Muy Grande: The Oldest Deer Contest in the World is 55 Years Old and Counting


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How much do you know about the Muy Grande deer contest?

As you've probably heard, they do everything bigger in Texas.

The Muy Grande Deer Contest is the oldest of its kind in the world, not just the United States. It's been often imitated, but never duplicated.

There are some impeccable and resoundingly good deer hunting spots in the U.S., but the Lone Star State continues to book big deer into the record books every year, and rightly so.

Freer, Texas, which is the home of the famous Muy Grande, sits squarely in the amazing big buck-producing brush country of Duval County. It's in between Laredo and Corpus Christi in the south central portion of the state.

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Since 1965, deer hunters have come to south Texas to gawk at the the deer with the most points, widest spread, and largest mass (common called "Mr. Heavy" in these parts).

According to TPW Magazine, "The Muy Grande contest grew from a simple, one-category competition to 11 divisions and 136 categories for everyone -- men, women, boys, girls and military members."

The main man behind the longest running deer contest is a humble, soft spoken Mexican-American who has scored more than 20,000 deer since 1965.

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Leonel "Muy" Garza and the Beginning

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As a day job, Leonel Garza ran the Center Circle Gas Station at 116 E. Riley St. in Freer, and it took a stranded motorist to help change the fortunes of station and spark the idea for the Muy Grande Contest.

Garza helped the motorist out, and refused to take a dime for his trouble. He simply asked the man to spread the word to hunting pals and visit his hunter-friendly gas station when he got the chance.

Two weeks later, a fleet of pickups and huge group of hunters arrived. The man he had helped out was an outdoor writer at a local newspaper in Victoria, Texas, and have given Garza and his deer contest the best kind of publicity: a well-written article that every outdoorsman in the surrounding area had read.

From there the contest grew, and has since become nationally famous. Some 2,000 hunters enter the contest annually, and there are 1,200 lifetime members. The winners receive an embroidered jacket, plus the notoriety that comes along with a Muy Grande victory.

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A Muy Grande Hall of Fame was founded in 2007, and the Muy Grande Village Outdoor Store was opened, offering its famed Muy Grande Camo. Kenneth Sharber, Garza's son in law, is now the official scorer.

The Muy Grande Deer Contest

Initially, the Contest was decided by one category: the "Biggest Spread" of a buck's antlers. Today, there are plenty more categories, including "Husband and Wife Team," "Top Story of the Year," "Freak of the Year," and "Heaviest Javelina."

The method of scoring deer in the Muy Grande All Around Categories was devised by Garza himself and uses the commonly known Boone & Crockett score as a foundation. But from there the scoring system adds in factors like the circumference of the main beam, the antler width, the number of points, and the animal's full field-dressed weight.

To be eligible, applicants must go to the Join Now page on the Contest's website to enter. There you will find a registration with the included fee of $26 ($25 for in store or mailed registration) along with all of the contest rules and regulations. There is an excellent youth hunter category, but youth entries must be 16-years-old or younger at the time of the contest.

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All entrants must adhere with the "rules and regulations set forth by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, or in accordance with appropriate rules in which State the animal(s) is/are harvested."

Out of state hunters can enter a deer in the Muy Grande deer contest, but the hunter must prove that they hold a valid hunting license in the state in which the animal is harvested. Skull mounts are not accepted, except for the Mexico and Out of State categories.

Typical and non-typical categories include awards for the most points, widest spread, longest drop tine, plus a "Mr. Heavy" award, or the best 6-10 point buck.

You can see all the the contest's rules and regulations right here, including the Pope & Young categories, Kid's Korner, and the famed Macho Grande Division (for tagged or pen-raised deer only that are involved in a scientific breeding program, have a TPWD permit, or have a tag hole or state ID tattoo).

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The Oldest Deer Contest in the Country

The Muy Grande Deer Contest is the granddaddy of all hunting contests, bar none. Contest winners have been among the proudest deer hunters season after season. The family-owned and operated hunting extravaganza that began almost 60 years ago has left a real impact on the Freer, Texas area and beyond.

It is perhaps the most all-inclusive deer hunting spectacle in the world today and millions of deer hunting enthusiasts (even those of us who have never entered) would agree. There are many like it, but none so enthusiastically supported and respected as the Muy Grande.

With so many folks out there that simply love to pursue the whitetail deer, it would be hard to argue it any other way.

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