Overall Activity Status: I’m getting mixed reports up and down the Lone Star State. But there does seem to be a common theme: there are fewer-than-normal bucks at the corn feeders. I expect that to change as the weather cools. Also, bucks should start seriously sniffing does next week. If does are hitting your feeder now, it’s just a matter of time before a buck investigates. That should significantly ramp up buck sightings in the central and northern parts of the region by mid-November.
Fighting: A friend hunting the eastern Texas Panhandle saw two mid-sized bucks shove each other back and forth. As he watched, another fight broke out behind him in the trees. On Friday, October 26, I went after a specific buck I’d seen before--a mature 10-point with a symmetrical rack of about 140-inches. He came in with about ten minutes of shooting light left, but through the binoculars I could see he’d broken off one of his 5-inch brow tines. I decided to pass him and hope we meet again next year, with all tines intact of course. Expect to find more and more bucks with broken antlers as we get closer to the rut.
Overall Activity Status: Most reports from bowhunters sitting blinds near corn feeders tell of fewer than normal sightings. I sat near a feeder on the morning of October 20, and had four bucks come to the feeder in shooting light, so I can‘t complain. Due to excessive heat across the region, 80-plus degrees in many areas, morning hunts represent better odds of seeing a nice buck in daylight. In the evening, oppressive heat means most older bucks are waiting until dark to move.
Fighting: Bowhunter Eric Boley watched two bucks fight for 20 minutes on his lease in Central Texas. No broken tines, but one of the buck’s necks was already swollen up like it was late November. Boley later shot a fine 135-class Pope & Young buck near a corn feeder.
Where I live in the Texas Panhandle, mule deer and whitetails share similar habitat. That means I have to split my time, scouting and hunting whitetails some evenings and mule deer on others.
I have lots of history with the buck in the photo above. I’ve seen him off and on for three seasons now. Last year, his rack shrunk noticeably in the drought. So even though I figured he was mature, I decided to gamble and hope I’d see him again in 2012, with bigger antlers of course.
I found one of his sheds this spring. Then I started seeing him in rough canyon breaks country in August and early September. He seemed to have a home range of about 1 ½ miles. He went missing for about one month, then I saw him once in late September and again on October 5. That evening, he was feeding in a wide-open CRP field with a smaller buck at sunset. Both bucks’ racks were still in full velvet.
On the afternoon of October 11, I made the long 1½-mile hike to one of my favorite stands. It’s a tripod stand not far from a narrow creek. Tall cottonwoods line the creek. It’s a natural travel corridor for deer, turkeys and hogs. A corn feeder sits in the same area.
I was settled into the stand plenty early, around 4:30 p.m. It was 80 degrees with a 10-20 mph southwest wind. A wind with any flavor of west will work here. Straight south or southeast is no good.
Before climbing aboard my perch, I checked the trail camera. Both of the fighters were on the camera in the previous week. The dark-horned, typical 12-point with the kicker on his right G-2 (that's him above) was there virtually every day, in daylight!
Overall Activity Status: I can’t remember a more up and down couple weeks of reports. Some friends report big bucks on the move and visible around their stands and caught on trail cameras (but no reports of big bucks riding in the bed of their trucks!). Others report checking trail cameras and seeing only does and hogs where two weeks ago nice bucks were visiting. Those same hunters report sitting in blinds to see nothing. The October shuffle? Maybe the best way to sum it up is decent action in some areas, dead in others.
Fighting: On October 11, I was scouting a river bottom from one mile away at daybreak. Through my 60X spotting scope, I watched two mature bucks lock horns and push and shove each other for perhaps two minutes. Several other deer stood on the sidelines watching. It was not a knock-down-drag-out, but certainly more than playful tickling of tines together. Perhaps setting boundaries of who rules the roost in that stretch of river corridor come November.
Rub Making: One of the fighters reported above walked ten yards after the fight and thrashed a small mesquite tree.
The Great Plains region I’m responsible for as a Field & Stream Rut Reporter stops at the southern border of Kansas, but properly, the Great Plains extend much farther south onto the Llano Estacado of west Texas. So, I don’t feel out of line offering up this bonus report based on my experiences bowhunting in southwestern Oklahoma last week.
I was hunting just west of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, with Croton Creek Outfitters. I’d like to say the conditions made for some tough hunting, but Field & Stream whitetails columnist Scott Bestul and Yamaha representative Van Holmes, along with a few other writers and manufacturer’s reps along on the hunt, all tagged nice bucks within the first couple days. In what is becoming a nail-biting trend, I waited until the last afternoon before managing to punch my tag.
With so many things vying for a kid’s attention these days, some young people would rather play video games or hang at the mall rather than learn to hunt. But not Kali Barbour.
Kali, 8, shot her first-ever deer last season. Using a single shot rifle in .223, she took a mature doe. She was hooked. Since then she’s hunted spring turkeys with her dad, Kyle, and sat in the shade and watched the big folks shoot doves. But what she really wanted, she told her dad, was a buck.
Archery season in Texas opened September 29. Kali shoots a compound bow—her dad owns an archery shop—but she does not pull enough draw weight yet for deer. So Daddy Kyle rigged up a brand new crossbow for his little girl. (Crossbows are legal in Texas during archery season.)
Overall activity status: Mostly reports of few deer sightings and even fewer big bucks. That's surprising, considering a cold front has been hanging over the region and you would think the deer would move.
Fighting: Several reports of bucks sparring. Not much to this right now, just gentle twisting of the tines and no real pushing and shoving, yet.
Rub making: More and more rubs are showing up all the time. High traffic areas like around corn feeders or field edges are good places to find them. Mesquites continue to be the rub tree of choice across much of the region. Cedars are another popular rub tree.
Opening morning of Texas’ bow season was soggy across much of the state--good for breaking the drought, not so good for deer movement. Dense fog also hampered hunters in the morning. By Saturday afternoon, skies cleared and conditions improved.
My friend Ronnie Parsons, who has arrowed 34 P&Y whitetails in Texas, missed opening morning for the first time in 40 years. He had a good excuse: The ranch he hunts in west-central Texas received five inches of rain from Friday night until Saturday morning. He said small creeks that have been dry for two years were running and the banks of the Concho and Colorado Rivers were flooded. Talk about a drought buster!