When most of us deer enthusiasts think of hotspots for hunting wide-racked Texas bucks, the legendary Brush Country south of San Antonio comes to mind. In that vast land of huge ranches and relatively light overall hunting pressure, many bucks are given a chance to reach their full antler potential. And with the genes for wide spread being much in evidence across the region, it’s no surprise to learn that some of the broadest racks in the record book have come from there.
However, not all these “longhorns” in Texas live out their days in that arid land of thornbrush down south. Some reside much farther north — and much closer to the bright lights of the big city.
My own hunting area is in Collin County. That’s a little under an hour northeast of Dallas, which is itself nearly 300 miles north of San Antonio. And San Antonio is 200 miles north, if not farther, from some of the best South Texas ranches. In other words, Collin County is a long, long way from the epicenter for wide-spreading Texas deer. In fact, we’re closer to Memphis than to those ranches of the lower Rio Grande valley.
That said, we do have some wide whitetails in the region I hunt. If that fact wasn’t crystal clear to me before, it certainly became that way last November.
AN UNEXPECTED DISCOVERY
On Nov. 5, while scouting, I found a new rub on a fairly large tree at a feeder. I put out a Spypoint cellular camera in the location, and that very night the buck showed up. Once I saw the incredible deer in the photo, my season plan shifted straight into figuring out where he was coming from and bedding.
I hung several more cameras on nearby trails and rublines and waited. It took me about two weeks to finally figure out the buck’s bedding location, but once I’d determined that, I started setting up my stand locations based on various wind directions.
FROM PHOTOS TO A VISUAL
My first encounter with the huge buck took place around 7:45 a.m. on Nov. 17. That morning he came to within 45 yards of me but stayed in the brush. Finally he just turned and walked back in the direction from which he’d come, never offering a shot I felt good enough about to take.
To have seen a deer of this class on the hoof was an intense experience, to say the least. I’d shot some pretty big free-ranging bucks and of course had closely studied my photos of this one, but seeing him in the flesh was mind- blowing. You can’t expect to even have a whitetail of this caliber in your area, much less actually see him in legal light while hunting. At that point, I felt my window of opportunity was only going to last a couple more weeks, while the rut was still going on. Feeling the pressure to make it happen, I then hunted from daylight until dark for the next three days but saw no sign of the giant, though other deer were moving well. Knowing how special he was, I wasn’t about to quit.
A HOLIDAY CELEBRATION
On Thanksgiving morning, I decided to go do a quick sit for a couple hours before getting back home for lunch with the family. The morning started out to be pretty quiet. I planned to leave the woods around 9:30. As I sat in my Ghost Blind, there was no indication that anything of importance would happen on this hunt.
Then, at 8:45, I heard crashing sounds coming through the woods, headed in my direction. I turned to see a doe running full speed at me.
She turned and stopped off to my side at a distance of just about 10 yards. As she looked behind her, I could see she was panting and that her tongue was hanging out. And then I could hear running and grunting noises in the direction from which she’d just appeared.
The doe was so close to me that I didn’t dare try to check her backtrail, out of fear she’d bust me. Luckily, though, she didn’t notice me and quickly trotted about 20 more yards into the brush. That finally gave me an opportunity to turn and look. When I did, I saw the droptine and knew the buck on her trail was the one I’d been after.
He was taking a different angle than she had, though, and was quartering away from me as he passed. He was still trotting when he came into my shooting lane, and you know I was trying hard to stop him — but he was locked in on the chase and paid me no mind.
I knew I might never see this deer again; it was now or never, as the saying goes. So having already ranged all the trees around me and knowing he was at 40 yards, I swung my Mathews Z7 Xtreme, focused on making the shot of a lifetime and touched off my arrow.
I led him just enough; the G5 Stryker broadhead entered right behind the rib cage and came out just behind the opposite shoulder. Realizing immediately that I’d made a lethal shot on the buck of a lifetime, I suddenly felt the adrenaline kick in.
I have to thank God for putting me in the right place at the right time to take that deer. And I must thank my awesome wife for supporting my hunting passion (although she for some reason calls it an addiction). Prior to shooting the buck, I’d put in over 100 hours in the stand last November. The chase had started to take a toll on me mentally and physically. Of course, as I recovered this magnificent whitetail, all the time and effort were forgotten.
TALE OF THE TAPE
On Jan. 31, following the required 60-day drying period, official Boone & Crockett measurer Don Sherpy put his tape to the wide rack. My trophy ended up with 27 scorable points — 13 on the right, 14 on the left — and even after drying for two months, the outside spread was 30 0/8 inches. The inside spread of the 26 5/8- and 26 6/8-inch mains beams was recorded as 24 1/8.
Despite its unique look, the gnarly rack has an impressively symmetrical 5x5 typical frame, losing only 4 7/8 inches for imbalance between corresponding measurements. The gross typical frame of 182 0/8 nets out at 177 1/8. While the only double-digit point on the entire rack is the 10 1/8-inch drop tine on the right side, all of the typical points are solid, ranging from 6 6/8 to 9 1/8. Even the 17 abnormal points are well balanced, totaling 31 3/8 total inches on the right antler and 25 3/8 on the left. And the mass is excellent, with four of the eight circumferences exceeding 5 inches.
The net non-typical score of 233 7/8 puts my unexpected trophy in the No. 5 spot for free-ranging Texas archery non-typicals. And he’s certainly one of the widest bow bucks on record from anywhere in the state — including areas much better known for spread. So you just never know what could be out there, waiting to reveal itself the next time your trail camera’s shutter snaps.