State-Record Bibb County Shed?

Did a state-record buck roam Bibb County in the last 1970s?

Bill Cooper | October 12, 1989


Antlers of whitetail deer are often referred to as horns. Although antlers and horns both arise from the frontal skull plate, they are vastly different in composition and growth.

Horns, such as those of goats, buffalo and bighorn sheep, are composed of keratin, the same material in fingernails. Horns are permanent, never shed and continually grow throughout the life of the animal. If they are broken off, they do not grow back.

Antlers, on the other hand, are true bone. They are not permanent, but fall off and grow back on a yearly cycle. If an antler is broken off, it is lost for only that year.

This annual antler drop in deer is termed shedding and usually occurs in late winter or early spring. Literally thousands of antlers, ranging from small spikes to huge, record-class racks, are dropped at this time every year.

Despite this seemingly large number of shed antlers, most people, including many hunters, have never found one. One reason is that dropped antlers blend in well with ground debris and can be easily covered by blowing leaves, falling branches and low-growing vegetation. A second and more important reason is that antlers, being true bone and composed of calcium and other minerals, are gnawed and eaten by a wide range of animals, including mice, rats, squirrels, foxes, coyotes and dogs.

These reasons aside, it is also true that nothing can be found unless it is looked for. In early spring, when the sheds are easiest to find, most deer hunters have turned to fishing or other seasonal interests. There are a few dedicated hunters, however, who use this time of year to scout for the upcoming fall season. This dedication gives these hunters just a little edge over the rest, and many are rewarded by taking good bucks year after year.

Without a doubt, shed antlers are the best buck sign that spring scouting can produce. First and most obvious, a freshly shed antler means the buck survived the hunting season. It also means that barring any major habitat change, the buck will likely be in the same general area the following fall. Finally, the antler is proof positive of the buck’s trophy potential. Tracks, rubs and scrapes are all important field sign, but when you find a buck’s sheds, you know exactly the size of his rack. A big whitetail’s rack the following fall will very closely resemble the current sheds, plus it will usually be a little larger.

Finding any shed adds a sense of satisfaction to the scouting effort, but being lucky enough to find the shed of a record-class deer is a real accomplishment. If both halves can be found, these antlers are a trophy by themselves. Anyone who has seen the huge sets of shed antlers in Dick Idol’s whitetail collection would certainly agree. Although many of these large antlers came from the Midwest, the Northwest and the Canadian provinces, there have been big sheds around in the Southeast, including Georgia.

Several years ago a man brought me what was left of two shed antlers that he had found near the Oconee River. Unfortunately, they had been there for some time, and most of the tines had been gnawed off by mice and squirrels. Still, the mass and the size of the beams were very impressive. The right beam was 28 1/2 inches long, and although the left beam had the end eaten off, it still measured 25 inches. Beam circumferences exceeded 5 1/2 inches at each base. The rack appeared to have had 12 typical points, but only 7 to 8 inches of the back tines remained.

Interestingly enough, the area where these sheds were found has a history of moderate to heavy hunting pressure. Yet, it has never produced any exceptionally large trophy bucks and certainly nothing approaching the antler dimensions of the sheds. This gives some credence to the theory that some mature whitetail bucks are able to live out their lives without ever being taken by a hunter. In cases such as this, only evidence of the sheds can prove such a buck ever existed.

In the late 1970s, Brian Greene, of Milledgeville, picked up a recently shed deer antler on his uncle’s farm in Bibb County. Several years later, a friend of Brian’s, Brad Leverette, happened to see the antler and was so amazed at its size, that he took it with Brian’s permission to Dick Payne, head of the wildlife program at Abraham Baldwin College in Tifton. Dick called me, and I arranged to meet with Brad and measure the shed antler.

The shed certainly justified the attention it has received. Antler mass was very heavy, with circumference measurements holding about 5 inches all the way out on the beam. The beam itself measured 29 7/8 inches, and the two longest tines exceeded 12 inches. The antler had five typical points with an extra fork on the brow tine and two short sticker points. On the B&C scale, the antlers’s gross score was 91 1/8 inches. To put this in perspective, the score of the right antler, after subtracting the three non-typical points (total of 7 1/8 inches), the antler still scores 84 inches.

One antler does not make a record-class buck. The left antler may have been an identical match, or it could have been a spike, or had numerous non-typical points. No one will ever know.

Still, the odds are high for a mature whitetail, with a tendency for typical antler growth, to produce closely matching antlers. Assuming this was the case, let’s look at a couple of possibilities as to what this rack might have scored on the B&C scale. We will use 20 inches as the inside spread measurement.

Brad Leverette, of Milledgeville, holds the massive Bibb County shed. The matching beam was not found, but the buck was almost certainly of record-book size and possibly a state-record buck.

If the left antler closely matched the right shed and had no non-typical points, the rack would score in the 190s. To date, there has never been a typical whitetail taken in Georgia to score over 190 inches.

If the left antler closely matched the right shed and included the three non-typical points (which would have deducted), the rack would still score in the 180s and could easily exceed Floyd Benson’s current state-record buck of 184 3/8 typical inches.

If more non-typical points were involved, the typical score would continue to drop because of increased deductions. However, the rack could then be scored as a non-typical and would probably make the record book in that category. Only a deformed or radically mis-shaped left antler would keep this from being a record-class buck.

When this shed was found, only archery deer hunting was allowed in Bibb County. It is entirely possible that this huge buck was never hunted, and if it was, I feel sure the hunting pressure was very light. Again, without a shed antler for evidence, no one would have ever known such a buck once existed.

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