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Trophies put British roe on map

The recent announcement of a new record roebuck has caused considerable interest among roe enthusiasts both in the UK and further afield. The buck, which was grassed in Perthshire, has recently been evaluated by a CIC jury, comprising the UK’s two CIC senior international trophy judges and one national judge, at 224.3 CIC points. Unlike other trophies that have challenged for the title, this example does not show the abnormal skull or pedicle development of the type which has affected major British trophies since the 1970s. This was when Peter Baillie shot the type of specimen carrying the abnormality which has since gone on to bear his name.

Like all trophies, the circumstances of its capture bear re-telling, for unlike many major heads, its captor was neither led to it, nor did he pay a king’s ransom for the privilege of shooting it. The trophy first surfaced in the spring of 2012, when it was brought to the attention of the CIC by the man who shot it – Barry Hodkinson. Barry had been engaged in agricultural work in Perthshire, and having seen some roe on the ground asked if he could try for one. Permission duly granted, he went on to shoot the animal. Initially thinking it was nothing out of the ordinary, he roughly cut the skull and, setting it aside, prepared the animal for the freezer.

Later, when it was suggested that a visit to a CIC judge was in order, the head was duly taken to two Scottish judges, who brought it to the attention of other members of the UK Trophy Commission.

Two world-class heads

Last year proved to be an extraordinary one for Scottish roe, with two heads exceeding 200 CIC points, the figure accepted by most experts to be the gateway to world-class status. Interestingly, both these trophies have exceeded the score of 210 CIC points achieved by Michael J. Langmead’s renowned 1971 head. Langmead’s buck has long been viewed as the largest recorded British roe considered to be wholly normal. The other head, an outstandingly beautiful trophy, had been taken in Aberdeenshire by Danish sportsman Ide Moeller and from the outset it was anticipated that it would better the score achieved by the Langmead head.

The cancellation of the Scottish Game Fair at Scone meant that both heads were submitted at the Highland Field Sports Fair at Moy in August 2012. Both heads, though very different, more than met the expectations of the team which first looked at them. But marvel was tempered by some disappointment.

As always with roe trophies, owners should ensure that they are properly cared for, cleaned and, until they have been scrutinised by accredited CIC judges, left uncut. Sadly, Moeller’s trophy had been cut, when it was cleaned, to the standard favoured by the Danish Nordic Safari Club. It was sent to them for scoring in the belief that no deduction would be made during its subsequent formal evaluation by the CIC in the UK. However, under the CIC system, this was not the case, and when it was seen at Moy, some 50g was deducted from the gross weight of the trophy. The Hodkinson trophy had been poorly cut, too, and considerably over-boiled. When it was first considered, a deduction of 50g for the remaining skull was also made.

Trophies mean different things to different people. For some they become major symbols of achievement and status to be venerated and displayed. To others they are a by-product of the hunt and hold no lasting value. Advised of the likely significance of the head, Hodkinson chose to accept an offer after its preliminary evaluation, from Drew Bain, owner of one of the UK’s principal collections, which is based in Edinburgh. Bain, curious to know what the full weight of the trophy would have been before it was cut, persuaded Hodkinson to return to the spoil heap where it had been dumped and search for the amputated upper jaw. Amazingly, he found it, and the pieces were reunited, though not for the purposes of trophy evaluation.

Formal evaluation

Following preliminary scoring, it was decided that the importance of these trophies was such that they should be formally evaluated by the most senior judges in the UK CIC team. Prior to this happening, Moeller’s representatives asked that they be allowed to cut the trophy to the accepted standard zero deduction cut approved under the CIC roe formula. After consultation with a number of accredited CIC judges, this request was acceded to, with the same option being offered to the Hodkinson trophy. Sample trophies from previous international exhibitions were used as a reference for the cut and duly resubmitted to a jury. Moeller’s was assessed at more than 211 CIC points, ranking it above Michael Langmead’s.

Large roe trophies attract lots of interest, comment and strong opinion, but often lost among this is the fact that the animal grew the head, not the man who shot it. Until 2012, apart from those which have been considered to have unacceptable skull deformities – the so-called “Baillie monsters” – only three roebucks from Great Britain have achieved more than 220 points. Of these, only one, Tom Troubridge’s Wiltshire head, has been subjected to scrutiny outwith our shores. The Troubridge trophy has been judged by the UK Commission, and also two international juries, all of whom have agreed on a score in excess of 270 points. However, the matter of its full status and acceptability requires ratification from the CIC Trophy Evaluation Board and this is still awaited. The other two, one English and one Scottish, both achieved similar scores at 222.65 and 222.63 points respectively.

The Hodkinson trophy was judged during this year’s CLA Game Fair by the three most experienced UK judges. The UK Trophy Commission awards between 850 and 900 trophies per year, so all three have considerable experience in handling trophies in excess of 200 CIC points. The head achieved a score of 224.3 points, putting it at the top of the table of normal roe heads to have come from Britain.

Like all claimants to a national title, this score requires formal ratification by a jury of senior international trophy judges from the CIC Trophy Evaluation Board. It is one of the great strengths of the CIC that such a check exists, and that verification requires peer review, by judges who have the breadth of experience and understanding to do this. What is not in question is that both these trophies establish the UK in the premier division of European roe nations and are a cause of envy for many of our continental neighbours.

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