"The 2012-13 deer season in Mississippi is proving to be the best we've ever had, and I think this contest correlates to that," said Dacus, the assistant chief of wildlife and deer program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. "We were talking about it a while ago and it is amazing how much better the overall entries are from 10 years ago. I know I've been involved in at least the last seven or eight, and it's easily the best.
"You look at the scores of the Big Buck Bounty winners, and it's pretty clear how good a season it was. The top four typical bucks in archery are all Boone & Crockett qualifiers (160 and above for the yearly listing), and that includes the new state record for archery."
The contest, sponsored by US 96.3 and Mississippi Sportsman Magazine, held its annual awards ceremony Saturday at the Agricultural and Forestry Museum in Jackson.
Click here to view the full contest gallery.
Dacus' excitement included getting his hands on the huge non-typical rack of Joshua Bruce for the first time. Bruce won the non-typical men's contest with the Giles Island buck that green scored 226 3/8 inches.
"I'm going to officially score it this week and I can't wait to put a tape on it," Dacus said. "It is going to be an interesting rack to score."
Kevin Medlin was unable to bring the antlers from his new state-record typical buck that officially netted 173 2/8 inches. "I hate it but it is still at the taxidermist and he was at the point that I couldn't bring them," Medlin said of the deer he killed Nov. 11 in DeSoto County. Scored in January by Rick Dillard of the Magnolia Records program, it is a main-frame 10-point with three stickers, with main beams that measured 28 2/8 and 27 5/8 inches.
Dacus credits excellent conditions over the past five years for the increase in big bucks that includes 11 Boone & Crockett bucks already certified "with more to come."
"Most of our mature bucks have never known habitat-related stress," he continued. "Outside of the big flood in the Delta region two years ago, our deer herd hasn't faced stress. Our acorn production has been above average for several years, and they are benefitting from the increased and improved habitat management of landowners and deer clubs."
What pleases Dacus and other biologists the most is that big bucks are coming from all over the state.
"We had a non-typical in this contest from Simpson County (Mike Palamone's 164 7/8, third place men's non-typical) and another winner from Simpson County," Dacus said. "I think it's indicative of how people have realized that if you let these bucks get into those older age classes, they can score high in all areas."
Other sponsors of the event included Tire Depot, Phil Moore GMC, Rankin County Co-Op, Lampton Love, Venable Glass, Southern Tractor, Primos Game Calls and Van's Sporting Goods.
Dan Heasley Taxidermy, Hines Grocery, P&A Deer Processing, the Buck Shop and Dave Custom Meats all served ad scoring locations.
Winners of the Big Buck Bounty include:
• Men's archery, typical - John Kevin Medlin, 173 2/8; Joshua Saucier, 167 6/8; Kevin Mahaffey, 164 1/8; John Brunini, 160 7/8. Men's archery non-typical - Dakota Wills, 153 3/8; Daniel Tackett, 135; Bretin Hariel, 118.
• Women typical - Mona Owens, 147 2/8; Janet Smith, 137 1/8; Tery Smith 136, 4/8; Jennier Mayfield, 135 7/8.
• Male gun typical - Ryan Provance, 181 4/8; Wic Smith, 167 2/8; Jeff North 164 3/8; James Moore III, 153 1/8.
• Youth typical - Chelsea Myers, 134 3/8; Connor Joseph Smith, 133 7/8; Mills Paul, 131 5/8; Tres Paul 126; Graham Quarles, 124 1/8.
• Youth non-typical - Beau Johnson, 164 5/8.
•Female non-typical - Emily Howard, 141 ⅞
• Male non-typical - Joshua Bruce, 226 3/8; Randy Nichols, 192 1/8; Mike Palamone, 164 7/8.