Ray: Cold Temps Bring All the Deer Out

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.

Snow continues to fall in the Texas Panhandle. On Christmas Day, I got another four inches at my house. What that means for deer hunters in the region is simple: Deer are really keyed in on food sources now. At two of my bait sites, trails through the snow are like spokes on a wheel going back into canyons and thick brush. The deer need the extra calories to fend off the cold weather. If you hunt such a spot, there's a good chance you'll see lots of deer. Corn is the best attractant I've tried in the late season, but they also eat alfalfa hay.

Another positive aspect of late season hunting is bucks that were sneaky, nocturnal ghosts earlier in the season are more likely to be seen now that it's cold and groceries are hard to find. A perfect example of this is an ancient old 6-point whitetail I've tracked for three seasons. That's his picture from earlier in the season.

His rack has been nearly identical the last three years. Decent brow tines, short G-2's and short beams with good mass throughout. I'm guessing he's at least 6 ½-years-old, maybe lots older. The best part? I've never seen him! Ever! If not for a well-placed trail camera, I'd never know he existed. He's as nocturnal as an owl.

But just in the past two days, he's been on my camera in daylight during the cold and snow. The last 20 minutes of the day both times. His rack won't score much, but I think he'd be a cool trophy based solely on his age and his sneakiness. Obviously, he does not have the genetics to ever be a "trophy," so he's a classic management buck candidate. As soon as I get a south wind, I'm hunting that spot. If I see him, I'm taking the shot.

I've also got a couple of doe tags. We love venison at our house and with the season winding down, it's time to get serious about filling the freezer. Just be sure this time of year it's not a buck who's already dropped his antlers. I've heard one report from the Oklahoma Panhandle from a rancher that picked up a fresh shed a week before Christmas. If doubled, it was a 145-class buck. So look closely with binoculars before you shoot a "doe" these days!