It is out with the old and in with the new this week in the Tyler Morning Telegraph's 33rd annual Big Buck Contest.
“I prefer to bow hunt and have been 15 days this year, but Monday morning I got up late so I decided to rifle hunt out of a popup blind I set up for bowhunting,” said Naegeli, who hunts a postage stamp-sized 28 acres.
The hunter said he was no more in the blind and loaded when he saw the buck at 40 yards. Still dark, he was unable to tell much other than it was a buck, and within minute it was gone.
“I figured that would be the last time I'd see him, but 15 minutes later a doe starts heading my way and she kept looking behind her and he appeared again at over 100 yards. When I saw him the second time I knew he was a shooter,” Naegeli said.
He watched the buck follow the doe until it was about 70 away and pulled the trigger…but the gun misfired. Using a second shell, he was able to drop the 4 ½-year-old buck.
The deer had a 16 2/8-inch inside spread and a longest main beam length of 21 1/8 inches. The longest tine was 11 inches and both base measurements were 4 2/8.
Lonnie Lippert, Euless, drops to second with a 4 ½-year-old, 10-point Henderson County buck scoring 129 5/8. Tyler's Jason Ruark falls from the standings.
Cooper Hill, 8, Tyler, has taken the lead in the North Texas Youth Division with an impressive 9-point Anderson County buck scoring 156. Cole Findley, 11, Flint, has moved into second with an 11-point Concho County buck scoring 142 5/8 and Trey Cooper, 10, Flint, is third with a 9-point Concho County buck scoring 134 6/8. All the changes knock Will Martin, who had lead with a 12-point McCulloch County buck scoring 128 4/8, out of the standings.
“The hunt began when a doe came charging out of the woods with a small buck chasing her around 5:30 p.m.,” said his dad. “This small buck was very vocal and was one of eight bucks we saw that evening along with about 10 does.”
It was the young hunter's first experience seeing a chase or hearing deer vocalize other than on television. The hunters actually grunted in two bucks, including one 8-pointer that came in downwind but busted them.
“The amount of action was unbelievable for East Texas as the pre-rut was in full swing,” Hill said.
About an hour later, Cooper spotted the 9-pointer 150 yards away making a scrape.
“I knew immediately this was a trophy, and as the buck was pawing the ground, head down and quartering to us, Cooper made the shot with his Remington Youth Model 700 .243 that his grandpa Hill had given him as a gift last year,” Hill said.
The deer bolted, running first toward their stand, then back toward the woods where it dropped.
“Cooper's first words after the deer fell over were 'daddy, this is a better hunt than any hunting show on TV,'” the father said.
The 6 ½-year-old buck had a 16 3/8-inch inside spread and a longest main beam of 23 2/8. The longest tine was 11 6/8 inches and the largest base circumference measurement of 5 5/8 inches.
With a full moon, warm temperatures and acorns on the ground, the Findleys were concerned how good the hunting would be. Sitting in a blind before first light, they learned it might be pretty good.
“As we waited in the dark for daybreak to arrive, we could hear a buck near the stand grunting like crazy, but we could not see him. It was still dark, but my dad said that he could see a deer in the binoculars,” Findley said.
Although they thought it a good buck, it disappeared into the trees before light.
“At daybreak we were watching two does about 75 yards away. Suddenly, two bucks appeared. They were nice young 8-pointers, but they were in no way shooters. Suddenly my dad saw movement in the trees to our right. He said it was a main-frame 11-pointer,” Findley said.
At 70 yards, the young hunter took the shot.
“When I reached the buck, I couldn't believe the size of this deer. He's was huge. The biggest deer I had ever seen,” Findley said.
The buck had a 16-inch spread and a longest main beam of 20 4/8 inches. The longest tine measured 8 4/8 and the largest circumference at the base was 4 2/8.
Cooper was hunting with his grandfather, Jim Keeling, a former Big Buck Contest winner, on the same Concho County ranch as the Findleys.
Sitting in the lease's Turkey Blind, the morning started slow, but they did see a few small bucks chasing does.
Sitting on his grandfather's lap so he was elevated enough to see out the window, Cooper took the shot as soon as the buck moved into an opening, dropping the buck in its tracks.
The 6 ½-year buck had a 14 5/8-inch inside spread and a longest main beam of 21 3/8. Its longest tine measured 8 5/8 and the base circumference measurement was 5 6/8.
Registration continues and is free at any of the contest sponsors: 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.
Hunters must register at least 24 hours before taking their deer.
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.
There are two youth divisions — North and South. The winners in each division will receive a mount of their buck. Second- and third-place winners receive gift certificates.
No deer taken within a high-fence property may be entered in the contest.
There are two rule changes this season. 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 a scoring advantage.
Also beginning this season 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.