Ray: A Muley Hunt in Whitetail Country

Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer … Continued

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.

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Mule deer overlap whitetail range in western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and parts of New Mexico. So forgive me while I stray from the topic of whitetails for a moment to share this hunt story.

On the afternoon of October 8, I decided it was time to hunt a new setup on a fence crossing. The timing seemed right for a couple of reasons. First, a storm blew through the previous night dropping .5-inches of rain and cooling down temperatures by 20 degrees. That cooler weather would hopefully put the deer on their feet.

At that fence crossing, I’d scouted several nice mulie bucks in August and September. Spying from 400 yards away through a Swarovski spotting scope late in the evenings, I located two big ones. And I’d caught a few pictures of both bucks on my trail camera. Most of the bucks were moving during the last few minutes of shooting light or just after shooting light. But I surmised that given the drop in temperature from the storm, they would likely move earlier today.

The last piece of the puzzle was the wind. I needed a southeast wind to sit that specific blind. Guess what? It was SE at 5-10 mph. I was waiting for the right conditions and it seemed like the time was now. October 8th was the first time I hunted that blind.

So Amy made me a grilled cheese sandwich that I stuffed into my backpack. I hurriedly gathered my gear and headed out the door, running late as usual. I made the long walk across the damp grass of the CRP field to my hiding spot, a Primos Double Bull Dark Horse blind on the fence. I nocked an arrow and took the first bite of my still warm sandwich at 6 P.M.

The first buck was an old-timer that snuck in at 6:30 P.M. I recognized him from the year before. His fine 4×4 rack was down considerably from the previous year, due to drought I suspect, so I let him walk after snapping his picture with my long-lensed Canon. A short time later, a young 4×4 buck sprang over the fence at 25 yards, but kept walking across the field.

It was after 7 P.M. when the action picked up. A herd of bucks, six in all, were walking single file towards the gap in the fence, 20 yards from my hideout. All of them were young bucks, totally oblivious that I was hiding so close. I snapped a few pictures of them inside bow range. Next, a trio of does came galloping out of the cedars and canyon breaks to the west and bounded over the fence. The field in front of me was filling up with deer.

It was 7:30, with 20 minutes of legal light left in the day, when one of the small bucks in front of me whipped his head up and stared into the darkening horizon to the west. Through my 10X Leupold binoculars I spied what he was looking at. The big buck I was waiting for was 50 yards away and headed right for the gap in the fence!

He sprang over the rusted barbed wire like a giant antlered grasshopper. When he paused broadside at 17 yards, my Hoyt Carbon Matrix bow was already at full draw waiting for the right angle. At the shot, my 395 grain Gold Tip carbon arrow smashed through the buck’s ribs. The buck leaped back over the fence and trotted back to the west, then stopped. He was behind brush, no way to sneak a follow-up arrow into the vitals. Then he walked a little further into an opening. I checked the range with my rangefinder and sent an insurance arrow on the way.

When I last saw the buck in the fading light, he was walking slow with his head held low, mouth open. Then he disappeared behind thick cedars and mesquites on the lip of a steep canyon. What to do?

I waited until it was pitch dark, then tip-toed out of the blind with a small flashlight and found my first arrow. A smear of pink blood on the chartreuse fletchings was inconclusive as to the arrow’s exact location. I decided to give him some time.

Two hours later, after pacing the wood floors in my house into a mud-covered mess, I grabbed my headlamp and an extra flashlight to take up the trail. Not 40 yards from where I’d last seen him, I found the buck dead as a stone. Hallelujah! The first arrow had pierced both lungs and the second arrow had passed through the upper front leg. What a deer it was!

The old buck had a live weight around 230 pounds. His mouse grey-colored hide was flawless and his antlers polished and perfect, the color of stained wood. His tall, deep back forks looked to me like giant sling shots. The widest spread is somewhere around 28-29-inches. If you count his extra point on the left side, his 11-point rack scores around 175-inches. A gorgeous buck and one of my most memorable hunts ever.