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Texas Sportsman
Thirty-Four Days To A Trophy
Before the 2007 season opened, Bud Dearing found that his Erath County ranch harbored a giant buck, and vowed to hunt it until he bagged it. It took a while to get the job done.

Avid deer hunter Bud Dearing poses with the mount of his best-ever whitetail, which was shot from the stand in the background. Produced on the rancher's own land, the 189 7/8 B&C; monster was hunted hard for 34 days before the kill was at long last made.
Photo by Bob Hood.

A 78-year-old hunter who has survived war on foreign shores, a bout with cancer, heart ailments and much more might be expected to be little impressed by much that comes his way during his eighth decade. But Bud Dearing today finds himself humbled by what he's been able to achieve with the quarry animal cherished by so many of his fellow Texans: the white-tailed deer.

The Gordon resident personifies what hunting deer and managing land for deer are all about, not only entering the record books last season for trophy whitetails but also gaining a place in Texas history for his land management practices.

Here, then, is the story: of the man, the deer, the pursuit -- and the ultimate reward.

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Bud Dearing, born in Fort Worth on April 25, 1930, looks back at his past with appreciation, and toward the future with a renewed hope for wildlife on his ranch and for those who might visit there to appreciate it with him.

When the Korean War was in full swing in the early 1950s, Dearing volunteered for three years of service with the U.S. Marines. Slightly more than six months later he was scrambling up a ravine in South Korea with a company of Marines to relieve another Marine company on a ridge above them. A North Korean mortar shell hit his company in the ravine, killing four and injuring 12; one of the dozen wounded was Dearing. Evacuated to a military hospital ship with 27 pieces of shrapnel in his body, he can still remember the sounds of the metal that doctors removed from his legs and torso being dropped into a can. During his 40 days aboard ship, Dearing was awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery and sacrifice.

Like many a big buck on low-fenced ranches, Dearing's monster whitetail may have managed to remain in seclusion from birth to harvest.

Of his service in the conflict he said, "I don't regret it one bit, and I would do it again if I were young. North Korea is the last uniformed enemy our country has fought."

Returning to the U.S., Dearing became a cattle rancher. Ranching has made him a comfortable living, but his major objectives today are to improve habitat on his ranch for deer, turkey and other wildlife and to produce a 13-pound bass in his well-managed private lake -- which has already yielded an 11.5-pounder.

"The only wealth you make on this earth is the friends you make," he said. "You can take that to the bank."

Dearing has survived not only the Korean War but prostate cancer, two strokes and two bypasses, and has had two stents put in his heart. But a visit with him is a sharing in his humility, his appreciation for what surrounds us and his uplifting outlook on life in the outdoors -- one that's certainly not short on humor. He isn't out to grow the largest whitetail buck in the world; rather, he simply wants his land to produce the quality of deer that he knows it's capable of if it's well managed.

To create high-quality habitat deigned to foster high-quality whitetails on his low-fenced ranch, Dearing has implemented several management and harvest programs. Food plots are alternated seasonally, and high-protein pellets are provided by free-feeding off-the-ground containers located around his ranch.

Also, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologists have noted an abundance of natural browse, which provides the deer lots of nutrition during the spring and summer months, when supplemental food sources via food plots are not needed. Aerial applications of herbicides to kill back scrub oaks and other canopy cover have allowed many important species of brush and grasses to flourish.

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