On the eve of the 2018 Texas early archery deer season — and with the Oklahoma archery deer campaign waiting in the wings early next week — what you’re about to see in this space is going to sound suspiciously like a broken record.
Because as the Sept. 29-Nov. 2 season commences in the Lone Star State, followed by the Oct. 1-Jan. 15 campaign in Soonerland, it should be yet another year of excellent hunting prospects for archers seeking big whitetails across Texomaland.
Why such a prognostication? For starters, there were several more big buck additions to the Grayson County Record book from a year ago — more on those in the days to come.
And then there was last year’s magical run north of the Red River where veteran Boone and Crockett Club measurer George Moore put the tape to nearly two dozen huge Oklahoma bucks sporting gross measurements of 200-inches or more.
Only a year after a pair of 245-inch bucks were arrowed in Oklahoma, there’s little doubt that the deer hunting is world-class good right now in Soonerland, a state with more than 530,000 whitetails roaming around.
“It is clearly a great time to be a deer hunter in Oklahoma,” stated Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation big game biologist Dallas Barber and big game technician Emily Clark in the annual ODWC Big Game Report. In making that report, the pair of biologists noted that last fall’s archery harvest of 29,094 deer was a new Sooner State record.
The deer hunting isn’t too shabby either to the south of the Red River, particularly here in Grayson County. Despite only a modest whitetail herd, the unique archery only regulations allow local bucks to reach the 4 1/2, 5 1/2, and 6 1/2 and beyond age classes that are necessary for bucks to grow their biggest sets of antlers.
Early in the history of Grayson County deer hunting, archers could only tackle the local woods with their big buck dreams during the often warm, hazy, and dry weeks of October. As a result, only a few noteworthy bucks were taken by Grayson County archers during the 10th month of the year, albeit one of those being a true Muy Grande trophy whitetail.
That buck, of course, was the 200 5/8-inch non-typical monster tagged in the waning days of October 1995 by the late Forrest “Junior” Robertson. With that 19-point whitetail from Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge, Junior — a traditional archer who lived in Sherman — became the first hunter to put a Grayson County whitetail into the hallowed pages of the B&C all-time record book.
But he certainly wouldn’t be the last since things began to change in Grayson County in 1999. That’s when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department approved opening up an early November to early January general season with the means and method of take restricted to lawful archery and crossbow gear only.
In the 20 years that have followed, some great bucks have been tagged by local archers even if deer numbers remain modest at best due to the area’s limited whitetail habitat. With a current tally of 14 B&C caliber bucks taken here in Grayson County — add in two more from last fall — and there remains little doubt that the local turf is still some of the state’s best.
In years gone by, the local habitat has produced the likes of Jeff Duncan’s former Pope and Young Club state record archery non-typical. That Hagerman NWR buck fell in November 2001 to a well placed arrow from Duncan, ending a several year’s long quest that saw local hunters pursuing the giant whitetail that featured 26-scorable points and a net score of 225 7/8-inches.
Don’t forget to add in Robert Taylor’s massive Grayson County buck taken at the end of December 2012. Originally scored at more than 254-inches, Pope and Young panel scoring eventually reduced the buck’s final numbers a bit. Even so, it remains one of the most impressive non-typicals ever taken by a Texas bowhunter.
The same can be said for the eye-popping giant taken by Sherman bowhunter Jim Lillis, a retired Ducks Unlimited senior regional director who downed a massive B&C typical at Hagerman NWR on Nov. 30, 2007. When the steel tape measure was applied to the Lillis buck, it became the biggest hunter harvested typical whitetail in Grayson County history thanks to its net score of 175 2/8-inches.
As I’ve tried to dutifully chronicle over the years, there have been plenty of other good deer hailing from Grayson County too, something proven by the 100-plus entries in the Grayson County Whitetail Record Book (GCWRB) that I’ve endeavored to keep since the late 1990s.
With 50-plus typical entries and 50-plus non-typical entries — bucks that have scored high enough for inclusion in the Boone and Crockett Club, the Pope and Young Club, and the Texas Big Game Awards program — the local woods offer great potential even if deer sightings aren’t as frequent as they are in other parts of the Lone Star State.
Of course, deer numbers aren’t low in many parts of Texas, thanks to some 4.6 million whitetails according to the latest TPWD estimates. While the 2018 weather hasn’t been as good as that of recent years, don’t expect any sudden downturn this fall in the number of deer that will be roaming the state’s woodlots, hillsides, river bottoms, mesquite flats, prickly pear patches, and brush choked senderos.
That being said, don’t be surprised if deer movement is somewhat slower in upcoming weeks, thanks to recent rainfall trends.
That, of course, includes the local woods here in the Red River Valley, where 7.99 inches of rain was reported last weekend in the Denison/Sherman area according to KXII meteorologist Steve LaNore. Add in the 15.99 inches of rainfall in Bonham, just under nine-inches in the McKinney area, and up to 17-inches in portions of southern Oklahoma, and Texomaland is suddenly a bit swampy.
What will that mean for the upcoming season? That the Creator’s grocery table is set and then some.
“Hunting might be a little tough with the exceptional rainfall in September that has created a giant food plot of native forage across the state,” noted TPWD whitetail deer program leader Alan Cain in an agency news release. “Deer may be visiting the feeders less frequently with the abundant forage, so hunters might rely on information gathered recently on their trail cameras to help narrow down windows of opportunity as to when deer are visiting feeder and blind locations.”
Of course, a burst of such fresh new growth won’t be a bad thing, for the deer at least.
“Range conditions had diminished somewhat with the long stretches of 100 degree weather and wind,” said Cain. “The majority of the state had reasonable forb production and good brush green-up this past spring, which provided a good foundation of native forage to get deer off to a good start in terms of antler growth and fawn production. By late August, we were seeing preferred forbs becoming less available for deer. The rains came at an opportune time.”
With good deer numbers and superb antler quality appearing to be possible yet again, it’s simply a reminder of the fact that when it comes to chasing whitetails on either side of the Red River, there simply aren’t too many bad falls of hunting.
Meaning another broken record prognostication from yours truly, a forecast for good deer hunting and a few more record book bucks being tagged over the next several weeks.
And who knows? Maybe even another B&C giant from Grayson County, as long as you shoot your broadhead-and-arrow combination straight, that is.