In Hot Weather, Hunting Water for Rut Bucks Can Pay Off

It's been hot here in Texas. Today, November 7, it was 80 degrees in the Panhandle. It's even hotter in southern Texas, and should be as hot or hotter next couple of days. It's difficult to get excited about rutting bucks when your shirt is drenched in sweat!

It's also been dry and dusty because of a lack of rain. Finally, a light bulb went off. Hunt water! So I joined a friend to hunt a new lease not far from home. One of the setups there is a corn feeder right next to a windmill.

Sitting by the windmill is perfect for bowhunting for a couple of reasons. First, the windmill itself is noisy, clinking and groaning as it pumps up and down. The deer are used to that noise. That covers any small noises I make inside the blind. Second, the deer expect some movement around the windmill, so you can get away with a little extra motion. And of course, having a corn feeder next to year-round water makes the place real appealing to the deer.

I was in the ground blind by 3:30 p.m. It shocked me when two button bucks walked in before 4. Next, here comes two does. A few minutes later, a 100-inch 8-point. The deer nibbled a little corn, but mostly went to the water.

It was sunset when things got interesting. I looked to the west out my peep window and saw a cloud of dust 30 yards away. A fine buck was pawing the dry ground, working a scrape. Through the 10X Leupolds I could see it was a long-tined 9-point--a buck I easily recognized from the trail camera photos. I clipped my release to the string loop and got ready.

That buck proceeded to walk a 50-yard perimeter around the windmill, sniffing does and working scrapes, for 30 minutes. At each scrape he would paw the ground, twist his antlers and forehead in the overhanging limbs of a mesquite, then urinate in the dirt. I saw him freshen four scrapes. This all happened outside bow range or behind brush that prevented a shot.

Finally, he circled to the east and I thought he would follow the other deer to the holding tank at the windmill. But instead he dropped into what I thought was a dry runoff pond. The yellow grass around that pond is waist high. All I could see at times were his antlers, but by his bobbing head and smacking lips, I realized there had to be a puddle there. (After dark I checked. Yep, a puddle half the size of a bathtub, pounded with tracks.)

At dark he followed the same path in reverse, then disappeared into the melting sun. In all I saw about a dozen deer. Every one of them got a drink, either in the muddy puddle in the grass or at the tank. Not all of them ate corn. And every other deer I saw that night was in a shooting lane under 25 yards, but somehow that buck skirted the edges.

Don't forget the attraction of a watering site during these dusty, dry, hot days.

I'll be back to try again tomorrow at the windmill. Several good bucks were quenching their thirst there, according to the trail camera.