The life-size mount is impressive, but it is hardly built for rolling down the highway. Taxidermist Bob Sweisthal of Spring fashioned the deer in a jumping posture with all four feet off well above the ground. The only support is a wooden vine that divides the front legs and secures to the buck's brisket.
Sweisthal beefed-up the vine with a steel rod insert that also runs the length of the deer's body, but it doesn't stop the buck from rocking and swaying at every bump and turn. Downs adds some stability by securing the base to the crate floor using wood screws. He also places cloth cinches under the buck's belly and chin for additional support. Naturally, he carries sizable insurance policy on his trophy just in case something bad happens.
"I'm pretty much puckered up the whole time I'm on the road," Downs said. "Just getting him ready to travel is quite an ordeal. I load the crate on the trailer with a fork lift, then I load the deer into the crate. That alone is an 1 1/2 hour job. You can do it with two people, but ideally you need three."
What gives with the big buck road trips?
In case you missed it, the aforementioned whitetails were among the army of trophy class bucks put on display June 21 as part the first annual Nacogdoches Outdoor and Hunting Extravaganza. The event featured everything from snake handlers to RV, ATV, archery and dealers who came to show their wares.
Fittingly called "East Texas Giants," the invitation-only whitetail display featured 26 of the top scoring bucks ever taken in the Pineywoods and Post Oak regions of the state dating back nearly three decades.
Among them were nearly a dozen Boone and Crockett record book entries, including the state's No. 1 and No. 2 open range archery bucks, the No. 1 and No. 2 bucks taken by youth hunters and a host of county records.