Donald Ressler didn't wait long to take his first deer of the season and in doing so has taken the first lead in the TylerPaper's 34th annual Big Buck Contest.
Hunting in Anderson County, the Palestine hunter took a 9-point buck scoring 135 7/8 Tuesday to take the early lead in the North Texas Division.
Ressler was hunting on a small tract of family land. He knew the buck had been in the area, but really wasn't expecting to see him.
"I have seen him a couple of times on the camera, but I hadn't seen him in a month or so," Ressler said. He added that a scrape line through the area made him think the buck was still close.
The hunter had been on the stand the afternoon before and only saw a couple of young 4-points and a spike coming to a nearby feeder.
Then about an hour before sunset Tuesday the big buck crossed an opening beyond the feeder, 52 yards from Ressler's blind.
"He just came walking out," It made no sense, it wasn't dark, raining or anything," the hunter said.
Because of a shoulder injury several years ago Ressler had swapped from a compound bow to hunting with a crossbow during the early season. Although the bow's scope had crosshairs beyond 60 yards, Ressler felt comfortable shooting up to 40 yards, but was willing to take a chance on the biggest buck he had ever seen in the wild.
"I grunted, he stopped and I shot. He went six or seven yards and went down. I think it hit him in the spine first," he recalled.
The 4½-year-old deer, which weighed 186 pounds live weight, had an inside spread of 18 2/8 inches and a long main beam length of 20 7/8. The longest tine was 9 6/8 inches and the biggest mass measurement at the bass was 4 3/8 inches.
Registration continues for the Big Buck Contest and is free at any of the contest sponsors including: 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. Participating hunters must register at least 24 hours before taking their deer.
There is one change in this year's contest. The Youth Division will include both statewide boys' and girls' categories. The girls' division replaces the South Texas division for the Youth Division, open to hunters 16 years old and younger.
Winners in the two youth divisions will receive a mount of their buck. Second and third place winners will receive a gift certificate.
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.
No deer taken within a high-fence property may be entered in the contest.
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 an unfair scoring advantage.
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.
The contest runs through Jan. 26, one week after the regular season closes in South Texas.