The heads are coming

Photo courtesy of Chad JonesScoring 233 7/8 Boone and Crockett inches, a massive 27-pointer taken in Collin County during the 2018-19 deer season by bow hunter Chad Jones of Princeton ranks as the top scoring low fence entry statewide in the Texas Big Game Awards Program last season. Jones' buck, along with dozens of others, will be on display at the upcoming TBGA Region 5-7 Sportsman’s Celebration banquet set for June 22 in Lufkin.

Time for all East Texas whitetail junkies to get their deer goggles on.

The heads are coming.

Some of the region’s top bucks from the 2018-19 season, including a Collin County whopper arrowed on Thanksgiving Day by Princeton archer Chad Jones, will be on display June 22 at the Pitser Garrison Convention Center in Lufkin as part of the Texas Big Game Awards Program’s annual Sportsman’s Celebration banquet. The event will showcase the year’s biggest whitetails reported from the Post Oak Savannah, Pineywoods and Coastal Prairies.

Doors will open at 4 p.m. for viewing trophy mounts, followed by a fried fish supper and roll call to recognize the biggest bucks killed in each region and the lucky hunters who brought them down.

Jones’ monster 27 pointer is particularly noteworthy because it was taken on 300-acres of open range land roughly 30 miles from the downtown Dallas skyline. Scoring 233 7/8 Boone and Crockett inches, it replaces Cody Griffin’s 24 pointer as the all-time Collin County record for non-typicals. Griffin’s 2016 buck scored 226 3/8. Amazingly, the McKinney archer shot another Collin County bruiser in 2015 scoring 195 4/8.

Remarkably, the Jones buck also was the highest scoring TBGA low fence entry reported statewide last season. It ranks as the No. 3 TBGA open range archery buck of all-time and the No. 5 TBGA non-typical of all-time by gun or bow.

Jones’ buck is the fourth B&C all-time record book non-typical entry from Collin County since the county opened to “archery only” hunting in 2012. Kenny Grant took the first one in 2013. Grant’s buck scores 211 7/8. It takes a minimum net non-typical score of 195 and net typical score of 170 to qualify for B&C’s all-time registry.

Not surprisingly, word of Collin County’s most recent record book buck spread quickly and grabbed the attention several national magazine publications. Jones said his deer will be featured in upcoming issues of Buckmasters, North American Whitetail and Texas Trophy Hunters magazines.

“Most deer hunters hunt their whole life dreaming about an opportunity to take a deer like this and never get it,” said Jones, 39. “It was definitely a deer of a lifetime. I don’t know if these deer migrated down from the Hagerman Wildlife Refuge or what, but there has gotten to be some absolute monstrous bucks in Collin County.”

TPWD white-tailed deer program leader Alan Cain said he isn’t surprised to learn about big bucks showing up so close to the Metroplex.

The wildlife biologist said Collin, Rockwall and Dallas counties had archery and general seasons for deer until the mid-1970s, when widespread agricultural development wiped out critical deer habitat and forced the closure of the hunting seasons.

Cain says urban sprawl has gradually chipped away at agricultural tracts over the last 30 years, resulting in fragmented habitat and isolated populations of white-tailed deer, mostly in riparian areas surrounding lakes and streams.

When the archery only season reopened in 2012 after decades of closure, hunters found pockets of good habitat occupied by fair numbers of deer, including some mature bucks with remarkable antlers.

“My guess is that limited hunting pressure and a good buck age structure distribution are primary reasons for the number of quality bucks those counties,” Cain said. “And just because a B&C buck hasn’t been harvested in Dallas or Rockwall counties doesn’t mean they are not present. There may be some big deer are living in areas where hunting doesn’t or can’t occur, so we never hear about them. I suspect overall harvest in these counties is very low since there’s probably not many hunters or available areas to hunt.”

Cain says more and more viable deer habitat is likely to be gobbled up in the future as concrete jungles continue to expand.

“I don’t think it would be a surprise to see some available hunting areas /available deer habitat decline because of development,” he said. “Additionally, there could be expansion or new city/county ordinances that prevent the discharge of archery equipment. Despite those possibilities the deer seasons in these counties not only allow for hunting opportunities, but serve as a tool to help manage over-abundant/urban deer where they may be a problem.”

Jones’ buck will be the biggest on the wall at the upcoming show, but he won’t be the only deer hunter in attendance with a really good story to tell.

TBGA’s Region 5-7 banquet always draws a crowd. With more than 230 scored entries and dozens of youth and first harvests registered between the three regions, organizers are expecting close to 300 sportsmen of all ages to attend. Most will be toting deer mounts crowned by abnormally large antlers.

Grayson County, also an archery only county, produced a pair of Top 5 non-typical entries in Region 5 — Todd Thompson, 187 6/8 and Dale Moses, 182 3/8. TBGA also lists an outstanding “First Harvest” 12 pointer from Falls County scoring 202 6/8. It was taken by youth hunter Rylan Bethell of Joshua. Rodney Owens took the Post Oak’s top scoring typical in Hunt County. It nets 171 7/8.

Regions 6 and 7 didn't turn out any record book whitetails last season, but there will be some solid bucks on display representing Upshur, Cherokee, Newton, Houston, Nacogdoches, Trinity, San Augustine, Tyler, Polk and Walker, San Jacinto, Angelina, Liberty and Cass counties in the Pineywoods.

The top scoring low fence non-typical from Region 6 was shot in Upshur County by Bruce Ogilvie. The deer nets 189 3/8, according to TBGA’s final category standings. Chase Norman took the region’s best typical in Bowie County. It nets 157 3/8.

Another outstanding Region 6 non-typical was tagged on the Davy Crockett National Forest by Shawn Lewis. Lewis’ buck nets 161 5/8.

Washington, Karnes, Austin, Fayette, Gonzales, Lee, Colorado, Victoria, Guadalupe, De Witt, Brazoria, Waller, Wharton and Bastrop accounted for the most Region 7 entries.

Sidney Smith shot the region’s best open range non-typical in Washington County scoring 188 1/8. The region’s top scoring typical from Colorado County belongs to Matt Hudec, 151 net.

Hunters who entered qualifying deer this season are invited to attend the family-oriented banquet for free. Guest tickets are $20 and reserved tables cost $300. Online pre-registration is required of everyone, texasbiggameawards.org/awards-banquets. No tickets will be sold at the door.

The same format and fees will apply at Region 4-8 Sportsman’s Celebration banquet set for June 29 at Village Venue in New Braunfels. For more information, texasbiggameawards.org or call 210-236-9761.

Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail at mattwillwrite4u@yahoo.com.