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Register Staff Writer
A shot from Tony Lovstuen's muzzleloader ended a legend among whitetail-deer hunters world- wide.

The record-class animal - with its prized antlers - shot by the Albia teenager last week was recorded on video, in photos and in paintings, and was discussed on the Internet.

"That buck is in a class all its own. There were hunters from all over the United States, even the world, who were trying to get deer tags to hunt in Iowa because they wanted to hunt the Albia buck," said Dale Ream, an official measurer from Missouri for the Boone & Crockett Club, an organization that scores and records antlers and horns from North American trophy game. The club has the most widely recognized scoring system.

The fact that the buck, sought by so many hunters, was finally shot by a 15-year-old added to the buzz. Tony killed the animal during youth deer season.

Doug Lovstuen, his father, said he has been getting calls from newspapers and magazines all over the United States. He's not releasing details or photos of the potential record rack, or allowing interviews with Tony, because he's negotiating with hunting magazines and other hunting interests.

One estimate by a wildlife official put the value of the rack at more than $100,000, but there's been no official value released.

The rack from the 250- to 300-pound deer could become a world record as the largest taken by a hunter, as reported by Boone & Crockett, at a little over 322 inches. It also will most likely become the record for Iowa, and a world record for a buck taken by a muzzleloading firearm.

Conservation officer Randy McPherren, who also helped score the rack, said the antlers had eight normal symmetrical tines and 30 abnormal tines of varied sizes pointing in different directions. Antler scoring is done by a formula that takes into account symmetry, tine length, circumference and the size of the beam, the two main shafts of the antler from which tines grow.

The legend of the Albia buck - named for its home range around Albia in Monroe County - spread after three or four years of impressive antlers shed by the animal were found. The racks were measured, but shed racks can't be entered in Boone & Crockett.

According to the Iowa Web site, a bow hunter once came close to the deer while hunting, but never had a clear enough shot to ensure that he wouldn't wound the animal, rather than kill it. In 2001, the deer was reportedly wounded with a shotgun, and many believed he might have died, according to the Web site.

Well-known wildlife artist Larry Zach of Ankeny captured the animal in a painting.

"It's a real interesting buck. The rack kind of changed character over the years. When I painted the picture, the rack had that big, boxy classic look. They are incredible antlers," he said.

Zach, an avid bow-hunter who has a farm in the area, said he's fantasized about the buck while sitting in his tree stand during past bow seasons.

"Bow hunters have a lot of time to fantasize. Having seen the buck and painted it, I would sometimes fantasize about it walking by, although that was a remote possibility," he said. "That's one fantasy that won't work anymore."

Ream, who helped measure the antlers, maintains that while one piece of the legend ends with the shooting of the buck, there's an opportunity for another. The deer has spread its genes to its offspring. That means future hunters stand a chance to come across a deer with similarly large antlers, said Ream, who also is director of records for the Missouri Big Bucks Club.

Dale Garner, a wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said the deer's offspring could have spread many miles.

"We've had young bucks move as far as 80 miles from where they were tagged by us," he said. "The reputation for big bucks in that area has already driven up land prices. Anyone who has land in Monroe County or near that area will probably see the value go up again."

As word spread about the deer this week, national media companies and reporters from Texas, Missouri and Minnesota were seeking information. ESPN posted an article about the deer on its Web site Thursday evening, calling it the "Iowa walking world record."

"The Albia buck has a huge impact and is of great importance in the whitetail world," said Ream. "People very seldom get their hands on that class of deer."

Zach had an opportunity to view the potential record antlers a few days ago. He said it is a little sad to see the legend end.

"In a way, I think when you really respect animals, even hunters, you appreciate that you took a life, but also appreciate that it is part of the scheme of things," he said.

The ability of Iowa to produce whitetail deer capable of growing trophy-sized antlers is the result of game management and an excellent food source, say wildlife experts.

Iowa's main deer seasons are limited shotgun seasons which take place after the fall breeding season is over. Other states, such as Missouri, allow rifle hunting even during breeding season in the fall when the deer are more frenzied and susceptible.

"That has allowed Iowa's bucks to grow to larger sizes. A deer has to be about 4 years old before it can deliver the calcium and other minerals it takes to grow large antlers," said Dale Ream, an official scorer for the Boone & Crockett Club, which records antler and horn measurements for North American big game.

Iowa's agricultural base of corn and soybeans, along with the state's mineral content, contributes to the animals' growth.

Antlers are shed from late December into January, said Dale Garner, wildlife biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Antlers begin to grow again in late winter or early spring. A thin, soft skin, called velvet, covers the antlers as they grow. Once the blood supply stops, the velvet falls or is rubbed off by the deer sometime in August. Bucks lose their antlers as testosterone levels fall after breeding season.
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