Ray: Buck Action Heating Up

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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It is starting to get good! I talked to three different contacts today about what they've been seeing. From central Texas up through the Panhandle, the reports were very similar. There have been more buck sightings, young bucks responding to rattling, bucks cruising with noses to the ground, does nervous and even a couple reports of small to medium-sized bucks chasing does.

Two "rut indicators" that old-timers have shared with me that seem to hold true. First, you see the young bucks chasing and acting goofy long before you see the old bucks doing it. It's like the old bucks know better than to waste their energy until there's a real chance of breeding a doe. That said, the first time you see a mature buck, 4 ½-years-old or older in a full-blown, tongue hanging out, cutting horse chase of a doe, that marks the first day to start hunting HARD and OFTEN.

The second "indicator" of near peak activity is the sighting of a fawn wandering around without its momma. For the rest of the year, a fawn is usually within a few steps of its momma. So when you see them alone, that usually means some buck is chasing and dogging her so hard, the fawn either can't keep up, gets run off by the buck or the doe kicked it off so it could breed.

If you see either of those things, it's time to get serious and take those vacation or sick days from work!

"Cough-cough. I feel like I'm getting the flu," or something similar should work with the boss man.

Keep your calls close by from now until the end of the month. Grunt calls, can calls and rattling horns can all persuade a buck out of range to come closer and investigate. In my opinion, and in those of other experienced hunters I know, the mature bucks don't consistently respond to rattling until after the 15th of November in middle and north Texas. But if you see a big one out of range, it's better to try it now than to try nothing at all.

It's also time for doe-in-heat type scents. I like to soak a clean rag in it, tie it to a stick and drag it around the perimeter of my stand site, looping around likely trails and places bucks might cross. Increase the amount of scent on the rag the closer you get to your stand and shooting lanes.

I'm still hunting hard for that monster typical 10-point I had an encounter with a few days ago. I have not seen him since and he has not been on my trail camera at that stand site. But, just yesterday I saw five different bucks at that location, including a solid 140-plus 8-pointer. I saw that same 8-pointer exactly one mile up river from that stand about one week ago. So they are definitely cruising now, covering ground and looking for a receptive doe.

In addition to those five bucks, I saw one doe. She was as nervous as a bank robber without a mask. Whipping her head around to look over her shoulder, running in spirts. I watched one 2 ½-year-old 8-point chase her and grunt at her.

While I was watching and waiting for the giant 10-point to resurface, shivering like crazy in a 30 mph north wind and below freezing wind chills, I managed to shoot two hogs with my Hoyt bow. They seem to be everywhere this season and a real problem.