Lynn Burkhead — The Texomaland state-record buck that time forgot
While discussing big whitetails a few weeks ago with newly retired North American Whitetail magazine editor Gordon Whittington, the Texas native who is undoubtedly the country’s most renowned big buck historian, I was reminded of a mysterious deer that has always intrigued me, but that I knew little about.
That whitetail, a 247 2/8-inch non-typical killed by Bill M. Foster in 1970, was the first true Texomaland giant, falling in nearby Johnston County and being the Oklahoma state record for many years.
While few people outside of record book enthusiasts like myself have heard of the buck, it remains the top Oklahoma non-typical whitetail according to the 14th edition of the Boone and Crockett Club’s Records of North American Big Game.
Call it the Texomaland state record buck that time forgot.
Doing some research on another story a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled on two items that finally shed some light on the Foster buck, one an Internet story in the archives of The Daily Oklahoman and the other from an entry in the Boone and Crockett Club book, A Whitetail Retrospective.
In the Nov. 21, 1982 newspaper story (oklahoman.com/article/2003707/lengthy-hunt-gave-foster-record-buck), the late Daily Oklahoman outdoor writer Covey Bean told the tale of Foster’s big buck, the best trophy whitetail ever taken in the Sooner State at that time.
Foster recounted he had hunted the buck for three seasons with his bow at the Tishomingo Wildlife Management Area a couple of miles south of town.
“I’m strictly a bowhunter,” Foster told Bean. “I’d hunted him 10 or 12 times a year during bow season. Every time I was off work, I’d been in the woods with him and every time I would see him in the same area.”
A bowhunter of 22 years at the time of Bean’s story, Foster indicated that he had probably killed a dozen or so bow bucks. But the big Washita River bottoms non-typical of the late 1960s eluded the bowhunter, even though he had finally gotten a couple of cracks at the buck in 1970 with the stick-and-string.
“I had him under my tree twice with a bow, but I missed both times at about 15 yards,” Foster said. “Once I shot under his neck and once I shot under his forequarters.”
Part of the difficulty in tagging the monster buck was the fact that the non-typical was a crafty, mature whitetail. Another was the thick brush near the river that he inhabited.
“It was hard to hunt,” Foster recalled to Bean. “He was always coming out of the bottom. He’d get all the does in there. He was the big boy.”
On the second day of the 1970 gun season in the Sooner State — I’ll note here that Bean’s story actually says 1972 although the B&C score sheet confirms that it was 1970 — Foster finally got a chance that he was able to make good on from the same tree he had missed the buck from during archery season.
“I’d been there about two hours,” Foster said of his Nov. 15, 1970 hunt. “When he came out of the breaks, he came right to that tree.”
Using a 12-gauge shotgun, Foster fired a slug into the buck’s shoulder at only 25-yards (interestingly enough, the B&C book referenced above says at a distance of “70 steps”) and dropped it in its tracks. Field dressing at a reported 178-pounds, the buck made quite a splash in the area.
“Everybody wanted to see it,” Foster told Bean. “It was my pride and joy.”
It’s easy to understand why when you consider the measuring tape numbers of Foster’s big non-typical, a 30-point buck that has a gross score of 252 7/8-inches and a net score of 247 2/8-inches. With an inside spread of 24 6/8-inches, a right main beam measuring 25 4/8-inches, and a left main beam that measures 25 3/8-inches, the buck has 16 scorable points on its right side and 14 scorable points on its left side.
What’s more, the giant Johnston County buck — taken about 50 miles from where this column is being written in Denison — had huge base circumference measurements of 5 5/8-inches on the right side and 6 1/8-inches on the left side. The next circumference measurements, known as the H-2 measurements on scoring charts, are even bigger with the right side checking in at 6 3/8-inches and the left measuring 8 2/8-inches.
That last set of numbers might suggest that there are numerous deductions on the rack, but that isn’t the case. With a 10-point typical mainframe that scores 183 7/8-inches, the B&C score sheet (a photo of the score sheet is in A Whitetail Retrospective) shows only 5 5/8-inches of symmetry deductions.
Add in an even 64 0/8-inches of abnormal point measurements — from 11 abnormal points on the right side and 9 abnormal points on the left side — and you arrive at the final tally of 247 2/8-inches.
Foster’s buck received a “First Award” at the Boone and Crockett Club’s 15th Big Game Awards Program held in Atlanta, Ga. in 1974. As the biggest buck taken in North America during that 1970-74 time frame, the deer still ranks #127 in the all-time B&C record book.
It’s also the top-ranked Oklahoma buck in the B&C listings, a few inches ahead of the Nov. 20, 2012 buck that hunter Mauricio Hernandez took in Lincoln County, Okla. That 38-point buck actually has a higher gross score than the Foster buck at 276 7/8-inches, although it finishes just behind the Foster buck with a net score of 244 1/8-inches.
Interestingly enough, while the Foster buck remains the Oklahoma state record in the B&C record book, it isn’t the largest non-typical ever reported in the state. That honor belongs to the Michael Crossland buck, a 248 6/8-inch bruiser shot in Tillman County on Nov. 23, 2004.
In a story that involved a legal challenge — according to North American Whitetail, the landowner claimed that Crossland didn’t have permission, although the hunter eventually won the legal battle, cleared his name, and retained possession of the trophy — the Crossland buck was entered into the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Cy Curtis program, but not the B&C record book.
In similar fashion, the Foster buck was taken two years before the Cy Curtis program came into existence and isn’t listed in that ODWC record keeping database that began in 1972.
Nevertheless, that long ago buck is a part of the Sooner State’s big buck lore, continuing on as the top Oklahoma buck in the B&C record book.
The bottom line, in my mind at least, is that while the Bill M. Foster buck from 1970 has been forgotten by many, it shouldn’t be.
Because as the measuring tape and dusty history books show, it’s still one of the best bucks of all-time, a giant whitetail downed just north of Lake Texoma a half century ago and a deer that still intrigues to this very day.
Long live the Texomaland state record whitetail that time forgot.