Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dentist with big game expertise hunting more than cavities

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer | 10/10/2012

Bagging that trophy deer doesn’t stop with the squeeze of the trigger. It becomes a numbers game after that.

Recording a big game kill involves training, time and experience, Richard Hale, official measurer and records keeper for the Boone and Crockett Club, said. The Boone and Crockett Club’s main mission is conversation and wildlife management, which is facilitated by the recording of big game kills in North America.

Bagging that trophy deer doesn’t stop with the squeeze of the trigger. It becomes a numbers game after that.

Recording a big game kill involves training, time and experience, Richard Hale, official measurer and records keeper for the Boone and Crockett Club, said. The Boone and Crockett Club’s main mission is conversation and wildlife management, which is facilitated by the recording of big game kills in North America.

Hale, an Ottawa dentist and avid conservationist, works with the club to ensure that big game — including deer, moose, caribou, elk and bears — across North America will continue to thrive despite civilization’s continued growth.

In the local area, Hale said, the animals brought in most frequently for him to score are white-tailed deer, although he has had some caribou and bears. Hunters bring the antlers of the animals — sometimes mounted, sometimes with skulls attached — that they have killed to the parking lot of Hale’s dentist office at 1136 W. 15th St., Ottawa. Hale, one of 1,450 measurers for the club spread throughout the country, is charged with measuring and recording the animals for the group’s records. The club has 38 categories of big game it measures and records.

“The records system is used primarily to monitor conservation practices of wildlife departments,” Hale, a resident of rural Anderson County and measurer for more than 20 years, said.

Hale has been a club member for about 25 years, but not all measurers have to be members of the club, he said.

Recording each big game kill isn’t necessarily about bringing acclaim to the hunter, although hunters do have the option to buy plaques with their scores on it, he said. Rather, it’s about collecting data for conservation purposes.

Hunters receive certificates, and their names are recorded in the club’s Records of North American Big Game book. A story comes with each set of antlers that are brought to Hale. He said hunters love to regale him with the adventures that go along with the hunts.

“It’s always interesting — that’s probably the most fun part is meeting the people and hearing the stories,” he said, adding some of the best stories come from the kids who bring in animals.

A measurer must undergo training, Hale said, to learn the specific methods of measuring different species. The Boone and Crockett Club, with headquarters in Missoula, Mont., developed its own system of measuring, which is very thorough, he said.

“The Boone and Crockett system was designed to reward overall size — symmetry is a big thing,” Hale said, adding the length of the beam — or center antler — individual points and circumference all are recorded in detail.

With the number of precise measurements required, scoring a typical 10-point white-tailed deer can take about 30 minutes, owing to the 19 individual measurements that are taken. Scoring something as large as a moose can take as long as two hours, Hale said. Antlers that are not symmetrical, or non-typical, also can take an extended length of time.

From Mexico to Canada, big game animals that meet the minimum requirements set by the 125-year-old club started by Theodore Roosevelt are recorded. The records system became increasingly more important in the early 1900s when it became evident that big game numbers were decreasing at such an alarming rate that people thought they would become extinct, Hale explained.

“When Boone and Crockett started getting interested in getting records and keeping measurements around 1900, they kept records because they didn’t know if there were going to be any more animals,” Hale said.

Fortunately, big game numbers have increased, thanks to the efforts of groups like Boone and Crockett, Hale said. In recent years, the club has become more about recording successes rather than extinction, allowing hunting for sport to flourish, as evident by the increased number of entries in the club’s tri-annual Big Game Awards. The 27th Big Game Awards had nearly 5,200 entries, and the 28th awards, set for next year, already have more than 5,100 entries. Since the 1950s, Hale said, the awards entries have continued to increase.

“We get more interest for each awards period,” he said. “It clearly shows that the North American model of wildlife conservation is working, and that’s what we are trying to do.”

Participation in wildlife-associated recreation increased in 28 states since 2006, according to a 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation State Overview Report, released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2011, 90.1 million Americans, 38 percent of the U.S. population 16 and older, took part in some form of fishing, hunting or wildlife-associated recreation, the report said. About 21 percent of Kansas residents 16 and older participated in such recreation.

Wildlife recreation has become a major source of revenue, helping to support local economies throughout the nation. On average, each participant spent $2,407 in 2011, the study concluded, making hunting and fishing for sport a more than $75 billion industry.

While Hale said he cannot point to the cause of the increase in hunting interest, he said, he thinks additional media presence might have something to do with it.

“I attribute the increase in the Kansas deer hunting to all that it’s been popularized in hunting programs, television, videos, that type of thing,” Hale said.

Franklin and Anderson counties are great areas to find big deer, Hale said, because of the increased rainfall in the area, as well as terrain that allows animals to hide more easily.

Hale has measured about five big game kills in a year, he said. He said he welcomes more hunters to call him so he can score their trophies.

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