1. White-tailed Deer---Montana
The whitetail is easily the most recognized big game animal in North America. But
it wasn’t always so. In 1900 there were only 500,000 deer in the country, but once
game laws and hunting licenses were established, using hunter dollars to manage them
brought numbers to over 30 million today. The whitetail is very adaptable and this
is reflected in its feeding habits, browsing and grazing on many kinds of twigs,
grasses, shrubs, fungi, nuts, and leaves. In many areas whitetail numbers have increased
to the point where hunters have difficulty keeping them in check. They are also now
commonly found in towns and cities where they spread Lyme disease, cause auto collisions,
and eat gardens and shrubs, leading to much public outcry. Hunting deer in West Virginia
is a huge job creator and brings over $230 million a year into the state’s economy.
This was my first Pope and Young record buck, an 8-year-old that weighed almost 300
pounds. . He was taken in eastern Montana in 1996. Before the shot I watched him
fight a younger, bigger-antlered buck, and he lost that fight and then offered me
a shot. Even though he was big-bodied, I couldn’t understand why he would challenge
a much bigger buck until I checked his teeth and found out that he was an old buck.
Apparently he was a dominant buck in that area for several years and probably had
much bigger antlers in previous years. Antler-wise, he was going downhill. Mature
bucks reach their peak in antler size when they are five years old. Even with the
smaller antlers, this buck apparently believed he was still the king of the hill.