Most Bucks--But Not All--Still in Velvet

I spent the weekend scouting. First, from the truck driving along CRP fields and canyon breaks here in the Texas Panhandle. It was the start of a spotlight survey I'm required to do three times per season on our ranch for our Managed Land Deer Permits (MLDP). I snapped the accompanying photo of a good mule deer right at sunset. He has a deep-forked, 4x4 frame with brow tines and a narrow spread. And the extra kicker inside one of his back forks makes him an 11-point. He was part of a bachelor herd of four bucks. All were still in full velvet.

On Sunday evening, I sat perched on the rim of a broad canyon behind a tripod-mounted 80mm Leupold spotting scope. Below me was a winding river with a few tall cottonwoods, cedars and thick mesquites. The vegetation is still green and very thick, making it difficult to spot the deer. I only saw three whitetail does, moving near a corn feeder at sunset. But the evening was not a total loss.

I did spy a herd of aoudad sheep up in the canyon cliffs, including one hawg of an old ram. A huge-bodied monarch with long chaps and massive crescent-shaped horns. I'd guess a 10-year-old, or older, ram. He was ½ a mile from my spotting scope lens. He was big enough to make me completely forget about deer. He will consume my thoughts this week.

A friend in Oklahoma reports that all the bucks he saw on a late evening scouting trip were hard-horned, where only a few days ago they were in velvet. The biggest buck, a wide 10-point, had shreds of dried velvet hanging from his bases.

Daylight deer activity is mostly at sunset until dark, and the first hour of light in the morning. Expect that pattern to hold until we get a break from the warm temperatures.

The ranches and farmland of the Lone Star state and its neighbors have some tremendous deer, and Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the regin. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer with a bow in Central Texas at the age of 15. The full-time freelance writer manages his family's Texas Panhandle ranch, is a licensed New Mexico guide, and last year took a 184 gross P&Y nontypical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.