January 26, 2018
Travis D. Johnson admitted to taking the massive buck. (Photo courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department)
Poacher admitted to killing the massive white-tailed buck in a Texas poaching that could be one of the largest illegal takes of all-time.
Everything is said to be bigger in the Lone Star State of Texas.
Apparently that includes illegally taken white-tailed deer, after news broke this week concerning one of the largest poached bucks of all-time.
What's more, had the North Texas buck not been poached, it potentially would have been one of the largest hunter-harvested whitetails of all-time.
Killed in early October 2017 north of Dallas in Denton County, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
says that the 278-inch buck is the second biggest free-ranging whitetail ever reported in the state.
(Editor's Note: At that reported Boone and Crockett score, the illegally killed Denton County buck falls behind only the Texas state record and former B&C world record "Brady Buck" from McCulloch County, Texas, which has a net score of 284 3/8 inches.)
According to a TPWD news release, Travis D. Johnson of Aubrey, Texas, pleaded no contest to illegally taking the trophy deer. Johnson was sentenced in Denton County Criminal Court on Jan. 22, to two years of probation, 40 hours of community service, court costs, and in excess of $53,000 in TPWD civil restitution fines. Johnson is also prohibited from purchasing a Texas hunting license for the duration of his sentence.
"What an ill-fated legacy for what could have been, and should have been, a remarkable testament to Texas white-tailed deer," said Col. Grahame Jones, TPWD Law Enforcement Director, in the agency news release. "It's tragic that in the pursuit of this magnificent specimen, Mr. Johnson chose to violate hunting's code of ethics and the game laws designed to protect our state's precious wildlife resources. It's something he'll have to live with."
TPWD reported the poaching incident began on Oct. 8, 2017, when Texas game wardens began hearing rumors alleging Johnson may have harvested the buck after legal hunting hours the night before.
The agency says a photo that was circulated showed Johnson posing with the field-dressed deer during daylight hours in addition to comments that the buck was an archery kill from the previous evening.
Because of warm temperatures and meat care concerns, TPWD says Denton County game warden Stormy McCuistion met with Johnson at his residence to inspect the carcass. The game warden was informed it had been discarded at a different location due to concerns about the meat possibly being infected.
TPWD says Johnson claimed to have wounded the buck â€ªon Sept. 30â€¬, but was not able to retrieve it. The news release goes on to state:
"When he saw the deer on images captured by his game trail camera a few days later, it exhibited entry and exit wounds.
Since then, Johnson explained he began pursuing the animal in earnest in hopes of putting an end to its suffering, going so far as to spend the night in his hunting stand to avoid spooking deer. He said he got his opportunity at about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, and dispatched the buck with his bow.
After inspecting the deer carcass, game wardens then went to the area where Johnson claimed to have killed the big deer to confirm the details of his story.
During a conversation with the landowner adjacent to the property where Johnson hunted, game wardens became suspicious about the timeline. The landowner recalled texting Johnson at about an hour past dark â€ªon Oct. 7â€¬ asking if he was OK since he noticed he had not returned to his vehicle. Johnson replied that he was safe, but made no mention of having successfully taken the big buck an hour earlier."