Ray: A Buck for Next Year

Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. 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 non-typical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.

In North Texas, the general season for whitetails ended on January 1. One of my friends, who wants to remain anonymous and keep his honey hole anonymous as well, was in hot pursuit of a giant right to the end.

He first saw the big buck in 2010. A couple of trail camera pictures before the season and then two sightings in daylight during the late season in December. Both times, the 140-class 8-point buck was well outside of bow range. The season ended without a shot.

Before the 2011 season, he got more nighttime images of the same buck near a corn feeder in late September. There was no mistaking the extra long brow tines. In 2011, the buck was now a main-framed 9-point, but considerably bigger with longer tines and more mass. Estimated to be 160-plus. Work commitments kept the hunter from hunting there in bow season. October and November passed with no sightings and the two trail cameras near corn feeders were not working.

In early December, the buck showed up on a trail camera three different days, always in the late morning. In all the photos, it appears the buck has a wound just below his brisket in his upper front leg and he's maybe walking with a limp. Possibly a bullet wound or arrow wound. Or maybe a puncture wound from another buck's antlers.

So with the fresh trail cam pics, my friend started hunting hard at every chance in mid-December. For two weeks, hunting whenever time allowed, he hunted that property. He passed several decent bucks in hopes of seeing the monster. He never saw him.

This is a story common to many hard-core hunters. Bagging a big buck is often times a multi season quest. So now, armed with the information from the past two seasons, he knows better when to hunt this buck.

Given the trail cam pics from the past two years, the first week of bow season in October would be a good time to hunt. Then, it seems like the buck disappears, probably on to a different property to chase does. But both years, he's returned at some point in December. So late season hunting makes sense, too.

If it were me, I'd pile the corn and alfalfa hay so high that buck could not help but stop on this place occasionally for some free food. And I'd keep my trail cameras running non-stop from early September to the end of season. Make sure they are working properly and check them every week. When the big buck shows up on a camera, stop everything, take time off work and hunt him hard right away.

Maybe the buck will succumb to his injury? Or maybe he'll be back and be even bigger next season? Sometimes, an injury like that makes a buck's rack grow some weird non-typical points. There's a lot of "what ifs".

I know my friend is already impatiently waiting for next season...