The Hunting And Fishing Legacy In Georgia Records
Editorial-Opinion June 2022
There’s quite a bit to be proud of at GON—at least I think so—but our record-keeping legacy has to be near the top. Most of us will never kill a buck or catch a fish that has any record-book potential, but we all hunt deer in a county and have our favorite lake or river.
Rarely does a day go by when we don’t receive a score sheet from a hunter who is added to GON’s Georgia Deer Records.
And the fish—we are seeing two or three new Lake or River Record fish every week right now.
Like every record book before and every record book to come, the compilers did not write it. The hunters, the deer and the official measurers wrote the Georgia Deer Records. And the anglers, the fish and the WRD biologists who help certify catches wrote the Georgia Lake & River Records.
GON has been the custodian of the records, and through our Georgia Deer Records and Georgia Lake & River Records, we are a chronicler of the history of Georgia hunting and fishing.
We didn’t set out to be record-keepers—we began with a goal of providing the very best hunting and fishing information to GON magazine readers. The credit for being good at that goes to the toughest, most-demanding country boy who has ever dreamed up and published a hunting and fishing magazine…
Combine Steve’s doesn’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude with his knack for coming up with the craziest of ideas, and you get GON magazine.
And you get something like County-By-County buck rankings. No other state has this. Like many Steve Burch moments, I will never forget the day in 1991 when he leaned into my office and said we should publish a list of the Top-10 bucks ever killed in all 159 Georgia counties.
It was hardly out of my mouth before Steve turned on a heel and marched toward another editor’s office, I’m sure with another implausible, crazy idea. Saying no wasn’t an option.
We published the first County-by-County Top-10 rankings in the October, 1994 issue of GON. It began with tons of hard work, and tons of help from people in Georgia’s deer-scoring community—Bill Cooper, Tommy Gregors, Duncan Dobie, George Steele and dozens of certified measurers who began to warm to and accept the idea of measuring deer that had no chance of making the all-time Boone & Crockett or Pope & Young record books. Not all official scorers warmed to that idea—some still don’t want to measure a 130-inch buck from Cohutta WMA or Brantley County.
But that buck matters—it matters to that hunter, to that local community, and it matters to GON.
As word of the rankings spread, more racks started getting officially scored. Maybe it was an old, weathered mount in an uncle’s barn, a buck killed in northeast Georgia or along the coast that would not come close to making the all-time Boone & Crockett record book, so it never got an official score. But it would sure do well in the rankings for its own county, where antler size is relative to that area, not compared to what’s being killed in Worth or Lee counties.
What happens in your county or on your lake is relative. It matters. It’s like a micro version of GON, which had legs and became popular because hunters and fishermen in Georgia cared about hunting and fishing in Georgia. Reading about bear hunting in Alaska was entertaining, but an article on the Top-10 Georgia WMAs where you can kill a wild hog, or the Top-10 bream lakes in an area of Georgia—that hits close to home.
In 1991, we didn’t know what the internet was, but it sure has changed the world, and not all for the good. A positive, for sure, is that GON now has the Georgia Deer Records and our Lake & River Records online. That has caused a major uptick in interest, which is good for hunting and fishing in Georgia.
On the bad side, the internet has made print magazines less relevant and desirable. GON is still doing well, thanks to y’all. Compiling and chronicling hunting and fishing in Georgia takes time and effort, so we need y’all to continue to subscribe to the magazine.
Additional ways to support the efforts are coming. We will soon roll out some revamps to gon.com and the online classifieds.
The work never stops—some of that Burch rubbed off.
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