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Aubrey man faces community service, fines for poaching record buck

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Staff report, Denton Record-Chronicle

Aubrey resident Travis Johnson was sentenced to probation and more than $50,000 in civil fines after he admitted this week to illegally poaching the "second largest whitetail buck ever in Texas" in October, according to a news release from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

On Monday, Johnson pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor hunting provisions violation in Denton County Criminal Court No. 5. He was sentenced to two years probation, including 40 hours of community service. He faces about $53,000 in civil restitution fines from the Parks and Wildlife Department and is prohibited from purchasing a hunting license during probation, the news release said.

The deer, which scored 278 points under the Boone & Crockett scoring system, now will be headed to the record books with an asterisk.

As news broke about the kill, authorities heard rumors Johnson hunted the buck after legal hunting hours on Oct. 7 near Pilot Point, the release said. Texas game wardens later found a photo circulating online that showed Johnson posing with the deer during daylight hours. The wardens also noticed comments indicated he killed it with a bow.

"Wardens had concerns about the care and disposition of the venison considering the warm temperatures," the news release said.

A Denton County game warden later met with Johnson on Oct. 8 to inspect the carcass, which Johnson said he discarded at another location. Johnson said he was concerned the meat was infected, according to the release.

Johnson claimed to have wounded the deer about a week before he killed it. He said he wasn't able to retrieve it, so he pursued it to "put an end to its suffering," the release said.

He said he eventually killed with his bow at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 7, and the game warden visited the location of the kill to confirm the details of his story.

Authorities became suspicious of Johnson's timeline after speaking with the landowner. The landowner said he texted Johnson the night of Oct. 7 to make sure he was OK since he hadn't returned to his car. Johnson replied that he was safe but didn't mention taking the record buck an hour earlier, the release said.

After the wardens gathered more evidence, Johnson confessed to killing the buck after legal shooting hours and on property he didn't have permission to hunt, the release said.

"Had Johnson harvested the buck legally, it would have ranked as the highest scoring deer taken with bow and arrow ever in Texas, according to Pope and Young Club records," the release said.

The antlers will now be mounted in the Texas Game Warden Wall of Shame exhibit.