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At the Summit Lodge and Grill on Monday, a packed house of about 200 hunters and enthusiasts gathered for the conclusion of the 7th annual Big Buck contest.
Food and drink were served and those in attendance took the opportunity to get reacquainted with old friends and perhaps make a few new ones. Many talked shop, recounted memorable hunts from this season and ones past and debated the finer points of rifle and bow hunting.
This year's contest saw the Boone and Crockett measuring system introduced into the judging, Boone and Crockett scoring is a popular and standardized method of recording rifle harvests and a method used to score deer racks. Event organizer Darlene Coder said that the decision to adopt this method came after being prompted by Mark Rupprecht of Ammo and Arms, one of the Big Buck contest's sponsors. Coder said that Rupprecht advised her that the "biggest big buck contest in the area needed to add the Boone and Crockett measuring system."
"And now we do," Coder said.
The Boone & Crockett scoring system was presented by Elk County Ammo & Arms in St. Marys, which was one of seven official weigh-in stations in Elk and McKean counties where hunters could take their bucks to be scored. In addition to Ammo & Arms, other official scoring stations were: St. Marys - The Daily Press and St. Marys Beverage; Ridgway - The Ridgway Record and Today's Carpet and Furniture; Wilcox - Wilcox Tannery House; Kane - The Kane Republican; and Lantz Corner - Allegheny Crossroads.
Coder said the theme of this year's contest was, "Large or small, we want them all," and area residents were encouraged to enter the contest and be eligible to win great prizes regardless of their deer score. In announcing the winners, Coder began with the Mentored Division, which went to seven-year- old Luke Ely. Ely won with a Boone & Crockett Club score of 106.75. Ely received a prize package that includes a head mount by Whitetail Country Taxidermy in St. Marys.
In the Youth Division,15-year-old Theo Carlson won with an 8.5-point rack. Carlson received a prize package that includes a head mount by Conner's Taxidermy of Penfield.
Finally in the Adult Division, which saw 96 entries this year, Steve Piurkoski of Ridgway took second place. Jacob Washburn of Ridgway took first place, which included not only bragging rights but a prize package worth over $4,000, including a head mount compliments of Cessna Taxidermy of Penfield.
Washburn, who said this was his first time entering the contest, has been hunting in the area since he was 12 years old. Washburn said he was hunting in a "secret location" when he came upon the prize-winning buck.
"I was walking alone - I was actually texting on the phone. I look up and see antlers," he said in describing the experience.
Washburn said he tossed the phone, grabbed his .300 Savage and took his first shot. Unsure of whether he had downed it, he shot again. Washburn said he then walked up to find the animal was indeed down, and out of "sheer excitement," he reached for his phone to call his dad and tell him of his massive kill, only to realize the phone still lay in the brush where he had tossed it just moments earlier.