Howard Britain had the lead in the Tyler Morning Telegraph's 33rd Big Buck Contest's North Texas Division for a minute with a big 10-point buck. Then he lost it. Then he got it back.
The Tyler hunter's Motley County buck scoring 170 4/8 jumbles the leader board, pushing Earl Brady to second. Brady entered a 9-point Throckmorton County buck that scored 158 7/8.
That was indicative of the way Britain's season had gone.
“My 2012 deer season started with a case of whooping cough. Unfortunately, that cough does not sound like a grunt tube or doe bleat. The smell of cough drops does not attract deer either. When the coughing finally stopped the prime time had pretty much expired for me, I thought,” he said.
After an unsuccessful first-day hunt, Britain moved to a blind overlooking a feeder 185 yards away in a pasture full of broomweed.
“Two small bucks appeared out of the broom grass at 7:20 to have breakfast at the feeder. The West Texas wind had picked up out of the south and the two bucks appeared to be nervous. At 7:35, as I was scouring the horizon above the feeder, I spotted a doe running through the broom grass like a gazelle. Twenty to 30 yards behind the doe was a much larger deer also running at full speed, apparently chasing the doe. I trained my binoculars on that animal and realized immediately that it was a mature buck,” the hunter said.
By the time Britain picked up the deer in his scope it had moved to about 300 yards of his blind. He was about to use his grunt call to slow the buck when the young doe stopped and looked toward the buck.
“Fortunately, the big buck also stopped, allowing me to squeeze off a single shot, and the buck fell in the tall grass. The doe stood motionless after the shot, looking back in the direction of where the buck had been,” Britain said.
“When I arrived at that location, to my dismay, about 30 yards to the south the big buck bolted out of the broom grass and disappeared in a split second. For 30 minutes I looked for a sign to no avail,” he recalled.
Britain radioed his son to come to a nearby road, and while walking there he crossed the tracks of a deer that looked as if it was dragging a leg. After finding a blood trail and knowing how good the deer was, he decided to call for help.
“I decided not to press the deer, and called the local deer tracker/taxider-mist/deer processor/and deer hunting guide in Matador, Devin Ballard, to get his tracking assistance, along with his bloodhound, Stu. Ten minutes after they arrived Stu located my deer,”
After thinking his 158-inch winning deer five years ago was a lifetime trophy, Britain easily upped his outlook.
The big 8½-year-old buck had a 20 6/8-inch inside spread and a longest main beam of 25 2/8 inches. The longest tine measured 11 3/8 inches and the greatest mass at the base was 4 4/8.
With Britain's entry, Tyler's Jason Ruark falls off the North Texas leader board.
Tyler's Pam Lott leads the statewide Women's Division with a 14-point McCulloch County buck that scored 149 1/8. Amanda Blomdahl of Tyler is second with a 10-pointer scoring 142 6/8.
Cooper Hill, 8, Tyler, leads the Youth division with a 9-point Anderson County buck scoring 156. Tyler's Clayton Bochow, 15, is second with a DeWitt County 10-point buck scoring 145.
Cole Findley, 11, Flint, is third with an 11-point Concho County buck scoring 142 5/8.
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.
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.