Did you see the photos circulating on the Internet the past few weeks of the 12-point buck reportedly found dead in western Lancaster County?
Well, the antlers are real.
John Veylupek, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's wildlife conservation officer for northwest Lancaster County, reported he confiscated the rack this week from the Columbia hunter who found it.
"It's a pretty impressive set of antlers," Veylupek said. "We do have bucks of that caliber out there in Lancaster County."
Veylupek did not identify the hunter who found the antlers because the hunter was only given a written warning for illegally possessing the antlers. He was not cited for a violation.
A photo appeared on the Lancaster Bowhunters United Facebook page Dec. 7 showing a partially-decomposed buck with a massive set of antlers.
Information posted with the photo indicated the buck was found dead by a hunter in the woods off Route 441 in the vicinity of Chickies Hill, West Hempfield Township.
Theories were offered that it was hit by a car and ran into the woods to die. Veylupek said there's no way to know for sure how the buck died.
The rack is very wide, with 10 long points on the main beams, plus two drop tines. Its symmetry is nearly perfect.
You can never tell rack size for certain from photos, but based on the pictures I saw, I would guess the rack measures somewhere in the high 160 to low 170 inches range. I wouldn't be surprised, however, if that estimate is low, and the actual score is higher.
The antlers apparently have not been officially measured by anyone.
Veylupek reported the hunter he took the rack from told him that he had found the rack in the woods near Chickies Hill when he was taking down a tree stand after archery season ended in mid-November.
Thinking it was legal to do so, the hunter put the unused antlered deer tag from his hunting license on the buck and claimed it for himself.
"You can't do that," Veylupek said. "Your buck tag is for a deer that you legally harvested. It's not like a coupon you can put on any deer that you find."
What the hunter could have done, Veylupek said, is call the Game Commission to apply for a special permit to keep the buck's skull and antlers at a cost of $10 per point.
Provided there were no extenuating circumstances, the hunter could have been allowed to keep the skull and antlers through that process.
Since the hunter didn't follow that procedure, Veylupek said he had to confiscate the trophy.
Veylupek learned about the big buck, and tracked down the hunter who had claimed it, through Internet postings about it.
On Thursday, he could not say what the Game Commission will do with the rack.
The biggest typical whitetail taken by a hunter in Lancaster County and entered into the Game Commission's Big Game Records Program was a 10-point buck measuring 164 inches, which was shot by Wade Conrad of New Providence in 1997.