January 06, 2022
Breaking News Bucks 2021
Tarif Alkhatib is no stranger to making traffic stops. After all, he’s not only a dedicated bowhunter, he’s also a Texas Department of Public Safety state trooper during his day job.
But earlier this season, the Texas DPS Corporal stationed north of Dallas near the Red River made a stop unlike any he’s ever made before, sending a carbon arrow and a Ramcat broadhead downrange into a monster typical whitetail that has a 12-point mainframe rack that looks something like a couple of picket fence rows laying on the ground.
When the 60-day drying period is up, the Alkhatib bow buck will likely be a new Grayson County record, a potential “Top 10” Pope and Young Club typical entry for the Lone Star State, and one of the bigger bucks tagged in Texas this fall, regardless of weapon type.
And all on a small parcel of private ground near Denison, Texas, one that commuters speed by on an almost daily basis on their way to work and school. With a 6x6 typical frame, an abnormal point coming off each G-2 tine, and some symmetry differences between the rack’s two sides, the buck is a showstopper for sure.
And that’s true even for a bow-only North Texas county that has produced several 200-class non-typical bucks and a former Pope and Young Club state record two decades ago at the beginning of the 21st Century.
Rough scored by local taxidermist Roy McCraw, Alkhatib’s buck has a green gross score in the mid-190s and a green net score in the upper 170s. If those numbers hold after the mandatory 60-day drying period and subsequent official scoring, the buck will likely top the existing county record of 177 2/8-inches, a Boone and Crockett Club pick-up entry from 2008.
It will also apparently topple the existing bowhunter killed county record—as mentioned above, Grayson County is an archery only county an hour north of Dallas—a big 175 2/8-inch typical taken on Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge by Sherman bowhunter Jim Lillis in late November 2007.
If the 178-2/8-inch green net typical score for Alkhatib’s buck holds true in a couple of months, his wall hanger is also likely to find itself as a “Top 10” all-time typical in the Pope and Young Club’s archery records for the Lone Star State. Currently, Thomas D. Friedkin, the chairman emeritus for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, owns the P&Y state record on the typical side of the ledger, a 187 6/8-inch typical taken from South Texas’ Dimmit County in 2005.
Alkhatib, who has learned the bowhunting game from his mom’s husband, retired Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game warden Dale Moses, has made a habit of taking good bow bucks in the years that have followed his decision in 2011 to hunt whitetails exclusively with his Mathews compound bow.
When he climbed aboard his stand on Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021, he had a specific buck in mind, a giant typical that he saw last year after tagging out. But with no tags remaining on his 2020-21 Texas hunting license, all Alkhatib could do was keep tabs on the buck and hope and pray he made it through the winter.
A winter that included a killer freeze that gripped Texas for almost two weeks in February 2021 with many inches of snow, bitterly cold temperatures statewide, and even sub-zero readings in Grayson County. Wildlife suffered in the frigid weather, and it wasn’t until spring that the trooper knew his target buck was still roaming around.
“I knew he shedded out, and made it through the hard winter that we had and the big ice storm (in February 2021) that we had,” said Alkhatib.
But after that, he lost track of the buck through the rest of the spring, through the summer, and through the early weeks of fall.
"(He) didn't really resurface again until the last few days of October (this fall)," said Alkhatib. "He was really hit and miss (then), and it was only every couple of days that I'd get pictures of him."
But eventually, the buck began a cat-and-mouse game of woodsy chess, always staying one move ahead of checkmate. In fact, the trooper and the giant buck had five different encounters in the field, none ending with a punched tag.
“About a week ago, I had him at 10-yards,” said Alkhatib. “He just faced me the entire time (though), and never gave me a shot opportunity. I also had him at 40-yards this fall, but I didn’t want to take that shot. So, I knew he was in the area and that he was on his feet a good bit. (In fact), he was pretty daylight active.”
As the mid-November rut peaked and began to wane in Grayson County, Alkhatib reasoned that the buck would be cruising the local woods, looking for that one last opportunity to breed a doe this fall. And with other hunters knowing of the buck and hunting him, and with the buck being seen at least once on a nearby roadway, he knew that early December might represent his best shot at tagging the giant whitetail.
Banking on the big typical still looking for love and ignoring post-rut food sources that will become increasingly important leading up to Christmas, Alkhatib found himself with a day off and a chance to climb in a stand once again on Wednesday morning, Dec. 8.
But while he had high hopes upon climbing into his stand, little happened after he hauled up his Mathews V3 compound bow up into the tree and started to patiently wait on the cool, overcast day.
"It was pretty slow with an east wind," said Alkhatib. "It started off pretty cool, but there was no movement until about 9 o'clock. I (then) saw five does move through and I knew he had been locked down with a doe for about three days before."
That put the trooper on high alert, though, wondering if he might finally catch this bruiser buck slipping through in front of his stand and presenting a clean bow shot. Little did he know that’s what would happen and that the game was almost over.
"I had a small buck come through and (then) caught a glimpse of him," said Alkhatib. "He was upwind of me and he kind of moved off and I was hoping he would kind of sense that other buck in the area. He did and as soon as he did, it kind of ticked him off and he went to push that other buck and that's when he came out and gave me an 18-yard shot."
When the trooper sucked his bow back to full draw, he went on autopilot, settling the sight pin on his Spot Hogg Fast Eddie bow sight, finding the trigger on his release, and touching off the shot that sent the Black Eagle Spartan carbon shaft and Ramcat Hydroshock broadhead downrange.
A second later, the arrow and broadhead centerpunched the buck’s boiler room, drove through the vitals cleanly, and exited out on the other side after leaving behind a massive entry and exit wound.
What followed next was one of the easiest tracking jobs of the trooper’s decade-long bowhunting career, one that was over almost before it even started.
"He was broadside, slightly quartering to me," said Alkhatib. "The shot felt good and I got a clean pass through. He went about 40 yards and kind of stood there and then tipped over.
“After he tipped over, I couldn't really see him where he lay. But about 15 minutes later, this smaller buck came back through and he went through that area and got all stiff legged and kind of started circling. I knew (then) that he did tip over and was done. He went about a total of 40 to 45 yards."
When the archer climbed down out of his stand, there was little tracking to do and little doubt that the shot was good.
“My last five bucks have come with this (broadhead) and the total distance they traveled after the hit was maybe 120-yards, and we’re talking a total of five deer,” said Alkhatib.
“When you hit them where you need (the arrow to be), this broadhead is devastating,” he added.
Thanks to a good shot, a clean pass through, and the work of the arrow and broadhead combination, Alkhatib was soon walking up on a dreamy Booner buck that suffered from little if any ground shrinkage.
“It was surreal,” said Alkhatib. “This makes number 11 with my bow, in terms of wall hangers, and the last two years, I’ve been able to double up with two bucks (in different counties). I’ve been very fortunate.”
But despite taking several great bucks in the last several years, none of them are in the neighborhood of the giant typical that Alkhatib took down earlier this fall. It’s a Boone and Crockett typical and then some just an hour north of Dallas, one that hunters in any Midwestern state or Canadian province would be equally proud to take.
Alkhatib is convinced that the county’s archery only regs—which are facing a possible regulatory challenge early next year after someone petitioned the state to consider opening up a rifle season—allow the local wood’s modest deer herd to see a few deer reach full maturity and occasionally spit out a giant whitetail like the one he took down this fall.
Because of that, he hopes that the county will remain archery only, turning back the regulatory challenge for what would be the third time this century as most country residents like things the way that they are and don’t won’t the state to try and fix something that doesn’t seem broken.
“I think bringing the gun into this situation would really hurt our county as far as the quality of deer that we have, and the quantity of deer that we have,” said Alkhatib.
Obviously, not everyone will agree with his sentiment. But the trooper is in some kind of position to know, knowing how many deer he sees in the woods and how many he sees dead on the highway after deer/vehicle collisions in the fall, a number he says that is well below other places in Texas.
What he also knows is that the buck he stopped is a special one, no matter what the final numbers end up being.
“Score really doesn’t matter to me too much,” he said. “But this deer means a lot to me. I think he’s very rare being a 6x6, maybe only something like one-percent of the population (end up being true 6X6 bucks).”
And after a decade of bowhunting whitetails exclusively, he knows he might be hard pressed to top this giant bow buck in the future. But already, he’s got a couple of bucks he’s keeping his eye on and he knows that he’ll keep practicing each evening after work and trying to put another arrow in a big buck’s boiler room a year from now.
“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he said with a faint smile, the kind of smile only a few hunters will ever know.