OUTDOORS: White-Tail Report — East Texas hunters bring down the trophies in Tyler, Trinity counties

Posted: Thursday, December 24, 2015 6:15 am

The 2015-16 deer season is rolling down the holiday home stretch and reports of some outstanding bucks continue to trickle in from counties all around eastern Texas – a rock-solid indicator that wildlife biologists were right on target earlier in the year when they forecast a banner season for big racks spurred largely by lush habitat conditions resulting from bountiful rainfall last spring and summer.

It’s also a pretty good hint that hunters are becoming increasingly choosy before they pull the trigger on buck deer, and that the 13-inch antler restriction implemented across the Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah several years back is continuing to work its magic.

While some remain content in tagging a young buck that barely makes the grade, more and more hunters are allowing marginal “shooters” to walk in hopes that they will eventually grow an exceptional set of antlers that can only come with age.

Two of the bucks I recently learned about clearly reflect what can happen when a buck whitetail is given the opportunity to mature on open range ripe with good forage. One of the bucks grew up deep in the heart of the Davy Crockett National Forest in Trinity County, the other on private land Tyler County.

The Tyler County buck, a slick 10 pointer taken by Lynn Barnes of Chester, tallied a gross Boone and Crockett score of 162 4/8 and 155 6/8 net, according to Texas Big Game Awards scorer Danny Moye of Livingston. It’s the third highest scoring TBGA typical of all-time from Tyler County and the highest scoring typical reported from Tyler County since 2005. The deer is believed to be at least 8 1/2 years old.

Barnes said he shot the buck one day after Thanksgiving off a 150-acre tract of property. Interestingly, he and his hunting partner, Hoyt Watts, secured permission to hunt on the land less than a week before the Archery Only season got underway in early October. The hunter said the land is surrounded by several large hunting clubs, where the big buck had been taunting several of his friends and acquaintances for years.

“They had been after him around there for about five years, but to my knowledge nobody had ever actually seen him — he was a nocturnal animal,” Barnes said. “I’d seen several game camera pictures of the buck and I had been pickin’ at by friends for quite a while, telling them I was going to find a way to get in there and hunt if they didn’t hurry up and get him. Then, sure enough, we got this place. We tried to lease the property, but the landowner decided to let us hunt in exchange for looking after it. It worked out to be a pretty good deal.”

Barnes said his Nov. 27 encounter with the big buck wasn’t his first. He actually saw the deer for the first time during archery season, but elected not to risk taking a 60-yard shot in dense brush.

“I told myself right then that if he made that mistake in rifle season he wasn’t going to be so lucky,” Barnes said.