Ray: Hunting Through the Weather Extremes

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.

Here is more proof that the weather and the rut can be at opposite ends of the spectrum in Texas. Last week, on Dec. 20, it was 25 degrees in the Panhandle town of Amarillo. The wind was out of the north at 25 mph and the wind chill was nine. A blizzard came through northeastern New Mexico, the top of Texas and western Oklahoma the night before, dropping up to 10 inches of snow in some parts. If you were hunting bucks at the top of the region then, you should have been hunting the food.

The weather was a bit different in the town of Pearsall in South Texas, where the high was 65 degrees with sunshine. Pearsall is the headquarters for Los Cazadores, one of the biggest deer scoring contests in the state. I talked to one of the clerks at the store in Pearsall. Most of the crew was out hunting, and the clerk said, "The bucks are chasing and the rut is on down here! Big bucks are coming in at a steady pace to be scored for the contest." If you want to see pictures of some of the biggest bucks taken in South Texas this season, including some 200-inchers, go to www.loscazadores.com. It's prime time for bagging an old buck in the thorns.

If you need some inspiration to get yourself off the couch and in the woods this month, consider John Bain's story.

John broke his neck playing in an alumni football game on July 18, 2010. He was 20 years out of high school football. The injury was totally unexpected and his left side was paralyzed. Thankfully, it was just temporary. He said, "After four days in the hospital, two artificial discs, two other repaired discs, a carbon fiber plate, three screws, great doctors and a true blessing from God; I walked out of that hospital."

John is no whiner. He is as fit as most guys half his age, and he got to work getting back in shape immediately. The main motivation for his recovery: shooting a bow come opening day of deer season that was just two and a half months away. 

He first started with short walks, and worked his way up to four miles per day. Then he did some light weight lifting, and was eventually able to shoot his light draw turkey bow, a 60-pound Mathews.

On opening morning of the 2010 bow season, John punched a well-placed broadhead through a fancy 156-inch buck, a main-framed 9-pointer with 13 total points. It was the biggest buck ever taken off the eastern Texas Panhandle lease. And it was the biggest buck of John's hunting career!

And then, despite a tough early and mid season in 2011, John did it again. This time, he arrowed a fine 120-inch management buck in early December, the buck in the photo above. This 8-point buck was taken from an elevated stand near a corn feeder. John had been playing cat and mouse with the buck for most of the season. John seemed just as excited about the smaller buck this year as his giant from last season. When you've had an accident that could have ended your bow hunting days completely, success of any kind is suddenly that much sweeter.

After his accident last year, John appreciates the sport of bow hunting now more than ever. When he recounts the story of his accident and his long recovery, it's understandable why he gets a tear in his eye. Fate could have certainly gone a whole other direction. The simple task of drawing a bow or shooting a rifle should never be taken for granted. Neither should deer hunting. John has had two good back-to-back seasons. May the road to recovery continue my friend!