Athens Daily Review
Just when I thought the 2012-13 Texas deer season couldn't get any riper with big buck fodder, it did. The newest story in the mill is a true whopper. One that is making rumbles across Grayson County that are stronger than any felt since Jeff Duncan arrowed a former Pope and Young state record non-typical there way back in 2001.
Even A.J. Downs is feeling the ruckus all the way down in southeast Texas. And rightfully so.
Last week, the 39-year-old archer from Conroe felt certain the tremendous 28-pointer he took in San Jacinto County on opening day of Archery Only season was a shoo-in to earn him the P&Y Texas state record title for non-typicals -- with gobs of room to spare.
Lots of other folks, myself included, felt the same way.
After all, P&Y has already issued Downs a certificate approving the rack's official net score of 253 3/8. That number crushes the 2010 state record set by Thomas Friedkin by nearly two feet.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Robert Taylor stepped into the mix with a wicked looking 42-point brute from Grayson County that basically sends the message: "Not so fast there, A.J."
Word of the Grayson warhorse began trickling out about a week ago after Taylor's Texas Big Awards Program score sheet arrived at the program headquarters in San Antonio. I haven't seen score sheet, but I have seen photos alongside a freakish green total of 249 2/8 net listed on the TBGA website (texasbiggameawards).
While that's slightly more than four inches off Downs' mark, things could possibly change with everything that is coming down the pike in the next two months. We'll get to that later. First, here's more on this fantastic whitetail:
One sweet little spot
Taylor is a 50-year-old custom home builder from Aubry. When he isn't driving nails, Taylor likes to do a little deer hunting on the side.
Taylor has hunted lots of places, but in recent seasons he decided to concentrate his bowhunting game on the 4.7 acre tract of land he bought near Tioga about eight years ago.
That sounds tiny for a deer hunting hotbed, but in this particular case it is not. Grayson is a bowhunting-only county that ranks among the state's premier counties for world-class bucks. Taylor's land lies adjacent to the Lake Ray Roberts and links with thousands of acres of Corp of Engineers property.
"It's a pretty sweet set-up," he said. "The land is kind of at a pinch point on the lake. We have quite a few deer filter through there -- good numbers of does and quite a few different bucks."
It is not wonder the deer have taken a liking to the sweet spot. In addition to food plots, they have year-round access to a pair of corn feeders and a protein feeder. Taylor has four deer stands scattered about the property. He cases the spread with four game cameras placed at strategic locations.
Taylor hunts the land exclusively with his 29-year-old son, Jerry. Up until this season, they had never taken a single deer off the place.
The way the story goes, Jerry drew first blood in November when he arrowed big nine pointer with double main beams. The buck green scored in the mid-160s.
While that's a great deer in anybody's book, it was a dwarf compared to the huge non-typical that captured the attention of the father/son two seasons ago.
Hunt for the Monster
When the buck first showed up on game cameras back in 2010, Taylor had no doubts it would bust 200 inches.
"He had maybe 30 points on him then," Taylor said. "My son actually flung an arrow at him in 2010 and missed. After that, we never saw him again except in pictures, all at night. He was very elusive. He didn't show up every night and he never made the same mistake twice. He might come in a midnight one time and at 3 a.m. the next."
Shift to fall 2012
October and November went by without a trace of the monster whitetail. Then, like a ghost from the past, he began showing up in game camera pictures in mid-December.
Taylor noticed right away the buck was missing the big 7-8 inch drop tine it had last season. Still, the wild-looking rack was bristling with way more points than he could count and more mass than ever before.
"When he showed up this year it was game on," Taylor said. "Jerry was already tagged out (we only take one buck), so I knew I had the place to myself. I told him, 'step out of the way son. The old man will handle it.'"
The waiting game
It took some doing, but Taylor eventually closed the deal. The hunter said he manned a stand on the tiny tract of land about 15 different times during the final 2 1/2 weeks of the season.
Almost immediately, he noticed a significant change in the buck's demeanor. He wasn't near the night owl he used to be. And he came to visit a whole lot more often.
"Instead of showing up every 6-7 days, he started coming back every 3-4 days," he said. "And he usually showed up late in the day."
Taylor said he actually saw the buck six different times this season before he felt confident enough bring his bow to full draw.
"He was in range several times, but it wasn't my range," he said. "I wasn't about to take a risky shot on this deer. I made up mind a long time ago that if I ever took a shot at this guy, it was going to be the shot I wanted."
Taylor finally got his wish just before dark on Dec. 29, when the buck merged from an adjacent wood line, hopped the fence and entered the food plot. Problem was, the buck was well out of bow range.
"I had several does under my corn feeder and he was on the opposite side our green field all by himself," Taylor said. "He went to one of the other feeders and grabbed a little corn, then started heading my direction. He couldn't stand it. He wanted to be with his buddies."
As the deer approached, an all-too-familiar case of buck fever grabbed hold of Taylor, causing him to temporarily lose his composure.
"I've got a 150-inch 10 pointer out there that I can watch all day long, but when this buck stuck its head out I was like a leaf on a tree limb," he said. "It was the same thing every time. First I'd start shaking, then I'd get cold all over. It was almost like I had the flu."
Once buck settled in at the feeder with the does, Taylor settled in for a broadside shot and let the hammer down. The buck ran for about 100 yards and went down.
"He finally made one too many mistakes," he said. "That was probably the most exhilarating moment of my life. This was my first buck with a bow. That made it even more special."
Sizing up the world class racks
Like the Downs buck, the Taylor deer is a world-class whitetail in every respect. The basic eight-point frame sprouted a ton of abnormal bone totaling a remarkable 121 7/8 inches. According to measurements turned over to the TBGA by official B&C scorers Jennifer Barrow and Eric Stanosheck, the gross "green" score is 256 3/8, 249 2/8 "green" net.
Green scores are tallied ahead of a mandatory 60-day drying period required before antlers can be officially scored for Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett records. Taylor's buck will be eligible for official re-scoring in early March. That's when we'll know for sure how it stacks up against the Downs deer.
The Downs buck will be panel judged right along side some of North America's other top scoring big game animals just ahead of the Pope and Young Club's 28th Biennium Awards Banquet and Convention set for April 10-13 in Dallas.
The panel judging, which will take place Feb. 28 - March 2 at Cabelas in Ft. Worth, will include animals in 34 P&Y categories. According to P&Y policy, the panel judging is done in order "to verify the accuracy of the measurements involved on these 'top end' specimens."
P&Y's Glen Hisey says Taylor has been invited to bring his deer to Cabelas, as well, where it will be officially taped by an P&Y scorer.
While the 4 1/8-inch margin currently dividing these two Texas giants might sound like a lot, you must remember we are not talking about a couple of slick 10 pointers, here.
These are 250-class sets of antlers that look as if they have been in a train wreck. One miscalculation, one bad judgement call or one wrong measurement can result in a bunch of ground gained or lost in a hurry on a deer of this caliber.
Both sets of original scorers say they are confident their numbers are rock solid and will hold up. If that's the case, then the owner of the P&Y non-typical state record has already been decided.
Only time will tell the true tale of the tape.