Don Thedford has spent time the last 40 or so falls deer hunting first in Henderson County and for the last 23 years on a McCulloch County lease.
During that time he has never taken a deer worthy of a spot on the wall either because the lack of deer in East Texas or because of management philosophies in Central Texas.
However, in a case of role reversal Thedford's youngest son, Brian, recently took care of his dad by putting him on a drop-tined 13-pointer scoring 163 3/8. For his reward of being a good son, Brian got his own drop-tined buck on the same lease the next afternoon.
"My grandfather (Glen Carter) introduced my dad to deer hunting when he was in his late to mid-20s. There were several of them that were hunting in the Brushy Creek area. That is what got my dad taking my brother (Donnie) and me. We always looked forward to going. We didn't see anything, but it was just the going," Brian Thedford said.
About a decade ago the members of the McCulloch County lease got heavily involved in management and a year-around feeding program. That put pressure on lease members to let the best of their young deer go, while working hard to harvest cull bucks and does.
Unfortunately, on a low fence ranch their efforts often benefitted neighboring hunters who were able to take the better bucks that crossed the fence.
The younger Thedford was determined that wasn't going to happen this year after finding the drop-tine buck on his game camera last summer. The problem was the deer had also been seen across the fence on another lease that included Tyler hunter Mike Martin Jr. The two, also next door neighbors at home, talked about the buck going into the season. Martin was the first to see it when he was hunting with his daughter, Millie. However, the deer was deemed a little too much for a young hunter looking for her first buck.
The next weekend the Thedfords were having a family hunting weekend on their side of the fence. While Brian was hunting with his son, Rylan, he encouraged his dad to hunt in the area the buck had been seen. He also encouraged him to take the deer.
"I told him if he comes out, don't let him walk. You have to shoot that deer this year," Brian said. Of course, he got a non-committal answer.
Don Thedford had intended to bow hunt from a pop-up blind that had been placed near a feeder, but raccoons had gotten to the feeder's mechanism and it was out of service. He told the family that since it was a cool morning he would just as soon take his rifle and a Thermos of coffee and hunt from a tower blind in the area.
The hunt didn't start promising, although Thedford did see a doe and a 150-inch, 10-point. He was looking at those deer when he spotted the drop-tine buck coming his way as if it were on a mission.
"He never really slowed down. He slow trotted through the area," Brian recalled his dad's story.
Although Thedford quickly got ready for a shot, the buck disappeared in the brush. He used a grunt call attempting to pull the buck into the open. He didn't see it for several minutes while the deer circled around and then came out in front of him where he got his shot.
"He told us he got a little case of buck fever. He said he guessed even old men can still get excited," Brian said.
The buck actually had a split brow tines and a 4 6/8th-inch drop tine, a rare sight on the lease. Its 22-inch inside spread along with 24-inch main beams made for a rack impressive enough for the wall.
And while the weekend could have ended on a high note there, it did.
While his dad was hunting his trophy, Brian's sister Mandi was sitting in one of his blinds taking pictures of deer.
"She sat in the blind and had a great hunt taking pictures. She got a lot of pictures of a lot of bucks.
One in particular got Brian's interest. It was an older deer with a double main beam. It wasn't a great scoring deer, but unique enough to be interesting.
Brian went to the stand the next day
"I was hoping he would come out. Some of the bucks she took pictures of that were with him came out early. I was thinking they are still here so maybe he hasn't broken off with a doe," the hunter said.
"Sure enough he comes running through woods. I saw the double main beam. That is what gives him away," Thedford said.
He didn't hesitate taking the main frame 8-pointer. It was only after the 140-inch deer was on the ground that he noticed the 2 7/8 inch drop tine on its left main beam.
"How often do you kill a drop-tine buck, and how often do you kill two in one weekend," Brian asked.
And at that point the weekend was perfect.
Although with his dad being 64, it wasn't the traditional idea of a father-son hunt, but the results were the same. That, of course, is why Brian and his brother take their sons as well.
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