Boone and Crockett Generation Next Youth Awards: Young Hunters Show Us How It’s Done

by
posted on April 15, 2023
B And C Generation Next Youth Awards Lead

Young Ross Potter was hunting in his home county in central Missouri on a November day in 2018, clear and calm with a couple inches of snow on the ground. About 8 a.m. he raised his .308 and fired one shot at a huge whitetail—wide, heavy, lots of points, almost matching double drop-tines.

Potter’s buck had a typical 180-inch frame with over 41 inches of non-typical points. Officially measured at 222⅜ Boone and Crockett points, this big non-typical ranks 28th from Missouri. That’s the final official tally, but it might have scored higher just days earlier. The rut was on in Missouri, and the monster whitetail had several points recently broken from fighting.

Ross Potter and his buck were among nearly 30 young hunters honored at the Jack Steele Parker Generation Next youth awards, a highlight of Boone and Crockett Club’s 31st Big Game Awards, held in July ’22 at the Wonders of Wildlife Museum in Springfield, Mo. B&C’s 31st triennial awards honor great North American animals entered into B&C’s records system between 2019 and 2021, with over 100 awesome animals on display at Wonders of Wildlife through the summer months.

Boone and Crockett Next Generation Youth Banquet Award winners.

Named in honor of Jack Steele Parker (1918-2013), stalwart member and past president of Boone and Crockett Club, the 31st Awards marked the fourth Generation Next youth awards. The rules are simple: In order to be entered into Generation Next, the hunter must be 16 or under at the time the animal was taken, and it must be officially measured during the awards period.

At the close of the period, all animals officially entered are invited to be displayed, with the “best of the best” recognized at the Awards banquet or, for young hunters, at the Generation Next banquet.

At the 31st Awards, young hunters entered 132 great animals. For the display and awards presentation, five North American big-game species were represented: black bear, mule deer, pronghorn, Rocky Mountain goat and whitetail deer. Whitetails were by far the greatest number, which makes perfect sense: As our most populous and widespread animal, whitetails are the big game a majority of hunters of all ages pursue close to home, and most accessible for younger hunters.

Young male hunter with pronghorn antelope.Landon Hayne and his 80 2/8-inch pronghorn.

Even so, I found it striking that, at this Generation Next awards, young hunters were recognized for eight typical and eight non-typical whitetails, taken in nine different states. There were multiple entries from three states, with Kansas and Kentucky claiming four each.

Every trophy has a story. In the brief stories related at the “Gen Next” banquet, as a Kansan I noted that multiples of the big Kansas bucks were taken during our state’s special September youth season.

Dominique Girard was hunting with her dad on the opening morning of this season, from a stand where their trail camera had revealed the presence of a huge buck. It was still early when they saw a big rack protruding above standing milo. The buck wandered off into the woods and they could hear him rubbing. A big 160-class 10-pointer appeared. Naturally, Dominique wanted to shoot, but her dad urged her to hold off. Almost immediately, a clearly larger buck came out and Dominique took her shot with her .243. Her big non-typical entered B&C’s records at 212⅞ points. The buck of a lifetime … but how many of us would pass a 160 waiting for such a buck?

Youth female hunter with male father and large black bear.Morgan Burns and her 201 3/16-inch black bear.

Although not the first time in the short history of the youth awards for a young hunter to have multiple great animals, Josey Norris was recognized twice, for big typical whitetails taken in back-to-back Kansas youth seasons in 2019 and 2020. The lone Iowa entry in this Generation Next awards was also taken during a youth season. Alex Engelken had targeted a big non-typical they called Crater. On the last day of the season, just at sunset, Crater stepped into a clover patch and fell to Alex’s 350 Legend. The buck scored 195⅝.

The young hunters’ success with big whitetails wasn’t all about special or rifle seasons. Joshua Swartzentruber used his Mission Craze bow to take the lone Indiana buck, a giant 201⅞-inch non-typical, taken in an early bow season. Ryleigh Campbell used a crossbow for a big Kentucky typical. Noah Detloff, Samuel Gronewold and Joseph Joiner used shotguns with slugs, taking their big whitetails in Minnesota, Illinois and Kentucky.

Folks, I’ve hunted whitetails for 55 years. Most of these bucks, all free range and taken in fair chase, are bigger than any I’ve ever seen, let alone bagged. I hope nobody is feeling pangs of jealousy! Instead, let’s be happy with such success, and even happier that our North American game populations are in such good shape as to produce exceptional animals.

Youth male hunter with large mule deer buck.Alexander Rowein and his 193⅜-inch mule deer.

We can, perhaps, have subconscious thoughts about hunters’ luck and beginners’ luck. For some of these young hunters, their award-winning entry was their very first big-game animal. The taking of a B&C-qualifying animal is so unusual that, realistically, for many of these youngsters this may remain their trophy of a lifetime.

For sure, there is always some luck involved when an exceptional animal appears and offers a shot. In some cases, specific bucks were known and targeted, others were unknown and random. Naturally, many of the young hunters were under careful supervision of a parent or mentor, others were hunting on their own. Doesn’t matter. Whether the actual size of antler, horn or, in the case of bears and cougars, body size is fully appreciated at the moment of the shot, consider this: Whether beginner or expert, regardless of age or sex, when the decision to shoot is taken, the hunter must do things right. The firearm or bow must be brought to bear without spooking the animal. The projectile must be placed correctly, and then the animal must be recovered. Morgan Burns, Nathan Kaiser, Logan Kobus and Hunter Milanowski all took massive black bears with skull measurements qualifying for B&C, hunting in Minnesota and Wisconsin (two bears from each state). Most reported scary follow-ups, with much help needed to recover the huge bruins. They were among 132 young hunters who did things exactly right when a rare opportunity was presented. B&C’s Generation Next gives us great hope for the next generation of American hunters.

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