In late April of 2004, my dad, close friend James, and myself loaded up and headed to Ohio to meet a land owner down in the southern part of the state. After the meeting and looking at several tracks of property, we opted for a 1,000 acre tract that would provide some ability to stop — well, slow down — trespassers.
The first year of hunting was relatively uneventful until the late muzzleloader hunt where my father-in-law connected with a 135-inch 8-pointer. At that time, his buck was impressive to a bunch of Georgia boys who don’t see many bucks with an 18 ½-inch spread.
The ‘04 season ended and expectations and preparation were tremendously increased for the ‘05 season. Armed with a couple trail cameras, we set out to see what kind of bucks we had roaming on our Ohio hunting lease (I have several trail cameras that we use year round in Georgia but due to the trespassers who constantly tore our gates down in Ohio I had mixed emotions about hanging my cameras).
Nonetheless, we hung two cameras in late August and checked them the day before bow season. Two or three pictures into the memory card and the madness began. Within ten feet of the camera stood a wide 9-pointer with a cut in his left ear. To us it appeared like a Texas buck. So, from then on the buck became known as “Big Tex.” Here’s where the battle began.
The first encounter was on an early November hunt when the whole crew headed up to our lease to chase some big whitetails. I personally came for one reason and that was to get Big Tex, the buck that had filled my thoughts since late September when I first captured his picture.
Since that first picture, I had filled a scrapbook with pictures of this buck; Big Tex loved the camera — maybe we should have called him “Hollywood.”
My plan was to hunt a hillside close to where Big Tex was spotted at daylight and dark, according to the pictures.
My hope was the right doe would bring him by for a close shot. There was only one problem: Mother Nature had another idea. The hunt was plagued with high winds, but we were seeing some bucks chasing, so we stayed.
On a morning hunt in eary November, 2005, I was hunting the same hillside I’d been hunting all year hoping for my one chance at Big Tex. The wind was blowing upwards of 40 mph that morning.
I climbed down and headed for the edge of a ravine that would provide some relief from the wind. By mid-morning I’d had enough of the wind and was going to call it a morning and head back to the truck.
As I walked back up the hill, I noticed movement just in time to see Big Tex turn and dart away leaving me with nothing but my jaw on the ground. I asked myself, Why did I climb down? After all, he was standing less than 20 yards from my stand. The remainder of the season came and went with no other sightings or pictures of Big Tex and the nagging question: did he make it through the crazy gun season or did some poacher sneak in and shoot him?
More Photos of the Big Buck
In early July of 2006 the uncertainty turned into elation as trail camera pictures started coming in of my Nemesis, Big Tex. Although the right side of his rack had changed, the gash in his ear was still there and the left side looked almost identical to the prior year.
As big bucks do, he had moved his location but not by much: he was still less than 300 yards away from the area he frequented the prior year. We moved cameras around trying to figure out where he was coming from and going to, but our efforts were unrewarded. Then bow season opened and Big Tex vanished from the cameras.
The second encounter came on November 6th, 2006 while hunting the edge of a standing corn field.
The rut was in full swing and the does seemed scared to walk around. I was hunting on the edge of a cornfield that was tore all to pieces with buck sign and deer sign in general.
It was a cloudy, misty afternoon with an hour before dark when I heard a deer heading my direction. I didn’t move as the deer came from behind me and walked within 10 feet of my stand. It was a button head all by himself.
Soon the button head snapped his head around to look in the direction he came from. Then I heard the sounds I’d been waiting for all year deer trotting towards me with the unmistakable deep grunt.
As I stood up slowly to gain position to shoot at the oncoming deer behind me, I heard the most devastating sound I could hear. To my right came a slight snort and the sound of a heavy deer running. I turned to see Big Tex dash away through the trees.
He had slipped to within 40 yards of me and was cruising the field edge, using the wind to check a scrape line. Within a matter of seconds, the big buck came within bow range again and busted me.
This hunting trip didn’t end up too bad because the next afternoon I called in a 140-inch eleven pointer and shot him at 8 yards, which was my best buck to date. We finished up the season with no sightings or pictures of Big Tex. It was as if he disappeared after his one mistake.
Over the next several months we shed hunted and put cameras up in early July of 2007, but found no sign that Big Tex had made it through the 2006 season. We started thinking he had either been shot or died of old age as July, August, and most of September came and went.
During these months we captured several pictures of really nice bucks as big or bigger than my target deer, but to me the size of his rack didn’t matter anymore.
It was all about the fact that he had ruled the roost on that part of the farm for several years and had gotten the better of me twice. Due to the fact that we had some problems with trespassers I thought Big Tex had been poached, but 2 days before the season we came up for opening day and we had one picture of him on a water hole.
Instantly, the plotting began to find and get a shot at him. After a month into the season, I was being humble as to the trials of bow-hunting. The 2006 season had spoiled me in that every deer I saw seemed to come within bow range but that just wasn’t the case this time.
I saw the same 150-inch 10-pointer on three consecutive afternoons at 70 to 80 yards, and every time I’d move closer he’d come out a little farther away.
A couple weeks later I had another great 10-point buck within bow range until dogs messed that up for me. Through all this I still wondered where Big Tex was hiding because we hadn’t seen him or had any pictures of him.
Despite these let downs I stayed after it because I knew there were several bucks I would be proud to hang my tag on and haul back to Georgia.
Finally, during a rut hunt, I shot a big doe and things seemed to get better, especially after my dad shot a 135-inch 10-pointer that afternoon, his best bow buck ever.
By the end of the hunt I had let several bucks — including a couple bucks that would have scored well into the 130s — walk. It was a great hunt but still no sign of the huge buck I was hunting. After getting home and realizing in the past we haven’t had much luck during the gun season due to the number of people stomping through the woods, I essentially decided to stop holding out so much for Big Tex or any 150-inch buck.
The Final Encounter
As we prepared for the gun season my mind set was simple: find a good buck and shoot it even if it wasn’t the trophy that I had been obsessing over.
On the first morning of the gun season, a very decent buck came down the trail and I just couldn’t make myself shoot it. That turned out to be a good decision.
I decided to climb down and sneak up out of the hole I was hunting and look over a bean field in hopes of shooting a doe. Little did I know this trip out of the hole would be unforgettable.
As I reached the top of the hill I saw a doe scurry across the flat into some pine trees. I couldn’t get a shot at her but I knew if I made it to the next tree I would be able to see the edge of the bean field and see into the pine trees. Right as I took the first step I saw movement in the corner of my eye and as I looked the unbelieveable happened. All I saw was a huge rack towering above a patch of briars.
Instantaneously, I recognized the buck to be “Stickers” — a real wide 8-point with short G3s and several stickers around the bases. The buck was headed toward a trail that went down into the hole I had just come from. I knew if I could get to the edge I would be able to get a shot on the brute but when I looked back in front of me a 2 ½ year old 8 pointer was staring me down no more than 30 yards away.
He turned to look in the direction of the other buck, so I eased behind a tree. The young buck got to within 20 yards of me before turning and walking away. After he left, I eased around the tree and headed toward the lip of the hole to see, if by some wild chance, the big buck was still in sight.
After two steps away from the tree the big buck bounded from the patch of briars showing me just how wide he was. Unfortunately I could not get a shot.
I started easing up the trail when I caught a glimpse of a buck zigzagging in the woods. He was chasing a doe.
Now the adrenaline started pumping and my stalk increased in pace. Then I saw the doe go down in a ditch and the buck was hot on her heals. I cut loose on a sprint through the woods to get an angle on the deer coming out of the ditch. As I got to the spot I saw the doe but no buck. Then she squatted down and I knew he was in the ditch somewhere. Then I saw another deer standing behind the doe, is it him? Yes, there’s a horn. I leveled my muzzleloader on his shoulder and, at the shot, the buck took off like a rocket and crashed in some fallen trees.
I quickly reloaded and started scanning the area for my buck. To my dismay I couldn’t find the buck on the hillside where I thought he fell. A little panic came over me, “I know the deer fell down – surely he didn’t get up while I was loading my gun.”
So, I called my dad and I’m not sure if I made a complete sentence or not but I told him, “I shot a buck and I’m not sure how big it is, I thought it was Stickers.”
With my Encore to my shoulder and the hammer back I started easing in the direction the buck ran after the shot. After 20 yards of walking I came upon the buck and noticed a cut in his left ear.
Overcome with emotion I let out screamed at the top of my lungs. After a prayer of thanks the celebration was on and the photo op lasted the rest of the morning.
I had to call my brother in law, Scott, and my hunting buddy Blake, to let them know the news. To this day Blake still kids me that he couldn’t understand a word I said on the message except “Big Tex and dead.”
Big Tex taped out with a 21” inside spread and gross scored 152” but like I mentioned earlier to me the accomplishment of getting this buck meant more than what he scored. One ironic fact about Big Tex was I shot him 75 yards away from where we got the first picture. Trail cameras, big bucks, and great hunting buddies, that’s what it’s all about.