BuckTracker: Would You Sell Your Rack?

Second, though I certainly appreciate the appeal of getting rich doing nothing more than being lucky, I’d love to see the lottery-mentality stay out of deer hunting. Not long ago, shooting a behemoth deer was viewed as a fortuitous lightning strike, with no thought of reward beyond a great set of antlers to hang on the wall. These days, too many hunters think they’re looking at early retirement simply because a monstrous rutting whitetail stumbled past their tree stand.

Here’s the reality. Though collectors have indeed written beefy checks to obtain some of whitetail hunting’s top deer, only a few world-beaters—the kind of bucks shot by James Jordan, Mel Johnson, John Breen, etal.—have commanded heady sums. In the world of antler collecting, inches (of antler score) influence dollars, and the difference between a rack worth 10 grand and one that might command half that amount can be 10” of B&C score. That’s one inch per tine on a 5X5. If you’ve deer hunted long enough, you’ll recognize what a thin line that represents.

Not long ago, North American Whitetail magazine published an article written by Les Davenport that covered the dollar value that might be assigned to a whitetail rack, assuming the hunter could find a collector willing to buy it. Davenport’s article, which included input from top antler collectors and B&C scorers, was an eye-opener to me, and should be for other whitetail nuts…especially those fortunate enough to tag a monstrous deer. Here are some highlights of the chart, which show B&C scores and their net worth:

Typical bucks
170" (B&C minimum): Zero-$1,000.
180"-184": $4,000-$6,000
190"-194": $8,000-$10,000
195"-199": 10K-15K
200" and up: 20K-plus

Non-typicals:
195" (B&C minimum) Zero-$1,500
205"-214": $2,500-$4,000
235"-244": $10,000-$14,000
265"-274": $25,000-$35,000
285" and up: $50,000-plus

These figures obviously pour icy water on the notion that the father of the 9-year old in this photo is contemplating a 150K offer from anyone. Also, informed sources tell me that places like Cabela’s and Bass Pro are simply not buying racks like they did a few years ago. And if you’ve visited one of the destination stores of either of these two companies, this fact is easy to accept. The number of jaw-dropper whitetails in these places is spectacular, which also led my source to tell me that unless a typical breaks the 200” mark or a non-typ goes over 260”, buyers from these two companies are unlikely to beat on your door. If you want proof of how rare such a buck is, check out the B&C books and see how many whitetails have broken these marks.

Then there’s this: Many, many hunters who’ve sold a once-in-a-lifetime buck end up wishing they’d kept the rack. One friend, a noted B&C scorer from a Midwestern state noted for pumping out monster deer, told me that “of the 40 top bucks in our state (divided evenly between typical and non-typical bucks, killed by gun and bow), 20 of the hunters had sold their racks to a collector. Most regretted the decision.”

So, Buck Tracker readers, it’s your time to weigh in on this topic. You spend a grand day in the timber, and a buck -- an animal literally hundreds of thousands of your comrades will never see -- wanders close enough for a shot. You score, and then you’re faced with a decision: Do I sell him for enough money to pay off a car, or put my kids through a year of college, or take a nice vacation with my wife? Or do I hang on to that rarest of pleasures; a world-class deer that I was fortunate enough to see, just once, in my too-brief time in the deer woods? It’s your call ... and I’m anxious to hear your thoughts!