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Splits: A buck in waiting, Will County

Splits was his nickname.

I’ve found any buck that grows a nickname with his antlers each year usually has a story and antlers worthy of the record book.

A group of hunters in Will County have been following a buck nicknamed Splits for years. They have watched him both from sightings while in the fields and on trail cameras.

“I’ve known the deer for the last four years and he kept getting bigger and bigger,” said Jim Adams, one of the hunters. “No one had shots at him last year. Everybody saw him this year, but nobody got a shot at him until Mike.”

That would be Mike Bertrand.

The New Lenox man, who works in elevator maintenance, was bowhunting in Will County on New Year’s Day. Near dark, the buck showed up with two other bucks and walked past his stand at 30 yards. Around 4:15 p.m., Bertrand arrowed him.

The following morning five men and two young girls–Amanda and Jessica–tracked the buck and the girls spotted him first.

“I have both shed antlers from last year,” Adams said. “I gave them to him. I had promised them to anybody who gets him.”

Using an 18-inch spread, they rough-scored him at 160 inches from the sheds last year. When they rough-scored Splits after Bertrand shot it, it came to 176.

Measuring and scoring of buck antlers is done in inches. Scoring is an addition of various measurements (inside spread, circumference near base of main beams, each tine, etc.) and various subtractions for imperfections.

Measuring and scoring is not cut-and-dried. Even top measurers can come up with different scores. And sometimes the decision to score as a typical or non-typical can be debated, too. Speaking of dried, deer antlers must dry for 60 days before being officially measured.

Two organizations, both noted for their conservation work as much as their record-keeping, are the primary keepers of hunting records.

The Boone and Crockett Club keeps big-game records. The Pope and Young Club keeps bowhunting records. Splits should qualify for the record book of both groups if Bertrand decides to go through the process.

Splits came by his nickname because of two splits on right side antlers. He had a 10-point rack, but 12 points in total because the G2 and G3 (the largest tines) on the right were both split.

Illinois’ one world record is Mel Johnson’s. The 12-point buck he arrowed in a Peoria County beanfield scored 204 4/8 and has remained the Pope and Young world record for typical whitetails for 50 years. Tim Walmsley, a scorer and unofficial keeper of Illinois records, said the state record for non-typical remains Jerry Bryant’s crossbow kill. It scored 304 3/8 and remains one of the top Boone and Crockett records.

Splits isn’t that big, but big enough to draw a crowd.

“By 11 that morning at my house, we had a gang of people here,” Adams said. “Everyone came to the house.”

The taxidermy of Splits will be done by Jeff Bohdan of Wilmington.

Click here for Boone and Crockett record-keeping info. Click here for Pope and Young record info.