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Farmer a bright light in dark week

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Updated: December 10, 2011 9:55AM

It has been a bad stretch for someone like me who hunts deer in Illinois and did graduate work at a Penn State branch. Talk about a triple slap of badness.

Somehow I clutch at a lifetime buck arrowed by John Farmer last week to make me feel cleaner.

The dirty charges against former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky are gut-wrenchingly sick. As someone who grew up a Penn State fan — as a youth, I hunted on Nittany Mountain — it’s a double kick in the gut. In part because I thought Joe Paterno and his staff did it cleaner than dirty schools such as Oklahoma or Miami.

If the charges against Sandusky are proved, he’s the definition of evil.

Against that sinful backdrop, two high-profile poaching cases in northeast Illinois pale, yet are gut-wrenching in their own right.

On Oct. 28, multiple poaching charges were filed against Chris Kiernan and two others. The investigation was sparked when Kiernan of Minooka arrowed a 36-point buck — the second-largest nontypical buck taken in Illinois — in November 2009.

From what I pieced together, the uniqueness of the buck — the only one like it in the modern history of Illinois outdoors — sparked the investigation. People knew where the buck lived.

More dirtiness is coming, and more charges are expected in the case that involves top people at Elite Archery. I don’t know how to sort out my feelings about Kiernan. I really thought he was the right kind of guy to keep a historic trophy in perspective.

The same can’t be said for the gang of five charged in the past week, primarily for poaching deer in Cook County. The whispers started early about at least one of the bucks when the hunt of it was promoted. More charges are expected in that case, too.

Money could be some of the problem. Kiernan’s buck was officially valued at $35,000. One of the bucks poached in the Cook County case was valued at $25,000.

But it’s more than money. There can be a sickness in the pursuit of trophies and the resulting fame every bit as consuming as the pursuit of money.

The drive for a trophy is something Farmer, a dedicated deer hunter from Crete, addressed last week.

On the first evening of an extended hunt planned to match the rut in Schuyler County, he arrowed a 15-point nontypical of a lifetime. On Saturday, he “conservatively green-scored it at 1921/8 inches.’’ Before being officially scored, deer racks must be dried at least 60 days.

“This buck had it all: drop tines and kickers,’’ texted Farmer, who said it was a 10-point main frame with five abnormal points.

I asked Tim Walmsley where Farmer’s deer ranks this season. The Downstate scorer and deer-hunting advocate, with inside information on big bucks, e-mailed, “Nice deer, but I know of numerous [nontypicals] over 200 inches and one at 216.’’

That gives a sense of why Illinois has become a focal point for trophy bucks: It has lifetime deer.

Farmer’s previous best buck was a 173-inch, 13-point taken in 2005.

‘‘My mom asked, ‘So do you look for a bigger one?’ ’’ Farmer texted. “My reply was, ‘Yeah, maybe for the rest of my life.’ Actually I just go back looking for 140 class bucks.’’

Stray cast

Sabermetrics is to baseball what charts are to weather forecasting or marine electronics are to fishing: Sometimes it helps to feel the wind or see the water.

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