VPSA awards quality harvests at 80th Virginia Big Game Contest

Published 6:46 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Steve Little, VPSA’s chief judge, takes careful measurements of this trophy. — Stephen H. Cowles Tidewater News

By Mike Jones


The Virginia Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association, in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, held the 80th annual Virginia Big Game Contest this past weekend at the Franklin-Southampton County Fairgrounds. The contest featured all the large deer, bear and turkey harvested throughout the state during the last hunting season. Overall, the event featured 240 deer up and down the aisles within the fairgrounds. Steve Little, VPSA’s chief judge, reacted by the amount of heads by saying, “We had some good quality deer enter this contest; it was great to see so many come from such distances.”

The VPSA, headquartered in Williamsburg, is a group of sportsmen who serve sportsmen. They founded the Virginia Big Game Contest in 1940 and developed the Virginia Scoring System for Deer and Bear. The group is the caretaker of the 80-year-old Virginia Record Book documenting the largest deer, bear, and turkey ever to roam within the Commonwealth. In the early years of the VPSA, they assisted the game department with the Whitetail Deer recovery effort in the Commonwealth. Their members had a deer-holding pen in Newport News, known today as Deer Park. The contest held this past weekend is the oldest consecutively held deer contest in the country. The game department supports the group, but VPSA manages the contest entirely with its cadre of well-trained volunteers.

Last weekend the group crowned a new state champion deer. David Jason Dooley in Bedford County harvested this deer on Nov. 18, 2018. The deer supported an impressive 17-point rack and scored 232 6/16 points under the Virginia Scoring System. The group strives to support youth hunting. Three years ago, they began awarding a trophy named in honor of their long-serving president of 22 years, Kenneth R. Pickin, to the largest deer harvested by a youth in the commonwealth. This year’s recipient of the Ken Pickin Youth State Championship was T.J. Norvell with his 10-point buck he harvested in Southampton County on Nov. 22, 2018. T.J.’s buck scored 203 5/16 points.

Michael Duke was less than three points shy of a state record with his turkey that scored 79 4/16 points. Michael harvested his turkey in Southampton County on April 28. This large bird earned him the Turkey State Championship.

Young Natalie Coble of Floyd County won the Youth State Championship with her turkey that scored 74 14/16 points. Tony Shifflett claimed the Bear State Championship with a bear harvested on Oct.7, 2018, in Albemarle County. Tony’s bear weighed in at 482 pounds and scored 30 0/16 points. There were no youth bear entries this year at the contest!

VPSA began its ceremony with a message from newly appointed Game Department Executive Director Ryan Brown. He spoke about the urbanizing of Virginia and the need for conservationists to meet that challenge. Brown said his team is working hard to provide the sportsmen and women of Virginia good and meaningful regulations that will support the ethical hunter. He encouraged the crowd to comment on any all proposed regulation. Brown said he truly wants to hear from his constituents.

Mike Jones, VPSA’s president, said, “It was great to have Director Brown attend and speak today. It really shows the people we serve the connection the VPSA has to the game department and shows the people the commitment the game department has to them.”

Jones later told The Tidewater News on Saturday that the number of entries this year is about the same as last year, but noted there was an uptick from the Western Region.

“The deer harvested are a better quality,” he said. “We have some monster bucks — good quality stock.”

Weather, herd size and even illnesses such as hemorrhagic disease can be overall factors that can affect the deer. Jones added that Lunenburg County does a notable job of herd size management.

Membership in the VPSA is open to anyone living in the eastern portion of Virginia. Membership information and a full list of the contest results can be found at www.vpsa.org.

MIKE JONES is president of the VPSA. Contact him at 371-3335 or vpsa.big.game.contest@gmail.com.

STEPHEN H. COWLES, staff writer, contributed to this article.