Hunting the same Texas county he patrols as a game warden for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, officer Eric Minter stopped this 31-pointer on October 19. It's the first buck Minter has taken in eight years of bowhunting. The big 5 1/2-year-old nontypical green-scored 212 3/8 gross and 205 2/8 net. Should that score hold up after 60 days, it would be enough to rank Minter's deer fourth among the Lone Star State's Pope & Young nontypical whitetails.
Minter shot the buck from the same stand he took a doe from the previous Friday. His worries that deer might be driven off by the prior kill proved unfounded. “I was in my stand by 7:00, and I didn’t spook any deer on the way in, so I felt good about that,” he recalls. “By 7:15 I saw the first deer, a small buck, and from 7:25 on I had deer coming in from every direction.”
He first spotted this buck 60 to 70 yards down the trail around 8:20, but he could tell only that the deer was big-bodied. Then the buck grunted twice. “It was loud!” Minter says. “All the deer under my stand got nervous and scattered. And I thought, ‘Man, that’s the boss. He’s a monster.'”
The buck (caught here on a friend’s trail cam) disappeared and the woods grew silent as Minter waited, hope fading as 15 minutes passed. Then at 8:30 “the boss” stepped onto the trail 30 yards from his stand. “Just enough light was shining off his antlers that I could see he had two drop tines, and from the distance between them I could tell he was big. After that, I didn’t look at his antlers any more.”
When the buck began feeding on acorns, Minter dropped him with a shoulder shot at 30 yards. “He just folded up right there and rolled over on his back. I figured that was it. I hung up my bow and sat down. Within a few seconds he had rolled over on his stomach and started trying to stand up.”
“Don’t let him get up! Don’t let him get up!” Minter says he was thinking as he reached for his bow and nocked another arrow. A second shot under the buck’s leg (both wounds are visible here) finished the job. “He was down, and I had the chance to keep him down and not have to worry about tracking or losing him. I still couldn’t get a good look at how big he was, because his antlers are so dark it made them hard to see against the ground. All I knew is his head was propped up like he had a kickstand under it.”
He called his friend, taxidermist Chris Calvin, who was hunting the same lease with his stepson, Chase Harper, and they helped Minter claim his prize: A gnarly, 31-point Texas monster.
A game warden since 1997, Minter works and hunts in Kaufman County, east of Dallas. The demands of the job mean he sometimes must leave his stand to investigate suspicious activity–or miss hunting entirely to check permits on opening day.
“I work a one-man county, and if I can’t take a call a game warden from another county has to come over here and take care of it,” Minter says. “So I try to be available.”
“I want people to feel comfortable calling me, and I want them to know I’m going to do something when they call. And I think they do feel that way–that I’m going to try to help them solve any problems.”
Word of Minter’s feat spread fast, and hunters often ask if he’s the guy who shot the big buck. They always want to see a photo, and he’s happy to oblige.
Sometimes the buck tale helps defuse tensions and lighten the mood.
He arrested a woman recently for outstanding warrants and she asked to see his picture with the trophy deer. “I know she had bigger things on her mind, but she wanted to see it so I showed her,” he laughs. “For a minute it was like I wasn’t the guy taking her to jail.”
“You’d be surprised by some of the reactions,” he says. “It’s about as close to being a celebrity as I want to get. I’ve had people I’ve written tickets in the past congratulate me.”
Not all encounters end with smiles and handshakes though: Poachers, like the one he arrested for illegally taking this buck in Kaufman County, quickly learn Minter is serious about enforcing the law.
Stay on the right side of the law, however, and you might get to hear his tale of a dream buck worth waiting for. A tale, he says, that could have taken a whole other twist.
“He made such an entrance–that shook me up,” he says of the first sighting. “If I’d had to make the shot right then, this whole story might be different.”
“You hear that story all the time: A hunter sees a great buck but doesn’t get a shot or misses. After he walked away the first time, I figured that’s the way it was going to end. I was thinking, ‘Nobody is going to believe this,’ and then there he was.”
Minter initially didn’t even have the deer scored. “But someone told me, ‘You owe it to the deer to put him in the record book,'” he says. “And I believe that.”
“I realize this is as good as it gets. This will be the biggest deer I’ll see in my lifetime, and I’m enjoying it.”
. Editor’s Note: We’d like to thank Martin Oviedo, a game warden with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in Dallas County who partnered with Minter on the opening day of the Texas firearms deer season, for taking the photos of Minter in the field (slides 8-14 and 16-18)