The doors to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show had barely opened Thursday morning when a line began to form at the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club booth.
The attraction? Virginia deer.
Big budget dollars, to be precise. And the stories that go with it.
The WBBC had organized a veritable banquet of trophy stag mounts to the delight of the public.
Think of it as a wood-laden conversation starter.
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There was the Jordan Buck, a 10-pointer with beams as thick as baseball bat barrels. Despite being shot by a gun over a century ago, the 206-inch-net Burnett County deer is still the No. 2 typical whitetail deer in the world and tops in Wisconsin. .
Nearby was Badger State’s best archery, the typical 192 6/8″ 12-pointer taken in 2018 at Columbia County by Charles Bocook.
And for those who prefer more points, the atypical 29 points taken from the arc in 2009 in Fond du Lac County by Wayne Schumacher was only a few yards away. Its score of 243 6/8″ is the state’s No. 2 in its class.
Ken Fenney of Richfield was one of the first to visit the exhibit.
“It’s a way to get your attention, for sure,” Fenney said, nodding at the tall racks.
WBBC President Marlin Laidlaw welcomed Fenney to the booth and the first stag story of the day began.
This one had nothing to do with a dollar in the books, though. Rather, it was a huge deer shot in 2017 in southwestern Wisconsin by one of Fenney’s friends. It had never been marked as the hunter feared bringing more attention to the area.
Fenney showed Laidlaw a photo of the hunter and the male.
“Well, I’ve been hunting with a bow for 63 years and I’ve never seen anything so big on the hoof,” Laidlaw said. “It’s always a personal decision, but the hunter is probably curious to know what it would actually bring. I always say it’s time to do it while you’re alive, rather than letting your descendants do it after your departure.”
The WBBC is providing that opportunity at this year’s Sports Show. Deer hunters are encouraged to bring their ticket holders to the club booth and enter them in the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club Trophy deer competition sponsored by Buck Rub Archery.
Woods will be scored by WBBC members. No pre-registration is necessary but participants must purchase a ticket to attend the show and pay a $20 fee to enter the contest.
All entries must have been legally killed in Wisconsin by a licensed hunter. The competition will include divisions for deer caught by firearms, crossbow and archery as well as prizes for judges’ choice, best in show by a young hunter and best in show by a hunter. Winners will receive a plaque or trophy.
The deer heads will remain on display at the show and the winners will be announced on Sunday afternoon.
The WBBC is a volunteer-run organization founded in 1965 when state resident Peter Haupt noticed an unusually low number of Wisconsin white-tailed deer trophy entries in the national record books.
Haupt and most others knew this was not due to a lack of trophy-class animals, but rather the lack of an organized statewide measurement program.
He helped form WBBC that year to collect and maintain white-tailed deer and black bear records under the Boone and Crockett Club grading system.
In 1965, Wisconsin had only five deer listed in the Boone and Crockett Record Book.
Badger State now has 1,822 registered deer, most in the country, and six counties in Wisconsin are in the top 20 in the United States for most records produced, according to Boone and Crockett.
The WBBC travels to events such as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Sports Show to educate fighters about its services and provide scoring opportunities.
In addition to Laidlaw, East Troy’s Tom Senft, Franklin’s Gary Wegner and Eagle’s Gerry Wegner were present at the club’s stand on Thursday.
PJ Heritsch from New Berlin stopped by the exhibit after his grandchildren fished in the trout pond. The sight of the tall racks brought back memories of the biggest dollar he had ever seen in Wisconsin.
“About 20 years ago, near East Troy, I was pheasant hunting,” Heritsch said. “He came out of cover and ran like he owned the world. Of course I saw him when I wasn’t deer hunting!”
As with so many big bucks, where this one ended up remains a mystery. But these magnificent animals create indelible memories and live in history.
“We love hearing about them all,” Laidlaw said. “We know that even those brought to us are much more than a score.”
The sports spectacle runs through Sunday at State Fair Park in West Allis.