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.
I’ve heard the same thing from friends across the region for two weeks now. “Bucks are on the trail cameras in the dark, but we aren’t seeing them.”
I’m seeing (or is it not seeing?) the same thing. A perfect example is the fine 10-point in the accompanying photo. I’m guessing he’s about 6 ½-years-old, 160-inches. He’s been on my trail camera for six weeks now.
With the exception of two very brief episodes where he was photographed with a few minutes of legal light, once in the morning and once in the evening, he’s been a vampire. Most of the images of this buck are between 2 A.M-5 A.M. But he’s also been on the camera at 9 P.M. and midnight. He’s all over the place. Every time on the clock, except when I can see him in shooting light!
Last year, this same buck was at that same spot. (The camera is set near a feed trough with corn and sometimes alfalfa hay.) That trough sits near a mesquite thicket. In 2010, his rack was almost identical.
Last year, he was on the trail camera in the dark in September and part of October. I never saw him with my own eyes. By early November, he disappeared.
It wasn’t until mid-December, after the rut, that he reappeared on the trail camera. I caught a few nighttime images of him. Then, around December 26th, he was on the camera with 30 minutes of shooting light available. He did that routine 3-4 times in a span of a week in daylight. I would have hunted him then, but I had a broken shoulder from a pheasant hunting accident, so I just looked at the pictures, swallowed some pain pills and started scheming for this year.
So here I am hunting the same nocturnal buck at the same blind. His routine appears to be the same. He lives mostly across the fence on land I can’t hunt, at least I think that’s where he lives, so I’m just hoping he makes a few daylight appearances somewhere along the way this season.
My guess is the pre-rut (end of October and early November) and late season are my best odds of seeing him in daylight. During the peak rut, I think he travels far looking for does. My best chance, I believe, is to get him post rut in the late season when he’s tired and hungry. Of course someone hunting on a neighboring ranch might find him before I do.
So if you have a big buck on your trail camera, a nocturnal vampire, be patient. Think of hunting season as a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t over hunt that spot now before the buck is even moving in daylight. Wait until he shows his face in shooting hours on the trail camera, then move in and try to get him. At least that’s my plan. We’ll see if it works…