Ray: Food North, Rut South

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.

Bucks at the top of Texas are more concerned with food and survival than does right now. I've seen and heard others report about bucks hanging in small bachelor groups near food sources like wheat or corn feeders. I've also heard a couple of guys report that they tried rattling and grunting to a distant buck with zero response. Like any other place you hunt post-rut bucks, look for the best food sources and setup nearby.

Two of my friends are in hot pursuit of big, 160-plus type bucks in the northern half of the region. Both are hunting near food--one near a wheat field on the edge of a creek, the other near a corn feeder. One has seen the buck a couple of times, just out of bow range. The other has not laid eyes on the buck, but thanks to trail cam pictures, he knows the buck has been there several times in the last ten days.

As testament to how different the hunting in Texas can be from top to bottom, down south the time is right for calling and rattling. A guide hunting in the brush country told me, "Rattling horns go with me everywhere in December. I like to set up where two or more senderos cross. If there's an elevated blind, I rattle from the ground and put the shooter up high."

You might remember my friend, Barry Heiskell, whom I mentioned in last year's Rut Report. He had shot a couple of BIG typical whitetails in the open spaces of the Texas Panhandle. What I remember most, and apparently readers too, was that his beard was as long as the G-2 on his buck! The post on Barry's first big buck last year got more comments on his beard than his 160-class deer!

Barry's back with another whopper beard and buck, from the same open country. He shot this one last month, when the rut was just starting to pop.

Barry spotted the buck and a bedded doe from one mile away. He made a careful stalk then set-up on shooting sticks for a close shot with his 7mm Weatherby. At a range of 70 yards, the old buck dropped from a 140 grain bullet in the right spot. The heavy-horned brute, a main-frame 8-point with an extra fork, measured 156 inches. Barry labeled the photo accompanying his report as "156 cull." All I can say is if anything that scores 156 inches is considered a cull, I can't wait to see what a trophy is from that place!

By the way, Barry and fellow farmer, Ty Day, another regular on this blog, are farmers by trade. Considering the extended drought of 2011, Ty told me he won't shave his ZZ Top beard until they get at least five inches of moisture. Considering the long-term forecast for more dry weather, these guys will be picking cockle burrs from their long whiskers for a long time before it floods!