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Big Buck Challenge: Baxter man's deer contest adds weight & youth divisions

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Now in its second season, a young Baxter man’s idea has grown. Chauncey Hanson expanded his Big Buck Challenge concept into Wisconsin this season, and attracted hunting industry manufacturers and retail giant Mills Fleet Farm as the major sponsor.

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“No matter where I travel, people want to talk deer and deer hunting. The guys and gals who entered last year are clamoring to buy their tickets, and they are urging their buddies to jump in this season,” Hanson said. “Working with the marketing team at Mills Fleet Farm and their store personnel will definitely spread the word.”

The Big Buck Challenge has expanded to a new name and website, www.usbigbuck.com. One of the goals ever since this idea popped into his head while on a northern Minnesota deer stand was to do something that would bring — and keep — young hunters into the outdoors.

“There are so many things competing for teens’ time, that I felt education could be part of the solution,” Hanson said.

This year, with the cooperation of Fleet Farm, an informative Youth Hunting Guide has been prepared and will be available at their stores. The guide covers everything from dressing to stay warm to how to watch for deer.

“This is everything I would have wanted to know when I was starting out,” he said. “Not every young boy or girl has a hunting mentor in their lives, and this guide will steer them in the right direction.”

The Big Buck Challenge is similar to the local conservation club, sport shop or bar contests, but with more prizes and more chances to win. “Hunters enter once and they’re eligible for all five divisions. This year, several new divisions have been added,” he said. The statewide contest is by weight. The divisions are for bucks over 200 pounds, bucks under 200 pounds (199.99 and lower), bucks under 180 pounds and bucks under 160 pounds.

Hanson said, “In last year’s contest, there were many bucks weighed close to these new division weights. This gives all hunters a much better chance of winning great prizes. There is also a biggest doe division that generated lots of serious and good-natured competition.

New for 2013 is the Mills Fleet Farm Youth Division. This is free for young hunters 15 years old and under. They will register for the contest when they weigh their bucks and does. The top 25 bucks and top 25 does registered by Minnesota youngsters will win $50 gift cards from Fleet. The same will apply to Wisconsin’s young hunters.

Weigh stations will be open at most Fleet Farm stores and many other locations from noon to 8 p.m. on opening weekend of the Minnesota rifle season, Nov. 9–10. The remainder of the nine-day season, Nov. 11-17, weigh stations will be open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Deer may be taken with rifle, shotgun, muzzle loader or by archery.

Big Buck Challenge personnel operate weigh stations. Deer will be inspected to assure they comply with the rules, and weighed to 1/100th of a pound. Weights will be recorded and forwarded to the usbigbuck.com website, where hunters may watch the standings from their deer stands or their desks at work.

There are 75 major prizes up for grabs for Minnesota $20 ticket holders, including Polaris ATVs, Vortex binoculars, rangefinders and scopes, Hunter’s Specialties prize packages, Big Game treestands, a Central Boiler outdoor wood stove, Spring Creek Taxidermy shoulder mounts, Big Max utility trailers, Remington, Henry, Savage and Marlin rifles, game cameras, Benelli shotguns, Thompson Center and CVA muzzle loaders, and much more. Young hunters will be eligible for 50 gift certificates of $50 each in the free youth division. Hunters of all ages may enter the regular contest, and enter one deer per ticket.

Tickets and Youth Hunting Guides are available at all Fleet Farm stores. Hunters may also register online. Weigh station maps, the complete prize list, photos from last season, rules and more details are featured at usbigbuck.com. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Brainerd Campus of Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge.

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