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Big Numbers at Pope & Young Annual Convention

New records, plentiful trophy mounts highlight the 2023 Pope & Young Convention in Reno, Nevada.

Big Numbers at Pope & Young Annual Convention

(Jeff Waring photo)

At the recent Pope & Young Club Convention in Reno, Nevada, several hundred gathered and found ample reasons to see and believe that the modern era of bowhunting is alive and well, and in some ways, as big as ever.

Surely somewhere in eternity, the late, great father of modern bowhunting, Fred Bear, and the late P&Y Club Founder Glenn St. Charles are sharing a heavenly campfire and smiling big. And I’ll bet Dwight Schuh — a longtime Pope and Young member and the late editor of Bowhunter Magazine — is enjoying that campfire, too.

That trio of bowhunters would have certainly grinned at the display of bow-killed big game animals recently displayed at the 2023 version of the P&Y Convention. In fact, when I asked Bowhunter publisher Jeff Waring this week what his takeaway was from the Reno convention, he mentioned just that, the incredibly impressive display of world-class big game animals taken by bowhunters during the most recent recording period.

Sporting an amazing lucky 13 newly recognized world’s records, the Pope & Young Club's 33rd Biennium North American Big Game Exhibit at the April 12-15 convention in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range was quite simply the biggest display of big game bowkills ever set out at the Club’s convention gatherings.

And that news comes on the heels of the P&Y Club's biggest record book ever published, a two-volume 9th Edition set released in Reno and now available on the Club's website.

When the mid-April convention gathering had finished a few days ago with a rousing banquet that capped four days of meetings, activities, and seminars — including talks by our very own editor Curt Wells and “Hunting Whitetails” columnist and wildlife biologist C.J. Winand — the Club's every two-year gathering had seen the distribution of more than 180 awards and the featuring of 174 of the largest animals ever harvested with a bow and arrow. As noted previously, that included just more than one dozen newly recognized P&Y world's records too.

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C.J. Winand was honored by the Pope & Young Club with the Lee Gladfelter Memorial Award. (Curt Wells photo)

Incidentally, Winand, who has served Bowhunter readers for many years, was honored by Pope & Young with the Lee Gladfelter Memorial Award, which is given in appreciation for significant contributions to bowhunting and wildlife conservation. And he received his highly coveted honor 20 years to the day after longtime Bowhunter columnist Dr. Dave Samuel received the same prestigious recognition!

Another well-deserved award — actually, the most significant award given out by the Pope & Young Club — was also awarded at the recent P&Y gathering in Reno.

“The seldom-awarded Ishi Award was given to Bowdy Gardner, who arrowed the largest typical mule deer ever taken by a hunter with any weapon,” noted Bowhunter editor Curt Wells. “The Gardner buck, taken in Utah in 2012, scored 218 2/8” and is only the 21st recipient of the coveted Ishi Award.“

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Bowdy Gardner arrowed the largest typical mule deer ever taken by a hunter in 2012, earning him the seldom-awarded Ishi Award (Jeff Waring photo)

While those two awards were definitely big headliners in Reno earlier this month, there was so much more to the 2023 gathering, other things worth celebrating and helpful in fostering a renewed sense of working hard to keep wildlife numbers strong, key habitat protected, and the bowhunting tradition secure for many years to come.

“The 33rd Biennial Pope and Young Convention showcases America’s commitment to bowhunting and bowhunting conservation,” stated Dylan Ray, Pope and Young Marketing Director, in a Club news release. “It is a gathering of the finest bowhunting conservationists in the world, and an opportunity to recognize their accomplishments both in terms of hunting, and conservation.

“It’s so great to gather with like-minded, conservation minded, bowhunters,” Ray continued. “The trophy display was one that was talk of the entire convention center, and for good reason. I am already looking forward to 2025 and excited to see what we can come up with for Phoenix.”

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During the recording period that this most recent show celebrated, P&Y Director of Records Tim Rozewski and his P&Y Records Team had their work cut out for them in what might be described as the modern good old days of bowhunting.

"The 33rd Recording Period set a lot of new records both in the books and in the records department," Rozewski noted in a letter to P&Y convention goers. "During this recording period we implemented many new processes and programs in the Official Measurer's Network and in our office. To boot, both myself and our Records Coordinator, Becca Burt, began our journey with Pope & Young in the same short two years."

And what a two-year period it has been since the Club last gathered in Reno in 2021 (the Club was forced to cancel its scheduled convention in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Since then, both bowhunters and the Club itself were setting new records frequently, along with building some incredible backstories sprinkled with determination and commitment to the P&Y Club and its core values centered around big game conservation, wildlife habitat, and our bowhunting heritage in North America.

At the recent convention in Reno, Pope and Young had some 174 trophies on display in 2023, over 40 more than ever displayed previously at a P&Y convention. There were 52 velvet trophies on display this spring, 14 more than ever before according to Club officials. There were also 52 trophies on display at this year’s convention that rank in the Top 10 all-time for their category.

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There were 174 trophies on display at the 2023 Pope & Young Convention. (Jeff Waring photo)

In addition to the 13 newly recognized world’s records shared at the convention, there were also 14 bowhunters who received more than one award in Reno.

Also worth noting is that all 29 of the North American big game species accepted by the Club were represented in this year's display, including 51 of the 57 various records categories. And there were 32 different states or Canadian provinces also represented by trophies, including some 37 trophies from Alaska alone according to Rozewski.

In terms of the P&Y record book entries that helped fuel the Club's first two-volume record book printing, there were 4,821 entries in the most recent recording period according to Club officials. That's up some 325 from the previous recording period.

"I have had the privilege to speak with virtually all of the trophy owners over the past two years, most of which will be here to support Pope & Young and receive recognition for their amazing bow hunting accomplishments," Rozewski reported to convention goers as the proceedings began. "With so many incredible trophies, I hope you take the time to say hello to these amazing hunters and take some long-lasting photos in the Big Game Display ballroom! I know I plan to."

The 13 new world's record bowkills at the 2023 P&Y Convention included two trophies from Hall of Fame bowhunter and longtime Bowhunter Magazine columnist and contributor Chuck Adams. The Wyoming resident has enjoyed a couple of stellar fall seasons in a row in Alaska, including the arrowing of a 109 7/8-inch Typical Sitka Blacktail Deer velvet buck world’s record (taken on Kodiak Island, Alaska on 8/12/21) and a 117 7/8-inch Non-Typical Sitka Blacktail Deer velvet buck world’s record (taken on 8/25/22 on Kodiak Island, Alaska).

Taken barely a year apart, Adams' two Sitka Blacktail world’s records now occupy both sides of the ledger in the P&Y record book!

Also included in the newly recognized world’s record bowkills recorded in the most recent recording period were Angelo Nogara's Non-Typical Columbian Blacktail Deer velvet buck scoring 157 3/8-inches (taken in Sonoma County, Ca. on 7/29/05); Rodney Cockeram's Central Canada Barren Ground Caribou velvet bull scoring 384 4/8-inches (taken at Humpy Lake, NWT, Canada on 9/3/05); Eric Bethune's 336 1/8-inch Tule Elk (taken last fall in Mendocino County, Ca. on 8/24/22); and Travis Peterson's 168 0/8-inch Canada Moose velvet bull (taken at Limestone Mountain, Alberta, Canada on 8/25/03).

There was also James Stewart's 115 4/8-inch Typical Coues Deer velvet buck (taken on 9/2/22 in Santa Cruz County, Arizona); Kyle Johnson's 387 4/8-inch Quebec-Labrador Caribou velvet bull (taken on 8/28/16 at Lake King, Quebec, Canada); Daniel Welker's 362 1/8-inch Woodland Caribou velvet bull (taken on 8/28/21 at Bergeo, Newfoundland, Canada); and Gregory L. Wing's 150 3/8-inch Typical Columbian Blacktail Deer velvet buck (taken on 8/29/21 in Marion County, Oregon).

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Curt Wells and Larry D. Jones take a minute to catch up at the 2023 Pope & Young Convention. (Curt Wells photo)

Rounding out the newly recognized world record specimens were Jim Wondzell's 257 5/8-inch Tule Elk velvet bull (taken on 7/19/21 in San Luis Obispo County, Ca.); Bowdy Gardner's 218 2/8-inch Typical Mule Deer velvet buck (taken on 8/28/12 in Kane County, Utah); and J. Dean Bodoh's 432 2/8-inch Mountain Caribou velvet bull (taken on 8/12/90 at O'Grady Lake, NWT, Canada).

Of the total of 4,821 accepted entries during the recent P&Y recording period, leading the pack were 2,856 entries for typical white-tailed deer. That was followed by the rest of the Top 10 big game species leaders including typical American elk with 362 entries, black bear (328 entries), non-typical white-tailed deer (302 entries), pronghorn antelope (210 entries), typical mule deer (118 entries), typical Coues deer (78 entries), typical mule deer velvet (54 entries), typical white-tailed deer velvet (40 entries), and typical Columbian blacktail deer (33 entries).

Incidentally, all of the 4,800+ entries accepted during the 33rd Recording Period came during a Jan. 1, 2021 and Dec. 31, 2022 acceptance window. The 34th Recording Period is now off and running, going from Jan. 1, 2023 to Dec. 31, 2024, a recording period that will be recognized and awarded when the P&Y Club gathers in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2025.

It's also worth noting that the 13 world's record big game specimens recently honored were panel measured in February of this year when a panel measuring crew of nearly 40 individuals gathered in Reno to verify the scoring of some 169 big game bowkills, including the dozen-plus newly minted world's records. Those animals had been previously scored by several dozen members of the army of official measurers who volunteer their time to P&Y every year.

"The Pope and Young Club Records Program is considered to be the backbone of the organization," noted Roy E. Grace, Records Chairman for Pope & Young in convention material. " The volunteer measurers of the Club, nearly 900, are very important as they keep the Records Program moving forward. The well-trained measurers put in countless and oftentimes thankless hours working with bowhunters to accurately measure their trophies and submitting them for entry into the Records Program. Without a doubt, this organization would not be where it is today without them."

If there was a somber note to the recent panel measuring session prior to the 2023 Convention, it was the recent loss of longtime veteran P&Y measurer Ken Witt, a Lone Star State resident from the Burleson, Texas area who passed away earlier this year. Longtime owner of the Arlington Bowhunter’s World archery shop, Witt was highly respected in measuring circles and participated in numerous panel measuring sessions for both P&Y and the Boone and Crockett Club (Link: www.boone-crockett.org ).

When Pope & Young gathers in two years for another panel measuring session and convention, it will mark the second time that P&Y has assembled in Phoenix. Other convention sites over the years have included Chicago, Denver, Boulder, Bismarck, Salt Lake City, Spokane, Milwaukee, Tulsa, Boise, Seattle, Minneapolis, Traverse City, Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), Omaha, Madison, Springfield (Missouri), Lancaster, Rochester, Dallas, St. Louis, and Reno.

Between now and then, is a great time to support the Pope & Young Club, North America's leading bowhunting conservation organization and its ongoing commitment to preserve, protect, and promote bowhunting.

As Pope & Young notes, if you are a fair chase, ethical bowhunter, and you care about preserving the culture and future of bowhunting, then you should consider belonging to the Club. So, why not consider joining today at pope-young.org?

Who knows, maybe you’ll be an award winner or new world’s record holder at the next Pope & Young Club gathering in the Grand Canyon State’s desert country in only a couple of more years. Bowhunting is big, the Grand Canyon is big, and the good old days are indeed now!




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