Deer hunting has transformed over the generations from being a way of simply putting meat on the table into a multi-billion dollar industry, with today’s game ranches using selective breeding and feeding regimens to produce a reliable supply of trophy bucks that would seem like science-fiction to our great grandparents.

But there are still plenty of legendary native bucks in the Central Texas woods and fields, hopping the low fences and roaming the countryside, and area hunter Casy Smith recently found one on his family’s farm in Coryell County, which is near the Middle Bosque and surrounded by other farms and ranches.

Central Texas wildlife biologist Josh Sears says the geography of our area is ideal for producing healthy deer populations. “There’s no question that the habitat in and around the Middle Bosque area has always produced high-quality low-fence whitetails. The diverse terrain in close proximity to farmland encompasses a mosaic of micro-ecosystems along that drainage basin well suited for maximum growth potential,” he said.

Sears gross-scored Smith’s 16-point buck at 205” and got to hear the re-telling, which he related to me. Smith said he got into the stand at 6:15 that morning with the .270 Winchester that once belonged to his grandfather. As usual, he said, the doe came in early and the action was slow until around 9:30.

Then, suddenly, a buck appeared to Smith’s left from behind a cedar tree. “He was forty yards out,” Smith said, “moving away in the direction where the doe had been. His nose was on the ground, but I could tell he was big.”

Smith had never seen the buck before, but interestingly, he showed up twice on trail cam footage that Smith checked after that morning’s hunt – once at midnight and another time around noon earlier in the week.

By the time Smith got him dialed in through his scope, the big buck was 100 yards out. “He stopped and looked up at me,” he said. “I squeezed the trigger and he fell.”

Another interesting point Smith told Sears was that as he was field-dressing the deer, he noticed a wound. “There was a 6-inch bullet scar on his neck down by the brisket area,” he said. This was truly a battle-scarred deer.

Sears was rightfully impressed, but not very surprised by the quality of the whitetail. “This area proves year after year that trophy-caliber bucks thrive along that corridor,” he said. “The Casy Smith buck is irrefutable evidence of that. Congratulations to Casy as this buck will officially score as one of the largest bucks ever taken from that area.”

Lake Waco is still the cat’s meow

There have been lots of quality catfish being caught from Lake Waco over the past week. I spent most of the week fighting off a sinus infection, so the main reason I know this to be true is because I saw the photos and videos posted on the Fish On! Facebook page.

Lots of slot blues are being caught, including one I saw on a live video that Ray Castillo, Jr. shot of his wife Erica catching her personal best blue catfish while I was taking a break from writing this column on Saturday morning. Thanks, Ray and Erica, for giving me a vicarious thrill and something extra to write about.

In a related story, last weekend’s Fish On! fundraiser tourney for Toys for Tots was a big success. Andre Bravo, Keith Rodriguez, and the other organizers are doing a lot of good for people and raising awareness of and interest in fishing. They’re also big proponents of anti-littering projects, and they’ve used social media masterfully to build a community that focuses on Texas but spans the globe.

Keep on, Fish On!

Giving the gift of gift cards

Some people say giving a gift card for Christmas is too impersonal. In a lot of cases, I agree, but if you want to make a hunter, angler, camper, golfer, or other outdoor enthusiast on your list doubly happy, an outdoor-related gift card not only lets them get the gift, but it also lets them go pick out something for themselves when they redeem it.

Outdoorsmen tend to have strong preferences when it comes to brands or styles of gear, and I doubt any of them on your list would mind taking a free shopping trip to their favorite sporting goods store after the holidays.

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