ST. MARYS - "Large or small, we want 'em all." That's the theme of this year's 7th Annual Big Buck Contest, which promises to be better than ever with a new scoring system for bucks and a contest for readers of The Daily Press, The Ridgway Record and The Kane Republican every week.
Darlene Coder, publisher of the three newspapers, explained several changes to this year's contest that she said would benefit both hunters and readers.
"I think the biggest thing is that this year we will be using the Boone & Crockett scoring system," Coder said. "I've spoken with a number of area hunters about it and they said they are pleased with the move to this system, which they feel provides a more accurate measurement."
The Boone & Crockett scoring system is presented by Elk County Ammo & Arms in St. Marys, one of seven official weigh-in stations in Elk and McKean counties where hunters can take their bucks to be scored. The locations are: St. Marys - Elk County Ammo & Arms, 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.
Another new feature of the Big Buck Contest, which kicks off Saturday, Oct. 1, is that hunters who register in the contest, no matter the size of the buck scored, will be entered in a random drawing and have a chance to win prizes. Photos of the hunters and their bucks will be featured in the newspapers' Big Buck section, published every Wednesday until the end of the contest Saturday, Dec. 10. Any eligible buck must be tagged within this time period; all bucks must be entered by 4 p.m. on Dec. 12.
Everyone who enters a buck will receive two tickets to the awards banquet on Monday, Dec. 19 at the Summit Fireside Grill and Lodge in Ridgway, where the winners will be announced and prizes will be awarded. Winners will be announced in the Wednesday, Dec. 21 editions of The Ridgway Record, The Daily Press and The Kane Republican.
"The contest will have a first- and second-place adult winner and youth winner, and new this year, there will be a new division with a first-place winner for mentored youth hunters," Coder said. "I think the mentored youth category allows area hunters to share this experience with younger people and help them develop an appreciation of the hunting tradition and a love and respect for the outdoors."
The adult first-place winner in the Big Buck Contest will receive a prize package that includes a head mount by Cessna Taxidermy of Penfield. The first-place winner in the youth division will enjoy a prize package that includes a head mount by Conner's Taxidermy of Penfield, and the winner of the mentored youth division will receive a prize package that includes a head mount by Whitetail Country Taxidermy in St. Marys. The top entries will be contacted beginning Tuesday, Dec. 13 and must bring their buck to Elk County Ammo & Arms in St. Marys to be scored using the Boone & Crockett system. The winners will be determined by the highest gross score.
All adult hunters must have a valid state hunting license; youth must be at least 12 years old and possess a valid junior Pennsylvania hunting license at the time of tagging; and adults assisting in the mentoring division must possess a valid Pennsylvania mentor hunting license at the time of tagging.