Athens Review, Athens, Texas


June 1, 2013

MATT WILLIAMS: Scoring changes surface in race for state record non-typical

ATHENS — Just when I thought the story behind a pair of giant whitetail bucks taken last season by bowhunters A.J. Downs of Conroe and Robert Taylor of Aubrey couldn't become any more controversial than it already is … it did.

If there has ever been a more topsy-turvy tale of the tape than this one, I haven't heard about it. It has been almost comical in a sense.

And that's sad, because the two bucks in question are no laughing matter. Both animals rank among the biggest ever taken in North America. One of them is a new state record for non-typicals by archery gear on Texas open range.

The seed for all the controversy lies in the fact that the final scores on the two enormous racks keep changing, seemingly as often as the East Texas weather. I'll do my best to explain, but I must warn you. The road we're about to go down is a winding one with more twists and turns than a roller coaster ride.

Here's little history leading up to the most recent hairpin curve:

San Jacinto County whopper

The Downs buck, a 28 pointer killed on Sept. 29 in San Jacinto County, originally netted out at 253 3/8 after 60 days drying, according to measurements tallied by Randy Reeves and Bob Sweisthal, both of Spring. Reeves is an official scorer for the Boone and Crockett Club and the Texas Big Game Awards program. Sweisthal has been scoring for the Pope and Young Club for 35 years.

B&C has been the official records keeper for native North American big game animals taken on open range by legal hunting methods for nearly 125 years. P&Y caters strictly to North American animals taken with bow and arrow. TBGA is a joint effort between Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association that began in the early 1990s. It maintains Texas records for high and low fence bucks.

Downs' original score — which topped that of the former P&Y state record by nearly two feet — was high enough to make it the No. 9 P&Y non-typical of all time in North America. The deer earned him an invitation to P&Y's 28th biennium convention panel scoring session held in Ft. Worth last February and to the B&C convention panel scoring held April 30 - May 4 in Reno, Nev.

Panel judging is done in order to verify the accuracy of the original measurements on top end big game animals. The organizations bring in some of their most experienced measurers to tackle the chore. Both clubs as well as the TBGA rely on the B&C scoring system, the most widely accepted method for scoring big game animals.

The Taylor buck

Taylor joined the mix on Dec. 29, when he arrowed a magnificent non-typical on Dec. 29 in Grayson County. The rack was originally “green” scored as a 42-pointer at 249 2/8 net by Jennifer Barrow, a B&C and TBGA scorer from Decatur and Eric Stanosheck, a B&C scorer from Haslet. Green scores are tallied ahead of the mandatory 60-day drying period required before a rack can be rescored as official.

Most racks shrink a little during the drying period, but Taylor's didn't. In fact, his score jumped more than five inches to 254 4/8 (1 1/8 inch bigger than the Downs buck) after Stanosheck and Barrow took a different route when evaluating one of the main beams and a G3 tine during the final scoring session last March. The adjustment also allowed Taylor's buck to be scored as a 44 pointer instead of 42 pointer.

TBGA accepted Taylor's revised score, which at the time made it the top low fence non-typical ever entered in the program. However, because the deer was not 60 days dry prior to P&Y's Dec. 31, 2012 deadline for the 28th biennium, it will not be eligible for P&Y panel judging until 2015.

Downs' score changes by P & Y

Downs was initially excited about idea of having his deer judged by P&Y's panel of expert scorers. However, the experience turned sour when he learned the judges had docked his net score to 245 4/8 (more than eight inches) based on what was interpreted to be an errant judgement call in the way some of the freak tines were originally measured by Reeves and Sweisthal.

It is worth noting that it has been more than three months since the Downs buck underwent P&Y panel judging. The hunter says he has received a plaque from P&Y that wears his adjusted score. However, he still has not received an official score sheet that would invariably explain some of the discrepancies P&Y panel judges found in his original score.

The most recent twist in this confusing tale of the tape surfaced last week when Downs received a letter from B&C indicating that two different B&C judging panels had scored his deer in early May. The letter states: “If your score has increased, both panels came up higher than the original score. As such, the two panels agreed upon the enclosed score chart to accept.”

The final number on the B&C panel score sheet is 256 4/8. That's 3 1/8 inch higher than the original score tallied by Reeves and Sweisthal, and a whopping 11 inches more than what the P&Y panel came up with.


difficulty factor?

Big non-typicals can be a booger to score. Many believe you could place a 250-inch rack in front of 10 savvy judges and ultimately wind up with 10 different final scores. I'll buy that.

There is a lot that goes into taping such a gnarly maze of bone. Once bad judgement call can result in a bunch of ground lost or gained in a hurry. But 11 inches?

Stanosheck, a veteran B&C scorer, says 11 inches sounds excessive to him.

“It seems like the B&C panel score would be the more realistic of the two,” he said. “That score and the original score are relatively close. An 11 inch difference is pretty significant.”

Sweisthal agreed. “P&Y and B&C bring in their very best and most qualified scorers for these panel judging sessions,” he said. “It's not uncommon for there to be a difference of 2-3 inches on deer like these, but to have an 11 inch difference between two panel scores using the same scoring system is pretty excessive.”

Could amendments be coming?

The question now is whether or not P&Y will revisit the Downs buck or stick with its original panel score?

P&Y Records Chairman Mike Kistler of Brownstown, Ill. indicated in a phone interview last week that he is concerned about the big difference in the numbers but is unsure if any action will be taken.

“We (P&Y and B&C) are two different organizations,” Kistler said. “Our score is our final score and we are very confident in the score we arrived at. This deer was judged by some very experienced scorers. However, we are very intrigued by the difference in our score and the score the B&C panel came up with. I'll probably be attending the B&C convention in July, and I'll assess the differences then. We are very concerned about getting this deal right.”

Another viable question is whether or not TBGA will admit Downs' revised B&C panel score to its standings, or go with the lesser score?

I don't have a buck in this hunt, but in my book there shouldn't be a question there. TBGA already accepted a revised score on the Taylor buck as well as another big East Texas non-typical this year, so it is only right that the same privilege be extended to Downs.

“We've got the new information on it and our scoring committee is reviewing it to determine how they are going to handle it,” said Justin Dreibelbis, TBGA Hunting Heritage Program Director. “The fact that there were two deer over 250 inches taken on low fence properties this past season is a great wildlife conservation and management story for the state of Texas. It is unfortunate that there has been some controversy over the very close scores of the two animals, but I'm glad that people are talking about it and seeing what our native Texas habitat is capable of producing.”

Taylor sounds off

Downs is remaining tight lipped about the recent findings until the all the dust settles, but Taylor isn't. With the state record non-typical title at stake, he says the guys with the tape measures need put this issue to rest once and for all.

“Either somebody is doing something right when it comes to scoring these deer or somebody is doing something bad wrong,” he said. “These two organizations use the same scoring system. They definitely need to get on the same page.”

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail,

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