OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham – March 2020
February 24, 2020
SPORTSMAN’S DAYBOOK-Tides & Prime Times – March 2020
February 24, 2020

Free Range Mule Deer Sets New State Record

THE TALE OF THE TAPE is official on an enormous Texas desert mule deer shot last fall by Greg Simons of San Angelo. Not surprisingly, the final Boone and Crockett score on the free ranging Culberson County buck is quite high.

High enough, in fact, to raise the bar and set a new standard by which monster Texas mulies will be judged until somebody gets really lucky and kills a bigger one.

My guess is it will be a while before “Hank” loses any of his thunder.

Hank is the good ol’ boy moniker Simons and his hunting buddies pinned on the old buck at a young age. Simons first saw the deer in 2016, roughly three years after he and some friends leased a sprawling 40,000-acre low fence ranch near Van Horn for hunting. The brief encounter with the native West Texas buck made an everlasting impression. A veteran hunter and wildlife biologist, Simons could tell by looking that Hank packed the potential to become something really special in time.

And the buck didn’t disappoint.

Greg Simons approaches “Hank,” his state record muley.

On Jan. 11, Hank was officially declared as the biggest open range mule deer taken by a hunter statewide since the Texas Big Game Awards program began maintaining a registry of Texas big game harvests in 1991.

TBGA is a hunter/landowner recognition program run jointly by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and Texas Wildlife Association. Its main purpose is to recognize outstanding big game animals and shine a light on land managers and wildlife management programs that help them reach their potential.

Mule deer and other critters living in the harsh, Trans-Pecos environment need all the love they can get. Culberson County averages only about 12 inches of rain annually.

Simons and his friends have spent a wealth of time and money over the last seven years managing the ranch and pampering the native mule deer herd that lives there.

Obviously, Hank responded especially well to all the attention. The 6 1/2-year-old buck grew a remarkable set of non-typical antlers last season grossing 295 4/8 B&C inches; 292 1/8 net.

The B&C panel of scorers included Alan Cain of Pleasanton, David Brimager of San Antonio and Craig Bowen of Bertram.

B&C scores on antlers are tallied using a special tape or cable to record a series of circumference, length and spread measurements on the beams and tines. The measurements are rounded off to the nearest 1/8 inch.

Net scores on non-typical deer take into account deductions for a lack of typical symmetry between the two antlers. All B&C record book entries must be allowed to dry at room temperature for at least 60 days to allow for shrinkage. TBGA also follows the 60-day drying rule on top tier bucks.

 Simons’ buck, a 27 pointer, eclipses a 283 inch Reeves County whopper shot in 2003 by Damon Compton of Toyah as the TBGA state record non-typical desert mule deer.

Simons said it seems a little surreal knowing the state record is officially his.

“I’m still trying to reconcile in my mind the gravity of what it means,” he said. “I’m certainly thankful to have had an opportunity to hunting a property where such an extraordinary animal lived and very lucky that things came together that allowed me to take this animal.”




Tribute To The Mule Deer




– story by MATT WILLIAMS

Eastern Turkey Release


My daughter Faith excitedly proclaimed those words as she cracked open a box and released an Eastern turkey into the wilds of Titus County, Texas.

We went to document the release for this blog and Texas Fish and Game and she got a chance to participate courtesy of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF).

To say she was pumped was an understatement.

This bird was one of 21 brought in from Missouri over a two-day span to kick-off what TPWD calls a “super stocking”.

Faith Moore releases an Eastern turkey.

A “super stocking” involves releasing a minimum of 80 turkeys at each site over time with the ideal ratio of three hens for each gobbler.

In the past, TPWD released smaller numbers in area but have over the last decade went to larger stockings and are seeing more success.

“It’s the same old story,” said TPWD turkey program director Jason Hardin.

“The birds were essentially wiped out by subsistence and market hunting along with extensive habitat loss in the later parts of the 19th century, but with the help of the NWTF, we have been able to bring the birds back all across the country. Although more than 50 counties in East Texas were stocked during the 1980s and 1990s only 28 counties are open for turkey hunting today. So we had to start looking at why we were not as successful in keeping the Eastern wild turkey population flourishing as other states in its historic range.”

I have been talking turkey with hunters in East Texas since these super stockings began and have many reports of increased turkey numbers in the counties where they have taken place.

Stockings attempts in the 1970s involved releasing Rio Grande birds as well as pen-raised Easterns but both failed to gain traction.

Now TPWD only releases wild-caught Eastern turkeys from states like Missouri, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina.

They give a $500 donation to participating state wildlife programs for each bird that comes from upland game bird stamp sales. Transportation and other fees are covered by NWTF. Additionally, the Texas NWTF is involved in helping facilitate various aspects of these releases.

It’s an inspiring program that will hopefully see eastern turkeys eventually flourish in a much greater part of their East Texas range.


Where to See Wildlife: Valles Caldera

ACCORDING TO, among the newest additions to the National Park System, the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve encompasses a dormant volcano that possesses exceptional value in illustrating and interpreting massive explosive volcanic eruptions, caldera formation, and the functioning of active geothermal systems.

“Its distinct topographic mosaic of expansive valley meadows, or valles (va-yes) in Spanish, lush forested volcanic domes, meandering valley streams, and old growth Ponderosa pine groves are in striking contrast to the arid New Mexico landscape at lower elevations.”

An elk in the Valles Caldera National Reserve.

“Patient observers can spot numerous wildlife species such as elk, coyotes, prairie dogs, black bears, bald and golden eagles, wild turkeys, and other migratory birds. History buffs can travel back in time and experience the pre-agricultural hunter-gatherer heritage and learn how the legacy of early Spanish and Mexican settlement in the region transformed the present-day American Southwest.”

TF&G Editor-In-Chief Chester Moore recently visited and saw three coyotes in three separate areas, lots of prairie dogs and what he described as “incredible views”.

“Just driving into the location is worth the trip but once you get there you will be blown away by its natural beauty,” Moore said.



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