Where Have All The Bucks Gone

The Hunting and Outdoors Shows season is upon us and a lot of these shows have their main attraction being a big buck contest.  I am an official measurer for Boone & Crockett and I am at a lot of these shows measuring these deer with many other measurers from B&C, P&Y and other organizations.  Up to about 5 years ago, these shows were bringing in tons of big bucks to be measured and entered in contest.  I primarily only work the Illinois shows and contest and our Deer & Turkey Classic 5 years ago had 600-700 deer checked in (don’t know official numbers).  The years before that all showed similar numbers.  But after that, the numbers has gone down every year.  Last year at the Illinois Deer & Turkey we might have had 200 deer.  That’s a big maybe.  Event organizers are scratching their head in wonder as to what’s going on.  I don’t think number of deer is going down, so what’s left?

In my opinion, there are a couple reasons I can think of.  The first is the all time excuse for everything.   It’s the economy I guess.  Maybe it’s that not as many are getting their deer mounted because they can’t afford it.  That’s totally understandable.  Although I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for and a quality mount is worth paying the extra money for.  I have obviously put my hands on MANY deer mounts and there are always ones where the hunter got ripped off.  But the point is, people can’t afford these quality mounts or any mounts these days.  I haven’t really talked to many taxidermist lately and asked if they have noticed a drop in work over the last few years.  But I know a lot of people are passing on getting deer mounted because of funds.

The other reason in my opinion is the main reason.  Hunters these days are scared.  It’s not what your thinking.  I am talking about the hunters are scared about someone with deep pockets finding out about the Booner they shot and where the property is.  It’s all to common these days and happens a lot.  I had it happen to me with some property I was hunting.  I shared this property with the landowner.  The landowner shot a real nice buck and posted pictures all over online.  It was a week later I found out that the landowner was contacted by a leasing agent and they worked out a deal to lease the farm out to a group of hunters from another state.  The out of state hunters only wanted the farm during the prime two weeks of rut.  During that time the farm was off limits to any other hunters.  That was several years ago and I haven’t been back to that farm since.  But it taught me a valuable lesson.  I don’t tell anyone where I hunt because of that and I rarely with post pictures of anything I kill.  I will on occasion, but it won’t have my face in it.

Do others think the same way as I do?  I have no idea.  I don’t know if the reason people won’t show off their deer is because of money or they don’t want to publicize their big buck.  I just know that their are still many many big bucks getting harvested every year but the numbers to these big show are going down.  Also its not just the big shows.  All the smaller local shows and contests are having the same problems also.  Is it the show, or is it hunter.

Our Deer & Turkey Classic is the first weekend in Feb.  Will have plenty of pics of some big bucks.


  • Todd Davis January 21, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    I can’t speak for entire US, but in the Dallas/Ft worth area the Texas Trophy Hunters Extravaganza is packed. They also will officially measure a trophy for you. I have noticed though, that many of my fellow hunters are not getting trophy deer mounted. More often than not they choose the European mount. You were right on with the economy, taxidermy is expensive. In Texas you have the cost of the lease, fuel, some place to sleep, food, and processing expenses to budget into your hunt. So taxidermy is often a luxury. I would like to see local chapters of larger hunting organizations more involved in getting their message out. You don’t often hear of events until it’s too late or don’t hear of them at all. Local involvement in hunting organizations will only strengthen our sport.

  • Justin Lane February 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm

    I agree with what you said combined with what Todd said below. There are some pretty awesome Euro-mounts on the market today and when/if the hunter gets the funds, they can have a mounted later. Speaking of losing property, I think that is the fastest growing problem your going to see. Here in MO I’m hearing it more and more. combined with the increase in poachers and or trespassers as well…

    On a side note, could you do a blog about what makes a good vs bad mount and or how to chose a taxidermist. If you already have, could you point me in the right direction?

  • Kenneth March 7, 2016 at 12:58 am

    I believe all things considered it’s a little of all. 20 years ago you could easily find property to hunt. Knock doors, take care of the land owners property. And give em a little bit of the harvest if desired. Now days I can not afford to hunt in my county. As the deer herds continue to grow and our trophy class deer begin to surface the deep pockets from the 2 hour city of Dallas and surrounding cities are making they’re way up and paying premium price to lease the local lands. This has driven me to have to travel over an hour away on a piece of property belonging to friends in SE Oklahoma! These leasers are not spending the time in the woods that needs to be spent to evaluate and care to the deer and they’re habitat to harvest as many mature bucks as should be, instead they take the farmer or ranchers word of where these large racked deer are being spotted. No measure (for the most part) is being made to select mature aged deer just large horns! Where will this lead us in the years to come? With lack of management my son or grandkids may once again see the time where you can knock and hunt but where will our deer heard be by that point. I do agree that European mounting is the new fad but I don’t see how this could possibly discourage anyone from bringing a booner or P/Y buck to a place to show it off and have it professionally measured I believe a lot is deep pockets jumping on the properties.

  • Jordan August 24, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    #1 reason why I stopped posting pictures of trail camera pics and deer I shoot – OUT OF STATE HUNTERS AND LEASERS. I’ve had my hunting grounds taken from me 2 different times now and definitely don’t want it to happen again. As a matter of fact, the land that butts up to mine just got leased out to an outfit for out of state hunters this last year. Not looking forward to dealing with those guys walking all over gods country without care of who they step on. These outfitters and leasers are ruining hunting here in KS for us who are not able to afford our own personal property.

    The worst part is the majority of these out of state hunters have no idea what a mature deer is. I spend countless hours out scouting, walking, etc.. the property I hunt on to find the right set-up for my stands. These guys have no idea, they walk into a place and shoot the first 135’ish deer that walks by them as that’s a “big deer” where they come from……even though it’s just a 2 yr old deer who would be a great deer given 3 or 4 more years at least. That’s the worst part is I have pictures of deer I have passed up for the last 2 or 3 years now to let them grow…..all for what, so the out of state hunters can now harvest them? They are ruining this sport for a lot of people in my opinion. I personally cringe every time I see an out of state tag driving around in the country during deer season.

    • Matt Staser August 24, 2016 at 2:09 pm

      I have had the same experiences here in IL. I’ve lost too many places that I thought I had for life to big money. Good luck with your new neighbors. Best you can do is try and get to know them and try to get them on the same page as you.


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