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Jackpot Bucks - Do you feel lucky?

Jackpot Bucks'Book bucks' are as rare as a royal flush in a high-stakes card game... Here are tales of two of Texas' best taken last season.
By Larry Teague

Uh-uh. I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kind of lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?" - Clint Eastwood's "Dirty" Harry Callahan

"Luck always seems to be against those who depend on it." - Unknown

In Texas and elsewhere, bagging a buck big enough to make the Boone and Crockett annual record book-a typical whitetail scoring 170 or more B&C points; 195 for non-typicals-is the equivalent of finding a gold nugget in a stream, or pulling triple sevens on a loaded Las Vegas slot machine.

To be sure, great bucks are killed in the Lone Star State every year-usually on well-managed South Texas ranches-and a handful of people win the Texas Lottery, too. In deer hunting, as in life, it's a huge help to have Lady Luck show up at the opportune time.

A friend who's an ardent deer hunter and has a wall full of impressive mounts to prove it says he'd rather be lucky than good when it comes to hunting horned whitetails. Most deer hunters will never see a "book buck" in a fair-chase setting during their lifetime. The great bucks are as scarce as honest politicians.

It's a big help, also, to hunt where the gnarly-headed deer are most concentrated-which in Texas and most other whitetail Meccas is on privately owned land, where you'll have to pay a hefty fee to get a crack at them. Plopping down a large sum of money to hunt on the best-managed ranch in South Texas may get you in the card game, but it's by no means a guarantee you'll draw a winning hand. Most South Texas outfitters charge sportsmen between $3,000 and $6,000 for a three-day guided trophy hunt, during which the guest gets a reasonable chance of getting within shooting range of a 150-class whitetail-not big enough to make the record book for rifle hunters, but impressive, nonetheless.

Don't bet against the house. The odds are against you in Reno, Nev., and in the Brush Country, South Texas. Even in the best deer hunting territory of the best deer hunting state in America, the book bucks are like ghosts-pay your nickel and take your chance.

Following are accounts of two of the most providential deer hunts ever to take place in the Lone Star State. Were the hunters lucky, skilled, or both? Or was it providence? You be the judge.

Adan Alvarez, Kingsville "A Buck For Rogerio"

Adan AlvarezAdan Alvarez is no pampered deer hunter. He's the fifth generation of his clan to live and work as a cowboy on the 825,000-acre, 1,300-square-mile King Ranch, founded by Capt. Richard King in 1853. Alvarez's grandfather, Rogerio, who passed away in May 1996, was a long-time cattle manager of the Laureles Division of the ranch, which marks the beginning of the mesquite- and huisache-infested South Texas Brush Country just south of Corpus Christi.

"After my grandfather died," Alvarez recalls with emotion in his voice, "it was very hard for me to face the fact that he was gone. So the next season, I devoted myself to killing a trophy buck. I wanted to mount a big deer in memory of him, which I did."

On Jan. 16, 1997, Alvarez shot a 160-class 13-point buck on a section of the ranch designated for employee hunting. Fate, or a heaven-sent angel, must have been on the hunter's side, because exactly one year later-on Jan. 16, 1998-he pulled the trigger on a non-typical whitetail that made the 13-pointer look like a chihuahua.

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