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.
Dec. 3–Overall Activity Status: From what I’ve seen and heard from other hunters across the region, the rut is at or very near its frenzied peak in Central and North Texas right now. That’s close to the year-to-year average in both regions. Typically, the week before Thanksgiving through the first week in December is prime time to catch bucks moving in daylight, chasing does, trailing does, breeding does or just acting plain goofy!
In the Hill Country, one of my good friends reports that virtually every buck he’s seen for the last week has either been paired with a doe, trailing a doe, nose to the ground searching for a girl, or chasing one. Bucks young, middle and old. He’s seen lot’s of bucks with broken or missing tines due to fighting, a common occurrence this time of year. Few bucks visiting corn feeders, unless they are trailing a doe through the area while she feeds.
My friend Shawn reports less chasing and less rut action in western Oklahoma compared to last week. Last week, in hindsight, was probably the peak of rut crazy action in the area we hunted.
Further south, in the brush country of South Texas, we’re still 2-3 weeks away from peak rut action. Mid-December through early January are rut crazy days down close to the border, typically.
Rub Making:** The only new rubs I’ve seen this week were around the headquarters of my ranch house! Cedars, elms and cypress trees, along the driveway and near the barn, scarred from antler tines. These are mule deer making the sign, long after dark, as they travel between broken country and ag fields. I’ve put wire cages around a few of the bigger pines already, but obviously I have more fence work to do if I want to save all the trees!
Scrapes: Nothing new to report on scrapes. I’ve been looking, but found zero.
Chasing: My friend, Kelley Sims, had a big 8-point trail a doe 150 yards from his tripod stand earlier this week. The wind was howling, like most days in the Texas Panhandle, and Kelley had a tough time steadying his rifle on the wobbly tripod railing. His first shot was a miss. The buck and doe paid the shot no attention. Kelley’s second shot, also a miss, rammed the rifle scope into the bridge of his nose. Now, face covered in blood, and big buck still chasing a doe, back and forth like a cutting horse, Kelley kept shooting. After a bewildering seven shots, and zero hits, he ran out of ammo. Deflated, and bloody, he watched the buck and doe chase for another 15 minutes, inside 300 yards, before they loped over the fence and into the neighbor’s.
When he recounted the story to me over the phone, we both agreed the buck would stay with that hot doe in the same area. He should find a good vantage point, glass that same area, and he’d likely see the buck again. “If you get him, rather when you get him, redemption will be sweet, ” I told my friend. “You’ll laugh about the misses when you nail him the next time.” No doubt if he never saw the buck again, the story of the misses, complete with the scar on his nose as a reminder, would haunt him for years.
Kelley’s not the sort to give up, and he’s a good shot, so he went back the next afternoon with a different rifle. Sure enough, the same big 8-point, and probably the same hot doe, came walking by his tripod stand at 200 yards one hour before dark. Kelley coached himself, stay calm, pick a spot, squeeze the trigger. Then he lined up the Leupold’s crosshairs, made sure his eye was far enough away from the scope, and prepared for the shot. When the big buck was broadside, Kelley sent a 180 grain missile from his Kimber .325 WSM Montana rifle into the boiler room. The buck went down hard.
Kelley’s had a good season so far. A stud 170-class whitetail in mid-November, a big 10-point, 155-class muley last weekend and now this long-tined, 140-class 8-point whitetail. Although he’s not proud of the misses, or bloody nose, he’s proud that he “got back on the horse” so to speak, and made things right with one perfectly-placed bullet.
Hunt long enough, and hard enough, and sooner or later a similar train wreck will happen to everyone. It’s what you do to recover from that mistake that shows your true character. Obviously, Kelley has plenty of character. And a scar on his nose to remind him of the buck that almost got away!