Abundant Browse Makes for a Quiet Texas Bow Opener

Overall Activity Status: Typically on a Monday morning after the bow opener, my e-mail explodes with big buck pictures. This … Continued

Overall Activity Status: Typically on a Monday morning after the bow opener, my e-mail explodes with big buck pictures. This year, I got only one–a fine 140-class 10-point taken in the Hill Country. (That photo, and my friend’s story, will be in an upcoming post). Reports from friends are that deer are not hitting corn feeders regularly due to abundant native browse, or the bucks are waiting until dark to get the free food. It’s frustrating for all of us who wait all year for opening day excitement.

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Rub Making: Bucks are rubbing, as the photo indicates, and as I learned when I hunted a Panhandle river bottom the morning of September 30. In the 30 minutes of darkness before shooting light, I heard the unmistakable sound of a buck rubbing his antlers against a tree. I’d say he was less than 150 yards away, the air cool and zero wind before sunrise. With the rising sun only came a deer south of me 50 yards, blowing and snorting. I never saw what it was, but fear it was the exact jumbo-sized 8-point I was hunting. The light wind that had started was northwest. The weather forecast was for southwest!

Scrape Making: None reported yet. I expect scrapes to start showing up often by mid-October.

Chasing: None reported.

Daytime Movement: I was surprised to get skunked on my first sit of the year because it was cool, 45 degrees, and the deer should have been moving. (By late afternoon it had warmed up to 85 degrees.) Yet, on my trail cameras I’d say 80 to 90 percent of the photos are still of deer moving after shooting hours. With cooler temperatures in October, the deer should become more visible. Just remember the season is a marathon, not a sprint. So don’t burn up your best stand sites early and educate the bucks. Hunt sparingly and only when you are confident the wind won’t betray you. (Do as I say, not as I do!)

Estrous Sign: None seen.

X Factor: September 28 was the opening day of Texas’ archery deer season, but also opener for the short nine-day pronghorn season. While friends were waiting in tripods and ground blinds for whitetails, I was in the open range of the northwestern Texas Panhandle glassing goats. The rut was in full swing. Rancher RA Brown and I saw numerous bucks chasing does and chasing off rival satellite bucks–a perfect scenario to employ a decoy.

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Opening morning, we spied a big buck with a herd of does. They were 200 yards across the boundary fence, so we kept looking. Late morning, I spied a buck and his two does one mile from the truck. and I headed to the horizon armed with a vintage Mel Dutton decoy, spotting scope, my Hoyt bow and a Catquiver with nine arrows. We snuck within 400 yards and determined the buck was a shooter. With the wind in our face, we ducked behind a rocky hill dotted with yuccas and mesquites to try to circle the bedded buck. At 350 yards he saw us sneaking through the screen of mesquite trees, stood up and chuckled a challenge call to us. RA raised the small buck decoy and we moved forward. I chuckled back to the buck with my voice. Instantly, he was coming at us like a guided missile. In no time he disappeared into the canyon in front of us, then popped up on my right side at long range. The Leupold rangefinder said 51 yards. My 400-grain arrow hit him through both lungs when he hesitated. Fifty-seven yards later we found him dead as a stone at the bottom of the hill. A fine 14-inch buck with a bit busted off both horn tips, flared prongs and heavy mass. A Pope & Young goat is a fine way to start the Texas season. Decoys ain’t just for ducks!