Downs Buck a Record: Will it last?
*Battle underway thanks to a late season monster
by Rick Davenport
The magic continues for A.J. Downs. He has been notified that the score on his 28-point, San Jacinto County buck has been certified by both Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett. The ‘out-of-this- world’ non-typical, opening-day magical deer — now known as The Downs Buck — has been propelled to the top of the Texas record books. And according to P&Y officials, the deer ranks 9th in the entire nation.
Scoring 253 3/8 net (after nearly 10 inches of deductions), The Downs Buck is the largest non-typical ever arrowed in the state. It beats Thomas Friedkin’s Dimmit County deer from 2010 by nearly 24 inches.
“It’s been a crazy two-and-a-half months,” Downs says of the long wait since the rainy morning of September 29 when the low-fenced buck he and his brother first spotted on game cameras in August made an in-person appearance 15-yards from his ground blind. “And it’s not over yet.”
Downs has been invited to have his buck ‘panel judged’ at the 28th Biennium P&Y Panel Judging in Fort Worth February 28 through March 2. This year, the five highest scoring whitetail harvested in the nation over the last two years have been invited. In a strange coincidence, Friedkin’s deer, which has been the state record buck, has also been invited since it was harvested during the last two years.
Meanwhile, Pope and Young Records Committee Chairman Mike Kistler writes in a letter inviting Downs: “This animal is among the biggest and the best. Most hunters go their whole lives just to see an animal of this caliber. You were fortunate not only to see this animal, but to harvest it too. A special moment and special animal that we want you to share with your fellow bowhunting fraternity mates.”
Kistler calls the buck a ‘natural treasure’ and also invites Downs to attend the Pope and Young Club’s 2013 National Convention in Dallas April 10-13.
Officials say there’s only a slim chance the panel score will be lower than the current score, and therefore impact the results. However, there is also a chance it could go higher.
Of course, in order to attend, The Downs Buck will have to be show-ready. That job is underway now by Bob Sweisthal of Tejas Taxidermist. He says the full-body mount will be in Fort Worth on
February 28. “I put a rush on the hide, I have it and the form in the shop and I’m starting the work on it right now,” Sweisthal says. “This is the most unusual and the most difficult deer to score that I have ever seen, and I’ve been at this for a long time.” In addition to mounting Down’s buck, Sweisthal — who has been a P&Y scorer since 1975 — assisted with the official score. Believe it or not, he’s mounted larger deer from Texas, but they were taken from high-fence ranches and therefore not considered for entry into P&Y or B&C.
It has been an unbelievable experience for Downs, who is fortunate enough to hunt anywhere in the world. His lease in San Jacinto County, where he’s been hunting for the last 8 years, was not expected to be the backdrop for the best deer in the state to mysteriously appear.
“I realize I am extremely lucky and I do not take this lightly. I was blessed with the opportunity to harvest what has turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime buck. It’s an honor and it is
humbling. It still really hasn’t sunk in yet, any maybe it never will.”
As unbelievable as this sounds, there is a chance that The Downs Buck could be beaten by another deer, taken by Robert Taylor on December 29 on a 4-acre tract of property that borders Corps of Engineer land near Lake Ray Roberts.
The Grayson County buck has 42 scoreable points and 121 inches of non-typical points. The green score is 256 3/8 and 249 2/8 net. If the score on that deer holds up, it’s only 4-inches shy of The Downs Buck and would have easily beaten the 2010 buck taken in Dimmitt County.
“This is kind of hard to swallow,” Taylor says of how close he is to a state record. “But I don’t mind taking second place, if that’s how it ends up. You never know, I could gain a little and AJ’s buck could lose a little. I’m curious to see how all this plays out.”
Taylor says his buck has also been invited to the P&Y Panel Judging.
What a strange and magical year it’s been.