If you enjoy a good story about a kid and his very first buck, you’re sure to love the true tale behind the bruiser whitetail Texas archer Robert Taylor brought down in Grayson County during the waning days of the state’s 2012-13 deer season.
Now, Robert is by no means a kid. But the 50-year-old construction worker from Aubrey, north of Dallas, certainly felt like one on the fateful afternoon of Dec. 29, 2012, when he brought down his first buck with bow and arrow. And understandably so. This isn’t just some run-of-the-mill whitetail with a decent rack. The trophy up for discussion here is truly one for the ages.
Just How Big is He?
While the rack hasn’t yet been panel-scored by the Pope & Young Club, Eric Stanosheck and Jennifer Barrow spent nearly five hours laboring over the freakish 44-pointer to score him for Boone & Crockett. They ended up with a net entry score of 254 4/8.
More than half of that total is attributed to the 129 6/8 inches of abnormal growth the deer stacked onto his basic 8-point frame, which nets 124 6/8. He’s a freak and freakishly big.
It’s worth nothing that the net entry score took a quantum leap over the “green” net score of 249 2/8. The reason? Eric and Jennifer took a different route when evaluating one of the main beams and a G-3 tine.
Surprisingly, perhaps, the Taylor buck also gained two scorable points after drying. But Eric says that’s easy to explain. A pair of webbed/palmated protrusions didn’t qualify as scorable points when the rack was measured green, because their length wasn’t in excess of their width. After drying, however, the webbing shrank enough that the measurers were able to squeeze two more scorable points out of the rack. One of these is 1 3/8 inches long, the other 1 1/8.
If the Taylor buck’s score holds through P&Y panel judging (next held in 2015), the deer could rank among the Top 10 bow non-typicals of all time. Of course, that’s based on the rankings as they exist today; more new giants could have come along by then.
As huge as this buck is, Robert claims the rack had as many as four more non-typical tines of legal length broken off, whether from rubbing or tangling with other bucks. Had those tines still been in place, the bowhunter thinks the deer would have scored in the 260s. But who’s complaining?
“I don’t guess that’s too bad for a first buck with bow,” Robert chuckles. “He was definitely one of a kind. I doubt there will ever be another one like that around here. But you never know. He was aged at 7 1/2, so he definitely had plenty of time to spread his genes around the neighborhood.”
Land of Giants
While word of such a bruiser being arrowed on open range is sure to grab the ears of whitetails junkies nationwide, it probably didn’t come as much shock to those who are familiar with Grayson County. Located northeast of Dallas on the Oklahoma border, Grayson has a rich history of producing bucks with high-scoring headgear. Perhaps not coincidentally, it’s the only county in Texas with a full deer season limited to vertical bows and crossbows.
Each year, hunters in these parts hold their breath when archery season gets under way, in anticipation that some lucky Grayson County bowhunter will cross paths with a B&C-caliber whitetail. Not many seasons go by that it doesn’t happen—sometimes more than once.
Prior to last fall, perhaps the most famous of all Grayson County monarchs was Jeff Duncan’s. Known to local hunters as “Big Boy,” this huge non-typical was taken at 11,300-acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in 2001. The 26-point rack nets 225 7/8 and ranked as the P&Y state record non-typical until 2010, when South Texas bowhunter Thomas Friedkin got a 19-pointer netting 229 6/8.
As featured in last month’s issue, the state record changed hands again in Sept. 2012, when A.J. Downs of Conroe bagged an East Texas 28-pointer that nets a whopping 256 4/8, according to B&C panel measuring completed several months ago.
The Taylor buck won’t be subject to the same P&Y scrutiny as the Downs buck until 2015. But regardless of how the antlers ultimately are scored, this is clearly one of the very biggest bow bucks ever from Texas.
Tiny Tract, Huge Buck
One ribbon Robert just might wear to his grave is for killing the biggest buck off the smallest acreage. If there’s ever been a bigger one taken by an archer off a tract of open range smaller than this, I certainly haven’t heard of it. Amazingly, this honeyhole totals a meager 4.7 acres!
The land is near Tioga, not far from Robert’s home. He bought the property about eight years ago, originally with the idea of using it to store equipment he uses in his construction business. Soon thereafter, though, he started noticing quite a few deer there. That prompted him to put up a corn feeder and sow supplemental crops. Robert also erected several tripod stands and put some trail cameras around the property to monitor the movements and growth of the deer.
Clearly, the plan worked. It doesn’t hurt that the tract borders thousands of acres of Corps of Engineers property surrounding Lake Ray Roberts.
“It’s a pretty sweet setup,” Robert notes. “The land is kind of at a pinch point on the lake. We have quite a few deer filter through there: good numbers of does and quite a few different bucks. We didn’t take the first deer off the place until last season.”
Robert has been on hunting leases in other parts of the state and in Oklahoma, but last year he decided to devote his efforts to the tiny piece of property he and his 29-year-old son, Jerry, have been grooming since 2004.
Jerry drew first blood in November, when he collected a mature 9-pointer that sported double main beams. The big buck scored in the mid-160s. But while that’s a great deer in anybody’s book, it was a dwarf compared to the non-typical that had begun showing up on their game cameras in 2010.
Robert admittedly isn’t a master at judging deer on the hoof, but he could tell from that first scouting camera picture that he was onto something special. If the buck wasn’t 200 inches, Robert felt he was really close to it.
”He was bigger than anything I’ve ever seen, for sure,” the bowhunter says. “Best I could tell, he probably had 30 points back then, and several of his tines were longer. We got several more pictures of him that season, but just about all of them were at night.”
The Taylors spent considerable time in their deer stands in 2010, but neither was successful at connecting with the monster. Jerry was the only one to come close, sending an arrow beneath the huge deer after Thanksgiving.
”After that, we never laid eyes on him again until last season,” Robert notes. “He showed up again around Thanksgiving in 2011, but we only saw him in pictures, and always at night. He was very elusive. He didn’t show up every night, and he never made the same mistake twice. He might come in at midnight one time and at 3 a.m. the next.”
The Taylors’ 3-year game of cat and mouse with the giant continued right on into the fall of 2012. Only this time, the buck’s annual appearance came a few weeks later than normal. He first showed up on trail camera on Dec. 11. When he did, it was plain to see he’d stacked on some serious growth.
”He was missing the big drop tine he’d had (in 2011), but he gained a whole bunch of points and really blossomed out,” Robert says. “That’s when I decided I was really going to get serious about hunting him. My son was already tagged out (the Taylors each limit themselves to one buck per year), so I pretty much had the place to myself. He (Jerry) kept prodding me, telling me there was no way I was going to kill that deer. I just told him, ‘Step out of the way, son, and let the old man handle it.’”
Making it Happen
Robert handled the situation, all right. It just took him some time—and nerves of steel—to close the deal.
Killing the buck that had come to be known to the Taylors as “Big Daddy” be came Robert’s primary focus. He arranged his work schedule so he could be in a deer blind most mornings and afternoons during the waning weeks of the season.
On the typical weekday Robert was in the stand from 5 a.m. to mid-morning, then off to work until 2 p.m., then back in his stand for the afternoon. He always made a point of staying in the stand until every deer left the area.
It was during this period that Robert witnessed a noticeable change in the way Big Daddy conducted his business. Rather than being his same old nocturnal self, the deer became less wary about moving during the daylight hours. He also began visiting the goodie stations on the property more frequently than ever, probably because his body was so run down from the rut.
”Instead of every six or seven days, he started coming back every three or four days,” Robert says. “And he usually showed up late in the day.”
Amazingly, Robert ended up seeing the buck six times in 15 hunts before he felt confident enough bring his bow to full draw. On only one of those occasions was the buck extremely close. That day, the deer walked below the tall platform stand, which was next to a bois d’ arc (Osage orange) tree. But no shot was possible, because a limb blocked the archer’s view.
“I actually had him in range several times over 2 1/2 weeks, but he wasn’t in what I consider to be my range,” Robert explains. I wasn’t about to take a risky shot on this deer. I’d made up my mind a long time ago that if I ever took a shot at this guy, it was going to be the shot I wanted.”
Robert says he missed a grand opportunity to kill the buck one afternoon shortly before Christmas. Jerry went to the property to pick up some hay out of the barn, and he saw the massive deer milling around right beneath Robert’s stand. Problem was, instead of being in that stand, Robert was off singing Christmas carols with his church group.
“When my son called and told me he saw the buck, and where he was at, I was kicking myself,” Robert admits.
But persistence finally paid off when the big buck came calling again—this time, just before dark on Dec. 29. The bowhunter was watching seven does and a 10-pointer at the corn feeder beneath his stand when he spotted Big Daddy on the opposite side of the food plot.
The non-typical hopped the fence and made his way to another feeder about 80 yards away. He then nosed around in the corn for a few seconds before starting on a beeline toward the stand. Robert’s heart began to thump so wildly he could almost hear it. Then his body started to shake uncontrollably.
”Every time this buck stuck its head out, the exact same thing happened,” the bowhunter recalls. “I’d start shaking like a leaf on a tree—then I’d get cold all over. It felt almost like I had the flu.”
But then, something weird happened as the buck closed to within good bow range: That bad case of buck fever suddenly changed to a peaceful calm. To this day, Robert can’t explain it.
”All nervousness just went away,” he says. “I knew this thing was about to unfold—that I was about to get the chance I’d been waiting for. Somehow I got my breathing under control and managed to tend to business.”
Despite having nine sets of eyes within 15 yards of him, Robert somehow brought his trusty PSE to full draw without blowing his cover. He waited patiently for the shot he wanted, and when the buck turned broadside, Robert drilled him. The giant ran about 100 yards before he piled up.
”I really feel like it was by the grace of God that I was able to get drawn on him with all those other deer around,” Robert says. “I guess it was just my time. I’ve waited all my life to kill a deer like this. To be able to pull it off with a bow and arrow made it even more special.”