Pope & Young Club: A class act

­The POPE and YOUNG CLUB meets at a convention site every other year to give honor to the best of the best North American big game animals taken by archers. Officers of the P&Y Club also recognize corporate sponsors, and present awards to a wide variety of archers, both women and men, boys and girls, who over the past two years have taken in fair chase an animal worthy of record book entry. Over the week of April 4-9, members of the club journeyed to St. Louis, Mo., for the 2017 convention gathering held at the Union Station Hotel. It was a terrific gathering of like-minded folks from almost every state and many Canadian provinces. P&Y members accomplish many fun activities or tours, celebrate North America’s rich bowhunting heritage, honor outstanding examples of this continent’s wildlife, discuss issues relevant to the conservation community, raise funds for the Club’s Conservation and Outreach programs and talk with old friends and meet new ones.

Convention seminar topics were available on a host of subjects ranging from the latest biological studies on deer, caribou and big horn sheep. Fitness topics gave archers heads-up points on staying fit for the hunt. Record keeping history was explored, ground blind do’s and don’ts told attendees what works best, southwest desert effective use of spotting scopes and binoculars to save time in locating game, plus travel tips in the states or overseas, and women’s campfire programs, plus many more. Additional convention activities included a golf tournament, sporting clays shoot, and 3D archery range shoot. Tours to botanical gardens, the Anheuser Busch Brewery or Cahokia Mounds were also available.

Among the fundraising festivities was a silent auction of donated merchandise, memorabilia, and artifacts. And of course there was live auction on Saturday afternoon just prior to the grand evening banquet meal and awards ceremony. The auctions and other fund raising ticket sales raised over $247,000, all of which is dedicated toward conservation program support and operations of the P&Y Club’s mission.

I had the privilege while at the convention of being one of 19 new inductees into the Fred Bear Society. This award is in recognition for those who gave a significant donation to the P&Y Club Trust Fund during the last two years. We joined other Society member classmates from 2013 and 2015 who lead the way.

As if now, the Trust Fund is very healthy with a balance of more than $1.4 million. All will be used to enhance conservation programs and benefits to archery endeavors.

Saxton Pope and Art Young started the big game hunting process in 1911 with as it turned out, a very knowledgeable instructor, the last surviving Yana Indian that came to be known as Ishi. On Aug. 29, 1911, Ishi was found scrounging for food and captured. To his rescue came several anthropologists including Professor Alfred Kroeber and T.T. Waterman. Communication with Ishi was at first nearly impossible until Waterman spoke a word in the Yana language that was met with an instant response. From that beginning, Ishi was able to assist in learning that he would be cared for. His appetite improved, he gained weight and was eager to learn things about the world outside his home mountain range of northern California.

Kroeber and Waterman made arrangements to travel to San Francisco where living quarters were made available at the University School of Medicine. It was here that Dr. Saxton Pope, an instructor conducted a medical examination and also developed a strong friendship with Ishi. Pope’s friend Art Young was introduced. All three were interested in bows and arrows. And this is where Ishi taught the professors how he hunted to Pope and Young showed their new Indian friend the long bows that they used. After much consultation and reassurances that no harm would come to him, Ishi took Pope and Young back to his traditional mountain valleys, showed them the game trails, water holes, numerous caves once used by his people and the big game that thrived in this wilderness area. All three learned from each other. Only this time it was all being documented for history books.

Because of Ishi, and the dedication of Pope and Young to archery sports and bow hunting, the official Pope and Young Club was formed in late 1962. From that beginning, membership grew slowly at first but then picked up momentum as Fred Bear and others where making modern long bows, recurve and eventually compound bows. It soon became apparent that keeping records of big game taken with a bow was critical information to prove to state fish and game agencies that bowhunting was a viable wildlife management tool. Pope and Young Club leaders already knew of the Boone and Crockett Club that maintained records of game animals taken with firearms primarily. An agreement was reached that still is in force that allows P&Y to use with permission the identical scoring forms and methodology to determine the score for antlered and horned wildlife.

Pope and Young Club officials provides instruction to applicants who desire to become certified scorers for archery taken animals. That is what this scribe did in July 2004. Many other had already been at the scoring process for 40 years so I as a new comer was eager to learn the correct way to put numbers behind typical and non-typical antler sets. It is a fun and rewarding experience to converse with archers on the how, when and where aspects of the hunt that allowed them to take a potential trophy animal.

To help put the history of P&Y Club record keeping into perspective, they have a two-year long recording period. The 30th recording period ended Dec. 31, 2016. From Jan. 1, 2015 until the end of 2016, official scorers submitted 5,935 entries that were accepted and entered into the record books. Those entries represented 34 categories including all typical, non-typical and velvet antler animals. Since the records program began many decades ago, the total entries in the record books now stands at 108,603. The records program is considered the backbone of the organization. Official measurers are the primary contact the public has with the P&Y Club. Every measurer is ready and willing to discuss potential trophy animals so that the animal can be honored in the best way possible, perhaps leading toward an official entry in the record book.

Since white-tailed deer are found in almost every state and in Canada, it is expected that this deer species would top the list. It does so in grand style with submissions during 2015 and 2016 of 3,400 entries. Typical American Elk are next with 574, Black Bear at 445, Pronghorn Antelope at 335, and typical Mule Deer numbers at 248. These are the top five. Twenty-three animals finished in the top 10 of their respective categories. These statistics reflect sound conservation efforts by game management departments across North America.

Four new world records were recognized at the 2017 P&Y convention. Here they are. First, a typical antlered American Elk was taken on public land in Montana’s Powder River County in 2016 by archer Stephen F. Felix. His elk scored 430. Second is a Desert Big Horn Sheep from Maricopa County, Ariz. It was arrowed by Tony Lynn Loop in 2015 with a score of 186 4/8. Third is a Shiras Moose from Park County, Colo. It was taken in 2015 by Robert S. Hebert. The moose scored 192. And the last world record for the past two year recording cycle is a Non-typical Coues Deer scoring 139 2/8 from Graham County, Ariz. Terry L. Edwards is the owner of this trophy

High standards are must for records to mean anything long term. That is why the P&Y Club adheres to fair chase pursuits of game animals, requires an affidavit of fair chase to be filled out and signed by the hunter, requires high ethical standards at all times and full compliance with state fish and game rules, regulations and laws. These reasons are why this author is proud to be a part of the Pope and Young Club.

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“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than that of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”

— Aldo Leopold


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.