J.J.’s Buck
August 28, 2018
Editorial Staff (248 articles)
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J.J.’s Buck

Youth hunter bags Smith County whopper

By Matt Williams

Mistakes happen out there, but some take way longer to overcome than others. Just ask John Idrogo. Early in the 2014 season, the 48-year-old hunter from Tyler made a serious error that has haunted him like a bad dream ever since.

On a dreary day during the Thanksgiving holidays, Idrogo shared a Henderson County box blind with his young son, J.J. Only 8 years old at the time, J.J. had never taken a crack at a deer before, and he was anxious to get blood on his hands for the first time.

The woods had been particularly quiet, and the two hunters hadn’t seen much, other than squirrels and songbirds. Idrogo had grown so bored in the blind that he reached for his cell phone to check e-mails, while his son peered out the window looking for any signs of movement.

That’s when the wake up call came.

“We were just sitting there and J.J. yelled ‘Look Dad; it’s a buck!’” Idrogo recalled. “I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’ When I looked up, there he stood. It was a really nice 10-pointer. He was broadside to us, probably 70 yards away.”

Bad memory made

What happened next hatched into a bad memory that Idrogo would just as soon like to forget. Rather than handing the .223 to his son, Idrogo grabbed the rifle and hastily shot at the deer himself. J.J., meanwhile, just sat there and watched as the buck ran away and melted into the brush. Realizing the crummy deed he had just carried out, Idrogo said he was instantly stricken with guilt and grief.

“I felt terrible about it,” he said. “What I did was very selfish. I didn’t even hand him the gun. I shot at the deer myself and I felt guilty as heck about it. I told J.J. right then that I was sorry, that I’d never do that to him again.”

Idrogo eventually got a little redemption when J.J. shot his first doe, but the shameful feeling of having robbed his son of the opportunity to shoot the buck lived on in the back of his mind until last November. That’s when J.J. finally brought his dad’s conscious some serious relief in a really big way.

Buck gets TBGA recognition

Hunting on a 1,200-acre low-fence lease in Smith County on opening weekend of the 2017 season, the youth hunter shot a whale of a buck that might be the highest scoring open range non-typical whitetail ever shot in the county. It’s by far the biggest Smith County non-typical ever reported to the Texas Big Game Awards, a hunter recognition program run jointly by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Texas Wildlife Association since 1992.

Idrogo’s buck, a massive 17 pointer, was originally scored for TBGA at 190 6/8 gross and 178 net B&C by TPWD wildlife biologist Larry LeBeau of Tyler. LeBeau said he had some questions regarding a few of the measurements on the freak antlers, so he invited fellow biologist and official B&C scorer Billy Lambert of Hearne to do a re-score. The official green gross score before 60 days drying stands at 186, Idrogo said.

The 5 1/2-year-old buck will fall well shy of the 195 net score required for non-typical entry to the B&C all-time record book, but you won’t hear J.J. complaining about it. The Brown Elementary fifth grader is much too busy soaking up the attention and learning all he can about his newest passion.

“I used to watch Netflix a lot, but now I watch the Outdoor Channel and hunting videos on YouTube all the time,” the youth hunter said. “I’m learning a lot about deer hunting and all the different products out there. It’s pretty neat.”

Horn rattling aspect

One aspect of the game Idrogo has become particularly obsessed with is horn rattling during the rut. And understandably so.

Witnessing a giant buck coming to the sounds of a buck fight is a rare sight that just about every deer hunter dreams about, but only a handful are fortunate enough to experience in a lifetime of hunting. For an 11-year-old kid to see such a thing can have life-changing implications.

“My dad rattled and next thing we knew there he was, looking for a fight,” J.J. said. “I’ll never forget it.”

Indeed, there was some serious mojo dancing in the air along the Sabine River bottom during opening weekend of the 2017 deer season. To hear John tell it, he believes the big buck his son shot on the morning of Nov. 5 was truly a Godsend.

“I remember laying in my cot the night before,” he said. “We had just finished eating soup I had warmed over the campfire when a friend texted me an internet link to a story about a giant typical buck that a guy (Bryan O’Neal of Quitman) had killed in Smith County last year. After I read that story, I put my hand on my Bible and thought to myself how great it would be if J.J. could kill a big buck like that. I swear, that was the last thought I had before I went to sleep.”

Hunt of a lifetime

J.J. Idrogo buck

J.J. Idrogo’s buck fell shy of the minimum net score to make the B&C all-time record book, but you won’t hear him complain.

Opening weekend turned off unseasonably warm and muggy across eastern Texas. But, the Idrogos decided to head to the lease anyway.

They made it to their stand well before sunrise on Sunday morning and saw the first signs of activity about 7 a.m. Their stand sits between several blinds on a wood-line at the edge of a long pipeline, providing a clear view for several hundred yards to the left and right.

“The first deer we saw was a pretty nice buck,” John said. “I looked at him through my binocular, but he was way too far to shoot, probably close to 400 yards. He disappeared and we never saw him again.”

Nearly an hour passed with no action, and Idrogo could tell his son was beginning to get antsy. That’s when he decided to reach for the rattle bag in his pack.

The magic of rattling

A rattle bag contains several hard plastic cylinders bound in a loose cluster. Placed between two hands and rubbed side-to-side, the cylinders create clashing, tickling noises, intended to emulate the sounds of two bucks in a sparring match. The idea is to stir the curiosity of other bucks and bring them closer. The trick doesn’t always work, but when it does, it can be like magic.

“I’ve been hunting for 32 years and fooled around with rattling off and on,” Idrogo said. “I’ve never had much luck doing it, but I’ve always been intrigued by it. I’d been seeing quite a bit of buck activity driving to work that week. I thought they might be chasing does, so I thought, ‘What the heck,’ and gave it a try.”

Idrogo said he placed the rattle bag outside the stand window and rubbed it vigorously for about 30 seconds.

“J.J. sort of perked up after that,” he said. “We were both watching the pipeline when all of a sudden this buck stepped out, probably 150 yards away. I had no idea how big he was at first, but when I looked at him through the binocular I could tell he was really thick and tall. He had something hanging off one side that looked like a drop tine. But it turned out to be a vine from tearing up the brush.”

In the mood

J.J. thought the sounds from Dad’s rattle bag had put the buck in the mood to brawl.

“He was walking across the pipeline, sort of looking back and forth like he was looking for a fight,” he said. “He slowed down a little bit and that’s when I took the shot. At first I thought I’d missed because he didn’t do much. His tail didn’t twitch or anything. He just kept walking for about 20 yards. Then he just fell over.”

John said it wasn’t until they walked up close to the buck that he realized the true majesty of the animal his son had taken.

“He was huge,” he said. “The grass on the pipeline was pretty tall, but we could see antlers sticking up everywhere. He was giant body-wise, too. I’m guessing he weighed at least 225 pounds. J.J. was jumping up and down like he’d just won the lottery.”

In reality, he had.

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