Freer – As the sun dawns on a new day during deer season in South Texas, the long shadows of the winter solstice make finding that big buck in the brush that much more difficult. For some hunters this experience is about getting away and taking refuge from the wintry temps in a blind that’s out of sight from everyone else. Because just being out here is beautiful.
“It’s an addiction, man. I mean it’s South Texas, when hunting season comes, guys will… They’ll drive all night long from God knows where,” said Kenneth Sharber. Sharber runs the Muy Grande Village in Freer.
Situated smack dab between Corpus and Laredo, this specialized store is sort of like a gas station, convenience store, restaurant, feed store, and sporting goods stop all rolled into one. “We’ve evolved from just a little old gas station on the corner of Highway 16 and 59,” stated Kenneth.
This business was started by Kenneth’s father-in-law Leonel R. Garza in 1965 and in order to promote his business, Leonel started a deer hunting contest at his Center Circle Gas Station. “People started making fun of him and calling it the gas station deer contest and that kind of stuff. And then Garza got a little perturbed about that. He didn’t like that. And so he came up with a name, Muy Grande. That name has stuck for 56 years,” explained Kenenth.
Now the Muy Grande is just as big as it sounds, attracting thousands of hunters each year to participate in a hunting contest that’s got a massive reputation. “It’s as big as Texas. And it’s as wide as the Rio Grande,” stated Kenneth.
Back in 1965, Homer Garza won the first contest that was only dedicated to the deer with the largest spread. His prize, Leonel’s old watch. “He had won a wristwatch for selling tires and he gave Homer the wristwatch. That was the first prize that was given. And it’s pretty cool,” said Kenneth.
The prizes have evolved a little bit from that. “Now we give jackets and trophies and plaques. And we have a really nice award ceremony. We give out about 300 trophies and jackets each year,”” stated Kenneth.
The Muy Grande is the Masters when it comes to this sort of competition. The oldest contest of its kind in the world, prizes are awarded for all sorts of crazy categories. “Men’s, women’s, kid’s, boy’s, girl’s, youth division. We have Pope and Young division, which is a bow division. We have Macho Grande, which is anything that’s got a hole in the ear, tags, any of that kind of genetic stuff. We’ve got out of state. We’ve got Mexico. We’ve tried to accommodate every hunter from high fence to low fence, to Macho Grande, to give everybody a fair chance. And everybody gets competitive. It’s fun,” explained Kenneth.
And with the Muy Grande division, they take everything of your submission into account. “Yes. It’s all around, yes, sir. When you’re Muy Grande all around, as you can see, like I said, we’ve got the weight, the spread, the points, the left circumference, right circumference. And we add all that together and that gives you the Muy Grande score,” explained Kenneth.
There’s even a husband-and-wife team category. “If you hunt together, you stay together,” joked Kenneth. And a contest for top story. Not like that could be subjective or anything. “Top story of the year, we’re looking for the most interesting thing that’s happened this year and checking it out,” said Kenneth.
Now how do you know if you should enter the one 190 club or the Muy Grande all around division? “Well, the good part about our contest is, when you enter the $25 entry fee, before you kill the animal, it puts you in every category here. So when you bring your animal, it’s up to us. We take a look and see where it’ll fit. So this thing is constantly moving back and forth, which keeps it exciting. Keeps the phone ringing,” explained Kenneth.
This contest in this little Texas town has drawn hunters from every corner of the country and even a few well-known country stars. George Strait won this competition back in the 80’s.
Well, we had to ask what Kenneth’s favorite part is of hosting this hunting contest. “The kids, yeah, it’s the kids because you get to see them grow up. You get to see them bring in their animal and they got that first experience. So to me, it’s the family. When you have the hunting family, the hunting world, it’s pretty awesome,” expressed Kenneth.
Even if hunting isn’t your thing, just seeing the sun makes those long shadows across South Texas makes this trip something everyone needs to experience before they kick the bucket. “If you have the opportunity, take it. And I’ve had people say, ‘Well, I don’t like to shoot.’ That’s cool. That’s cool. Go sit in a blind. Go sit out there for a minute and turn your cell phone off and listen to the birds. Listen to the wildlife. Watch the sunrise. Watch the sunset. And you’ll understand it. You’ll understand how the addiction comes,” said Kenneth.