John's Journal...

How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style

How We Judged the Bucks’ Antler Sizes

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: Today, the concept of trophy-deer management or quality-deer management is learned from how deer are managed in Texas. To raise trophy deer like Texans do on the land you hunt, you’ll need a lot of money, plenty of land and numbers of trophy deer. This week, we’ll take a look at Texas deer management, where I hunted with Trijicon, a company that provides aiming solutions for hunters, law enforcement and the military with its various rifle scopes. Trijicon is supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project (, giving a portion of each sale of Trijicon to this organization.

Click to enlargeWhen I arrived at the Duval County Ranch in Duval County, Texas, I wanted to resight-in my Remington .270. Although I’d sighted it in before I left home, my gun case had been through three-different airports before arriving at the ranch. When I shot my rifle, it was still 2-inches high at 100 yards, which would allow me to hold dead-on from 0 to 200 yards. Every morning and afternoon that I hunted with my guide, Douglas Kubetka, we saw plenty of bucks with antlers that would have scored from 120 to 130 and several bucks that would have scored more than 145. Every hunter at Duval County Ranch hunts with a guide because the guide can score the deer in the field. Unlike deer in other parts of the country, most of these deer are small, weighing 150 pounds or less, with the average deer weighing about 120 pounds. So, when you see a deer with a 130-size rack on a 120-pound body, his rack looks much bigger. Remember, if you shoot a buck that scores better than 145 on the Boone & Crockett scale (B&C), you’ll have to pay $200 an inch for every inch of rack over 145. The guides are a big help in judging the bucks and preventing hunters from making a mistake in judging the bucks’ antlers.

On the next-to-the-last day of the hunt, I saw seven bucks. The biggest buck would have scored about 175 B&C. His rack looked wider than a major interstate, and each tine appeared to stand up taller than the Statue of Liberty. Without question, this buck was an awesome 12 point and one of the biggest bucks I’d ever seen, but my wallet couldn’t afford the asking price to take that buck. However, I saw an 8-point buck that would have scored close to 145 that I really wanted to take. At first, Kubetka said I could take him. Then as I started to get my rifle up, Kubetka told me to hold off for one minute. As Kubetka Click to enlargestudied the buck with my Alpen binoculars, he said, “That buck may be 147 to 150, John. Unless you’re willing to open your wallet, don’t shoot that buck.” I have to admit, my heart kind of sank a little bit. This was a big, beautiful buck, almost within harvestable range. However, I didn’t think my wife would understand me paying $200 an inch for antlers.

Click to enlarge“There’s another nice buck you can take,” Kubetka said. “I know he’s within harvestable range.” I have to admit I wasn’t nearly as excited about the second 8 point as I was the first 8 point that would have scored over 145 or the big buck that would have scored about 175. But I was on the hunt to take a management buck, and the buck Kubetka picked out for me would be within the harvest prescription. I waited until the buck was within 75 yards of my shooting house, aimed a little low on the buck’s front shoulder with my Trijicon riflescope and squeezed the trigger. The buck sat down and fell over backwards. “Put another round in your chamber, in case the buck decides to get up,” Kubetka coached. But the buck never got back up. My hunt was over. Kubetka was very helpful as we shot photos of not only my buck, but other bucks taken on the hunt. Every hunter on our hunt bagged a buck and saw bucks above and below the slot. Feral hogs and several javelinas (pig-like animals native to the deserts of the southwestern US) were also taken. The food was delicious, the accommodations were great, and I made two new friends – Douglas Kubetka and David Killam, whose family owns the ranch.

For more information about the Duval County Ranch, call David Kitner at (361) 394-6313, or visit, or email

To learn more about Trijicon, go to

Tomorrow: How to Judge the Buck’s Age by Studying Him

Check back each day this week for more about "How to Grow Big Bucks Texas Style"

Day 1: What Is the Duval County Ranch?
Day 2: How We Judged the Bucks’ Antler Sizes
Day 3: How to Judge the Buck’s Age by Studying Him
Day 4: How We Have Monster Bucks with David Kitner
Day 5: Rewards of Conscientious Deer Management


Entry 436, Day 2