Jim Nelson, 79, was there in the beginning – when the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show got its start 52 years ago as a simple gathering of the region’s sportsmen to measure and show off their big-game horns and antlers.
“We were the Inland Empire Big Game Council back then, and we got a room upstairs in the United Paints building on East Sprague,” he said. “It was nothing fancy. We didn’t even have tables. The racks and heads were just scattered around on the floor.
“We probably had about 65 trophies. We handed out plaques and ribbons, and everybody was just tickled.”
While the group has evolved into the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council and the Big Horn Show has blossomed into a huge sophisticated show for all sorts of outdoor interests, the Trophy Territory portion of the show remains a popular attraction.
The trophy room has much the same feel as the original show, except more than 300 racks and heads are neatly displayed after measuring and judging by official Boone and Crockett scorers.
Nelson became an official measurer in 1964 and still assists scorers at the show. But last year he finally took the plunge and had one his own trophies scored.
“I shot the whitetail buck in 1964,” he said. “I know it sounds funny, but I never got around to having it scored.”
Rules prohibit scorers from measuring their own trophies. Then there was the divorce. The buck mount ended up at his daughter’s house, out of sight and mind.
“When I came across it again, I realized I wasn’t getting any younger,” he said. “The mount brings back all sorts of fond memories.”
He remembers vivid details of going to his favorite meadow on a ranch in southern Pend Oreille County, sitting with his back against a tree and waiting day after day, until the huge buck made the mistake of giving him a shot at dusk.
He recalls going back to camp and asking his friends to help him find the buck in the dark.
The Spokane Chronicle got a photo of Nelson with his buck at a local meat processor’s cooler.
Nelson’s buck was officially scored by Larry Carey, the wildlife council’s official measurer.
It scored 158 6/8, which is big enough to make a book featuring Washington trophy whitetails, he said.
The buck is shy of Boone and Crockett trophies, and it will be dwarfed at Trophy Territory by P.J. Lockler’s non-typical Idaho whitetail (Benewah County), which Carey recently measured at 213 1/8.
But Nelson said his buck is big enough to serve its purpose in his dwelling.
“That buck brings back so many memories of other hunts, too,” Nelson said. “I shot eight or nine bucks out of that meadow over the years. They were all good hunts; a big part of my life.”