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Last updated: Wed. Dec. 05, 2012 - 04:54 pm EDT

Indiana hunter's 'deer of lifetime' leads to charges


LYNN — An Indiana hunter who killed what wildlife experts say is the "deer of a lifetime" could be denied a spot in the record books because authorities say he took the buck illegally.

Austin Spain, 21, of Lynn, told investigators he killed the 16-point trophy buck the weekend of Nov. 17 in Randolph County. The buck's size makes it eligible for a national record book kept by hunter-conservationist group Boone and Crockett, The Star-Press reported.

But it won't be eligible if authorities prove Spain took it illegally. Indiana law allows hunters to take just one buck each year. Conservation officer Jake Carlile said Spain had already taken an antlered buck earlier in November.

Spain could not be reached for comment because there was no phone listing available.

Investigators found the trophy buck at a taxidermy shop in Eaton and interviewed Spain on Monday. Carlile said Spain initially indicated the buck had been taken in Michigan but that he eventually told detectives he had shot it in Randolph County.

Spain faces misdemeanor charges of illegally taking and tagging deer.

Based on its size, the deer would qualify for the Records of North American Big Game, a book similar to the Guinness World Records books that's maintained by Boone and Crockett, Carlile said.

"That deer is a deer of a lifetime. A person could hunt for 30 years and not see a deer that large."

Keith Balfourd, spokesman for the group, said a deer must measure 160 inches to qualify. Scores are calculated using the number of points on each antler, the spread between the right and left antlers, the length of the antlers, the length of the points and the circumference of the antlers.

The buck Spain took measured about 180 inches.

Balfourd said few hunters ever take a qualifying deer.

"I have hunted white-tailed deer for 35 years and I haven't shot one that was 160 inches," he said. "Less than one half of one percent of hunters ever take a Boone and Crockett-qualifying trophy."

The deer is at least the second trophy buck illegally killed in Indiana in recent months. A hunter was charged in October with illegally shooting a 10-point buck nicknamed "Nightmare" for its size and ability to elude hunters near Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis.

Don Ward faces a felony charge of criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon and three misdemeanors in that case.

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