Texas is an amazing state. It contrasts sharply with what I have been accustomed to in the Rocky Mountain States. Texas has very little private land, but a lot of big game opportunities. While Whitetail deer are the primary wild big game in Texas, there are a number of Exotic species that have claimed Texas as their own and now successfully breed and maintain robust populations due to game ranching in decades and centuries past. I had spent thanksgiving holiday on a small parcel of land that my father had recently purchased. After spending the holiday chasing whitetails, hogs, and whatever exotic might come my way, I had returned home buck-less. We had a fantastic trip, despite not filling my tag and had made some progress towards property development and planning. Nevertheless, my tag (which allowed me 5 whitetials) remained unpunched. There seems to be something about unpunched tags and open hunting seasons that don’t get along too well–so I made some last minute arrangements and returned to hunt the last week of the season.
Dad and I, along with a friend, Ken, left Western Wyoming early December 27th. The temperature was hovering somewhere near -16 F. 1300 miles and 75 degrees later, we were traveling south of Sonora,TX in T-shirt weather. When we arrived at the Ranch, we stopped by the south gate and retrieved the memory card from the trail camera that was placed in a high traffic area on that end of the property. I promptly plugged it into my laptop and began to view the first of nearly 500 photos. The pictures were of many does, yearling bucks, we got excited when the first 8 point starred in a few consecutive photos. I was only a couple dozen pictures in when we reached the Cabin, and with the light getting lower, we were anxious to get out and and do a little hunting. So, I skipped forward to the most recent ten pictures and was excited to see what appeared on my laptop screen.
Typical Texas hunting in this area is done from elevated stands and blinds, placed over feeders and food plots. The Double Draw is still under development, and none of these features are in place, so I picked a likely spot between some shin oak and cedars to sit down and see if any deer would move past me. I did jump several deer as I walked through part of the property, including a small eight point.
I sat for what I would estimate to be about 30 minutes. I had discovered during my hunt earlier in the year that “still hunting” whitetails is more difficult than I had anticipated. So I thought it best to try a true “still hunt” and not move at all. I sat motionless, hoping something would come my way. I had a great shooting lane right in front of me, and a decent one to my left. To my right I could see through the scrub oak, but leafless branches didn’t allow for a good lane to shoot through. I anticipated the deer to move through my shooting lanes, but as always, animals do unexpected things. I suddenly caught movement to my right through the scrub oaks, where I didn’t have a shooting lane. A good 10 point was quartering away from me at about 40 yards. I couldn’t shoot due to the scrubby shin oaks, and was afraid if I stood I would startle the deer and it would be the end of it. I only had moments to decide what to do, and decided stay seated, and hoped he would move to his left and into a large opening. He didn’t. The buck turned straight away and walked behind a large juniper. One six inch opening in this juniper which was about half way between the deer and me caught my eye as I expected the buck to possibly move through it. Luck shined my way as the bucks shoulder moved through the opening. He had even quartered back towards me a little and was almost broadside. I realized my time was short, and fired through the opening in the tree. The buck whirled and ran back the way it came. I jumped to my feet in hopes of seeing where the buck was headed. He bounded through an opening, looking healthy as ever, and disappeared into the trees. I heard his hooves clamoring on the rocky ground as he ran, and then a large crash of broken branches.
Hoping the crash meant he was down, I followed and quickly spotted him laying down, head up in a bush and facing the opposite direction. While he looked alive and alert from behind, he had actually expired, falling into the tree which held his head up and ears alert. I had bagged my first Texas Whitetail, and a dark horned 10 point at that!
The next morning Ken took this 8 point near the cabin. He made a great shot and dropped the buck in its tracks.
Overall we had a great trip. We saw a lot of deer every day. Dad ended up passing on a few smaller bucks and did not take a buck. After a few more days of working on projects around the property, we started the 2 day drive towards home. I finally had some time to look over all of the trail camera photos I had retrieved the first afternoon. The camera had taken a single photo of my buck. It was neat to have live photos of both the larger bucks, taken a few days before we arrived. While neither of the bucks were consistent on the trail camera, they still stayed close by, and with their cooperation — made for a great hunt!