Maine has long been famous for its “monster” whitetail bucks. Of course, the most fabled of these is the 1955 Horace Hinckley buck, a big-toed bruiser that field-dressed at a jaw-dropping 355 pounds! No other buck has since come close to this famous buck when it comes to sheer weight.
But weight is not the only yardstick that determines that a buck is worthy of special attention — antlers are what it is all about in making a buck famous in the deer hunting community. Antler judging is an art form in itself. Boone and Crockett has over the years established the criteria for scoring antlers. And in Maine, the Maine Antler Skull Trophy Club (MASTC) gets involved in scoring and maintaining the archives of record Maine bucks.
There are three basic categories on antler excellence: typical, non-typical and perfect. According to Kyle Wentworth at MASTC, deer antler categories work like this: Perfect – a rack that does not have any non-typical points. It can have an odd number of points (i.e., five points on the right and four points on the left) but cannot have any non-typical points; Typical – a rack that has one or more non-typical points but does not qualify for the non-typical category; Non-typical – a rack that includes one or more non-typical points.
The state record for non-typical is the Hill Gould buck taken in 1910 at Grand Lake Stream Maine by Mr. Gould, a Maine guide. This set of remarkable antlers scored 259 plus.
In the “perfect” category, a 17-pointer taken by Alphonso Chase in York County in 1920 still holds the record. Because this deer sported eight points on one side and nine points on the other, the scorers at Boone and Crockett held a special meeting to deliberate about the “admissibility” of Chase’s buck. It passed muster and scored 193 plus.
The largest typical was the so-called “potato pile” buck bagged in 1965 by Ronnie Cox in Aroostook County. The Cox buck was foraging on old potato peelings during a snowstorm. It reportedly remains the highest scoring typical buck in New England history! It scored 193 2/8.
Ironically, one of the state’s most well-known bucks and potential record breakers in the typical category did not meet B&C eligibility criteria because of a split skull. It was shot at Silver Ridge in 1949 by Fred Goodwin. It could not be scored for the record books, but professional scorers estimate that the Goodwin buck would have really moved the needle at 210 points.
Most deer hunters are dreamers by nature. For those who tramp the cedar bogs and sit for hours on cold stumps along the ridge lines, the fantasy repeats itself year after year: a thick-necked, big-antlered buck, with steam around his nostrils, appears like a mirage from the fir thicket.
If, like me, your dream did not become reality this fall, there is another fall to come. Rest assured that somewhere out there in the deer woods there is a buck with your name on it — perhaps a state record-breaker.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]