Texas Whitetails

I’d been watching him for about ten minutes, as the dawning day inched it’s way into daylight. He was there almost from the very first image I could make out. I could tell he was a buck, and my heart rate was beginning to climb  as the light got better. I was using my range finder and binoculars, even though he couldn’t have been more than twenty yards away, just to try to gather in a little more light so I could see if he was a shooter.

It was my first morning at Buffalo Mountain Ranch in Abilene, Texas, and the rules where simple – eight point or better with a spread out past his ears. Our first evening, the day before, had given me numerous does to look over and one small buck, but no shooter. I am in a popup blind hidden carefully within a cedar tree. I only have two small openings to look and/or shoot through. Could my first look at a nice buck be my target of the week? The anticipation was killing me. I was driving my range finder through my eye trying to get enough light. It was certainly too early to shoot, I wouldn’t be able to find him through my peep sight, but I sure wanted to know whether or not this would be the one.

A couple of minutes pass, and I can see that his rack is broad. One criteria met. As it gets lighter I can start to make out the details of his rack. One, two… five points on that beam – a ten pointer? The morning is crawling, seems to be going backwards as I wait for shooting light. Yes, he is definitely a shooter. I can see one point is broken on the far side, but still can’t make out his entire rack. But I have decided, when there is enough light, I will take him.

I bring up the bow to see if I can see enough yet to shoot. Almost there. I begin to concentrate on “that spot” and wait for the buck to turn for that perfect broadside. He turns, takes two steps… perfect setup…my bow brushes the inside of the blind and deer explode in every direction, my ten point leading the way.

Not the best way to start my hunt in Texas, but it did show promise. This was not my first trip to Buffalo Mountain Ranch. I had arraigned for a couple of hunts for Greg and Fred Abbas of Away Outdoors, and had actually taken a nice young bison bull some three years earlier (Buffalo with a Stick and a String) at the ranch.

I was hunting this week with Ranch owner, H. J. Ledbetter. Hunt manager Rick Worley, and Ranch Manager Larry Pitcox were doing their level best to put Jay and I in front of some nice bucks. Buffalo Mountain had initiated a quality deer management program since I had visited last, and according to Larry and Rick it was paying off very well. We spoke of the kind of deer we hoped to see, and there were pictures to prove it. I was getting pretty excited just looking at bucks Rick had photographed this fall. Judging from the pictures, the combination of proper food plots, mineral supplements, and allowing the deer to mature was paying some very nice benefits.

As I watched my ten pointer run away, I was certainly convinced that there was at least one nice shootable ten pointer out there. As things settled down, deer and a Bull elk began working their way back into the food plot and in front of my blind. I hoped my ten pointer would come back so when a nice eight point buck showed up, I reached for my camera instead of my bow. As I shot picture after picture of this buck, another eight point strolled in. I had two, count em, two shootable eight points in front of my blind at 20 and 30 yards. As the morning progressed, I counted three more bucks with racks that would qualify under Buffalo Mountain rules. I also saw three or four smaller bucks, a basket eight, two six pointers and a forkhorn. I don’t think I could actually count the number of does I saw. All this on my first morning! The sight was truly unbelievable! Never in my life had I seen this many bucks at one time while in a stand, and certainly never quality bucks of this number. I was awestruck!

It took all my fortitude not to shoot one of these eight pointers, although a particularly wide rack would have drawn my arrow had he come a few yards closer. I was having a blast shooting pictures of all these bucks, and hoping for the ten point to come back in.

When at last the deer headed of to their beds, and Rick came to pick me up, he must have thought I was a raving lunatic. I couldn’t stop babbling about the deer I saw and filmed. When we picked Jay up, he raved, too, about his morning. I just sat and listened. When he was done he asked how I had done and I told him, ”Compared to my morning, yours was boring!”

That evening, hunting from the same blind, I had a couple of young six point bucks come in and basically hog my shooting windows. They fed and pushed each other around a bit. There were a number of does and fawns that stayed out at the parameter of my shooting windows.

We were allowed one doe on this trip, and as evening progressed, and mature bucks stayed away, I began thinking of taking one of the does. As the sun set, with about fifteen minutes of light left, one nice doe stepped into my shooting lane. I settled my twenty yard pin on her chest and touched the release, and heard the arrow hit. My shot placement was lousy, however, I hit her high. Only then did I realize she was only about fifteen yards out. To say I was disappointed with my shot would be an understatement.

Despite looking for more than two hours, Rick, Jay and I were unable to find her that evening. I ended my standing hunting early the next morning and renewed my search for the wounded doe. Jay, Larry, and Rick joined me later that morning, and we continued our search through the early afternoon, when we just simply ran out of sign.

That evening once again in what I came to think of as “my blind”, I waited. Mornings had been the time when I had seen most of the mature bucks, evenings had been mostly reserved for does and the smaller bucks. I wouldn’t be shooting a doe tonight. I still held out some hope for finding my doe. A bachelor group of young Bull Elk moved into the field in front of me. Man what a sight that is, five 5X5 and one 6X5 elk between 20 and 80 yards from my stand. My camera became my principle weapon again, as I shot picture after picture of these elk. It was breezy and blowing in the right direction, so I could even use my SLR camera, and the shutter didn’t spook any of the animals. A couple more nice eight points wandered into the field, and one with a spread that I estimated at near twenty inches hung out just out of range. He was definitely a keeper and I would have dropped the trigger on him, had he provided me the shot.

I continued to be awestruck with the quality and quantity of mature bucks I was seeing. And the added bonus of having bull elk within bow range was making this trip an unbelievable one. Watching the last nice buck wander away, I settled in to take more pictures, when from the edge of my shooting window a buck with a broken tine eased into view. I counted … it was my ten pointer! I could tell by the broken tine. He was just at the edge of my shooing lane, and all I could see was his head. Mindful of how alert and skittish he was the morning before, I eased my camera down and my bow into position, and prayed for a couple of steps on his part. He took one. I came to full draw, (well away from the tent fabric). He took a second step, I centered my pin on his chest and squeezed the release and heard the satisfying thump as the arrow struck home. My last sight of him, as he did a 180 degree bolt was a stream of bright red. My arrow lay on the ground behind where he had been, bright red!

He traveled only about eighty yards before he fell, still in full stride. Wow! What a rush. My buck turned out to have a couple of broken tines, but that didn’t detract from the trophy before me or my feeling of accomplishment.

Our last day of hunting started in a fresh natural blind overlooking a different food plot on the other side of the ranch. Once again, I saw three shootable bucks and a couple of lesser ones, but my buck was already tagged. I saw a couple of does, but chose not to take one, mindful of my earlier failure. While I hoped to get a crack a one of the turkeys we had seen coming in or out of our stands, I was not so lucky. However, upon arriving back at the lodge after the morning hunt, Rick had found my doe, wounded, and we were able to finish her off, capping off the hunt on a very satisfying note.

I may have said this above, but it bears repeating, I have never seen this number and quality of bucks at any time in my forty years of hunting. Rick and Larry go to a lot of effort to make sure you are positioned in a stand where the wind is favorable and you are likely to see some real quality deer. Like any deer hunt, nothing is guaranteed, but if you don’t see deer, you better check your deodorant. If you would like more information about hunting these trophy whitetails at Buffalo Mountain Ranch, visit their website at http://www.buffalomountainhunts.com