Bay State Big Buck Bonanza!

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If you live outside of New England, you probably think that Massachusetts is more likely to produce a presidential candidate than a Boone & Crockett buck, right? Well, guess what? In the last three years the Bay State has produced exactly one candidate for President (and that did not work out so well), but it produced at least eleven bucks that would qualify for the B&C Awards (net score of 160" typical or 185" non-typical). According to the Northeast Big Buck Club - the regions' whitetail record keeping and scoring organization - they have recorded eight typicals that net above 160" and three non-typicals that net above 185" in the last three years! In 2002 Whitey Sovinski shocked us all when he downed a massive 10-Point in central Massachusetts that gross scored 204 1/8" and netted 193 3/8". Whitey's buck was one of the largest typicals killed in all of the US and Canada that year! That same year, Pete Kiendzior downed a massive multi-drop-tined non-typical with a gross score of 203 2/8" and a B&C net of 192 2/8". These two deer brought a lot of attention to the state's impressive trophy potential, but many people dismissed the giant bucks as some sort of strange unexplained occurrence - kind of like sun spots or UFO sightings! The truth is that three other bucks were killed in the state that year that would qualify for B&C! In 2003 two more qualified for B&C, and now in 2004 we have five more bucks that make B&C minimums (pending entry and acceptance by Boone & Crockett). Hmmm, so much for the sun spot theory...

Here is the list of bucks from the past three years whose net score would qualify for entry to the B&C records (160 or better typical and 185 or better non-typical) according to the Northeast Big Buck Club:

Typicals that net over 160" in last three years:
Gross Score Net Score Method Scorable Pts Year Hunter
204 1/8 193 3/8 Shotgun 10-Point 2002 Whitey Sovinski
185 5/8 176 2/8 Found Dead 10-Point 2003 Dean Romig
176 5/8 174 0/8 Shotgun 10-Point 2004 Neil Bixby
176 4/8 163 6/8 Muzzleloader 11-Point 2003 Ken Carpenter
176 0/8 164 4/8 Archery 10-Point 2004 Mark Thomas
169 4/8 162 5/8 Shotgun 11-Point 2002 Steven Boyd
168 7/8 162 1/8 Archery 9-Point 2004 Jay Wilson
165 4/8 162 7/8 Shotgun 8-Point 2002 Bob Eden

Non-Typicals that net over 185" in last three years:
Gross Score Net Score Method Scorable Pts Year Hunter
210 5/8 201 0/8 Found Dead 16-Point 2004 Jeff Draper
203 2/8 192 2/8 Shotgun 14-Point 2002 Pete Kiendzior
192 5/8 189 2/8 Shotgun 13-Point 2004 Robert Heyes

As you can see from these lists this trend continued in 2004, and the new state record archery buck arrowed by Norfolk county hunter Mark Thomas is proof-positive that Massachusetts trophy buck potential is growing stronger every year, particularly for archers! This great buck arrowed by Thomas is one of many impressive bucks arrowed during the states' archery season in October and November. But don't think for a moment that archers took all the big bucks in 2004. In fact, a gun hunter took the largest gross scoring buck, and a very busy highway near Boston gave us a new state record non-typical (well, sort of…). Read on to hear more about these new state records and the many other great bucks taken during the 2004 season.

Let's take an in-depth look at the best bucks that fell in this state in 2004.

Bob Martunas - Typical 11-point

Massachusetts' Best of 2004
It is important to note that at the time this article was written (March 2005) some great bucks from the 2004 season had yet to be officially scored. So what follows is not the final tally of the best bucks of the year, but it certainly gives us a reasonable means of assessing the 2004 archery, firearms and muzzleloader seasons. The results were very impressive, with many outstanding trophies taken from every county in the state. According to the NBBC, the gross B&C scores for the biggest bucks from Massachusetts during the 2004 season were:

1. 210 5/8 Found Dead Non-Typical 16-Point Norfolk Jeff Draper (*state non-typical record)
2. 192 5/8 Shotgun Non-Typical 13-Point Worcester Robert Heyes
3. 176 5/8 Shotgun Typical 10-Point Berkshire Neil Bixby
4. 176 0/8 Archery Typical 10-Point Norfolk Mark Thomas (*state archery typical record)
5. 176 0/8 Archery Typical 11-Point Worcester Bob Martunas
6. 168 7/8 Archery Typical 9-Point Hampden Jay Wilson
7. 166 3/8 Archery Typical 10-Point Worcester Brian Cozzolino
8. 166 0/8 Shotgun Typical 10-Point Middlesex Bob Noviello
9. 165 4/8 Shotgun Typical 9-Point Hampden Richard Squires
10. 165 1/8 Muzzleloader Typical 9-Point Middlesex Wayne Tuttle

As you can see from these scores, the largest gross scoring buck was found dead, and the largest gross scoring buck taken by a hunter was taken during the shotgun season. Yet this states' archery hunters dominated the headlines in 2004 with good bucks coming from all parts of the state, recording an unprecedented number of 160-class or better bucks, and a brand new typical archery state record! And while no B&C caliber bucks were taken by muzzleloader hunters, the blackpowder season did produce two bucks that grossed over 160"! This state is demonstrating that great bucks are produced from the coast all the way through the Berkshires, and that every county in the state is equally capable of producing the next "big buck." Here is a roundup of the four biggest bucks from Massachusetts in 2004!

BEST BUCK of 2004: The 210 5/8" Route 128 Buck - If you know the state of Massachusetts at all, you know that the busiest highway in Boston is Route 128. In fact, this is one of the busiest and most gridlocked roads in the US. It is hard to imagine that any deer could inhabit the tiny slivers of cover that run along the median and next to the highway in this densely populated urban area, never mind a monster deer like the one struck by a car last October! Norfolk county deer hunter Jeff Draper loves the woods. But like most of us, he spends a good deal of his time making a living (not hunting!). And in Massachusetts that means traveling some of the most congested highways in the US. Jeff was traveling Route 128 last fall - a multi-lane roadway near Boston - when he noticed what he thought might be a decent buck dead in the median area. Given the heavy traffic, he could not get over to the median, nor could he stop. But that didn't prevent him from coming back later, and to his surprise the deer was still there. And it wasn't a big buck - it was a HUGE buck! And the monarch still had a piece of plastic car grill stuck to his antlers, no doubt from the collision that abruptly ended its life. Jeff contacted the authorities and legally tagged the giant. His incredible "find" was scored after the 60 day drying period by NBBC and B&C measurer Lonnie Desmarais, and the results produced a new state record non-typical! The 16-Pointer scored 210 5/8" gross and 201" net B&C, making this the largest gross scoring non-typical from the state, exceeding Dan Feeney's 208 4/8" 20-Point found dead (attached to a lobster pot) on Martha's Vineyard. How's that for irony - both of the state's largest non-typicals were killed in an area and in a manner that no one ever could have guessed! Draper's "Rt. 128 Buck" had a 20 5/8" inside spread, incredible main beams of 28" and 31 6/8", and fantastic bases of 5 2/8" and 5 3/8". The 12-point typical rack grossed 194 4/8", with an additional 16 1/8" of abnormal growth from 4 non-typical points. This phenomenal buck is positive proof that the Bay State harbors some unbelievable bucks, and they can be found everywhere throughout the state, even in the most congested urban areas!

The 192 5/8" Heyes Buck - Gun hunters took their share of bucks in 2004 that made the NBBC records, including the largest gross-scoring buck taken by a hunter for that season! Young Robert Heyes of Worcester county downed a phenomenal non-typical during the first week of the state's shotgun season in the central part of the state. His magnificent non-typical scored 192 5/8" gross and 189 2/8" net Boone & Crockett, qualifying this buck for B&C Awards (pending acceptance). According to the NBBC the Heyes buck is the 5th largest gross-scoring non-typical all-time to be taken by a hunter in this state. And the rack is absolutely amazing, sporting 13 scorable points, a 20 5/8" inside spread, and main beams both in excess of 25". The G-2's are forked on both sides, with tines that reach 12", and the bases are 4 7/8" and 5", carrying very good mass throughout the rack. Heyes' buck is the largest non-typical killed by a hunter in this state since Pete Kiendzior's 203 2/8" monster 14-Point from Berkshire county in 2002. There were many other great bucks taken in 2004 by gun hunters throughout the state, including the next buck on our list!

Robert Heyes - Non-typical 13-point

The 176 5/8" Bixby Buck - Neil Bixby downed a B&C typical in the western part of the state that gross scored 176 5/8" gross and 174 0/8" net as a 10-Point. Bixby's buck was taken on the first day of the gun season (11/29/04) in Hampden county. The clean 10-Point had many outstanding features, most notably the brow tines of 9 3/8" and 8 3/8". The main beams were 25 6/8" and 26", and the G-2's were both over 13"! The mass measurements averaged 4 4/8". Bixby's buck is ranked xx All-Time in this state for typicals killed with a shotgun. In 2004 it was one of five gun bucks to gross above 160", including Bob Noviello's 166" 10-Point in Middlesex county, Richard Squires 165 4/8" 9-Point in Hampden county, Robert Nowak's 164 6/8" 9-Point in Franklin county, and Clay Duda's 162" 10-Point from Hampshire county. The gun hunters in this state continue to put up impressive numbers, and are still responsible for producing the majority of the 130-class to 150-class bucks each season.

The 176" Thomas Buck - To say that the Bay State had a great archery season in 2004 would be a colossal understatement! Massachusetts' archers arrowed at least five bucks that scored 165" gross B&C or better during the 2004 season. Prior to this year, they had recorded only four 165" or better archery bucks All-time in that category! Wow! In total we saw ten archery bucks in 2004 that grossed 160" or better, and of course we set a new state record for archery typicals. All of this after setting a new state record for archery non-typicals in 2003. Need any more proof that archers are shooting more big bucks than ever in the Bay State? And the surprising news here is that the bucks are literally coming from every part of the state - from the suburbs of Boston, to the Berkshire mountains in the west, and even on the Cape and Islands, archers are taking monster bucks. The best of the season is the new state record archery typical - a phenomenal 10-Point arrowed in Norfolk county by Mark Thomas. This massive typical scored 176" gross and 164 4/8" net B&C. It replaces the 173 2/8" Paul Reusch buck from Plymouth county in 2000. Thomas's buck is extremely wide at 24 4/8" inside spread, and has main beams of 25 5/8" each. The tine length is outstanding, with three tines in excess of 10 ½". The mass is very impressive with bases in excess of 5" and no circumference measurement under 4 1/2". The rack does take a beating on the net score, with 7 2/8" of asymmetry deductions and a 4 2/8" sticker point off the right G-2. There were many other incredible archery bucks taken during the Bay State's 2004 season, but we won't hear quite as much about them because of the new state record. In any other year we would all be talking about the 169 3/8" Bob Martunas 11-Point from Worcester county. This great buck is ranked #3 for all archery typicals from this state. With an inside spread of 19", main beams of 26 3/8" and 28 2/8", and a dressed weight over 200 lbs, this buck was born to make your knees knock! And right behind this buck is the new #4, an incredible 9-Point taken in Hampden county by Jay Wilson. This 168 7/8" monster is a beauty to behold, with a 21 2/8" inside spread and main beams of 28 4/8" and 29"! This buck also dressed over 200 lbs. and net's above 160"! Not impressed yet with this state's archery potential? Well, how about this amazing 166 3/8" 10-Point taken in Worcester county by Brian Cozzolino? Or Joe Shepard's 165" 10-Point from Middlesex county? And it wasn't just big-racked monsters - there were 160-class archery bucks taken with dressed weights of 237 and 245 lbs. in central Mass this year as well. So the bodies and racks appear to be getting bigger and bigger each year. Makes you want to grab your bow and get out there, doesn't it?

Mark Thomas - Typical 10-point

Positive Trophy Trends, and the Outlook for 2005
Massachusetts is not the only southern New England state producing big bucks. According to the NBBC, along with the neighboring states of Connecticut and Rhode Island, southern New England has produced more than 80 bucks that score between 160-210" gross B&C in the last three years! But Massachusetts is beginning to stand out from the pack both in terms of the quantity of B&C caliber bucks, and their consistent year-over-year ability to produce them. Recent trends indicate that each season is producing new state records and more quality trophy bucks across all counties. So why is this happening?

While there is no single cause for the uptick in this state's trophy quality over the past decade, we can assume that this trophy trend is due to many factors, including:

  • the outstanding game management program by the MA Division of Fish & Wildlife
  • the increase in bag limits and liberalizing of doe permits, allowing more young bucks to survive each season
  • the success archers are having with extended (early) seasons and muzzleloader hunters with extended late seasons
  • the significant percentage of 3 ½ year old (or better) bucks that make up the states' herd

Additionally, Massachusetts hunters have the opportunity to fill tags in neighboring states, such as Connecticut and New York, where doe populations are plentiful. This too can translate to more "patience at home" as hunters pass up "freezer meat bucks" in hopes of getting a crack at a real monster. And we certainly can't overlook that the active presence of the Northeast Big Buck Club has also insured that the biggest bucks harvested each year will get some attention! Just knowing that so many big bucks are harvested each year can also provide hunters with a sense of confidence that the big ones are out there, and are worth waiting for.

Given these positive trends I have every reason to believe that the 2005 season will be even better than the one experienced in 2004. And while the Bay State is not likely to be confused with Illinois (for our politics or for our trophy bucks) you can bet that by the time the 2008 presidential election rolls around, we still won't produce a winning presidential candidate, but we will have entered many more bucks into the B&C record books!

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