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 nontypical trophy. States covered: TX, OK, NM.
Oct. 20: I’ve been tracking a wide-racked mule deer with the drop tine, a buck I call Wide Clyde, for three years. This year his rack exploded, adding more width, longer tines, mass and a drop tine. I needed a south wind to hunt him, and finally the wind was right. I showered with the green soap, sprayed down everything with Primos Silver XP, hiked a quarter mile to my hideout then splashed a small bottle of fox pee around my brush blind to help cover my scent.
That spot is a transition zone between thick mesquites, cedars and broken canyon country that gives way to a CRP field and agriculture in the distance. Deer funnel through that pinch point every year.
It wasn’t until 7:15 PM that I saw a deer. Two small muley bucks passed at 20 yards. Suddenly, both bucks whipped their heads around, stared then ran away. Out stepped a brown, mud-covered feral hog boar. Deer don’t like to share common ground with pigs, so I knew if I wanted any more action that night I needed to do some pig control. At 10 yards, my arrow slammed through the boar’s shoulder. He ran 60 yards in a tight circle and tipped over. It was 7:20 PM.
At 7:30 PM, no more than six steps off the right side of my ground blind, antlers floated past. When the buck stepped out at 10 yards, walking straight away, I saw the spread and the drop tine. It was Wide Clyde! Ten minutes of legal shooting time remained.
I sucked the 62 pound Hoyt to full draw. The big-bodied buck turned broadside at 15 yards and my carbon shaft slammed into his ribcage behind the shoulder. He dashed 100 yards out into the CRP grass, wobbled and then crashed into a small mesquite tree. My three year quest was over.
Tooth wear indicates he was at least 8 1⁄2-years-old, probably older. Outside spread is over 30 inches. The drop tine measures over 6 inches. His unique rack scores in the 170s P&Y.
October was good to me: a 140-class whitetail on October 7 and this giant muley on October 16. I like October, despite warm weather, because bucks are predictable in their patterns going from bed to feed.
My friend, Clint Hukill, followed up a few days later with his own Texas double. Sitting in a similar setup, a ground blind between a wheat field and the bedding cover of thick cedars and canyons, Clint had a good view of a well-worn game trail. His success came in the morning, as bucks were leaving the wheat and headed back to bed. At 30 yards, just shortly after sunup, six muley bucks walked single file down the trail. A couple of them were young 10-points, but Clint wanted the oldest buck in the bunch, a wide 2×4 with brow tines. His arrow blasted through both lungs and the deer barely made it 50 yards. In less than a week, Clint arrowed a mature 8-point whitetail and a mature muley buck, both from the same blind.
The Texas Panhandle is a unique location because both whitetails and mule deer can be hunted during the same season, often times from the same blind, on ranches where the two species overlap.
So what’s the lesson here? A lot of folks don’t know it, even some Texans, but Texas is home to some dandy mule deer. Two regions support the majority of the state’s muleys; the Panhandle in North Texas and the Trans-Pecos in West Texas. There’s no draw for tags, unlike most western states. Licenses can be bought over the counter. The twist is that virtually all hunting is on private land, so access is the obstacle to overcome. Permission from landowners, leases or guided hunts are options. And in October, in most counties, mule deer are legal to bowhunt as well as whitetails. Before rifle season opens, there’s very little hunting pressure on Texas’ mule deer.