FEATURES: Bruiser Bucks of Seasons Past

October 25, 2022
FEATURE: Makos, Marlin and Marine Sanctuaries
October 25, 2022

TEXAS HAS A RICH history of producing big bucks with remarkable antlers.

The Boone and Crockett Club lists it 11th among the leading states in total record book entries with 767. Texas also has four of the top six ranked counties nationwide.

B&C recognizes only free-ranging deer taken by fair chase. Rankings are determined by net scores after deducts for lack of symmetry.

Many of these Texas giants have been killed since the advent of protein feeders, antler restrictions and other modern deer management tools. However, some were taken long before it became cool to let the young guys walk and well before the birth of this magazine.

Among the state’s biggest non-typicals is the famous “Brady Buck.” Scoring 284 3/8 B&C. This incredible McCulloch County 47-pointer was taken way back in 1892 on the Ford Ranch near Melvin.

The Brady Buck

The Brady Buck
(Photo: B&C)

B&C’s Records of North American Whitetail Deer, Sixth Edition, indicates the deer was killed by an “unknown” hunter. However, legend has it the animal was found dead by the ranch manager. Supposedly, it was shot by deer hunter Jeff Benson who subsequently lost the blood trail.

The Brady Buck still ranks as Texas’s No. 1 non-typical of all time. It’s also No. 14 in North America.

Interestingly, Texas’s No. 2 non-typical also met with a mysterious death. That magnificent 39-pointer was found dead near Junction in 1925. It scores 272 B&C.

Texas’s top three typicals are 20th Century bucks, all of which grew up with South Texas addresses. Tom McCulloch shot the leading typical in 1963, a Maverick County 14-pointer scoring 196 1/8 B&C. The No. 2 typical is a McMullen County 17-pointer shot in 1906 by Milton George and the No. 3 deer (192 2/8) was shot in 1903 by Basil Dailey in Frio County.

It takes a true stud to rack up the 170-nch minimum score required of B&C all-time record book typicals. All-time B&C non-typicals must score 195 B&C.

Texas has more than 300 typical entries. Interestingly, only a handful of them were killed in eastern Texas. The biggest of these is a Thanksgiving Day whopper killed 22 seasons ago by Jeff Capps of Etoile. The Capps buck is a 10-pointer that ranks No. 24 among Texas typicals with a score of 183 2/8 B&C.

Capps shot the deer at Ryan’s Lake Hunting Club in Angelina County, a lease not necessarily noted for producing giant whitetails. Annual dues at the time was a meager $175.

The previous East Texas record typical was shot in 1984 in Polk County by Charlie Albertson. The Albertson Buck nets 174 7⁄8 B&C.

With the passage of time, several other outstanding bucks from East Texas may have gotten swept under the rug. However, Clyde Weaver won’t soon forget the amazing 10-pointer he shot off a little 125-acre spread near Whitehouse in 2005.

Weaver’s buck nets 170 2/8 B&C. It was the Smith County record typical until 2016, when Bryan O’Neal of Quitman bagged an enormous 12-pointer that nets 178 B&C.

Another East Texas giant typical not many people know about is the Rick Rogers buck taken in Nacogdoches County in 2000. Rogers shot his 12-pointer roughly two weeks before Capps shot his buck.

He didn’t say much about it for fear the landowner of his 2,300-acre lease might jack up the price of dues. If not for a Texas Big Game Awards Program paper trail, I probably wouldn’t have known a thing about this 183-inch bruiser, which was never entered in the B&C book.

East Texas has produced dozens of other outstanding bucks over the years, including a number of 200-plus-inch Pope and Young trophies by Grayson County archers. Easily the most famous is the Jeff Duncan Buck, a 26-pointer affectioniately known to locals as “Big Boy.”

 Duncan was participating in a $35 draw hunt on the 11,000-acre Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in 2001, when he arrowed a massive double drop tine buck that scores 225 7/8 inches. It ranked as the Texas state record archery kill until 2012, when A.J. Downs of Conroe brought down a San Jacinto County 27-pointer that nets 256 7/8 B&C.

Another 2001 free-ranging bruiser that folks may have forgotten about is David Krajca’s 24-pointer. At 222 1/8 B&C, it’s the top buck ever reported from Ellis County south of Dallas and ranks 32nd among Texas non-typicals.

A cattle rancher at the time, Krajca killed the deer on a 160-acre farm that lines the banks of the Trinity River. He acquired hunting rights to the property on a labor trade-out agreement with the landowner.

 As slick eight-pointers go, Estaban Gonzalez of Alto shot East Texas’s biggest ever in 2002. There’s a great story behind this 166-inch bruiser, too.

Gonzalez killed the deer on 500 acres in Cherokee County. The land belongs to Freddy Wallace, also of Alto. Wallace, Gonzalez’ employer at the time, said the young man asked for permission to go hog hunting in hopes of getting some meat for his mother to use in a batch of hot tamales.

Estaban Gonzalez’ East Texas record.

Estaban Gonzalez’ East Texas record.
(Photo: Estaban Gonzalez)

“I also told him he could shoot a deer if he happened to see one,” Wallace said. “I couldn’t believe it when he showed up with this buck. He had no idea what he had.”

Amazingly, Gonzalez managed to kill the buck despite a badly misplaced shot. Wallace said Gonzalez aimed at the shoulder of the buck, but the 9mm bullet struck the animal in the head, killing it instantly.

The long list of Texas’s bragging-sized bucks from long ago goes on and on. Here are a few more worth recalling:

• Steven O’Carroll, 1991, Shackleford County 13 pointer, 190 2/8, No. 2 TBGA Typical of All-Time, No. 4 statewide.

• Earl Smith, 1960, Trinity County 27 pointer, 215 3/8

• Earl Smith, 1965, Trinity County 25 pointer, 193 3/8

• Tyler Fenley (12 years old), 1999, Angelina County 28 pointer, 198 6/8

• William Brown, 1967, Frio County 27 pointer, 259, No 5 Texas all-time

• Raul Rodriguez, 1966, Frio County 30 pointer, 247 7/8, No. 7 Texas all-time

• John Campbell, 1947, Zavala County 32 pointer, 244 2/8, No. 9 Texas all-time

• Tom Cole, 1997, Hunt County 29 pointer, 240 2/8, No. 10 Texas all time

These and many more of Texas’s biggest bucks are listed in B&C’s  Records of North American Whitetail Deer, Sixth Edition. Nearly 700 pages, the hardback lists more than 17,000 white-tailed deer, 300 photographs and much more. It costs $60, boone-crockett.org.




Fun Deer Facts

Texas has around 3.6 million white-tailed deer, which are among the most popular game animal in North America.




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