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Making The Grade—And Then Some - March, 2009

by Sully Woodland |

I’ve hunted on a 2,200-acre high-fenced ranch in South Texas for the past 20 years. There are seven hunters plus the ranch owner and his son who also hunt this property. During the time I’ve been on the lease, all of us have tried to do the things that enable us to take trophy deer on this land, such as removing the number of does and cull bucks the game biologist recommends each year. We have been very successful with this program, as the best buck killed was a beautiful 185 Boone and Crockett (B&C) typical buck. I’ve been fortunate to have killed two nice bucks, one scoring 155 B&C and another that went to 165 B&C. My goal was to kill another buck, one that would score better than 170 B&C.

During deer season, I try to visit the lease about every weekend to hunt and share the fellowship with my hunting buddies. There are some weekends I miss, but not many.

This past season, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, I’d taken a friend of mine and my son along with me to kill some does and hogs. We had been successful taking three does, but no hogs. Our last hunt took place on Saturday afternoon. It was very hot that day, with the temperature pushing 90 degrees. I wasn’t very excited about going out, but eventually decided to go out late. I put my friend and son in a blind where I thought they might have a chance of killing a hog, then I went to a blind where we’d always seen lots of deer. I wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, fighting the heat and wasps all afternoon. I was really looking forward to the hunt ending until about 5:30 p.m., when something happened that made me forget about how miserable I felt.

I looked down a sendero to the south and saw a magnificent, heavy-horned buck trotting towards my blind. I got out my video camera and started to record him. He came to within 150 yards before some javelinas ran him and a doe off. The doe crossed the sendero again somewhere around 100 yards out and the buck followed, and though they did not stop, I got decent video of him. I could tell he had 12 to 14 points, with the longest tine being about 13 inches long. His rack also bore a unique and distinct feature. On his right G-2, the point went up about five inches and then went straight back another five inches at a 90-degree angle. He looked like a buck I’d want to shoot.

That night I showed the video to the other hunters at camp. They thought he was a good buck and said I should consider shooting him, but they weren’t sure if he would score better than 170 B&C. So next I took the video home and showed it to my wife. She and I both agreed that, if I got another chance at the buck, I should shoot him and take my chances with what he would score.

I decided my best chance to get this buck was by hunting for the remainder of the season in the same blind that I’d first seen him from. The strategy worked, because he came by my setup again the weekend before Christmas. One again I was able to video the buck, but was unable to get a shot at him. I left the blind that night upset and believing I’d probably not get another chance at him. Too, one of the other hunters had recently spotted him before daybreak on one of the roads leading to another blind. As I had, that hunter took video and still pictures of him. I was so thankful he hadn’t shot the buck—there wasn’t one of us who wasn’t convinced he’d score better than 170 B&C, and probably closer to 180—and with that, everyone who hadn’t tagged out decided to go after the buck. I knew then that, if I ever saw him again, I would have to shoot as soon as I could.

The next weekend I got to the lease on a Friday night. One of the other hunters had hunted the blind where I had been hunting, but the buck had not appeared. I woke early the next morning, January 5, 2008, thinking I would go back to that same blind, but then one of the other hunters told me someone else had already taken that blind. I was really disappointed, but decided to hunt from another blind, one that was between the two blinds where the buck had previously been spotted.

I got situated in the new blind before daybreak. The temperature was approaching 50 degrees, and there was a light fog. When daylight came, I could see about 125 yards, then farther, as the sun came up and the fog lifted. There was a sendero to the east, one to the west, and three to the north. An open field lay south of the blind. By 9 a.m. the temperature had risen to over 60 degrees, and while I had seen a few does and some middle-aged bucks, nothing appeared that would excite a trophy hunter. I thought the hunt was over, but had committed to stay in the blind until 10 a.m., so I began to read.

After a while, I looked up and saw a doe and two fawns to the south in the field and a doe in the west sendero. As I watched, something spooked them and they ran off. I spotted a turkey at the end of the west sendero, but couldn’t figure out how it could have run off the deer. From there, everything became sort of a blur.

First the doe and the two fawns I had seen in the field earlier went running down the west sendero towards the blind; a buck I’d never gotten a good look at before was chasing them, and he ran them into the brush to the south. As I watched the four disappear, I spotted another doe and buck in the same sendero. I could tell with my naked eye that he was the buck I was after. I immediately pulled up my .270 Winchester Model 70, said quietly to myself, “Trophy,” and put the crosshairs on the buck. He was roughly 180 to 200 yards away.

I waited for the buck to turn broadside, but instead he started walking directly towards me. At 120 yards he angled a bit, and I knew that was the time to shoot. I put the crosshairs on the front part of his right shoulder, almost to his neck, and squeezed the trigger. He dropped like the Titanic.


 

When I got to him, I knew I had shot my buck of a lifetime. He scored 1935⁄8 B&C, had 13 points with the longest point 13 inches, and the inside and outside spreads were, respectively, 185⁄8 and 204⁄8. His main beam length was over 26 inches, and he had five-inch bases. This was the biggest buck we have ever killed on this property—and I’m just thankful my hunting buddies boxed me out of the blind I’d wanted to use that morning, because, as a good friend of mine always says, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”

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