Throughout the fall and winter I spend a substantial amount of time in a helicopter cruising the vast brush country of South Texas critiquing deer herds on the various ranches I help manage. While viewing these vast landholdings from above, I am afforded the opportunity to see just how well the deer herds have fared.
One thing for certain, by observing several thousand bucks throughout the fall and winter period, some simply stand out above all others, and the following are the ones that impressed me the most in 2009:
This Maverick County buck has an incredibly symmetrical 7x8 rack. What’s even more amazing is the fact that this buck is only four years old. I first saw him on a 2008 deer survey and couldn’t believe my eyes as he not only had taller tines, I couldn’t place him in an age class over three years. Incredibly, after I filmed the animal in 2008, a few minutes later I thought he showed up again only to realize he had a twin brother! I failed to see them both in 2009, but seeing them both in 2009, however, is not alarming as I seldom get to see the best bucks on the properties I fly. Some are simply elusive and hesitate to run while others erupt from the brush in an attempt to escape the aerial predator above them, only to become more visible to the observer. With the arrival of some moisture this winter, complemented by adequate spring rainfall, this guy could develop an incredible set of antlers in 2K10, and who knows, I may see his twin once again.
Buck No. 2
With long, 25-inch beams exhibiting six typical points, a split brow tine on its left side, and six matching typical points and one atypical arising at the G5, this buck easily breaches the 170-inch benchmark. It’s unquestionably a deer hunters dream.
Buck No. 3
Mr. Hook. This 7x5 may be my favorite because of its mass and the unique hooks protruding from the G2 on the left side. First observed on the ground in 2007 and estimated to be three years of age at the time, he is now five years old and no telling how much better he will be in 2K10 if range conditions improve.
Buck No. 4
This Zapata County bruiser I nicknamed Survivor. And for those of you familiar with this arid portion of South Texas, you can understand why. This past year was extremely dry and intensively hot. This free-ranging buck, without any supplementation, had to make the best of what little Mother Nature had to offer, not to mention its ability to avoid a dense population of coyotes.
With wide, sweeping beams, this 11-pointer will not breach the 170-inch mark, but will easily break the 160-inch category.
Buck No. 5
This LaSalle County buck may not be the largest buck I saw this past year, but with a basic 10-point frame complemented by four additional atypical points on the left G2 and G3 and two off the right G3, its antlers can be characterized as unique. More importantly, it does not appear to be very old, probably no more than four years of age.
Buck No. 6
This LaSalle County booner could be my top choice of bucks if I would have spotted it on the 2009 aerial survey; however, I never saw it on the survey. I did, however, capture the buck for DMP purposes several weeks after the survey. At time of capture I knew the buck was around based on sightings of the animal on the ground by the ranch manager. But even with the knowledge of its whereabouts, I failed to find it until occupants in the second helicopter involved in the capture accidentally spotted the animal in the same vicinity I intensely searched for it. My proud students paused for a moment to pose with one of the largest typical 10-points I have ever been privileged to see, alone handle in the wild. With massive 26-in-long beams and an impressive 26-inch-wide inside spread complemented by four extremely tall tines per side, it gross scored 191 2/8 inches and netted 182 5/8.
This photo is a shot of the buck on the 2008 survey when I first saw the animal. Not bad for below average range conditions.
These were some of the best deer I saw in 2009. Obviously, larger-racked bucks escaped my view, but as long as I see this caliber of deer in a dry year, there’s no telling what I will see in the future when ideal range conditions return to the brush country of South Texas!!