Jay called me in early October and said he had a problem that he needed my help with. Jay Ledbetter is the owner of Buffalo Mountain Ranch in Abilene Texas and he has is over 4000 acres that is just loaded with deer. Jay informed me that the herd was somewhat out of balance and they needed some help in bringing it back into balance. This would require, he told me, the harvesting of a number of does, and he asked if I could be cajoled into assisting in the task. I told Jay that I don’t really like hunting nice tender tasting does and besides I was extremely busy. I had to mow the lawn, clean out the privy, and my wife expected me to wash all the windows in the house. However, Jay is my huntin’ buddy, and one cannot overlook the needs of a huntin’ buddy if you ever hope to hunt on his ranch again. “I’ll be right there”, I told Jay.
So began my journey to Texas in late October for a doe/cull hunt. I have hunted Jay’s ranch a number of times, but this would be my first trip prior to the middle of November. I was hoping for nice hunting weather. The weather was perfect, almost too perfect. The deer on Buffalo Mountain Ranch are as jumpy as I have ever seen. We needed some windy days just so we could move enough to raise a bow without spooking the deer. Some days it was so still, you couldn’t move anything without a stern look from the deer.
My son Jeremiah and I got to the Buffalo Mountain Ranch on a Thursday afternoon but too late to make it out for hunting that evening. We shot our bows to make sure we know which end of the arrow goes toward the target and generally settled in for our hunt. We met up with the ranch manager Steve Casteel, and were fed and generally pampered for the rest of the afternoon. Jay wasn’t there when we got to the ranch and wouldn’t arrive for a couple of days. But we would have the full attention of Steve as we planned our hunts.
Each morning and afternoon our hunts began with reviewing the direction of the wind, general weather conditions and Steve’s knowledge of where the deer were to determine where we would hunt that particular time. Our plan, as directed by Jay, was to see if we could reduce the female deer population by some number so as to bring the heard back into balance. We might also have the opportunity to take one of the few bucks that didn’t seem to be good breeding stock and cull them from the herd. In spite of our diligent planning before each morning and afternoon, I think the deer heard us coming. I swear, every deer on the property sprouted horns! I know, does aren’t supposed to have a rack, but either they grew horns or just didn’t come in to the stands. Now, that might be a slight exaggeration, but I was astounded at the number of bucks we saw each morning and afternoon. Unfortunately, most of the bucks we saw were two-year-olds sprouting eight or nine points. These were not the animals we were here to hunt, although it was exciting watching them and shooting them with my camera.
The rut was not in full swing yet but the bucks were closer to ready than the does. The does stayed on the fringes of the food plots or at the edges of the broadcast feeders. Every time a doe would sneak closer to my blind a buck would decide that she needed some attention and would run her off. I don’t recall another time when I was wishing that the antlered deer in front of me would move off so the unantlered deer would come closer!
I spent two or three days at various blinds never getting a shot at a doe. I took lots of pictures and even some video of some nice bucks and even caught a glimpse of a doe once in a while. But never had opportunity to raise my bow or even attempt a shot. Jay got there on Saturday. Upon reviewing some of the video and still pictures we had taken of the deer we been seeing Jay would look curiously at me and say “Why didn’t you shoot that buck”. To which, I would reply “I don’t think that’s a cull”, and he would reply “no, see that’s an older deer and his rack isn’t getting get any bigger. We don’t want him breeding.” So, of course, I would go back to that stand, wait for that deer and he wouldn’t show up. Other bucks would, and would chase off the does.
Steve finally concluded that the best way to ambush a couple of the does was to catch them where they cross the fences on their way between feeding and bedding areas. It worked! I was able to hit two does on the next two evenings, so we would have venison to take home. I spent the next two or three days focused on trying to tag one or more of the culls that Jay had pointed out. And of course since I was looking for specific deer they would simply disappear.
We left Buffalo Mountain Ranch with venison in the cooler, hundreds of pictures, many minutes of video, and fond memories of time well spent as father and son on my huntin’ buddy’s ranch. If you’d like more information about Buffalo Mountain Ranch and hunting opportunities there look up their website at www.BuffaloMountainRanch.com.