Another Texas bow season is just around the corner, and judging by the size of the bucks shot last year, our bowhunters are doing themselves proud!
Scott Greenwood's Burleson County monster scored 228 0/8 net and was the top non-typical from Region 5. Photo courtesy of Scott Greenwood.
Hunters everywhere will agree there are huge differences between hunting with a rifle and hunting with a bow. The biggest challenge, and one that appeals to so many choosing to shoot arrows over bullets, is the fact that with a bow you must be so close to your target. And as most any bowhunter will attest, that accomplishment is far from easy!
Move a second too fast, create the slightest noise or have a detectable yet indiscernible scent and you've been had! Add an unforeseen twig, weed or tall blade of grass and the arrow can be deflected off target. A hunter might also misjudge the distance enough to shoot over or under an animal. The deer might hear the arrow sing through the air or have its sixth sense kick in so that it jumps the string. In any of those situations, it's game over!
However, practice, practice, and more practice combined with determination and patience might just put Lady Luck on the bowhunter's side at exactly the right moment: A deep breath of confidence coupled with an accomplished aim rockets a razor-sharp broadhead right in the kill zone. Stealthy movements, finely honed skills and outdoor savvy can, and do, produce the kind of trophy bucks that dreams are made of.
While all of those requirements must be in place for success, sometimes Mother Nature has to cooperate, too. The dry winter, spring and summer of 2009 brought severe drought to areas of Texas already experiencing dry conditions that carried over from 2008. Deer were stressed and antler growth suffered.
There were spotty places that did receive rainfall at crucial times during antler development. Ranches with good to excellent habitat and management practices didn't notice the ill effects of the drought as much as those properties not so well maintained. Of course, there always are a few monster bucks taken where no one would ever expect to see one. That's what makes hunting €¦ well, hunting!
Lone Star state big buck contests did not lack for entries last season. Some did notice slightly lower overall antler scores compared to the competition in 2008. The phenomenal rainfall before 2007's great season produced some giant racks that are still being talked about. Recent rainfall across most of Texas shows promise for the upcoming season.
For some hunters it came down to simply being in the right place at the right time. Bowhunters will not argue that fact. Although many passed up bucks in hopes of seeing something better, there were many successful archers in the woods, prairies and brush last season. Bucks allowed to walk may be this season's trophies.
The Texas Big Game Awards program is the official deer contest of Texas. New last year to the organization's entries and record keeping was the designation of weapon, and if the animal was taken off high- or low-fenced property. Although the categories were not separated, those designations give interested parties some new facts to examine.
Please keep in mind that some of the following numbers were still unofficial.
Austin resident Travis Bone collected this impressive non-typical on the Rancho de Suenos in LaSalle County. The Brush Country bruiser scored 178 3/8. Photo courtesy of Muy Grande Contest, Freer, TX.
SOME BOW STATS
There were 1,012 scored entries into the TBGA this past hunting season. The state is broken into eight regions with different minimum scores for each one for typical or non-typical antler composition. The scored entries include mule deer, pronghorn antelope and whitetails. Rifle hunters were, of course, the majority, accounting for 916 of those entries.
Bowhunters registered 86 scored entries in the TBGA this past hunting season. They amounted to 8 1/2 percent of the overall mix. Use of crossbows for hunters without a medical disability was allowed for the first time. Seven of our successful hunters chose a crossbow as their weapon while a Bell County hunter harvested his whitetail with a shotgun.
A TBGA First Harvest award is for hunters, regardless of age, taking their very first big game animal. Javelinas are also included. The Youth Division recognizes youngsters under the age of 17 at the time of purchase of their hunting license. That is at least partially intended to promote their interest in the continuing the sport. Both of those awards can be for a doe or buck of any antler size; there is no minimum score.
First Harvest awards went to bowhunters Kade Evans for a Sterling County whitetail, and to Tyler Pirtle for a deer taken in Red River County. Youth certificates will be issued to two up-and-coming archery enthusiasts. Those went to Ben Looper for a San Saba County whitetail, while Justin Baumbach bagged his deer in the Post Oak Savannah's Leon County.
So where did the other successful bowhunters arrow their game? Well, it turns out they did it all over our vast state: north, south, east, west and all points in between.
WAY OUT WEST
The Trans-Pecos region, way out in West Texas, covers the state's largest and most rugged terrain while encompassing 16 counties. Clint Templeton of Rankin hunted in immense Pecos County. His arrow brought down a non-typical whitetail scoring 143 6/8 gross with a net of 140 7/8.
Upton County produced the top two TBGA Region 1 typical whitetails for bowhunters. Dean Titsworth led the way with a 151 2/8 gross buck. Hunting the Lindsey-Cowden Ranch, a 135 1/8 filled Maurice Thomas' tag. On this same ranch, Donnie Shaffer of Aiken took a 133 1/8 typical buck.
Another Rankin resident, Rick Ferguson, took a 175 2/8 gross typical mule deer in Upton County. His buck came off the Carter Ranch. In the expanse of Culberson County, Burtons Hunting Service furnished a bowhunting experience for Milton Harrell of Manor. Harrell's typical mulie grossed 161 1/8.
Due to the terrain and expanse of the landscape, all of those animals were taken on low-fenced properties. There is very little acreage in this region under high fence.
Amarillo's well-known bowhunter and outdoor writer, Brandon Ray,
took a fine Randall County non-typical whitetail. Grossing 183 2/8 with a net 173 2/8, it ranked No. 7 for Region 2. Ray also took an Armstrong County mule deer with a gross score of 156 6/8. Here's an interesting fact: Region 2 had the second highest number of bowhunters entered in TBGA!
All of 16 years old, El Campo native Logan Howard is an accomplished, experienced hunter. His hunting career began at age 6; at 12, the youngster laid down his rifle in favor of a bow. Last season he was after an old 6-point seen earlier in the year on their Collingsworth County ranch.
On the last day of the season, Logan was hunting patiently while his dad Scott sat nearby, ready to video the action should the whitetail appear. To the surprise of both father and son, the biggest buck ever seen on the property simply stepped out. With a nod of approval from Dad, Logan let loose from his Matthews bow an arrow bearing a Thunderhead broadhead.
The result was a mainframe 10-pointer with two kickers. Sporting 25-inch main beams and an 18-inch inside spread, the rack possesses more than 30 inches of mass. The mature buck weighed 195 pounds and scored 167. It was good enough to place in several big-buck contests, including winning Second Place in the Los Cazadores Youth Archery division.
Gray County was the home of a 150 3/8-inch buck that Stephanie Sanders of Amarillo tagged thanks to her skillful arrow placement.
All of the deer covered in this region also were taken on low-fenced property. Region 2, due to its landscape of giant farms and ranches consisting of thousands of acres has few high fences to this day.
A hunt in Collingsworth County with his father Scott produced this mainframe 10-pointer with two stickers for El Campo's Logan Howard. The 16-year-old's buck scored 167 0/8 and weighed 195 pounds. Photo courtesy of Logan Howard.
Scott Roeder of Alvin traveled to Nebraska for an early fall mule deer hunt. Buck fever resulted in a not-so-perfectly-placed arrow. His trophy mulie was found the next day devoured by hungry coyotes. The antlers were unscathed, but even the buck's nose had been eaten off. Roeder vowed to control his excitement better the next time.
Having joined an Erath County deer lease near Stephenville, Roeder was hunting with the ranch manager. Preparing to take a mature 10-pointer, Roeder was advised to hold up as a bigger buck came into view. Trying not to look at the antlers as the buck came into range, Roeder sent an Easton Axis arrow with a Grim Reaper 100-grain broadhead from his Matthews bow into just the right spot.
Roeder tagged his best whitetail ever without the dreaded buck fever hitting him. The non-typical rack sported 11 points. The antler mass featured a double brow tine on the same side as a 5 1/2" drop tine. The tape measured a gross score of 156 5/8.
A great Comanche County buck fell to Mark Andrews of Heath. His low-fenced Star Valley Ranch non-typical scored 172 5/8. Celina resident Michael Aubry Myrick also took a low-fence buck in Hardeman County. Standing in second place typical, it stretched the tape to a gross score of 145 even.
Behind high fences, Georgetown's Stanley Henry took a 158 4/8 non-typical buck in Mills County. Kenneth C. Cheney of Sadler tagged a 153 0/8 gross typical whitetail in Cooke County, while Wade Freeman arrowed a fine typical in Hamilton County. The Midlothian resident's buck measured 154 5/8 gross with a net of 143 7/8.
HILL COUNTRY BOW BUCKS
Surprisingly, the winning buck in the Most Points category in the Los Cazadores Big Buck Contest at Pearsall came from the Hill Country. Wesley Johannessen of Liberty Hill hunted the high-fenced Rocky L Ranch in Mason County.
Using a Mathews bow with a Spitfire broadhead, he arrowed a buck with 19 points. Its gross score was 166 5/8 with a net of 160-4/8. Johannessen's whitetail also placed 15th among non-typical in Region 4 of the TBGA.
A number of other Edwards Plateau bowhunters were successful. To the east of Mason, Taylor resident Kyle Maruska took home a non-typical Llano County buck grossing 158 2/8. Over in Menard County, Terry Johnson of Midland proved his bow skill. On the Lonesome Dove Ranch he arrowed a 156 4/8-inch whitetail.
Sonora's Shurley Drake hunted Sutton County's Elbow Lake Ranch, taking home a 154 2/8 typical. Chance Love of Round Rock tagged a McCulloch County 144 2/8 whitetail. In Bell County, Bill Hill of Killeen took home a buck scoring 139 2/8 while over in Kerr County a 140 filled a tag for Tyler resident Harold E. McGowen III.
POST OAK SAVANNAH WHITETAILS
Some awesome bucks came out of Region 5, also known as the Post Oak Savannah. Nestled between the Pineywoods to the east and the Cross Timbers to the west, it touches Oklahoma, the eastern edge of the Hill Country and even the upper Coastal Prairies on its southern end. There's plenty of diverse habitat across the region.
Scott Greenwood, a residential homebuilder/remodeler of Little Rock, Arkansas, hunted the Nicked LLs Ranch in Burleson County. His expert marksmanship proved most valuable when it came down to the wire. Using a Mathews Switchback XT with a carbon steel broadhead, he arrowed a tremendous 34-point buck.
Only 14 4/8 inches wide, the main frame 10-point has 4 beams on one side with 90 inches of extra points. The gross score was 238-5/8 with a net of 228 0/8. As this was written, Greenwood was unofficially the non-typical leader for TBGA's Region 5, but also was standing in fifth place for the state's best of the season.
In Kaufman County another massive non-typical was taken with a bowhunter. Kaufman resident Eric Minter took a low-fenced buck with a gross of 212 3/8 and a net of 205 2/8. Quite impressive, Minter's buck came off low-fenced property while Greenwood's was from a high-fenced ranch.
A 60-year-old grandmother held down Region 5's fourth place non-typical with her Grayson County 19-point trophy. Joyce Ooten used a compound bow for many years before a disability forced her to switch to a crossbow. Residing on 23 acres bordering the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Ooten sat in a ground blind hoping the massive buck captured on a game camera would come her way.
On Nov. 7, it did. Using a BowTech Striker compound crossbow with a G-5 broadhead, she brought down the buck with a solid shot. Only 4 1/2 years old, the multi-pointed bruiser scored 176 5/8 gross while netting 167 4/8. Ooten was proud of the buck but even happier that she had bested her husband in a family-friendly competition.
EAST TEXAS PINEYWOODS
South of Toledo Bend Lake, Luke Jones and his son set up a trail camera on their Newton County hunting lease. They wer
e surprised at what they saw, and soon the hunt was on. On the morning of Oct. 31, Jones was in the right place at the right time.
Using a Mathews Legacy bow with a Rage 2-blade broadhead, he successfully arrowed a 13-point buck. With a 17 2/8-inch inside spread, it grossed scored 137 7/8. Jones and his son also bowfish the area and have many big fish that didn't get away.
Polk County gave up a 146 3/8 non-typical buck to Livingston resident Justin Rowe's arrow. Lufkin's Ben Barlett tagged a typical 141 7/8 gross, 140 2/8 net in Angelina County. Ray Chanler of Kilgore took a Shelby County buck with a typical rack scoring 136 4/8, while Trinity County produced a 130 5/8 whitetail for Austin's Boyle R. Simons.
ALONG MID-COAST TEXAS AND INLAND
One of his best bucks yet was taken by El Campo resident Wesley Smolik, and not too far down the road from his Wharton County home. Neighboring Matagorda County on the Gulf Coast produced an exceptional trophy for him. Overabundant rainfall made hunting a bit difficult by requiring rubber boots, a vehicle with 4WD, and mosquito battles without benefit of insecticide that deer could detect.
Extreme drought conditions had plagued the area for the entire year. However, good management practices on the ranch he had hunted for years were finally showing in spite of the dry conditions. Smolik arrowed a whitetail scoring 151 6/8 gross, 142 2/8 net, to take fifth place in Region 7 for TBGA.
Lavaca County's Twisted Oaks Ranch produced a 173 2/8 gross non-typical for Bandera resident Jeff Copeland. Rick Knape of LaGrange arrowed a fine Fayette County typical, as did Corey Blake Anders of Houston.
Richard Peterson of Sugarland took home a non-typical whitetail from the Rooke Ranch in Refugio County. It scored 154 5/8. Another Refugio County buck with typical antlers scoring 140 7/8 carried Eric Merta's tag back to his El Campo residence.
Capturing second place in the Most Points division of the Los Cazadores contest was a Goliad County buck. Taken on the Las Palomas Whitetails Ranch, the buck fell to Curtis L. Connally's Hoyt bow with a Razorcap broadhead. The Yoakum resident's 18-point buck had a gross score of 176 6/8.
THEN THERE'S SOUTH TEXAS
It's not surprising that South Texas' Region 8 led the way with the most bowhunters entered in the TBGA. A total of 19 archers registered trophies this past season in the contest. An outstanding 188 5/8 gross whitetail was taken on Frio County's Schanutz Ranch by Drake Josey of Bryan.
Leading Region 8's typical division, Robert Sanders of Freer stood in first place with a Duval County buck scoring 192 6/8 gross, 184 2/8 net. The famed King Ranch produced great Kleberg County typical whitetails for archery hunters Chuck Meloy of Montgomery, Tim Metcalf of Lafayette, and Eric G. Courville of Tomball.
McMullen County's Rhode Ranch has a reputation for producing great whitetails. Bucks taken on that ranch are consistent winners in all the major South Texas deer competitions. Ken Fusilier captured first place in the Muy Grande's non-typical archery division. Using a Mathews bow and with Shane Maxwell as his guide, Fusilier arrowed a 187 0/8 Rhode Ranch buck. It had a 17 1/8-inch inside spread with more than 43 inches in mass!
Ryan Cheramie of Morgan City, Louisiana, was the October archery winner in the typical category of Muy Grande. His Duval County Dos Lomas Ranch buck scored 166 3/8.
As the October non-typical winner, Austin's Travis Bone took a LaSalle county buck scoring 178 3/8 off the Rancho de Suenos.
At the Los Cazadores contest, the Best Low Fenced buck was taken with a bow. James Newport of Pearsall used a Mathews bow with a Thunderhead broadhead. His LaSalle County whitetail grossed 199 even.
THE SEASON IS OVER
Riding around a South Texas hunting lease in mid-spring, a fellow hunter elbowed me when we spotted a deer dashing through the brush. With a grin and a wink, he excitedly gushed, "Only six months to go!"
Deer season will be here again before we know it! Good luck.