The Athens Review
Most Texas deer hunters will hunt for a lifetime and never even see a 170-inch whitetail in the wild, much less kill one on open range. Deer like that are special in the sense that there just aren't that many of them around. Those that do live long enough to grow such an enormous rack are usually pretty salty when it comes to dodging hunters. Most will die of old age rather than from an arrow or bullet wound.
Aaron English of Nacogdoches defied common odds on Oct. 3 when he brought down a dandy buck that is sure to have hardcore hunters all around eastern Texas counting the days until the regular season rolls around.
The deer, a 17 pointer, was taped for Texas Big Game Awards by TBGA scorer Chris Taylor.
With a B&C green gross score of 176 and green net score of 174 1/8, the buck is sure to be one of the highest scoring non-typicals ever taken outside a high fence in Nacogdoches County. If there has ever been a bigger non-typical taken on open range in this county with an arrow of any kind, I haven't heard about it.
Before proceeding any farther, it needs to clarified that English shot the deer with a crossbow, not a “bow” as I was originally told. Crossbows are perfectly legal to use for hunting deer in every Texas county with a legal deer season except one (Grayson, unless you are disabled), but they are not widely accepted as “archery gear.”
What makes the English buck super special is it is the first deer the 28-year-old hunter has ever killed with anything other than a rifle. He says he decided to pick up the crossbow this year more out of necessity than anything else.
“The main reason for me starting to hunt with it (the crossbow) this year was this deer,” said English. “I've been watching him on my game cameras for two years now. I hunted him really hard with a rifle last year, but I never saw him because he had gone nocturnal by the time the general season rolled around. He didn't leave the area, but he only came out at night, usually at around 3 a.m.”
English said he tried using protein blocks, molasses feeds and other baits to lure him into the open during the daylight, but the buck wasn't having any of it.
“I never saw a sign of him during the daylight last year, but every now and then he'd show back up in front of my game camera, but it was always in the middle of the night. We nicknamed him “Jesse James” because of he was so evasive.”
Shift to 2013
The hunter made the decision to dig his crossbow out of the closet in August, soon after the deer started coming to corn on the back side of a 500-acre spread he has access to in the eastern part of the county.
His game camera captured numerous stills of the deer while its antlers were still in velvet, and the rack was significantly larger than last year.
“When I saw those pictures I decided I was going to have to do something different this year,” he said. “If I was going to kill him, I knew I was going to have to get in the woods and hunt before the bucks busted up and got out of their summer patterns. Otherwise, I figured he would go nocturnal on me again.”
The Hunt Begins
English said the area he chose to hunt is situated far from any roads or houses. There is a generous mix of pines and hardwoods scattered about, along with a pipe line crossing and an old pond nearby. He placed a lock-on stand on a pine tree about 20 feet above ground and started salting the ground beneath it with corn. English visited the location a few times a week leading up to the Sept. 28 season open to scatter corn by hand.
“I was reluctant to put up a feeder for fear that it might spook him,” he said. “Plus, there are quite a few hogs out there, so I decided that broadcasting the corn would be the best way to go. I invested a lot time in killing this deer, but in the end it was worth it.”
While the buck was busy munching corn, English began practicing regularly with a crossbow he had shot only once or twice a year prior to this season. “I got it about four years ago when back when I was going to college and working at Dick's Sporting Goods in Dallas, but about all I ever did was plink around with it,” he said. “Once that deer popped back on my camera and I saw the size of him I really started taking it seriously.”
English also played it smart and kept his mouth shut about the big deer in casual conversations,” I didn't tell anybody about him other than a few close friends,” he said.
A Daily Visitor
Once the buck became accustomed to all the free groceries he began visiting the area on a regular basis, English said. “It wasn't just every few days, either.” It was an everyday thing with him. I got a few pictures in the morning hours, but most of the time he would show up between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. He would stop and feed for 15 to 30 minutes, then he'd leave out and come back the next day.”
As the season drew closer, English said he had the deer patterned so well that he felt confident he would get the opportunity tag him before sundown on opening day. But Jesse had other ideas.
Cat and Mouse
Opening day was a wash. English said he saw a passel of does on that morning, but no bucks. He saw several more does and three different bucks during the afternoon hunt, but Jesse was still a ghost.
“I hunted a couple of days after that and never saw him,” English said. “He wasn't showing up on my camera, either. That sort of scared me. For a while I thought a hunter on one of the properties around me might have picked him off, then he showed back up my game camera three days later. That was a big relief.”
The game of cat and mouse carried on until the afternoon of Oct. 3 when English finally saw the big buck in person. It was around 6:45 p.m. — the bewitching time for deer hunters — when his hard work and planning finally came together.
English said he was watching several does feeding along when he heard something thrashing around in the pond, about 100 yards away. It was a feral hog, and the does didn't like it.
“The pig spooked the does and they ran off,” he said. “At that point I figured my hunt was probably over. Then all of the sudden I caught some movement to my right. It was the big buck. He had his eyes glued on that pig and he walked right out in front of me all bowed up. It caught me totally off guard because I was so caught up in watching the pig.”
Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.