Last summer, as my wife and I were returning to Texas from a visit to Florida, the sun rose behind us on Interstate 10 as we drove through Floribama, the border region that separates turquoise waters and sandy beaches. of Pensacola, Florida. and Orange Beach, Alabama.
For miles we had seen the road signs telling us to do what any good Texan would do and take the exit to visit the Gulf Coast version of Buc-ee’s. With my stomach growling for a brisket breakfast taco, we did just that. Because it’s part of the unique legacy of the Lone Star State, where things are always bigger and better, even at a gas station and convenience store like Disney World on the side of an Interstate highway.
With this idea in mind, my sons and I requested and designed some coveted bow hunting tags at the Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge a few years ago because if you live here and hunt deer, that’s what you do too. Unfortunately, as one son drew a segment and yours truly and the other son drew another, as the sand slid through the autumn hourglass, there wasn’t much hope for the tacos of venison in our house.
Less than an hour away from the family’s last hunt of the year, I texted, checking that the son was hunting a good distance away from me and asking if he had seen anything while the afternoon sun was sliding towards the horizon.
Expecting to hear a no, you can imagine my surprise when a series of photos appeared stating otherwise. One was a photo of a beautiful buck coming towards my son’s stall, another was a photo of this buck in front of his stall a few yards away, and the last shot showed the deer walking away.
Now you have to understand that at this point in my son’s hunting career, he had never shot a quality deer with his bow. So, I quickly returned a fatherly response and said “And?” You got it ?!?”
Knowing my son’s fierce dedication to practicing with his bow, I expected to get a grinning, smiling photo of a moment that father and son would forever remember on a late fall visit to local deer antlers and a first archery.
Instead, I got this, “No dad, I let it pass.”
When I asked why my son let that shooter pass, he returned an answer I’ll never forget, no matter how old or weak I was one day: “Well, I let him go because “He wasn’t a mature male. Only a 3 and a half year old. He needed a little more seasoning. If he gets it, he’ll probably end up being one of the monsters for which Hagerman and Grayson County are famous.
To say I was proud as a father is an understatement. So you can imagine how intently I was watching my son’s expression a few hours later when we stood at the checkpoint and watched that same deer hanging from the meat pole after another hunter walked away. bow shot an arrow in the last moments of the hunt.
As we drove away, silence reigned in the truck. Finally, I broke the ice and asked, “Do you regret letting that bullet go?”
Again, I got an unforgettable response.
“No dad, I’m happy and satisfied. This male was legal, he will taste great on the grill, and maybe this hunter had never had a male before, good for him. But I had to do what I thought was the right thing and let that deer go and maybe grow a little more and get old and mature one day.
Is this idea selfish and elitist? I hardly think so. And for what it’s worth, the other son felt the same way too. He had similar experiences in the woods, experiences that reinforced their sense that when it comes to Grayson County and the small herd of high quality deer we are fortunate to have here, it is a culture, a heritage and a fragile environment. resource worth protecting.
Today, even though the two sons have grown up and gone, they are still very attached to it all, just like me. And please understand there is no family agenda here to protect a personal bowhunting honey hole somewhere in Grayson County since we have rarely had a chance to hunt on private property, have never had a lease here and are now restricted to hunting on Hagerman NWR when lucky enough to be drawn.
Even so, there is a strong belief in our family – and in the families of many other residents too, across Grayson County – that what we have here is rare, the envy of many , and simply because our local hunting regulations give our limited herd of deer the chance to grow into gray beards.
And when they do, every once in a while there’s a world-class buck that pops up here, showing the world what’s possible without high fences, penned deer herding and truckloads of George Washington involved. Sometimes the best deer in the state can actually grow behind a low, rusty barbed wire fence, and they do in Grayson County, if you just give them the chance.
From where I’m sitting, it’s part of our outdoor cultural heritage here, and in fact, it’s the only heritage most have ever known since Hagerman opened his hideaway to an archery hunt. three-segment archery in the mid-1980s, TPWD followed soon after with an archery-only season in October in the mid-1980s, and Orvie Cantrell, Jr. opened the very first store county archery in 1988.
And since TPWD’s mission statement indicates that the agency is not only responsible for protecting this state’s natural resources, but also outdoor cultural resources, this proposal should also be rejected on that basis.
Because, as a hunter and landowner from Grayson County told me the other day, their son-in-law was born here in the 1980s, hunts regularly in Grayson County, and has never known anything about other than archery deer hunting.
“How is this not a long-standing culture and heritage of bowhunting?” asked this rhetorical owner last week.
So when all is said and done, I believe and believe that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission should vote unanimously against this proposal next week, for many reasons stemming from questionable data to the opposition from the public to the financial motivations of a privileged few and finally, thanks to the long-standing culture and heritage that we enjoy here.
Of course, not everyone agrees. And some might argue that TPWD needs to do this to establish “regulatory uniformity,” a comical concept if you’ve ever looked at Texas freshwater fishing regulations and the dozens of sample exemptions that apply to the requirements. length and statewide catch limits.
While you’re checking that out, also look at the South Texas fall turkey state regulations and wonder why most counties are forced to stop hunting in mid-January while four special counties of southern Texas can continue to hunt fall turkeys until the end of February. I’m sure the reason is entirely biological and not due to the influence of some ultra-rich landowner or political figure.
And for the recent argument in the media that the Department is not in charge of raising big deer, why is the same agency clearly trying to raise big bass, spending millions of dollars on the ShareLunker program and hatchery facilities, as well as hash tagging every ShareLunker social media post with #BiggerBetterBass and even having a once budgeted program at the turn of this century called Operation World Record?
In light of all of this, some I’ve visited are concerned that a yes next week will signal that this was pretty much a predetermined decision in Austin, confirming the suspicions of many here for months on the role the good ol’ boy system plays behind closed doors, even when it comes to politics and state wildlife and fisheries committees.
Hopefully the longstanding and very vocal wishes of most Grayson County residents will be heard again next week in Austin when the Commission meets.
Because after all, tree climbing and bow hunting in Grayson County while wondering if you might have a chance of getting the kind of buck that our local backyard is famous for, eh well, it’s something incredibly unique and worth protecting.
And where I’m sitting from, and in my opinion, that’s as much a part of the Texas cultural scene as driving your truck down a freeway on a hot afternoon and stopping at Buc-ee’s.