Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 21, 2013

MATT WILLIAMS: One record buck

253 3/8 net score crushes P&Y Texas non-typical state record

Matt Williams
The Athens Review

Athens — It's official.

A.J. Downs owns the Texas state record Pope and Young Club non-typical whitetail buck.

For how long is anybody's guess. My prediction is he'll take the title to his grave.

P&Y is the official records keeper for North American big game taken on open range by bow and arrow. The organization utilizes the same scoring format as the Boone and Crockett Club, which recognizes North American Big Game animals taken on open range by bow, rifle, handgun and other methods.

It takes a stud duck to rank near the top in either of those records programs, and the Downs buck is a warhorse in every respect.

The B&C score sheet tallied by B&C scorer Randy Reeves and P&Y Young scorer Bob Sweisthal, both of Spring, tells it all.

To get a feel for how huge the 28 pointer is, consider it beats the former state record score by nearly two feet. That's feet, not inches. The Downs buck grosses 263 1/8 and nets 253 3/8.

Amazingly, the deer grew an incredible 118 4/8 inches of abnormal antler  — 53 1/8 inches on the right side and 65 3/8 on the left. All that with no high fences involved.

The freakish tally is attributed lots of things. It had gobs of mass. The rack also sprouted considerable length on many of its 20 non-typical points.

Three tines measured better than 9 inches, one better than 10 inches, one longer than 11 inches, and two over 12 inches. The inside spread credit on the rack is 19 3/8 inches.

Downs, 39, of Conroe, arrowed the deer shortly after daylight on a rainy Saturday morning that marked the opening day of the 2012-13 Archery Only season in Texas.

The buck, estimated to be 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 years old, was taken on a 12,000-acre lease that borders the Trinity River bottom in San Jacinto and Liberty counties. Downs shares the lease with about a dozen other hunters, several of which are share his passion for bow hunting.

The buck crushes the former P&Y state record non-typical shot in Dec. 2010 in Dimmit County by South Texas hunter Thomas Friedkin. The Friedkin buck, a 19 pointer, nets 229 6/8. Prior to Friedkin, the record belonged to Jeff Duncan of Sanger who shot a 26 pointer scoring 225 7/8 off the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge in Grayson County in 2001.

Texas Big Game Awards doesn't recognize state records by hunting method, but the program does maintain an all-time Top 5 ranking for typical and non-typical deer. High fence and low fence deer are lumped into the same category.

According to the TBGA's current Top 5 listing, Downs' buck will rank as the No. 4 non-typical of all time. The three deer ahead of it were taken behind high fence by rifle hunters.

Downs' buck isn't just a new Texas state record by P&Y standards.

It also is the highest scoring non-typical entered nationally during last two-year recording period. Even more impressive is the fact it ranks No. 9 of all-time among non-typicals entered in the P&Y registry since the club was founded in 1957.

The deer also ranks among the top scoring B&C non-typicals entered during the last three year recording period.

"Knowing it is a state record is awesome," Downs said. "But what really hits home is when Pope and Young tells you it is the No. 9 non-typical of all-time in North America.

That includes Canada and all those midwestern states like Iowa, Missouri and Kansas that are known for producing huge deer. You are up against some pretty stiff company there."

The whopper whitetail has already earned Downs an invitation to the Pope and Young Club's 28th Biennium Awards Banquet and Convention set for April 10-13 in Dallas.

Prior to the convention, Downs' buck, along with some of the other top scoring animals in 34 P&Y categories, will be judged by a panel of P&Y scorers. 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."

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, mattwilliams@netdot.com.