- Lynn Burkhead
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Deer hunting is king in Texas and nowhere is that more evident than at the sprawling King Ranch located in the state's southernmost coastal counties north of Brownsville.
Begun in the early 1850s when Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis set up a cattle operation in South Texas on Santa Gertrudis Creek, the 825,000-acre spread is nearly as large as the entire state of Rhode Island.
Found in portions of Nueces, Kenedy, Kleberg, and Willacy counties, this vast ranch is home to some amazing South Texas deer hunting each year, perhaps the best low fence whitetail hunting the Lone Star State has to offer.
That fact was reinforced in a big way on Sept. 27, opening day of the 2008 early archery season in Texas, when New Mexico bowhunter Terry Hall arrowed one of the largest typical whitetail bucks ever killed in the Lone Star State.
With the huge 6 X 7 typical buck's antlers still wrapped in velvet, no less.
The Hall buck sports an initial green gross score of 196 0/8 inches as reported by the Texas Big Game Awards program director David Brimager.
That's really big, even by Texas' lofty whitetail standards.
What's more, with the buck's final net score expected to be in the mid 180s (once the official 60-day drying period required by the Pope & Young Club and the Boone & Crockett Club has been completed), the Hall buck stands poised to shake up the Lone Star State's record books.
If Hall chooses to strip the amazing buck of its velvet (required for the deer to become an all-time record book entry), the whitetail could potentially become the Pope & Young Club's new state record typical bow buck in Texas, in addition to potentially becoming one of the Top 10 bucks ever taken by a hunter in the Lone Star State.
And should the velvet remain attached, the Hall buck currently stands as one of the largest velvet antlered typical whitetails ever killed by a hunter.
Butch Thompson, the longtime wildlife biology manager of the King Ranch's hunting operations, says that this deer is indeed something special.
Even in Texas and even on the King Ranch.
"Yeah, you don't grow deer like that very often," Thompson said. "We've had a couple of other similar deer through the years that I've been here, including one taken back in late 1970s that scored about 190.
"This deer will (net) score about 185 inches by the time he dries," he added. "So he's the second largest typical ever taken on the ranch, at least in our recorded history.
"You get a deer like that about once every 30 years."
How does a deer like the Hall buck grow to such legendary proportions?
"Well, here at the King Ranch, we've been managing wildlife longer than most places have even existed," said Thompson, now in his 35th year with the Ranch.
And along the way, the Ranch has championed the primary components of quality deer management, or trophy buck development, if you will.
"We've got superior genetics and excellent habitat (to start with)," Thompson said, noting that the King Ranch has a great selection of protein filled, highly digestible forbs that help the Ranch's bucks develop legendary headbones.
Then there is simply the passage of time, something required for good bucks to become truly great bucks.
"We let them reach their potential as far as age goes," Thompson said. "We try not to take our trophy deer until they are at least six years old.
True to form, the massive whitetail buck Hall arrowed was in all of his antlered prime.
"This buck was 6 ½ years old," Thompson said. "We had actually been watching the deer for about three years. We passed him up last year."
Passed him up?
Yes, that's the price to be paid for a true blue Texas Muy Grande to become a monster that will rewrite the record books.
"He was probably a book deer last year, but we chose to let him walk another year," Thompson said.
That proved to be a good decision, especially for Hall, a veteran of deer hunting on the ranch.
"He's been hunting with us for quite a while, but this is a once in a lifetime deal (for anybody)," Thompson said.
"Terry Hall appreciates that deer probably as much as anyone that could have killed it would," he added. "He's a very ethical hunter and a good customer of ours and he was very thrilled to get that deer."
Thompson said Hall wasn't the only one thrilled by the big deer's tagging as word quickly spread around the vast acreage that something special had occurred.
"Everybody was thrilled to death," Thompson said. "We took a huge a huge non-typical deer in 1998 and we all had the same feeling then.
"Every once and a while everything comes together at the right time as you get the right doe, the right buck, and the right weather coming together.
"We are thrilled to death to grow a buck like that."
Even deep in the heart of deer hunting Texas, a vast and storied state whose big buck capitol is none other than the fabled King Ranch.
Texas top 15 Boone and Crockett typical bucks
Source: “Boone and Crockett Club Records of North American Big Game, 11th edition”
Texas top five Pope and Young typical bucks
Source: Pope and Young Club
Legendary King Ranch gives up crown jewel of Texas' 2008 early archery season