Texas: Big Grayson County Bucks Poached

Grayson County, Texas, is well known for producing big whitetail bucks each and every year. In fact, the county is one of only a handful of counties in Texas where bowhunting is the only legal means of deer harvest. Bowhunting no doubt makes deer hunting more challenging for hunters, but it also allows bucks to get old, big.

As deer hunters, we will go to great lengths in pursuit of a trophy white-tailed buck. Unfortunately, poachers are willing to go even farther, breaking ethical rules and game laws designed to protect and conserve prized wildlife resources.

Investigations into the illegal take of three whitetail bucks seized by Grayson County game wardens during the 2016-2017 deer hunting season illustrate just how far some folks are willing to go to bag a trophy buck.

The cases filed against the individuals responsible for illegally taking the three seized deer, which have a combined gross Boone & Crockett score of over 535 inches, and a combined civil restitution value of $34,954.80, should serve as a warning to would be criminals.

Grayson County Monster Shot from Road


Arguably, one of the most bizarre of the three cases involved the biggest buck. Rumors spread like wildfire after photos of a huge 19-point buck surfaced. Game wardens received information suggesting the hunter’s story didn’t add up. On Dec. 16, 2016, the man who killed the big buck, John Walker Drinnon, 34, of Whitesboro, Texas, told game wardens that he killed the 19-pointer on public hunting land in Oklahoma. The wardens had obtained a game camera image of the deer in question, photographed on public hunting land on the Texas side of Lake Texoma, which contradicted Drinnon’s claim.

Grayson County Texas Bucks Poached

Working with their counterparts in Oklahoma and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents to build a case, game wardens eventually obtained a confession from Drinnon that he had killed the buck in Grayson County from a public roadway with a rifle. Charges were filed against Drinnon for taking a deer without landowner consent (a state jail felony), hunting without landowner consent and hunting from a vehicle (Class A misdemeanors). Drinnon was also issued citations for no hunting license, hunting from the public roadway, no hunter education, and illegal means and methods.

On Oct. 12, Drinnon pled guilty to the felony charge of taking a whitetail deer without landowner consent in 15th District Court in Sherman, Texas. Civil restitution on the deer, which scored 202 B&C, was estimated at $18,048.10.

Advances in stealth surveillance technology have made game cameras essential gear for serious deer hunters. In Grayson County, wary old bucks present a challenge for bowhunters, but seldom escape the camera or coffee shop gossip.

Another Grayson County Buck Caught on Camera

While Timothy Kane Sweet, 37, of Sherman, didn’t claim the 19-pointer he bagged originated out of state, he did attempt to hide the fact it was another Grayson County monster buck. Sweet claimed he killed the deer in neighboring Fannin County. What he failed to consider while concocting his tale was that the deer, which scored 177 B&C, exhibited a unique rack that had been captured on a game camera in Grayson County.

Sweet Poached this Monster Buck in Grayson County

Once again, rumors flared and tips sparked a game warden investigation. During an interview with the game warden, Sweet claimed he made a poor shot on the deer that didn’t draw blood, but returned to the area later that evening to inspect. When the buck jumped up and began to run off, Sweet said he shot it five or six times illegally at night with a pistol.

On Oct. 20, Sweet pled no contest to charges of illegal means and methods, improperly tagged whitetail deer, and hunting out of season (Class C misdemeanors) in Justice of the Peace Court in Whitesboro, Texas. Civil restitution was estimated at $10,664.35.

Big Grayson County 10 Point Buck

The third case involves an individual who killed a big 10-point buck during the 2016-17 hunting season and attempted to take advantage of hunting license benefits reserved for disabled veterans. Brian Eugene Culp, 47, of Gunter, Texas, tagged the 157-inch B&C whitetail using a Super Combo hunting and fishing license (available at no cost to disabled veterans) that he did not qualify to possess.

Big Grayson County 10 Point Buck

On May 19, Culp pled no contest in Justice of the Peace Court in Whitesboro to a charge of hunting without a valid license. Civil restitution was estimated at $6,242.35.

“These cases exemplify the hard work and dedication state game wardens deliver day in and day out to enforce Texas game laws,” said Col. Grahame Jones, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Law Enforcement Division Director. “I want to extend special recognition and gratitude to Grayson County game wardens Michael Hummert and Daron Blackerby for a job well done.”

Grayson County game wardens would like to thank the public for their assistance in these cases. Game wardens would also like to remind the public that they can report any illegal hunting activity to Texas Game Wardens using Operation Game Thief at 800-792-GAME or by contacting their local game warden.


Opening Weekend: HOT Texas Deer Hunting Season

The opening of Texas’ General Deer Hunting Season starts this weekend across the state for white-tailed deer. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures in the forecast for much of Texas, a balmy start for this weekend’s Texas deer season opener likely will not deter hunters from participating in this time-honored tradition.

It’s been a good year for whitetail and their habitat, and deer hunting prospects are expected to follow suit across the state, according to wildlife biologists with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

Opening Day of Texas Deer Hunting Season 2017

Opening Day of Deer Hunting: HOT

Generally speaking, white-tailed deer in Texas have fared well in recent years with a stable population of about 4.3 million, according to Alan Cain, TPWD whitetail deer program leader. “The vast majority of the state had a good habitat conditions going into last winter and early spring, which helped bucks recover from the rigors of the rut, and gave them a good foundation to start the antler growth cycle this year,” he said.

Food availability is critical when it comes to fawn production in does and antler growth in bucks. Last year was great on both counts and this year started off on the right note. In fact, hunters have a good shot at some good bucks this season as a result of carryover from a couple years of good fall habitat, which made deer hunting tough and lowered annual harvest.

The general deer hunting season opens Saturday, and runs through Jan. 7, 2018 in North Texas; Jan. 21, 2018 in South Texas. A late youth-only season is also slated for Jan. 8-21, 2018. For additional late season deer hunting opportunities and county specific regulations, consult the 2017-18 Outdoor Annual of hunting and fishing regulations.

When in Rains, It Pours

For two years prior, the opening day of deer season across Texas, for the most part, has been quite wet. It looks like 2017 is going to be a little drier and the warmer temperatures will probably limit overall deer movement, at least initially. But the best time to tag a buck is still early in the season.

However, unlike the previous two years where widespread consistent rain and good habitat conditions persisted through the summer for much the state, 2017 saw dry weather patterns take hold in May and continue into late August. These drier conditions late in the season will likely have some impact on final stages of antler development, body weights, and possibly fawn production, Cain explained, but hunters should still expect a good hunting season.

“Dry conditions were not uniform across the state and spotty rains from May through July left patches of green across the landscape in the western two-thirds of the state,” said Cain. “Landowners and hunters with properties lucky enough to receive some of early summer rains and that have remained green may expect better than average deer quality this fall.”

New for This Hunting Season

Like every year, there are new deer hunting regulations being rolled out around various portions of the state. It’s always a good idea to sneak a peak at TPWD’s Outdoor Annual before heading out into the field.

Deer hunters are reminded of new regulations for Texas’ 2017-18 season, including the establishment of chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones. Hunters who harvest mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, red deer, or other CWD susceptible species within the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, and South-Central Texas CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones are required to bring their animals to a TPWD check station within 48 hours of harvest. TPWD also urges voluntary sampling of hunter harvested deer outside of these zones.

Feeding Corn to Deer: Hunters Concerned

White-tailed deer and corn go hand-in-hand in Texas. Although corn provides very little for deer in terms of nutrition the grain is often used as a way to bait deer into an area for game camera photos or for harvest during the hunting season. Corn is an effective attractant for whitetail, but it can also cause problems for these ruminants.

Right now, Texas hunters are concerned with feeding corn tainted with potentially high levels of Fusarium fungi. Fumonsin toxin is produced when certain Fusarium fungi are present on corn, a condition helped along by moisture during seed development.

Fortunately, Fusarium fungi do not pose the same threat to deer and other wildlife as aflatoxin, but it’s still important that hunters do their part and be aware of what they are putting into their feeders, spreading on the ground.

Feeding Corn to White-tailed Deer

Feeders Full of Corn

“Shelled corn is the traditional ‘go-to feed’ in Texas for deer, so it’s understandable there would be concerns considering how much of it is fed to wildlife,” said Dr. John Tomecek, AgriLife Extension wildlife specialist at Thrall, who also serves West Texas.

Tomecek said it’s best for hunters to be aware of the problem and know what they are buying, but not to be overly concerned.

“I think what is important to remember when we feed corn to free ranging deer, is chances are we aren’t providing much more than a treat to these animals in the greater scheme of their diets,” Tomecek said. “Granted, corn helps provide energy during cooler months and is a great bait for hunting success, but it really doesn’t make up a high percentage of most deer diets.”

Dr. Cat Barr, veterinary toxicologist with the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory at College Station, had similar thoughts.

She said the upper limit for deer feeding on Fumonisin-tainted corn should be no more than 30 parts per million and should be no more than half their diet. These rates are limits set for confined breeding cattle, a scenario not likely to occur in free-ranging deer.

“Even if the corn kernels themselves are nearing the recommended toxin ceiling, the deer are diluting it with all the browse and forbs they’re eating as well,” she said.

Tomecek said the excellent growing conditions most of the state has enjoyed this year resulting in this greenery is another strong reason for lesser concern. Aside from its diluting effect, the lush growth tends to limit corn-feeder visits by wildlife.

As far as a human health threat from consuming Fumonisin-eating game, Barr said studies of ducks, turkeys and pigs showed no measurable Fumonisin B1 levels in muscle tissues when animals were fed up to 20 ppm at 50 percent of the diet, a level unlikely to occur in free-ranging animals during favorable growing conditions.

Corn Toxicity Impacts Birds

“As for the effects on game birds, we know these kinds of toxins can have serious adverse effects on birds in general,” Tomecek said. “But again, unlike a domestic poultry production scenario where the birds are confined, wild birds — be they game birds or those frequenting a backyard feeder — are using the corn as only a part of their diet, although perhaps at a higher proportion than do deer.

“A concerned hunter can always examine the crops of birds harvested to determine how much of their diet is coming from the corn, but most will find there is a great variety in diets of wild birds.”

Fumonsin toxin is produced when certain Fusarium fungi are present on corn, a condition exacerbated by moisture during seed development, Tomecek said.

Problems with Feeding Corn to Deer

Aflatoxin Vs. Fumonisin

“The good news about Fumonisin is that Fusarium molds don’t grow in storage, the way Aflatoxin-producing molds can, “ Barr said, “so at least the amount of Fumonisin in the corn is not going to increase, regardless of changes in temperature or moisture. Just keep in mind that some corn may contain both mold types.”

“An Aflatoxin problem can increase inside metal deer feeders where corn heats and cools at a different rate than the outside air, so condensation forms inside,” Tomecek said. “We see this pretty frequently any time of year where dew or condensation forms on vehicles and such things as metal fence posts and uninsulated tin roofs. Typically, this problem is minor, especially in mostly dry West Texas, but when it does occur clots of dust from corn or other feeds may form and toxins can grow in this environment.

Maintaining Corn and Feeders for Deer, Wildlife

“I recommend cleaning feeders before and after the hunting season, or when it’s convenient at some point during the year. Letting them run low or out, then refilling them with tested corn devoid of toxins should keep your animals coming, while keeping the feed and your investment in that feed, protected.”

Tomecek said corn shouldn’t be feared and is an excellent and cost-effective feed for wildlife, but he does recommend knowing the product and how it should be handled.

“I don’t think folks should shift away from corn entirely,” he said. “But these outbreaks are good reminders to hunters of the importance of proper feed and feeder management; namely to buy quality corn and ask your supplier if they have test results. Ask when the corn was tested and how it has been stored since that date.”

Tomecek said not all corn storage is created equal, especially in productive years, as the grain may have been left outside and is of lower quality, hence lower in price.

“The main take-home points are to purchase a quality product, store it in dry containers and clean your feeders. Do these things and you’ll have no worries.”

Deer Urine & Spread of CWD: Are They Linked?

Chronic Wasting Disease(CWD) is a highly contagious disease that shortens the lives of white-tailed deer and other native cervid species. The disease can be passed from animal to animal and deer can pick it up in a contaminated environment, but can the use of commercially available deer urine by hunters spread CWD to new areas?

It’s a question that many are focused on since CWD causes the mortality rate of infected herds to increase, resulting in lower deer numbers that ultimately threaten socially and economically important game species.

Deer Urine

The commercial sale of urine, specifically white-tailed deer urine, is a big business. Hunters often turn to any perceived advantage during the hunting season to put their tag a buck. During the breeding season, the urine of does that are in estrous smells different, attractive to a buck.

Retailers offer this “love potion” that can be found bottled on shelves and online from a variety of companies (that also sell direct to consumer) that maintain captive whitetail deer herds for the purpose of collecting urine. Distributors say deer urine will not spread CWD elsewhere. Researchers say urine contain CWD prions.

CWD

Every week we read about CWD. It’s been found here or there, research is being performed to learn about how to limit/stop the spread, and hunters are being asked by states to have their harvested animals tested and to comply with cervid carcass restrictions.

Say what you want about CWD, but the disease really has not been around long enough for anyone to know what it fully capable of or what the end-game will be. No doubt, folks are making educated guesses.

There is no easy answer, no quick fix, especially when private companies are up against public agencies.

CWD and Deer Urine

Deer Urine, CWD Spread Debated

Source: Dr. Krysten Schuler, a wildlife disease ecologist at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in New York, said she isn’t convinced that urine-based deer lure doesn’t pose a risk of spreading the disease.

Schuler, who has researched chronic wasting disease since 2002, said there is no oversight of urine products, and facilities aren’t required to participate in a certification program to test all natural mortality for the presence of CWD. She added that multiple studies have shown CWD prions are shed in urine, and relatively early — within the first six months of infection. A diseased animal can live for a year or more before showing any clinical signs of CWD.

“If you had a sick deer but it looked fine, and you collected the urine for a year and then it dies, and then you find out it had CWD, those products already went out there for a year, and there’s no way to trace it back,” Schuler said.

Adding to her concern is the fact that urine used for lure is collected from captive deer over a grate. In addition to urine, feces and saliva also go through the grate, possibly elevating the level of prions in the bottled product.

“Urine products aren’t pure,” Schuler said.

According to Hunnicutt, the saliva, feces and urine have the lowest concentrations of CWD prions, compared to the brain and spinal cord. He said it would take 33,000 gallons of urine to equal the infectivity of a portion of brain from a deer weighing one gram.

“The urine collected is free and clear of CWD prions. Period,” Hunnicutt said.

There are more than 1,000 deer farms in Pennsylvania — second in number only to Texas — that cater to several markets, including raising quality breeding stock, collecting urine for the scent industry, selling bucks for hunting purposes, and selling antlers.

Pennsylvania also is home to the largest natural urine production facility in the country, which is owned by Amish farmers and played a role in developing the Archery Trade Association monitoring program.

According to Glenn Dice Jr., president of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association, the captive-deer industry has an impact of $7.9 billion to the nation’s economy. While Dice didn’t know the economic contribution of the deer lure industry, he said a ban on urine-based products would be devastating to the facilities that comprise that market.

Rather than look at a ban on deer urine, Dice suggested state wildlife agencies focus on cervid parts that contain the highest CWD risk.

“Expert CWD researchers consider urine the lowest risk of transmitting CWD. These experts indicated that muscle tissue from a de-boned deer carcass is extremely more infectious, potentially 100,000 times more infectious, than urine,” Dice said. “It’s curious PGC’s interest in discussing a potential urine ban, however, a significantly more infectious deer by-product, de-boned meat, is not being discussed.”

Laroche, of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, acknowledged that urine might pose a lower risk of spreading CWD compared to the movement of deer parts and even live animals throughout the state. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t concerned about urine-based deer lure and the threat it poses to the resource and hunting in Pennsylvania.

Big Buck Killed in Louisiana

Another BBD (big buck down), this time just to the east of me in the state of Louisiana. The state known as the Sportsman’s Paradise is living up to its name, at least for one persistent hunter that was able to scout deer, big deer, right from his office.

It’s just about prime time for white-tailed deer hunting in my part of the world and all the recent photos of giant, hunter-harvested bucks are getting my pumped up. And even though it’s Monday, the temperatures, which were in the 40’s this morning, are telling me I need to be spending more time outside right now… much more time.

Hunter Arrows Big Buck in Louisiana

The Big Buck’s Story

Source: A St. Francisville dentist on Oct. 5 arrowed what could be the largest Louisiana non-typical deer to be killed with a bow — and he was hunting pretty much where he works.

“I killed the deer inside the city limits — behind my dentist office,” Dr. Frank Sullivan said of the 18-pointer that grossed between 220 and 230 points.

Sullivan said he and buddy Dr. Travis Links, who killed a 190-inch buck last season, couldn’t narrow down the score any more than that because of the craziness of the rack, which includes three drop tines and a third main beam.

“I truly don’t even know how to score a non-typical like this,” Sullivan said. “I tried to be conservative.”

The buck, which has 11 points and two main beams on the left side and 7 points on the right, can be officially scored after the rack dries 60 days. Former state Deer Study Leader Dave Moreland saw photos of the massive deer and told Louisiana Sportsman that there’s no doubt it will make the Pope & Young record books.

The current state record non-typical bow buck was killed by Vicki Husted in Tensas Parish in 2010 and measured 227 6/8 inches. But Husted’s deer, along with the No. 2 buck on the state’s all-time Big Game Records, was measured in velvet.

Big Nontypical Buck Louisiana State Record?

Louisiana Tough Buck

The state of Louisiana is known for some tough, gumbo-powered dudes that take on everything from alligators to hurricanes. Apparently the white-tailed deer found living within the state are no different, taking on anything that bites… from mosquitoes to reptiles to arrows and even vehicles.

The impressive nontypical buck shot by Sullivan has also experienced his share of tough times, too. Last year, the buck was shot by a hunter on a neighboring property. Done deal, right? Wrong.

Then Sullivan, from inside his own office,  observed the massive buck get struck by a passing vehicle. This would have cut short a great hunting story… but the buck shook it off, got up and ran off… and continued to live! I guess when living in the city you either get tough or die trying.