Ray: Planning for Next Year

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.

It¹s late season. The rut is on in South Texas, but for the rest of the state, whitetails are recovering from the stress of the chase and being chased! I¹m recovering, too.

On December 11, I had a freak accident on a pheasant hunt. I was chasing down a crippled bird when my common sense abandoned me and I decided to dive on top of him. I got him, but in a way, he got me, too. When I landed on top of the rooster, it felt like I¹d been dropped from a sky scraper. I dislocated my right shoulder and fractured my upper humerus bone. The pain was excruciating.

Yesterday, I had an MRI. In early January, my doctor and I will decide if surgery is necessary. The hardest part of all this is losing my ability to draw my bow, temporarily. And losing the last couple of weeks of deer season. There¹s a chance, if it¹s decided surgery is unnecessary, that I¹ll heal enough to pull back a light bow by late January, and squeeze in one last hunt on a Managed Land Deer (MLD) property here in Texas where the season is extended. But even that is sketchy at this point. Did I mention the level 10 pain?

So I¹m reminded, now at the age of 40, that I¹m not the young whipper-snapper I used to be. Taking better care of my body through physical fitness, eating right, and not chasing and tackling wild pheasants is important!

While there are still a couple of weeks left in deer season, I¹m already thinking about next year. Next year I¹ll be more diligent about my training. Running, hiking, and lifting weights will keep me fit, and hunting for years to come. And I¹ll eat better. Fewer hamburgers and more salads. Less sodas and more water. Cut down on the sweets and eat fruit. Changes that we all know make a difference, but seldom do we practice.

Not that I did not savor this year¹s season, because I did, but once I regain my strength to shoot my bow again, I won¹t take that ability for granted. You see, back in 1996 I separated the same right shoulder in a motorcycle wreck. So I know the therapy that lies ahead to regain my upper body strength and shoot a bow again. Two months after that wreck in 1996, I hobbled to a blind on crutches ( I also broke my foot in the same accident) and managed to sit for five days straight in a hot antelope blind over water in New Mexico. On the last day of the hunt, I sucked my 48 pound bow to full draw and sent an arrow through the lungs of a P&Y-class buck at 25 yards. That was satisfying. I¹m betting the first buck I arrow after this train wreck of an accident will be even more gratifying, just because I¹m older.

Typing these reports with one hand is not easy. Hell, lifting a fork left-handed is a challenge. And I¹ve had to cancel two late-season deer hunts, whitetails in South Texas and muleys in New Mexico. Major bummer. But before you feel too sorry for me, I did have a great season, even if it was cut short.

My best whitetail this year was a handsome 10-pointer I shot on October 28 with my Hoyt bow. He was 6 1/2 years old and his fine rack scored just shy of 150 inches. That¹s him in the photo. A great buck for anywhere, but even more special to me because he came off my family¹s ranch.

Looking ahead to next year, beyond the physical preparations, I¹m already taking inventory of bucks. That¹s something I try to do every year as the season ends. A good tactic no matter where you hunt. I do this with trail cameras over corn and alfalfa hay and through long-range glassing. Then I know where to look come opening day 2011. I¹ve got my eye on a couple of dandy mule deer bucks and two fine whitetails that should be studs next fall.

2010 was a good year. I¹m betting 2011 is even better. I plan to make some changes. For starters, next year I¹ll let the dog run down the cripples instead of doing a swan dive into the ER!