Ray: Antlers When It's Dry as a Bone

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.

Even when things are horribly dry, there's still the little things that keep us excited for the upcoming deer season.

A few weeks ago, my sister, nephew and a couple of his friends came to visit the ranch. The teen-age boys, apparently unaffected by the 100-degree heat, made long hikes each day to explore the rugged canyons on the ranch. One canyon in particular produced a few treasures.

When John, Ryan and Sam knocked on my door, my jaw dropped. The boys were holding five shed antlers they'd found in that small canyon. That canyon is a sanctuary. I stay out of it in the fall and winter, so the bucks have a safe retreat. Obviously, they like hiding there.

The two biggest sheds were from mule deer bucks I recognized from 2010. The biggest shed is from a bomber buck I hope to catch up with this fall.

The right side shed sports a huge back fork; a G-2 that measures 16-inches, a G-3 that measures 11 1⁄2-inches, a G-4 that measures 8 1⁄2-inches and mass at the base like a baseball bat. If you score the shed, double it and add spread, he scored about 165-170 inches B&C last year. I have a long history with this buck. I think he was 6 1⁄2-years-old last fall. So this year, if my estimate is correct, he'll be 7 1⁄2. If his rack grows even a little, he'll be a toad. And my mule deer tag will be reserved for him.

So even in times of a drought, there are small things that keep us excited for the days ahead!