It was a good opening weekend for Texas deer hunters and for hunters entered in the TylerPaper’s 34th annual Big Buck Contest.
Hunting in McCulloch County, Tyler’s Ron Lott has taken the lead in the North Texas Division with a 14-point buck scoring 160 3/8.
Laci Laird, Tyler, became the season’s first Women’s Division leader with a 10-point Anderson County buck scoring 126 5/8.
Hunting on a ranch neighboring Lott’s, 10-year-old Millie Martin of Tyler has moved into second in the Girls’ Youth Division with a 10-point buck scoring 137 6/8.
Lott and his wife, Pam, went to their McCulloch County lease more with the intention of getting the camp set up than they did hunting.
“We were planning to hunt also, but I did not expect to see a shooter buck on opening weekend. Usually it is around Thanksgiving when we see some of our best deer,” Lott said.
After an unsuccessful morning hunt, the two went back to their same blinds that afternoon.
“There were four bucks, including a large 9-point, out in a field to the right of my blind. A few doe and a smaller buck were down a sendero to my left,” Lott recalled.
After wild pigs ran the deer off the sendero, Lott glanced away to the field and back to the sendero to see if the pigs were still there.
“That’s when I saw a deer with lots of horns sticking straight up. Even at 200 yards, I could tell he was a definite shooter. I immediately reached for my .270 rifle, and shot the deer,” he said.
The buck, which had only one non-typical point, had an inside spread of 15 2/8 inches and a longest main beam of 22 4/8 inches. The longest tine measured 9 7/8 inches and the largest base circumference measurement was 4 1/8.
George Wyatt of Kilgore falls to second in the North Texas Division with a 12-point Panola County buck scoring 159 2/8. Donald Ressler, Palestine, falls out of the standings.
Arriving at her lease opening day, Laird found her newly planted food plot destroyed by wild pigs. Initially, looking at windy and warm weather, she thought about not hunting that evening, but changed her mind when it came time to go to the stand.
“I got in the stand around 5. With the wind and warm temperature I didn’t expect to see any deer so I didn’t bother too much with scent control and opened all the windows to my stand. After only 30 minutes, through the corner of my eye, I caught some movement to my left and was shocked to see a big buck coming in,” Laird said.
She recognized the deer as one she had seen several times on her game camera, but only in pictures taken after dark.
“He stopped a few feet from my feeder to add to a scrape and finally came out from behind a tree so I could get a shot. I missed my chance to get the hog tearing up my food plot but it was all good in the end,” she said.
The buck had an inside spread of 15 5/8 inches and both main beams measured 19 1/8. The longest tine was 9 2/8 inches and the largest base circumference measurement was 3 6/8 inches.
The Martin family has logged 31 years on the same lease, killing a lot of good deer over the years. When it came time for Millie Martin to hunt with her father, Mike Martin Jr., she just added to the family tradition.
“It was opening morning of rifle season and my dad and I were pumped up. It was just the two of us headed out for me to shoot my first buck. We were at our deer lease in McCulloch County and we couldn’t wait to find a buck for me,” the young hunter said.
It was an ominous start, however, when just a short way from camp the alternator on their top-drive rig went out. After trading vehicles, they eventually arrived at the area they wanted to hunt.
“We watched a beautiful 12-point buck that had a drop tine making him a 13-pointer. Then, believe it or not, the alternator on my dad’s truck also went out. What are the chances of two alternators going out on two different vehicles within hours of each other? Some luck we were having on opening day,” she said.
With the morning given over to mechanical repairs, the father-daughter team returned to hunt in the afternoon, this time joined by granddad, Mike Martin Sr.
The afternoon started with the trio only looking at a few does and young bucks. As the sun was starting to set a 10-point buck walked out.
“My dad took a good look at him and said ‘here’s your buck, Millie.’ Instantly I had a serious case of buck fever. I was able to get a good rest and held my breath. I gently squeezed the trigger. The bullet flew and I yelled ‘BAM! I hit him!’ I was so excited,” she said.
The buck, which actually scored as a 9-point, had a 22 3/8-inch longest main beam and an inside spread of 16 1/8 inches. The longest tine was 10 3/8 inches and the largest base circumference measurement was 3 6/8 inches.
Samantha Merrifield, 15, Hewitt, continues to lead the first-year division with a 10-point Anderson County buck that scored 143 3/8.
Sawyer Parker, 10, Mansfield, leads the Boys’ Division with an 11-point Anderson County buck scoring 137 4/8. The deer was taken during a youth-only hunting on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Richland Creek Wildlife Management Area. Gibson Walker, 11, Rowlett, is second with an 8-point Anderson County buck scoring 106 3/8.
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.
The contest has three adult divisions, North Texas, South Texas and Women’s, and Boys’ and Girls’ youth divisions open to hunters 16 and under.
Winners in each adult division will receive a Remington .270-caliber rifle and a mount of their deer. Second-place winners will receive gift certificates.
Winners in the two youth divisions will receive a mount of their buck.
Second and third place winners will receive a gift certificate.
No deer taken within a high-fence property may be entered in the contest.
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.