Travel west of classic whitetail range and you'll find crossover country, where both whitetails and mule deer share similar habitat. Cottonwood-lined creeks harbor whitetails while sage flats and rough canyons are home to mule deer. Both species often mingle in crop fields. Such is the case in the Texas Panhandle where I live.
October 22 was my fifth sit of the season at the ground blind under the old mesquite tree on the sagging fence. My target was a specific, old 10-point mule deer, a buck I have much history with. A single shed from the 2011 season and his matched set from 2012 sit in my office. His 2013 rack was his best-ever. I have hundreds of trail camera pictures of him, mostly at night, including two pics shown in previous posts on this blog.
I've had several encounters with him over the years. To say I was familiar with this deer is like saying Lonesome Dove was a decent western.
In the previous four sits, I saw the old buck only once. That was back on October 12. He showed up 12 minutes after shooting light ended. I was waiting for the does in front of the blind to leave so I could sneak out undetected. He was a dark silhouette to the west only 15 yards from my blind, but I could clearly see him through my 10X binoculars. He looked at the does out in front of me, looked at the blind, twitched his tail, and walked back the way he came. Smart.
I felt my odds of seeing the old buck in daylight at my blind improved around the 19th when I saw a grain sorghum (milo) field being harvested about one mile from where I was hunting this buck. Mule deer love milo and I think this buck and the others in his summer bachelor group were feeding every afternoon on the neighbor's grain crop. With that food source gone, hopefully the old buck would return to his familiar pattern, crossing the fence by my blind.
On October 22, I got in the blind at 5 p.m. It was hot, 77 degrees. I wondered if I was wasting my time, but remembered the previous afternoon the old buck was on the trail camera right at the end of legal light, despite warm temperatures. Maybe he would repeat.
Sunset came and went and not a single deer. It wasn't until 7:15 that I glassed out the back of the blind to the west and spied two grey forms walking my direction. It was the old 10-point in front and a smaller fork horn in back.
The old buck stood at the fence for several minutes, a scant 10 yards from my blind, staring across the CRP grass, his nostrils twitching the evening air. The smaller buck finally broke and loped over the fence. The big buck decided things were safe and did the same. It was now 7:20, only 13 minutes of legal light remained.
At 16 yards, my 64-pound Hoyt Carbon Matrix bow seemed to draw itself. I steadied the pin behind a massive shoulder and sent a 400-grain Victory carbon shaft blasting through the old buck's ribs. He donkey kicked and trotted 40 yards, then stopped. I quickly reloaded and sent missile number two on the way.
The big mulie was aged by friend and wildlife biologist, Jeff Bonner, at 7 ½ years. We estimated the buck's live weight between 230 and 250 pounds. His symmetrical 10-point rack sported 24-inch beams with heavy bases and G2 almost 14 inches long. His gross score was 156 inches and net around 152.
This specific old buck was my number one target going into the 2013 season. What a feeling of satisfaction to set a goal and have it realized. I'm so thankful to get this great Texas buck.