Most hunters will say they like having game cameras out because of the advanced knowledge of what might be coming to their stand, but they can take away the excitement of that surprising buck that just wanders in.
That is what happened for Chloe Howard, a 12-year-old Bullard hunter who spent the opening morning of the youth-only season in a Nacogdoches County deer blind with her uncle, Clint Miller.
“Oh my goodness, I still can’t believe it,” Miller said a couple of days after the dust had settled on the hunt.
The two were hunting a 100-acre farm in Miller’s family. Too small to manage, Miller does not have game cameras out on the low-fenced property. That meant the two were old-school deer hunting. Sit and take your chances. Making it more challenging was that after taking a doe two years ago as her first deer, Chloe asked if she could take a buck this year.
Miller said the tract is surrounded by a hog wire fence and during the fawning season it is a popular spot for doe to come and have their babies. Because the fawns are trapped until they are able to jump the fence, he said a lot of does stay on the property into the fall. That in turn will start to attract some bucks once the rut kicks off. Although the rut typically does not peak until mid-November across the Pineywoods, it can start about the third week of October.
That morning was the coldest of the year this fall in East Texas. A strong front had dropped the temperature into the upper 20s at sunrise in the bottoms. Miller had a pair of heaters in the blind, but could not get either to light. As it turned out, it did not matter because within 30 minutes of sunrise Miller looked out a side window of the blind and spotted a buck.
“The buck was walking right up to us 40 yards away,” he recalled.
Fortunately the deer was coming on Chloe’s side, but there was a problem. The multi-powered scope had been set for a longer shot and the young hunter was unable to get a clear view of the buck. By the time Miller could get it adjusted, the buck had moved and she was unable to get a shot out her window.
“I had to get her to stand up and had to reposition her chair. By then it was 50 yards away. I had to yell at it to get it to stop. It stopped broadside and one shot and it went down,” he explained.
Walking up to the deer, this was one of those cases where there was no ground shrinkage. TPWD Wildlife biologist Larry LeBeau scored the buck as a typical 10-point with an additional 10 non-typical points. In all, the deer was green scored at 171 3/8 non-typical.
The mature buck had an extremely palmated main beam on its right side, making its antlers look almost more like a fallow deer than a whitetail. It had 41 4/8 inches in mass alone. The largest was 7 4/8 inches at the last scoring sight on the right antler.
Although such palmation is unusual, it is natural in white-tailed deer.
“Plain and simple is genetics. This deer inherited these antler traits from its sire/dam to have the genetic potential to produce antlers with the webbing/palmated beam characteristics,” said Alan Cain, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s deer program leader.
“The deer has probably been on good nutrition through his life to help to maximize the genetic potential and express the webbing to that extent, but I suspect even as a younger deer he probably has some webbing on the beams but probably wasn’t as noticeable as a younger deer,” Cain added.
LeBeau looked at the deer for tattoos and holes in its ears that would be signs the deer had gotten out of a high fence property, but found none.
“I am really excited for her, but she doesn’t have a clue. She did not understand why everyone that looked at it was so excited,” Miller said.
“To be honest I didn’t know what the big deal was and why everyone was making a big deal of it,” Chloe said.
Although relatively new to deer hunting, she said she was able to control her emotions prior to the shot by not spending time looking at the antlers.
“I only get nervous if I see the rack,” she said.
After returning home and showing the deer to friends, she has developed an understanding of the quality deer she took.
“My friends were making a big deal about it and now I think it is crazy.” Translated, that is a good thing.