The Northeast’s Best Muzzleloader Bucks From The 2012 Season!
Plus – Best Counties For Your 2013 Muzzleloader Hunt
By Jeff Brown
In 2012 some of the region’s best bucks fell to muzzleloader hunters. That’s because blackpowder hunting continues to be the fastest growing segment of our sport, and is gaining popularity with hunters of all ages, particularly here in the Northeast. It doesn’t hurt that states are responding by increasing the length of muzzleloader seasons and creating more liberal bag limits. Hunters in some states are forgoing the trusty shotgun during the firearms season and grabbing their smokepoles instead. As you might expect, the results are increased harvest numbers throughout the region and a growing number of record bucks harvested by blackpowder hunters. According to the Northeast Big Buck Club, the region’s record keeping and scoring organization, muzzleloader hunters harvested a great new batch of bucks that made the NBBC record book during the 2012season, including three bucks that set state records (including our Cover buck)! As you will see, huge bucks fell to muzzleloader hunters across the Northeast. Here is a roundup of the best bucks taken during the 2012 muzzleloader season and some pointers about where you might find your muzzleloader trophy in 2013.
The Northeast’s Best Muzzleloader Bucks of 2012
It is important to note that at the time this article was written (summer 2012) there were likely some great bucks from the 2012season that had yet to be officially scored. (For the purposes of this article, all rankings reflect Northeast Big Buck Club records.) So what follows is not the final tally of the best bucks from the 2012 muzzleloader seasons, but it certainly is representative of many of the best bucks taken. It is also worth noting that we are including the states of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Vermont in this article. Although the NBBC scores deer from and other states and Canadian Provinces, we will focus primarily on the Northeast in this article.
As of September of 2013, the Northeast Big Buck Club had already scored more than thirty blackpowder record-book trophies from the Northeast’s 2012 season. Of those entries, four bucks topped the 170” mark, and one great buck scored over 210”. That buck established a new state record for non-typical muzzleloader bucks in Massachusetts. That state also set a new muzzleloader typical record in the same season! Let’s look at all of the outstanding trophy class muzzleloader bucks taken throughout the region.
According to the NBBC, the gross scores for the biggest muzzleloader bucks taken in the Northeast during the 2012 season were:
Rank Gross Score State Category Points Hunter
1. 214 5/8 Massachusetts Non-Typical 23-Point Craig Luscier*
2. 181 0/8 Massachusetts Typical 11-Point Paul Merrill*
3. 177 2/8 New York Non-Typical 15-Point Vance Carr
4. 175 1/8 Massachusetts Typical 10-Point Scott Carpenter
5. 166 2/8 New Hampshire Typical 10-Point Nathan Fenderson
6. 157 7/8 New York Typical 10-Point Mike Tost
7. 157 1/8 New York Typical 10-Point Nick Ringleberg
8. 156 4/8 New Jersey Non-Typical 14-Point Paul Bouchard*
9. 151 7/8 Connecticut Typical 12-Point Joe Vicidomino
10. 147 2/8 Massachusetts Typical 10-Point John Bartlett
According to the NBBC, the gross scores for the biggest muzzleloader bucks taken in the Northeast during the 2011 season were:
1. 180 4/8 Connecticut Typical 10-Point Bruce E. Gagliardi*
2. 173 Massachusetts Non-Typical 14-Point Joe Scioli
3. 170 2/8 Massachusetts Typical 11-Point Richard L. Hawley
4. 169 6/8 Massachusetts Non-Typical 14-Point Tim Leslie
5. 161 7/8 Pennsylvania Non-Typical 13-Point David Kochel
6. 160 New York Typical 10-Point Jamie Koch
7. 158 1/8 New Hampshire Non-Typical 12-Point Robert Enos
8. 157 5/8 Rhode Island Non-Typical 12-Point Gerald J. Klerk
9. 155 6/8 New York Non-Typical 15-Point Jason Nowak
10. 151 Massachusetts Typical 9-Point Rebecca O'Dell
Notes: * = State Record at that point in time; Bucks taken in January are recorded with the previous year (so a January 2012 buck counts for the 2011 season).
As you can see from these scores, the Northeast’s muzzleloader hunters produced a bigger class of top-end bucks in 2012 than they did in the previous season. And 2012 saw three new state records, versus just one state record in 2011. Notice that Massachusetts not only topped the list in 2012, but also put three of the top 4 bucks on the list in both 2012 and 2011! You may also notice that two states – Vermont and Maine – did not put a buck in the top ten in either season, although both states are capable of doing so. If we look at recent history as our barometer, when viewed as a “region” the Northeast continues to produce some very impressive muzzleloader bucks from all states. In fact, the Northeast’s blackpowder hunters have recorded an average of about 65 record book bucks in each of the last 5 seasons as follows: 2008 – 67; 2009 – 47; 2010 – 89; 2011 – 40; 2012 – 32 (so far, with more likely to be scored in the coming months). In looking at the expanded records it is interesting to notice that during the last five years all the Northeast states have put several bucks into the “top 10” for the year, proving that from north to south, blackpowder hunting is successful throughout the region.
Now that we have looked at the region’s results for the last few years, let’s take a look at a few of the best bucks from 2012!
Over the years, Rhode Island has been the one state in all of the Northeast that consistently produces a large number of muzzleloader trophy bucks (defined as bucks that meet the Northeast Big Buck Club’s minimum entry score of 100” gross Boone & Crocket for typicals, and 115” for non-typicals). Despite its diminutive size, Rhody’s muzzleloader season typically runs during the peak rut of early and mid-November, and therefore has an advantage over most of the other Northeast states, whose muzzleloader seasons tend to run later in the year. However, the growing popularity of muzzleloaders has hunters using them during the firearms seasons in some states, giving them the opportunity to hunt with them during the rut in other states as well. As a result, we have seen Rhody’s muzzleloader dominance begin to subside as other states come on strong! In the last two seasons it was Massachusetts and New York that produced the most top ten entries, but over the last five seasons Rhode Island still has produced the most record book entries for muzzleloader hunters overall. Let’s take a closer look at the top bucks.
Best Bucks of 2012
Massachusetts has emerged as the dominant state for muzzleloader top-end bucks over the last two seasons, posting two new state records in 2012, three of the top four bucks from each of the past two seasons, and four total top ten entries both years! Craig Luscier’s phenomenal 214 5/8” 23-Point Berkshire County non-typical was not only the largest muzzleloader buck killed in the Northeast in 2012, but it was also a new state record non-typical for Massachusetts, and the largest buck ever harvested by a hunter in that state! To put Luscier’s buck in perspective, it is the 2nd largest muzzleloader buck from the Northeast all-time!
The #2 buck came from Massachusetts last year as well – a great 11-Point typical taken by Paul Merrill in Norfolk County that set the typical state muzzleloader record. This buck scored 181 0/8” and ranks #4 all-time for typical muzzleloader bucks from the Northeast. This state had a great showing again with four “top 10” entries (#1, #2, #4, #10) in 2012 after posting four in 2011 (#2, #3, #4, #10), proving that this southern New England state comes up “big” during muzzleloader season. Worcester County continues to produce the most muzzleloader bucks from this state, with Scott Carpenter’s amazing 175 1/8” typical from 2012 (the #4 entry on this list) as a perfect example of this county’s potential!
The #3 muzzleloader buck from 2012 was taken in New York, a state that has produced the second highest total of muzzleloader entries for the NBBC over the last five years. Vance Carr shot an awesome Wayne County non-typical that scores 177 2/8”. This state also produced the #6 and #7 bucks from Genesee and Livingston counties in 2012, after putting two bucks in the “top 10” during 2011.
Nathan Fenderson took the #5 buck in Carroll County New Hampshire, a state that has consistently put bucks on this list in years past. Fenderson’s buck scored 166 1/8” as a 10-Point typical, with an inside spread over 20”! Based on the recent past, Hillsborough, Grafton and Carroll counties are your best bet for muzzleloader trophies in this state.
The #8 buck came from the state of New Jersey, and it is a new state record non-typical muzzleloader buck for that state. Bouchard took the 156 4/8” 14-Point in Monmouth County. The NBBC just recently started scoring bucks in this state, but Monmouth County is quickly establishing itself as a strong producer of trophy bucks.
As mentioned above, Rhody is always a muzzleloader hotspot. In 2012 it did not put a buck in the “top 10”, but did produce the #11 ranked buck (Jay Noon’s 146 5/8” 8-Point from Washington County) and six bucks that ranked between #11 and #20. In 2011 this state took the #8 buck on the list (Gerald Klerk’s Kent County non-typical), so certainly it can produce the region’s best.
Maine, Vermont and Pennsylvania also did not make the “top ten” in 2012. However, Vermont did produce the #12 ranked muzzleloader buck last year (Jesse Eckart’s Washington County 146 1/8” 10Point). Often times the great bucks killed in these states are not entered to the NBBC records, which is a shame. We know that many more big bucks are taken there with muzzleloader, but are not scored or are not entered to the NBBC.
Since 2000, certain counties in the Northeast have produced more muzzleloader bucks than any others. Want to know which ones? According to the NBBC, more record book muzzleloader bucks have come from Providence County in RI than from any other in The Northeast! In fact, Washington County, RI finishes second on the list, and Kent County, RI finishes third! Worcester County, MA finishes fourth. Each of those counties had at least twice as many entries as any other county in the Northeast, so if you want to put a muzzleloader trophy on the wall, we suggest you try to find some land to hunt in one of those counties in Southern New England! Also holding great promise is Livingston and Ontario counties in New York, producing multiple top end muzzleloader bucks, and Middlesex County in Connecticut where the two largest muzzleloader bucks of the 2010 and 2011 seasons were killed.
2012 Summary and the Outlook for 2013
The last several muzzleloader seasons in the Northeast have been outstanding. It seems that each year brings us a new crop of great bucks in this category as more hunters take advantage of the extended season offered for muzzleloading, and because of the continuous improvements in muzzleloading equipment and technology. The Northeast has set many new state muzzleloader records during that time period, and we continue to see some of the year’s best bucks overall killed by muzzleloader. Given the growth of muzzleloader hunter numbers across the region and the success they have been experiencing in recent years, it is safe to assume that the Northeast’s 2013 seasons will likely produce one or more new state records as well. In any case, we can certainly expect to see blackpowder hunters taking some of the most impressive bucks in each state during the coming season.