlife biologist, served as the lead scorer. Fellow biologist Eric Richmond assisted, and assistant wildlife chief Gary Foster recorded each measurement on an official Pope and Young Club scoring form, then entered the measurements into a laptop computer.
One by one, Dowdy and Richmond went through the prescribed list of measurements, confirming with each other exactly how the measurements were to be made. They made some measurements with a carpenter’s folding ruler, some with a flexible steel tape measure, and some with an unmarked steel cable that they then measured against the ruler.
Throughout the process, they used small bits of masking tape to mark starting points so their measurements remained consistent.
They measured the rack’s tip-to-tip spread, its greatest spread, its inside spread, the length of the main beams, the length of each antler tine, and the main beams’ circumference between each tine.
As they called off the numbers, one thing became clear — the buck’s antlers were remarkably symmetrical. Apart from one small “sticker point” that jutted out 1 1/8 inches from the left antler’s pedicle, the side-to-side differences were quite small.
“You can look at an awful lot of racks and never see one as symmetrical as this one is,” Foster said. “Symmetry like this is really, really rare.”
The rack had 13 scorable points, seven on the left side (the little “sticker” included) and six on the right. Essentially it was a near-perfect 12-pointer, plus one almost insignificant non-typical point.
Both of the main beams measured more than 26 inches in length. Overall, the rack had a greatest spread (outside-to-outside at the widest point) of 20 3/8 inches, and an inside spread of 18 3/8 inches.
After all the measurements were completed, Dowdy and Richmond checked their carefully recorded figures against the numbers Foster entered in the computer. When that final step was complete, Dowdy announced the results:
“The rack had a gross score of 195 0/8 with 3 6/8 inches of deductions,” he said. “Its final net score is 191 2/8.”
That total eclipsed the previous record, set by a McDowell County buck taken in Chad Scyphers in 2014, by 2 3/8 inches.
After consulting a list of top Pope and Young Club trophies, McDaniel announced that Dalton’s buck ranks 25th all time for typical-antlered deer taken in North America.
Dowdy, who also “green-scored” Dalton’s buck soon after the hunter killed it on Nov. 5, said the rack lost exactly 1 inch during the required 60-day drying period for trophy antlers.
Dalton’s record received immediate recognition from Gov. Jim Justice, who announced it to the state via video link a few minutes after the scoring session concluded.
Dalton, a businessman from Princeton, said he plans to take the antlers to a taxidermist and have a shoulder or pedestal mount made. “I have quite a few [trophies] on the wall already,” he said. “This one will be special.”