Game cameras, crossbows make great gifts

Allie Thorpe hunting on Running Bear Ranch near Fredericksburg

As we move into the holidays, there will be a whole lot of deer hunters heading out in hopes of filling tags and stocking up on venison. The good news is that this is about the time that lots of does and bucks begin showing up at corn feeders in the Pineywoods and the Hill Country. That makes it a lot easier to fill doe tags, and maybe get a shot at a pig or turkey. December is definitely one of the finest months to be in the hunt for deer – it’s cool and we have very few pesky mosquitoes to contend with.

One way to keep track of what is coming to your feeder is to set up a game camera. Among the most popular right now are game cams that you can monitor 24-7 on your cell phone or computer. They are a little pricey but lots of fun, especially when you can pattern the movement of a big buck or pack of wild pigs.

Another way to spice up your deer hunt is to go after them with a crossbow. That’s how Allie Thorpe harvested a buck this past weekend. She was using an R15 Ravin crossbow. The shot was 40 yards. The unique thing about hunting with a crossbow is that they are extremely accurate and will reach out well past 50 yards, and can take down a deer at 100 yards. They don’t have a recoil, or the big bang of a rifle. However, they are a little slow to reload. They are an excellent option for shooting pigs at night because they make very little noise. Pigs are notorious for not returning to where they were spooked by gun fire.  

If you happen to be in the hunt for Christmas gifts, you might consider a game camera or a crossbow. One thing that is always a great gift is a waterproof hunting parka in Realtree camo. The Realtree Max 5 camo pattern is best for duck hunters. Deer hunters do best with the Realtree Extra. This new camo pattern blends perfectly year-round in a variety of Texas trees and brush.

Outlaw deer hunters rack up $35,000 in fines

Investigations into the illegal take of three whitetail bucks seized by Grayson County game wardens during the 2016-2017 hunting season illustrate just how far some folks are willing to go to bag a trophy deer. Grayson County in northeast Texas along the Red River is known for producing quality whitetails, and is one of only a handful of counties in Texas where bowhunting is the only legal means of harvest.

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.

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, 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.

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 tickets 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. Civil restitution on the deer, which scored 202 B&C, was estimated at $18,048.10.

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. 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). Civil restitution was estimated at $10,664.35.

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, 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.

On May 19, Culp pled no contest 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.

Don’t forget that you can report any illegal hunting activity to Texas Game Wardens using Operation Game Thief (800-792-GAME), or by contacting their local game warden.

New Tournament to Benefit Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

A new fly fishing tournament benefiting the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is coming to Athens the first weekend of December – just in time to kick off the beginning of rainbow trout stocking season in the state.

 The “Select a Fly Challenge” fly fishing tournament will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens. For a $40 donation to the Friends of Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, a dedicated support group that exists exclusively to raise funds for special projects and construction at TFFC, anglers can compete for big prizes by targeting rainbow trout in one of the TFFC’s several stocked ponds.

Anglers can pre-register for the event by contacting Johnny Martinez at (972) 697-7096 or Rebecca Sellers at (903) 670-2266. Registration will also be open on-site before the tournament from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Dec. 2.

Robert Sloan is the outdoors editor for The Examiner. E-mail your favorite photos or hunting and fishing experience to sloan288 [at] aol [dot] com for possible publication in the paper.