Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pope and Young School

 This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend the Pope and Young Measurers Seminar in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The Pope and Young club keeps and maintains bowhunting records of North American big game animals, amongst other education and conservation activities and programs.

Bill holding a Pope and Young Big Horn Sheep
 amongst an abundance of antlers.

First of all, when I say I was fortunate, it really was a great pleasure and privilege to attend.  Twenty four of us were invited, and we had attendees from as far west as Washington state and south as Florida.  North Carolina occupied four of the seats.  After going through the training and passing a comprehensive test, North Carolina will likely have 23 current Pope and Young measurers.
Ever since my grandfather brought home his first North American big game animal I showed tremendous interest in the different species not only in North America but from around the world.  Papa mounted that first animal in a full body mount.  A beautiful faux stone base held the majestic beast.  The Dall’s Ram, a solid white thin horned species of sheep, was taken in Alaska.  I remember not long after he brought the mount home, I was at his house and looked over every detail of the animal.  I studied the curvature and ridges in the horns, the color of the glass eyes, the flare of the nostrils, and the shape of the hooves.  One day I wanted to see how the fur looked in different patterns.  In other words, I took a hair brush and fluffed it up really good.  If Papa had not been successful in fixing the fur back to the way it was supposed to be, I likely would have been his second big game animal taken!

Several years ago I became an official measurer with the North Carolina Bowhunters Association.  Training was hands on, and started with the Dixie Deer Classic.  It gave me a chance to touch and see and study many deer, as well as other small game here in North Carolina.  Mack Moore, a fellow bowhunter, brought an abundance of skulls to me a couple of years ago to measure.  Included in his takes for that year was a North Carolina state record beaver.
By becoming a Pope and Young scorer, I knew it would afford me opportunities to see some of those strange beasts that you only see once in a while on television.  Muskoxen, big horn sheep, various species of caribou, and even the massive moose antler spread could be held in my hands for me to wander, dream of, and appreciate.  Going through the class granted me the chance.  We studied and measured all the North American big game species legal to bowhunting.  I remarked to one person I was paired with who was attending from Kentucky that one of my dream hunts was to take a muskox.  I have been fascinated with both the muskox and the bison since I was a child.  During one break, I located the largest specimen and made a mental note that I would have to measure it.
One of the two instructors was Glenn Hisey.  He wrote the manual on measuring caribou, and the consensus was caribou is probably the biggest pain to measure and get right the first time.  The caribou requires the most different types of measurements and no two are alike.  We spent an extensive amount of time studying whitetail, both typical and non-typical (one in which the antlers do not grow in a normal way).  Whitetail is by far the most popular big game animal in North America.  For instance, at the Dixie Deer Classic this past March, over 700 antlers were measured.
Once we got to the muskox though, I was anxious and excited.  That is until we were taught how to get the required measurements.  The big guy that I wanted to take on, well it was the one I got.  Let’s just say that muskox is not one of my dream hunts any more.  Not because of the difficulty of the hunt, because if I were to take one that had a chance at record book, that some poor soul would have to endure the challenge of measuring it.  That could easily be as difficult as the hunt.

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