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Committee levies sanctions against Wood County man

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When is a trophy buck not a trophy buck? Well, for one thing, when its antlers are artificially attached to its skull.

West Virginia's Big Buck Contest Review Committee has voted to expunge the state's record books of one man's trophies after a 2012 investigation revealed evidence he had altered or fabricated at least two trophy racks.

The man, Joseph DeBerry of Rockport in Wood County, will lose all past and any future recognition in the state's Big Buck Contest. That includes two 2010 entries that took top honors in the contest's muzzleloader and crossbow divisions.

Jeff McCrady, the Division of Natural Resources' game biologist for the Parkersburg area, said the Trophy Buck Committee's action occurred several months after DeBerry brought three trophy racks to McCrady for scoring.

"Mr. DeBerry was well known to us," McCrady said. "He consistently brought in big deer for us to score. Since he is quite an elderly man who is on oxygen and walks with a walker, we were a little suspicious that he could have killed that many big deer.

"Mr. DeBerry always told us he had taken the deer on his own property. Well, the law enforcement folks did some checking at the assessor's office and found out he owns just 1 acre of land. So, in 2012 when he brought in those three deer, we decided to check them out thoroughly."

While law enforcement officers engaged DeBerry in conversation, McCrady took the mounted trophies to a nearby veterinarian's office to be X-rayed.

"The X-rays showed that the antler beams on two of the mounts were attached with metal fasteners to the skull plate, which is in direct violation to Boone and Crockett Club rules for trophy scoring. The rules state that all antlers must be biologically attached to the skull for a trophy to be legitimate," McCrady said.

"In addition, the third rack appeared to contain some sort of artificial material. So when I came back from the vet's office, we disqualified all three racks he brought in for scoring."

The investigating officer, Sgt. Mike Coberly, cited DeBerry with the misdemeanor charge of hindering an officer in the course of an investigation. "That charge also applies to providing false information, which is what Mr. DeBerry had done," Coberly explained.

DeBerry later pleaded guilty to the charge in Wood County Magistrate Court and paid a fine.

The matter was then forwarded to members of the Big Buck Contest Review Committee, the panel charges with maintaining integrity within the state's deer-hunting records. The panel includes members from the DNR, the Izaak Walton League of West Virginia, the West Virginia Bowhunters Association, the West Virginia Muzzle Loaders Association, and the West Virginia Physically Challenged Advisory Board.

At its Oct. 22 meeting, committee members voted unanimously to remove DeBerry's name from the records and to bar him from participating in future Big Buck Contests.

Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or e-mail johnmccoy@wvgazette.com.


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