Two Tennessee hunters recently harvested new world record Southeastern white-tailed deer with muzzleloaders. Last November, Harold Thompson harvested a 184-inch typical Southeastern white-tailed deer that is now officially the new SCI number one with a muzzleloader and new number three overall in the typical category. Just two days later and 20 miles away, his friend and hunting buddy, Stephen Tucker, harvested the official new SCI number one non-typical Southeastern white-tailed deer with a muzzleloader that scored 321. The harvesting of these two incredible bucks by two very lucky hunters is evidence of a healthy wildlife management program and the trophy aspect of these two mature deer is a testament that deer populations are improving because of the benefits of hunting.
Interviewing Mr. Thompson and Mr. Tucker was one of my first assignments here at SCI as I was hired in January 2017 as the Record Book Manager. I came to work for SCI after retiring from a twenty-year career with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD). I had a great career there and truly enjoyed working for wildlife and hunters as a game warden for twelve years and as a law enforcement program manager for eight. Going into the game warden field was natural for me as I was raised hunting, fishing and camping and being a game warden helped me preserve what I loved to do most.
After twenty years of working for state government, I knew it was time for me to retire and start a second career. When I first considered retirement, I knew it would be tough because there are many aspects of the game warden job that I love. The first part of the job that I really knew I would miss was hunters. With my outgoing personality, I got to know and become friends with hundreds of hunters and, during my career, I came to appreciate the hard work and dedication of the men and women who supported the Department and me. Some of my greatest memories were of working with volunteers building water catchments, conducting clean ups or hunter education classes. Knowing that the volunteers were doing it free made me always work harder and longer to make sure they had the support they needed.
The second part of being a game warden that I truly loved was the high ethical standards of hunters to preserve the sport they love. I witnessed firsthand the lifelong benefits of teaching kids hunter education and I was always happy to meet my hunter education graduates and be reminded of the “code of ethics” we taught them and how they still use it today. I’m still most impressed with all the hunters who “self-reported” their violations because it was the right thing to do. The “self-reporting” violators I dealt with always cared more about the wildlife than their pride and I always respected their ability take responsibility for their actions.
My first experience with SCI Members was with a group of hunters I met while out on hunt patrol in 2004. After checking their licenses and tags, the conversation quickly turned to the trash problem created by the thousands undocumented aliens flooding across the Arizona border. One of the hunters I contacted was Bobby Boido who was a member of the Arizona Chapter of SCI. Bobby was as sick as I was with the amount of trash we were finding in our hunting areas and wanted to get AZSCI involved in a solution. After a few successful clean ups, Bobby invited me to my first fundraiser banquet and before I knew it, I was asked to be on the board of directors to become a liaison between the AZGFD and AZSCI.
Naturally, when I first heard about a job opening at SCI in the Record Book Department it didn’t take me long to drop off an application and resume and hope that my background would give me a chance. After being hired, I was more excited than I could imagine because I once again could follow my passion to preserve hunting and wildlife conservation.
My vision for the Record Book Department is to continue promoting our efforts to document our hunting heritage and working to continue generating products that our members are proud of. I am proud to be a hunter and even though not everyone supports submitting entries into a record book, I know that the record book exists because of everything we do as conservationists to manage wildlife for everyone to enjoy. Our ability to continue harvesting older age class animals year after year is a testament to healthy wildlife populations and to sportsman-funded game management programs that protect wildlife while preserving habitat.
I am very happy for my past career, my future here at SCI and for my first assignment interviewing and congratulating two very fortunate Tennessee hunters whose entries now sit at the top of the SCI record book in their respective categories. We are fortunate as hunters to continue our hunting traditions, and consistently harvesting older age class animals is proof to everyone that our system of wildlife management works.
I thank Mr. Thompson and Mr. Tucker for entering their deer into the SCI Record Book. They were blessed with the luck that every hunter dreams of and documenting their amazing trophies in the SCI Record Book of Big Game Animals is a reminder to everyone who reads it that we as hunters take pride in our hunting traditions and conservation efforts.–Gabriel Paz