When fewer hunters ask to have their trophy bucks scored, that must mean there are fewer trophy bucks, right?
West Virginia's 2011 deer seasons were, by all accounts, a trophy hunter's bonanza. Sportsmen killed literally thousands of bucks with eight or more antler points and antler spreads that exceeded 14 inches.
Still, only 242 hunters decided to have their trophies officially scored for entry in the Division of Natural Resources' Big Buck Contest, 17 percent fewer than 2010's total of 292.
So why did fewer hunters seek to have their trophies scored?
Gene Thorn, who administers the program for the DNR, is still scratching his head over that one.
"I really don't know," he said. "Maybe guys who killed nice - but not huge - bucks knew that a lot of really big bucks were being taken and didn't bother to have theirs scored. This year at the [West Virginia Hunting and Fishing Show], we didn't score nearly as many 100- to 120-inch bucks as we usually do."
In fact, Thorn attributed most of the discrepancy between the number of deer checked in 2010 and 2011 to fewer deer being checked at that one show.
"Usually we score the vast majority of each year's crop of deer at the show. This year we had a huge number of guys show up to have their deer scored on Friday, but on Saturday and Sunday hardly anyone showed up," he said.
"If those two days had kept pace with Friday, we would easily have matched or exceeded 2010's total."
Thorn's answer raises another question:
If fewer hunters had their bucks scored, why was there a dramatic increase in the number of trophies that qualified for the DNR's Big Buck Contest?