Ray: Pinpointing the Texas Rut

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.

In a state as big as Texas, it's understandable that the rut could be at so many different stages from top to bottom.

I've been hunting in the Panhandle. On Friday, December 9th, observing from a high vantage point, I watched five different bucks converge at a deer feeder to eat. They tolerated each other's company, and I never saw a doe in the area. The biggest of the group was a 135-class, 4 ½-year-old 8-point.

One mile up the river, through my Nikon spotting scope, I spotted a big, symmetrical 10-point. He was feeding by himself. I guessed his dark-colored rack at 145-150 inches. His right G-4 was broken off a couple of inches. The best part? I think he was 3-½-years-old. A real up-and-comer to look for next season.

Two days later, I glassed the same river bed. I saw the same six bucks. Two were at the feeder and four were up river one mile. All were feeding contentedly. There were no does anywhere near them. From my observations and what others have told me, in the northern reaches of the state, it's now post rut. Bucks are more concerned with eating than breeding.

My friend, Ronnie Parsons, shot his 34th P&Y whitetail back in November in west-central Texas--a fine 140-class 12-point. Since then, he reports the couple of other big bucks he saw on cameras early in the season are missing-in-action. He also said the bucks were very interested in does now. He figured the big ones were likely holed up with willing does and not going to corn feeders.

Farther south, Mark Nelson returned from a deer hunt and reported this on December 7th. "Deer are chasing/rutting like crazy. It really kicked in down there. I was in the Brackettville/Uvalde/Del Rio area west of San Antonio."

The rut is slowing down in the north, still clicking in the middle, and heating up way down south.