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Pineywoods Apparition: Not Your Typical Public Land Buck

Luke Smith's 8-Point buck is not your typical Texas trophy.

Pineywoods Apparition: Not Your Typical Public Land Buck

When Luke Smith returned to his old coon hunting roots, he found a buck the size of which he had only dreamed of. (Photo courtesy of Luke Smith)

From time to time, we read stories about once-in-a-lifetime bucks being taken by fortunate hunters. Living here in East Texas, in habitat that’s referred to as Pineywoods, I never thought that I would be able to join that elite group of hunters. However, on November 10, 2020, I forever etched myself into the deer hunting record books.

When my friend Walter and I arrived at Davey Crockett National Forest, I was taken back to memories of Dad and our coon hunts years ago. The parking lot seemed empty as we parked and headed down towards the familiar creek bottom. Slowly tiptoeing, we’d move, then sit down and be quiet for 30 minutes. After pausing, we’d pick up and move again. It was a classic “still hunt” stalk by definition, much different than what some stand hunters now refer to as still hunting.

We continued with our methodical approach until we reached a split in the creek. That’s where we decided to divide and conquer. I went left. Walter went right.

I chose an old pine and settled in. About five minutes later, I caught sight of movement over my right shoulder.

Pineywoods Apparition: Not Your Typical Public Land Buck
Luke's 8-pointer is nothing typical of East Texas. (Photo courtesy of Luke Smith)

I was immediately able to identify the full body of a mature buck. A mere millisecond was all I needed to conclude that this deer’s rack was of massive proportions! All at once, my 38 years of hunting experience kicked in like a second instinct.

As I watched the buck quartering away with a swift walk, I rose to my right knee and shouldered my Browning lever-action .257 Roberts and delivered my first shot. The strong-willed buck took the round like a bull and went busting though the palmetto towards the safety of the briar thicket.

It looked as if the buck was kicking dirt 20-feet high as he motored away, with the kind of intensity I’d never before seen from any deer. I steadied the crosshairs again and fired a follow-up shot.

After hearing my initial shot, Walter made his way through the brush and found me. When Walter got to me, I’d already spotted the buck laying on the ground not far ahead of me. Walter was so shocked that he almost passed out! I had to calm him down and communicate that we needed to give the buck time to expire. Later, it was time to recover the amazing animal.

Pineywoods Apparition: Not Your Typical Public Land Buck
Luke and his friends couldn't believe their eyes, but holding the buck's antlers helped them snap back to reality. (Photo courtesy of Luke Smith)

Walter and I high-fived, hugged, and fist-bumped before eventually settling down to say thank you to God. Together, we prayed over the buck. That’s when it really set in that we were not prepared for the task that God had laid ahead for us! We had to drag him out.

The next day, I got in touch with Adam Huggins of Lufkin, Texas. Adam is an official measurer, and he agreed to score my buck’s antlers. Adam taped the impressive rack at 159 2/8. He said my deer was the best 8-pointer he’d ever seen.

Certainly, I’d have to agree. Especially in East Texas’ Pineywoods habitat, it’s not every day a mature whitetail grows a set of antlers as large as this buck did.

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