I like to eat game meat and fish, and the horns and antlers of the critters that bear them have held my fascination just as their meat has nourished my family.
Since my first hunt with dad, some 62 years ago, I’ve always had it in my consciousness that beyond the next rise or behind the next bush may appear the animal of a lifetime. And I’ve seen that happen several times in my hunting career.
I harvested my first buck in 1957 and my first non-typical buck in 1994. All objects of my hunting pursuits have been unique and special to me, but that non-typical was near the top of the list. It was a bilaterally cryptorchid buck, meaning its testes had not descended from the gut into the scrotum—a cactus buck, as they are often called, with antlers still in velvet in November. In 1995 I harvested three more non-typicals, all cryptorchids, all sterile. Since then, the percentage of these non-typicals in the areas I hunt has increased exponentially. Since 2003, 74 percent of the bucks taken in one “hot zone” have been sterile cryptorchids.
As I’ve been active as a master guide in northwest arctic Alaska and a transporter in the Kodiak Archipelago for more than 40 years, I had a unique opportunity to put stewardship of our wild game to practice by collecting samples of these abnormal animals and getting the raw samples to people with the abilities to investigate the causes of this fascinating, but alarming, developmental defect. I’ve collected and forwarded samples from more than 330 deer so far to researchers at the University of Guelph (Ontario), Colorado State University, Purdue University and the University of Alaska—Anchorage. I do believe that this widespread and increasing developmental problem threatens our deer population in Alaska.
Furthermore, I have been informed by reliable hunters that they have harvested some bull reindeer from the Kodiak herd that had no testes, either, thereby making them cryptorchid and sterile. I believe for this reason, as well as many others (tourism, subsistence and sport hunting), we must manage this now wild reindeer herd for sustained yield. Cryptorchism in any wild animal population may be a “canary in the coal mine,” as crytorchism is increasing in humans, and we may benefit from studies of these animals. More than 70 percent of the abnormal testes and a high percentage of normal testes in bucks taken in the sampling show three types of cancer, also found in humans with cryptorchism.
In November 2008, my good friend and assistant guide, Rob Coyle, and I collected three Sitka blacktail bucks each (five of the six were cryptorchid), along with complete samples of those deer. On Dec. 15, we got out for another day hunt. About mid-morning, we spotted an exceptional non-typical buck, still in velvet with what appeared to be double main beams on both antlers. This buck was in a group of five deer that were watching us intently from about 1,200 meters.
Rob said, “Well, Jake, it’s your turn.”
I had complete double knee replacement in March 2007, and although I’ve been able to hunt sheep, pack meat and generally do whatever I need or want to do, I am slower than before. Haste was necessary, so I told Rob that I have about two dozen non-typical racks already and he was much quicker than I. We both stepped out of sight of the alerted deer, then I reappeared and walked in plain sight to decoy the quarry, while he maneuvered for a shot at reasonable range. Deer don’t count, our plan worked and Rob took that exceptional buck.
We both knew this beautiful buck would place well in the record books. I am a master measurer for Safari Club International (SCI), and I did a quick measurement of the rack that evening and announced that it would place No. 2 in the SCI record book, after the minimum 60 day drying period. I had previously measured the current and former No. 1 heads, and this rack clearly fell between those. Indeed, after the 60 days passed, I certified the buck at 139, placing it as the No. 2 non-typical Sitka blacktail in the SCI record book. Rob also plans to have the rack scored by a Boone & Crockett panel.
[Editor’s Note: Jake Jacobson has been a Life Member of NRA since 1976 and recently became an Endowment Life Member. Jacobson has co-authored a peer reviewed paper on cryptorchism, which can be read here. In 2009, Jacobson will once again conduct transported hunts for Sitka deer through his outfit, Arctic Rivers Guide & Booking Service. Jacobson has also made two hunt donations to the NRA for auction at the NRA Annual Meetings in Phoenix, Ariz., May 14-17.]
J.P. “Jake” Jacobson
Alaska Master Guide #54
Arctic Rivers Guide & Booking Service
P.O. Box 1313
Kodiak, AK 99615