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.
Several days later I found him with ten other mule deer in an eight-acre food plot near that same CRP field. The velvet was gone, but his antlers were still light colored, likely only a day or two out of velvet.
That food plot backs up to rough canyon breaks and thick cedars. Glassing from a distance, I confirmed this narrow, deep-forked buck was in the mob, then made a stalk into the southeast wind.
To call this field a “food plot” is rather generous, but maybe that makes me sound like a better ranch manager. The field is mostly weeds and some volunteer wheat from last season. It’s not pretty, but the deer do like that spot.
Behind a clump of thick cedars on the field’s edge, I crawled to the fence. Three bucks were broadside, feeding and unaware I was so close. The big buck was in the middle. It was 7 p.m.
On my knees, I eased my 62-pound Hoyt bow to my cheek, touching the tip of my nose to the bent string. At 45 yards my arrow hit the big-bodied 10-pointer a bit high. A follow-up arrow ended things quickly.
Tooth wear suggests this fine buck was 6 ½ years old. His tall rack isn’t wide; his inside spread is only 17 ½ inches, but he makes up for that with tine length. If my math is correct, he’s got 160 inches of antler.
Of course I’m excited to finally end a three-year chase on this special buck. The rack and mouse grey-colored cape is absolutely gorgeous. But there’s also an undeniable sense of sadness. I’ll never see him sneaking through the canyon breaks by the last rays of sunset again. I think that’s an emotion only another hunter can fully understand.