Finally, the women are getting their shots in, and for one North Texas Division hunter his best-buck-ever the second time this season has him back in the standings of the Tyler Morning Telegraph's 33rd Big Buck Contest.
Beverly Minson, Tyler, has taken the first lead in the statewide Women's Division with an 8-point Cherokee County buck scoring 127 6/8. Laci Laird, Tyler, is second with a 6-point Anderson County deer scoring 102.
Tyler's Jason Ruark, who earlier this season was second in the North Texas Division with an 8-point Houston County buck scoring 126 1/8, the biggest deer he had ever taken at the time, is back in second with a 10-point Callahan County buck scoring 151 5/8.
“I decided last minute to change my hunting plans from my cabin in Houston County and my new deer lease that I had recently joined out in Callahan County. And boy am I happy with that decision,” Ruark said of a Thanksgiving weekend hunt.
He spent the first night talking to veteran lease members about stand location and terrain. They also talked him into picking up his rifle for the first time in three years instead of a bow.
Ruark had really intended to help his stepfather take a deer for the first time in a decade. The first deer they saw came into the field about 325 yards away. After watching it for 10 minutes Ruark knew it was a mature buck with a wide spread.
“I knew right then that he was a deer I wanted to take. However, I had not shot my rifle much in three years and was leery of the distance. I did not want to take a chance at making a poor shot on trophy buck, especially on my first hunt on a new ranch. After deciding not to shoot I watched him turn around and walk back down into the draw from where he came from and I didn't see him anymore,” he said.
During a lunch-time tour Ruark found a stand closer to where he had first spotted the buck, and decided that would be the spot for an afternoon hunt.
“I was hunting, again with a rifle when the 10-point came out at 60 yards. As he came into view from upwind, his gait and carelessness made me believe that maybe he was in rut. And a few moments later the buck proved my theory right as he aggressively destroyed two small trees with his antlers and chased a younger 10-point buck out of the area,” Ruark said.
The buck stopped for just a second, 50 feet from the stand. Ruark made the shot.
The buck had an inside spread of 22 inches and a longest main beam that ran 26 2/8 inches. The longest tine was 8 3/8 inches and the base circumference was 4 inches.
Tyler's Earl Brady continues to lead the North Texas Division with a 9-point Throckmorton County buck scoring 158 7/8. Mike Armstrong of Tyler drops from the standings.
MINSON LEADS WOMEN'S
“I had gotten so discourged from years of hunting on a lease where we rarely even saw a deer; and in six years the only thing I shot were hogs. However, late this summer, my husband Bill and I were able to get onto the Blue Lake Hunting Club east of Alto, on the Angelina River,” Minson said.
Moving leases meant work and the Minsons started in August getting ready in time for the archery season.
“While bowhunting I saw some good bucks at a distance, but none came close enough for a shot. Early one morning I saw a really nice buck crossing to the west of my stand and in the morning sun he appeared to be white. I noticed he had a slight limp in a front leg. He passed by beyond my shooting range,” Minson said, noting that unlike their old lease she saw deer every time they hunted.
She switched to her rifle for the gun season and quickly took a doe and started looking for a buck.
“About 4:45 I saw a nice buck approaching from the west and watched him with my binoculars as he came toward my feeder. Though I was hunting with a rifle, the buck came within bow range. I looked him over carefully, not wanting to shoot a deer that didn't make the 13-inch requirement. Then I finally convinced myself he was not only a shooter, but the nice buck with a limp I'd seen weeks before, I eased my Ruger M77 up, took aim and shot. The buck took off across the clear-cut and went down about a hundred yards away,” she said.
With an inside spread of 13 6/8, the buck did just crack the 13-inch inside spread regulation in affect in some counties around the state. The longest main beam was 20 3/8 inches and the longest tine was 9 5/8. The largest base circumference measurement was 3 7/8.
LAIRD LANDS IN SECOND
“It was a chilly morning on Thanksgiving weekend. I was in my stand as usual by sunrise. It was Sunday morning — my last chance to hunt before heading back to the real world,” Laird said.
She has been hunting the club for 11 years, and before this year she had always hunted from one of the 30 club stands scattered around the property. This year she put up her own stand and planted a food plot that had come up despite the dry weather.
“I was getting discouraged after putting in around nine hours of stand time over the weekend and the most I had seen were crows and squirrels. At 7:30 (morning) I glanced out of my window and spotted a deer coming toward my food plot from the right. After checking with my binoculars I realized it was a buck,” Laird said.
The club has self-imposed 15-inch inside spread rule, so after judging that and dealing with a severe case of buck fever, Laird took the shot and dropped the deer.
The deer had an inside spread of 15 5/8 inches and a longest main beam of 20 inches. The longest tine was 6 5/8 inches and the largest circumference at the base was 3 6/8 inches.
Cooper Hill, 8, Tyler, leads the Youth division with a 9-point Anderson County buck scoring 156. Tyler's Clayton Bochow, 15, is second with a DeWitt County 10-point buck scoring 145. Cole Findley, 11, Flint, is third with an 11-point Concho County buck scoring 142 5/8.
Registration continues and is free at any of the contest sponsors: The Tire Barn, 13687 FM 206 at Spur 364; Army/Navy Store of Tyler, 1201 E.SE. Loop 323; East Texas Seed, Cotton Belt Rail Yard; Lynch's Food Store, 3400 E. Fifth; Mac's Gun Shop, 213 E. Elm; Noonday Gun Trader, 14674 Texas 155 South; and Still Life Taxidermy, 1415 E. Tyler St., Athens.
Hunters must register at least 24 hours before taking their deer.
The contest has three adult divisions: North Texas, South Texas and Women's. Winners in each division will receive a Remington .270-caliber rifle and a mount of their deer.
Second-place winners will receive gift certificates.
There are two youth divisions — North and South. The winners in each division will receive a mount of their buck. Second- and third-place winners receive gift certificates.
There are two rule changes this season. Only bucks with hardened antlers may be entered in the contest.
This eliminates so-called velvet-horned deer from the competition. The change was made not because velvet-horned deer aren't bucks, but because the velvet covering provides a scoring advantage.
Also beginning this season all deer must be taken to either Still Life Taxidermy or Lynch's Food Store within 10 days of being harvested to be entered in the contest.