In 2010, only 65 bucks qualified. In 2011, that number jumped to 106, a stunning 63 percent increase.
"I think [the increase] speaks to the quality of the bucks that were available to hunters last year," Thorn said. "The number of gun-killed bucks that qualified [for the Big Buck Contest] was more than three times the number we had in 2010. And they came from everywhere in the state, not just the big-buck counties south of [W.Va.] 60."
Thorn said the number of big bucks even had DNR biologists buzzing.
"Our guys who worked at game-checking stations were commenting on the quality of the bucks coming through. There were definitely more big bucks being killed," he said.
That quality showed up in the number of bucks that qualified for the Pope & Young Club record book, which requires bigger antlers than does the Big Buck Contest.
"I probably processed four times as many Pope & Young entries as normal,'' he said. "It seems like every other deer scored qualified for Pope & Young. I spent all weekend at the Hunt Show helping guys fill out paperwork for their entries."
The two biggest gun-killed bucks came from Lincoln and Mercer counties. Jonah Adkins of Branchland headed up the typical category with an 11-pointer from Lincoln County that scored 1631/8. Brandon Dishner of Athens got the biggest non-typical, a 19-pointer that scored 165 4/8.
The two largest bow kills were taken by David Miller of Hurricane, who bagged a Mingo County 12-pointer that not only scored 1716/8, but also was the fourth-largest typical buck ever killed in West Virginia by a bowhunter.
Charles Daniel topped the non-typical category with a Cabell County 15-pointer that scored 169 1/8.
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.