James Mills doesn't have any ties to Texas A&M, but like a lot of Aggies he has Johnny Manziel partially to thank for a great year.
Mills, an attorney from Tyler, was at the deer lease the second week of the regular season. On paper, it wasn't a good weekend to be there.
“It was 85 degrees and the wind was blowing 25 miles per hour and the deer were not moving,” Mills recalled.
Last season didn't offer much of an education for someone new to a lease. The drought reduced deer quality and hunting options to almost zero. But with a good spring and protein feeding program, Mills was optimistic about a good sophomore season and the prospect of some older bucks.
After an unsuccessful morning hunt, Mills and a friend were spending the mid-afternoon working on a deer blind while listening to the Aggies and Manziel dismantle Alabama on the radio.
The ground blind is located on a rise above a tank, and although his friend couldn't see the tank a hundred yards away from inside the blind, Mills could when he walked back and forth to the truck.
“About 3 I walked back to the truck to get some tools and I looked down at the tank and saw this deer getting a drink,” Mills recalled.
“I was sneaking up to tank and he yells 'What did you see, a hog?' I tried to tell him to be quiet. He never did see the deer,” Mills said.
The hunter had the wind to his advantage, but the sun was to the deer's advantage, shining straight into Mills' eyes. He could tell it was a buck and he could make out the silhouette of a drop tine that made the next decision easy. Standing just 80 yards from the deer, Mills took an offhand shot with his 7mm magnum rifle.
“He dropped in his tracks, but because I was looking into the sun I really could not tell how big he was until we walked down to the tank,” Mills said. Actually, with the deer's neck, head and most of its antlers submerged, he couldn't tell what he had until they pulled it out of the water.
“The guy with me said 'What did you shoot?' I said I think I just shot a big deer,” Mills said.
What he had was a unique 18-point buck, a 12X6 on a typical 10-point frame, that has been green gross scored at 186 3/8 non-typical and netted 181 1/8. A score of 195 net is required to make the Boone & Crockett record book.
Scored for the Texas Big Game Awards, the deer had main beams stretching more than 23 inches, G2 tines that measured 10 2/8 and 11 7/8 inches and G3s that were 10 4/8 and 9 7/8 inches. The buck also had 22 3/8 inches of non-typical points, including the 4-inch drop tine that initially got Mills' attention.
For those that know him, Mills said the unusual thing may have been more that he snapped off a quick shot rather than him taking a trophy (even though his previous best was a 130-class deer).
“That is the weird thing about it. So many things could have happened, and I am notorious for not shooting a deer. My first instinct is to get the binoculars or get the video camera or the camera,” Mills said.
Having hunted the region all of his life, Mills said he never thought he would see a 180-inch deer, much less take one.
"The moral of the story is, when you go to work on your stand in the middle of the afternoon be sure to take your rifle just in case because you never know what might show up to get a drink of water,” he said.
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