With a wholesale change of the leaders in the North Texas Division of the Tyler Morning Telegraph's 33rd Big Buck Contest, the question now becomes how big it might take to win this year.
“I have leased and have been managing a 13,000-acre lease in Throckmorton County for the last six years,” Brady said. “I've added more country to the lease every year meaning more hunters and more stands and lots of work and it continues to be a work in progress, but it finally paid off at least for me.”
Putting together so much acreage means Brady and his hunters haven't been able to manage the herd as much as possible, but he and the other lease members have adopted a policy of taking trophy-quality bucks or no bucks at all.
The hunter actually saw the buck last season, but as a drought-impacted 5 ½-year-old, he estimated the deer then to only be a 140-inch buck.
“Our lease is somewhat unique for a place this size in that everyone can hunt anyone's stand. I knew I better hurry if I wanted him, plus I really worried about tines breaking,” Brady said.
Weather conditions in the Cross Timbers region haven't been outstanding this season, and last weekend it was not only warm, but windy.
“I normally always hunt from daylight to dark so that was my plan for Saturday and Sunday. I saw him at about three-quarters of a mile at midday on Saturday working in and out of brush apparently either with or after a doe. He disappeared and I waited him out, but he was a no show,” Brady said.
“This time he bedded down in sight of me. I made the stalk without seeing him again until I was 215 yards away. He was down unobstructed in the sunshine. I sat on the ground and got ready with shooting sticks. I got excited and had to calm down,” Brady said.
Apparently the buck detected the hunter's presence, and started to make a move, but Brady dropped him on the spot.
The 6 ½-year-old deer had a 25 1/8-inch inside spread and a longest main beam of 24 4/8 inches. The longest tine measured 11 inches and the largest base circumference was 4 2/8 inches.
Armstrong has been hunting the same 40 acres near Alto for seven years.
“I was sitting in my tree stand and it was very foggy. It looked like a perfect morning for the deer to be running, but it was just total silence except for the birds and squirrels running around,” Armstrong recalled.
Patiently he waited in the woods until the deer got active.
“About 11:15 I heard something, and the buck jumped the fence beside my stand and was running across the field,” Armstrong said.
He used a doe bleat call to get the buck to stop. Using a Ruger .30-06 that had sentimental value because it had belonged to his late brother, Armstrong took advantage of his brief window of opportunity.
The 4 ½-year-old deer had a 15 7/8-inch inside spread and a longest main beam measurement of 22 5/8. The longest tine measured 12 5/8 inches and the largest base circumference was 4 3/8 inches.
The two deer drop James Naegeli of Bullard and Euless' Lonnie Lippert from the leader board. Naegeli had been leading with an 8-point Henderson County buck scoring 133 2/8. Lippert was second with a 10-point Henderson County deer scoring 129 5/8.
Cooper Hill, 8, Tyler, leads the North Texas Youth Division with a 9-point Anderson County buck scoring 156. Cole Findley, 11, Flint, is 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 from the same ranch scoring 134 6/8.
There haven't been any entries in the South Texas and Women's divisions yet.
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.
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.