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Trinity Triple Crown - County giant illustrates the benefits of letting the young guys walk

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Joel Colston displays the remarkable 4 1/2-year-old free-ranging buck he took Oct. 9 while hunting on a well-managed 1,600-acre, low-fence lease in Trinity County. The free-ranging non-typical gross scored 199 3/8 according to the B&C scoring system. The accompanying photos illustrate how the buck’s antlers steady grew larger over the last three seasons. (Photos Courtesy of Joel Colston) Joel Colston displays the remarkable 4 1/2-year-old free-ranging buck he took Oct. 9 while hunting on a well-managed 1,600-acre, low-fence lease in Trinity County. The free-ranging non-typical gross scored 199 3/8 according to the B&C scoring system. The accompanying photos illustrate how the buck’s antlers steady grew larger over the last three seasons. (Photos Courtesy of Joel Colston)

By Matt Williams

Outdoors Writer

Joel Colston of Livingston got an early jump on the general deer season that kicked off Nov. 6 and it paid off with a remarkable  whitetail wearing a magnificent crown.

 Texas Big Awards Program scorer Erik Van Dorn of Huntsville taped the 18-pointer at 199 3/8 gross using the Boone and Crockett measuring system. The enormous rack nets 190 2/8 after deducts for a lack of symmetry between the two antlers. It’s currently the best free ranging TBGA non-typical reported from the Pineywoods region this year.

 There are plenty of good lessons ambitious deer managers can learn from Colston’s whopper.

 For starters, it clearly shows what can happen when like-minded hunters keep those itchy trigger fingers in check and let the young guys walk.

 The deer also illustrates the benefits of feeding protein and other nutritious goodies through the off-season to fuel new antler growth after the previous year’s antlers are cast.

 Colston hunts on a 1,600-acre club he shares with six other members in Trinity County. He said the outfit has operated under the guidelines of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Conservation Level Managed Lands Deer Program (MLDP) for nearly two decades.

 The main purposes of the MLD program are to help promote healthier deer herds, improve habitat and ultimately produce more bucks of better quality on private lands.

 MLD Conservation Level clubs pay an annual fee to TPWD in exchange for the opportunity work with a state wildlife biologist towards developing habitat and harvest recommendations tailored towards meeting deer management goals for specific properties. 

 Program participants are required to maintain accurate harvest data and to satisfy prescribed habitat management practices from one year to the next.

 MLD hunters are rewarded for the good deeds with some pretty sweet perks. Among them are greater flexibility in managing their deer herds by allowing for extended hunting seasons and harvest quotas that are significantly more lenient than those granted during the regular season framework under county-specific guidelines. 

 This year, MLD clubs statewide were allowed to begin hunting with rifles at the start the Archery Only season, Oct. 2. That’s how Colston wound up in a box blind a week later with a 6.5 Creedmoor across his lap.

 He was hoping for an afternoon date with “Triple Crown.” And he got it.

 Colston said he and his hunting buddies tagged the buck with the catchy nickname because of the unique cluster of points that sprouted from its G2s.

 “He’s a really cool-looking buck,” said Colston. “I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to top him — not on free range in East Texas, anyway.”

Letting Him Grow

Colston’s relationship with the manly-looking whitetail dates back to   2019, when a promising young 10 pointer began showing up on game cameras positioned at protein stations and corn feeders at all corners of the property.

 Colston said the young buck may have scored around 125 B&C at the time. 

 “He traveled all over the whole lease,” he recalled. “Everybody saw him. You never knew where he was going to be.”

 The hunter believed the buck to be only 2 1/2 years old at the time. He described it as a main frame 8 pointer with two kickers that plenty of hunters would have shot if given the opportunity.

 But not on Colston’s lease. Growing quality bucks is the name of the game there.

 Club members are well-schooled on field judging whitetails and they are restricted to tight guidelines when it comes to pulling the trigger, particularly on bucks that display the potential Triple Crown did at such a young age. 

 According to Colston, hunters on his lease are allowed one “trophy” buck per season. To qualify, deer must be at least 4 1/2 years old with a minimum gross score of 140 B&C.

 Bucks that are 3 1/2 or older with less than 8 points, or 4 1/2 or older scoring less than 130 inches, are considered management bucks. Members are usually allowed 1-2 management bucks per season and 2-3 does.

Stacking on Bone

 Amazingly, Triple Crown’s headgear exploded ahead of the 2020 season, easily stacking on about 30-35 inches in mass, tine and beam length.

 Colston said he watched the 3 1/2-year old deer for an hour at one of his feeders on opening day last October. He counted 14 points and estimated the buck to score in the mid-160s. 

 Colston showed video of the outstanding buck to other members and everyone agreed on the buck’s age. Likewise, they elected to give him another year to grow.

 “We knew it was risky to do that, because we’ve got some neighbors around us that we’ve lost a lot of good deer to over the years,” Colston said. “All we could do was hope he didn’t leave and get shot. Luckily, he never left our club last season. If he did, it wasn’t for very long.”

 Colston said the buck shed its antlers last March and didn’t show up again on camera until around mid-July, about four months into the 2021 antler-growing season.

 Club members were shocked by what they saw in the massive buck that everyone believed to be no more than 4 1/2 years old.

 “He really blew up this year,” Colston said. “We were all in disbelief that it was him, but there was no doubt about it. It’s spooky to think what this deer may turned into with another year or two of age, but we all knew that we couldn’t take that chance. Everyone agreed that whoever got the opportunity should go ahead and shoot him.”

A Date with Triple Crown

Several club members got pictures of the buck throughout the summer, most coming under the cover of darkness. Colston said he collected one daylight photo of the deer the week before the Oct. 2 MLD season opener, but never actually laid eyes on the animal this fall until a magical sunset fell on Trinity County on Oct. 9.

 The hunter said he was watching a group of deer about 150 yards away when he turned to check an adjacent road that leads to his stand. That’s when he saw an incredible buck with tall, gnarly antlers resembling something straight out of a fairy tale book.

 “He was just standing there staring at me, about 80 yards away,” he said.

 Colston didn’t have to think twice about reaching for his rifle, but it took a few seconds to ready for the shot. In the meantime, Triple Crown peeled off the road and headed into the adjacent clearcut.

 Lucky for Coltson, the buck checked up before melting into the thick brush.

 “I have no idea why he stopped, but it gave me just enough time to make the shot,” he said. “Everything worked out perfect.”

 Matt Williams is a freelance writer based in Nacogdoches. He can be reached by e-mail, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Parents arrested for child endangerment, drugs

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Sheriff’s office arrests five people for multiple charges including child abandonment. (Courtesy photo)Sheriff’s office arrests five people for multiple charges including child abandonment. (Courtesy photo)

A young child walking alone on Highway 190 led to five people receiving charges ranging from drug possession to child abandonment Wednesday.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office received a call of the child that had been observed on the highway in the Onalaska area. A deputy was dispatched, and the child was transported to the sheriff’s office while detectives worked to find the child’s parents or guardians and their location.

A short time later, narcotics detectives were able to pinpoint the child’s home with his parents and two siblings in the Cedar Point subdivision. Law enforcement quickly responded to the residence to check on the welfare of the other two children and further investigate the matter.

child endangerment 1000

Officers located the two siblings at the residence. Also located at the residence was their mother, Brittany Jade Dykes, 34, of Livingston, and three other subjects identified as Bradlee Allen Scott, 46, of Waxahachie, Joel Alan Gilmore, 37, of New Caney and Elizabeth McCelvey, 44, of Latexo. Father of the children, Nolen Ray Dykes, 35, of Crockett, had recently departed the residence for the sheriff’s office prior to detectives’ arrival in attempt to pick up his child.

While on scene, officers obtained probable cause to apply for a search warrant of the residence and property. During the search, narcotics detectives located and seized numerous different illegal narcotics including methamphetamine and the items used to distribute the illegal substance.

All four subjects were arrested on scene. Brittany Dykes was charged with more than four grams and less than 200 grams possession of a controlled substance and abandoning or endangering a child. 

Gilmore was charged with possession of more than a gram and less than four grams of controlled substance and prohibited substance in a correctional facility, having a syringe with illegal substance found on his person once taken to the jail.

Both McCelvey and Scott were charged with manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance more than a gram less than four. McCelvey also received a charge of tampering with physical evidence, after it was found that she had attempted to conceal the methamphetamine and items to distribute from detectives.

Nolen Dykes was interviewed at the sheriff’s office, where he was placed under arrest and charged with manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance of more than four grams and less than 200 grams, as well as abandoning or endangering a child. In the vehicle he drove to the sheriff’s office was a large amount of methamphetamine, prompting additional charges of prohibited substance in a correctional facility and no license plate.

Child protective services was contacted, and all three children were turned over to their care.

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Local graduate does well

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Secures $37.4 million from state legislature

Dr. Thomas A. Johnson, president of Lamar State College Orange, testifies before the Texas Senate’s Finance Committee in February 2021. Courtesy photoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Hard work and perseverance definitely pay off. Just ask Dr. Thomas A. Johnson, a 1981 graduate of Livingston High School. Having just started his fourth year as president of Lamar State College Orange (LSCO), Johnson learned recently that his efforts and testimony before the Texas Senate’s Finance Committee in February paid off. LSCO will receive $37,435,695 to construct a new academic building on its campus in Orange. The legislation was passed in the last couple hours of the third special session, he said.

Johnson testified before a full Texas Senate finance committee in February of this year, requesting funds to develop an industrial technology academy, make hurricane-related repairs and improvements on campus and also asking for a $40 million tuition revenue bond to build a new state-of-the-art academic building.

Before testifying before the finance committee, Johnson met with Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, Orange’s state representative, to highlight the success that LSCO has achieved over the past two years, as well as where the college is headed in the next biennium.

Once in front of the finance committee, Chancellor Dr. Brian McCall led the Texas State University System delegation, where each president laid out their vision for the next two years. Johnson testified to the resilience of LCSO’s students, faculty and staff, enduring, in little more than a 12-month period, the aftermath of Tropical Storm Imelda, the pandemic, then Hurricanes Laura and Delta in a six-week period, followed by a week-long winter ice storm.

Johnson highlighted LSCO’s financial requests of the legislature, which included $1.5 million to building an industrial technology academy which would create a learning space for dual credit and other students to develop a trade or craft. He also requested funding to repair the academic building that was heavily damaged by Hurricane Laura. Additionally, he asked for $40 million via a tuition revenue bond to build a new state-of-the-art academic building. Finally, he asked for $1.5 million to purchase a natural gas generator to help the campus function during, and to recover more quickly after, future hurricane and tropical events.

“We went up significantly in our enrollment, and not only in just enrollment, we increased our transfer rate to four-year schools by economically disadvantaged kids, like me, by 25%,” Johnson said of the past two years, “and then a 13% increase in our degrees and certificates being awarded.”

Regarding the industrial technology academy, Johnson said, “What we’re asking for is to build an academy right there, so the school districts around us don’t have to worry about doing this. They can come to us to learn a trade or skill while they’re in high school. Dual credit is a wonderful thing for those wanting to go to university, but also, if we can channel it into learning a trade or a skill or a craft, that would be a wonderful thing.

“Other presidents were getting up there talking about how their buildings were built when Dolph Briscoe was governor. I told them mine was built in 1908 during the Roosevelt administration, and that’s Theodore, not Franklin,” Johnson said, remarking that his present academic building was a store house, a feed store and a bowling alley before LSCO got it about 50 years ago.

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Governor Abbott, our own state representative and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, Senator Robert Nichols and the Texas Legislature for providing this much-needed infrastructure funding for our beautiful college on the Sabine,” Johnson said.

“This investment in higher education will help us continue to create a bright orange future for our students as we grow our campus. We thank these elected officials and the Texas State University System, particularly Chancellor Dr. Brian McCall and his staff, for believing in our vision of creating hope and opportunity for students in Orange and beyond,” Johnson said.

The funding represents the largest single capital investment that the Texas Legislature has granted LSCO. The building will house general academic instruction and information technology services.

LSCO boasts a student population from 26 Texas counties and eight different states. The makeup of the student body is 34% full-time students and 64% part-time students, with 46% in academic enrollment and 54% in technical enrollment. The student to faculty ratio is 19 to 1, with 74% of the classes having fewer than 20 students. Seventy-eight percent of the Spring 2021 graduates were first-generation college students.

Johnson is the son of Otis Johnson of Livingston and the late Margie Johnson.

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New House, Senate districts drawn

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Redistricting LogoBy Emily Banks Wooten
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Newly-drawn House and Senate districts have been signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. The redistricting process happens every 10 years after new census data is released. The new districts will be used for the first time in next year’s primary and general elections, barring any court interventions.

Legal battles have already begun, with one early lawsuit raising various claims that the new districts unfairly and illegally discriminate against voters of color. Additional legal challenges are expected.

Previously, Polk County was in House District 19, along with Hardin, Jasper, Newton and Tyler counties. Moving forward, Polk County will no longer be aligned with Hardin, Jasper and Newton counties, but will be in House District 9, along with Tyler, Trinity, Houston, Angelina and San Augustine counties.

Regarding the Texas Senate, Polk County was previously in Senate District 3, along with Anderson, Angelina, Cherokee, Hardin, Henderson, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity and Tyler counties and parts of Montgomery and Smith counties.

Polk County will continue to be in Senate District 3, which is losing San Jacinto, Montgomery and Smith counties, and is picking up Liberty and Orange counties and part of Jefferson County. So, the new Senate District 3 will comprise Henderson, Anderson, Cherokee, Nacogdoches, Shelby, San Augustine, Sabine, Jasper, Newton, Houston, Trinity, Polk, Tyler, Angelina, Liberty, Hardin and Orange counties and part of Jefferson County.

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DA not seeking reelection

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William Lee HonWilliam Lee HonFrom Enterprise Staff

Polk County District Attorney William Lee Hon announced Friday that he will not seek reelection.

“After much prayerful consideration and discussion with my family, I am today announcing my intention not to seek a fifth term as your criminal district attorney. At the conclusion of my current term in 2022, I will have been associated with Polk County DA’s Office for 26 years. I will have served four terms, or 16 years, in my elected position—the longest serving district attorney in the history of Polk County,” Hon said.

“As an assistant prosecutor, I was blessed to work for John S. Holleman who was the best mentor a young prosecutor could ever hope to have. As DA, I have been so fortunate to have three fantastic first assistants—Joe Martin, Kari Allen and Beverly Armstrong—who made this job a lot less stressful than it might have otherwise been. Throughout, I have been honored to work with DA staff who are among the most dedicated public servants I have ever known. Prosecutors who have worked in this office have gone on to have very successful careers in other DA’s offices or in private practice. I am glad to have had some small part in their professional development and later success. I want to thank all of them for their dedicated service to this office and the people of Polk County,” Hon said.

“For 26 years and on a daily basis, I have seen people who were living at the absolutely lowest point in their lives—both as victims and offenders. That is hard. It colors your perspective of the world and people around you and in many respects, gives you a cynical outlook on life and humanity. Because of my abiding faith in our Creator, I know there are many wonderful loving, giving and caring people in this world and especially in this community. I am ready to reengage with them in a more normal capacity and with a more optimistic perspective on life,” Hon said.

“I would be remiss if I failed to express my appreciation to a number of people who I have worked closely with over the years and whose efforts have contributed greatly to the success of this office as well as my own. Sheriffs Billy Ray Nelson, Kenneth Hammack and Byron Lyons and exceptional police chiefs like Dennis Clifton and James Riley, each contributed greatly to the interests of law enforcement in this county and the pursuit of justice. It has been an honor to work with each of you. To County Judges John Thompson and Sydney Murphy and all the county commissioners who have supported this office over the years, thank you. To all of the dedicated deputies and police officers I have worked with and who give of themselves so selflessly, I am humbled to have been entrusted to see your cases through in our efforts to obtain justice and create a safer Polk County,” Hon said.

“To State Representatives James White, Dan Ellis and the late John Otto, and U.S. Congressmen Brian Babin and Kevin Brady, thank you for helping us on so many criminal justice issues that were important to our county. To all of the other wonderful DAs, prosecutors and investigators around the state who have become lifelong friends, and to the leadership of the Texas District and County Attorney’s Association, y’all are awesome and the best of the best. To the members of the Republican Party of Polk County and the voters who supported me, please know that I am truly humbled to have been entrusted with this office and allowed to carry the banner of our party as a conservative elected official. I did my best,” Hon said.

“Finally, to my wife Nancy and my family, my children Caroline, Will, Carson and Matthew, thank you for sharing me with the people of this county and those who I have served. On some level, I hope that you understand that your sacrifice of my family time influenced the lives of others in a positive way and perhaps, in some small way, made this community a better place to live,” Hon said.

“It is my intention to serve out the balance of my current term in the same manner and with the same commitment that I have approached every other day of my job as a prosecutor representing the State of Texas and the people of Polk County. I do not know for sure what my future holds in store. In the days, weeks and months to come, I will prayerfully consider what professional and personal options are best for my family and myself. In my judgment, there are very few professional callings and responsibilities greater than to be a ‘public servant.’ In my career, I have had a lot of success. I have also had some failures along the way. I know I have helped many people to the best of my ability. In other circumstances, I know I fell short. Nevertheless, I have always taken my oath and my responsibility as district attorney very seriously and did my best to do what is right and ‘see that justice is done. It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve you,” Hon said.

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