Ray: A Last Chance Buck

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.

It was literally the last minute of the last day of a fun, week-long hunt. The time was 7:17 PM on November 5, the last minute of legal shooting light, on the last day of hunting, when a 2 1⁄2-year-old 7-point whitetail stopped broadside 14 yards from hunting buddy South Cox's brush blind. South had traveled all the way from California to experience Texas deer hunting. South never hesitated, bringing his custom longbow to full draw, anchoring on his cheek, and sending an arrow on its deadly mission. The buck went down in sight and South got to notch his first-ever Texas deer tag.

For the previous four days, South and I were after a couple of specific, big old bucks I'd either seen through a spotting scope or on my trail cameras. Killing any mature buck is tough, but to ambush one and get him up close, under 20 yards, with a longbow is real tough! The big ones proved elusive, so on the final day we both agreed any buck would be a good buck with a stickbow. South made the most of his last minute opportunity.

Lesson Learned?

Three lessons here. Number one, you don't need the latest, tricked-out compound bow with all the high-tech extras to kill a deer. Simple stick and string still works, in the right hands. South is a professional bowyer, crafting his own line of Stalker recurves and longbows (www.stalkerrecurves.com) He's also a great shot. His bow of choice on this hunt was his new 58-inch, take-down longbow drawing 56 pounds at 28 inches. He also used fairly heavy, 550 grain finished carbon arrows with cut-to-the-tip three blade Wensel Woodsman broadheads. That setup blasted his arrow broadside through the 150-pound buck's ribcage and into the grass beyond. The buck trotted 70 yards and tipped over.

Second thing worth noting. You don't need tree stands or even commercial pop-up ground blinds to kill deer. South shot his buck from a pit blind surrounded by mesquite branches, cedar branches and broomweed we trimmed from the nearby landscape. It made a completely natural, effective hideout.

Third thing to remember. South had a close call with a mature, big old muley buck early in the week, but as the hunt was winding down, we both decided any buck with a longbow would be a trophy. Big or small, if a buck presented the right shot, he'd take it. The smile on South's face in the picture says it all. I seriously doubt his enthusiasm would have been any different if his buck had been a monster. South and I stayed up till after midnight in the barn quartering the deer and packing meat in a cooler for his long plane ride home the next day. South was as excited about taking home a cooler full of delicious, wild venison as he was about wrapping his tag on the antlers. Big bucks are awesome, but any deer taken fair chase and utilized to feed the family is the best kind of trophy.