Ray: The Rut Brings Out a Long-Hunted Trophy

Rut Reporter Brandon Ray is an expert on the region. Ray was born in Dallas and shot his first deer … Continued

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.

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If you’ve followed this blog, you know about the big 10-point that walked by my tripod stand on November 6. I’ve thought about little else since he ran down the creek and out of my life that afternoon. I hunted it five days in a row after that encounter, but never saw him.

On November 17, I hunted that stand again. I rattled in two young bucks, but never saw the big 10-point. He wasn’t on my trail camera either.

On the afternoon of November 19, I scouted that winding river bottom with a spotting scope from a high mesa about one mile away. I just hoped to locate him somewhere in the river bottom. At five P.M., I found him! The same big-framed 10-pointer from two weeks earlier was back in the area.

He was with a doe, slowly following her down the creek. I watched him rake his big rack into a mesquite tree until it was shredded into sawdust. Then, I watched him leave the doe, walk 200 yards and stand right by my tripod stand! Right at dark he went back to the creek, nose to the ground like a bird dog, looking for his girlfriend.

I was up at 4:20 A.M. on November 20. I made the drive and long hike in the dark into that remote river bottom to sit in the tripod stand by the creek. I just hoped he was still in the area.

It was 28 degrees, but with the 10-20 mph north wind, the wind chill was 17. I was bundled up in merino wool base layers, warm pants, vest, jacket, gloves, two fleece neck gaiters, a fleece stocking cap and a wool balaclava. It was cold!

It was barely shooting light when I saw a dark silhouette emerge from some cedars near the creek. Through my 10X binos, I could see it was a good buck. Closer inspection showed ten symmetrical points. It was him!

For what seemed an eternity he was facing me. I waited and waited. That’s no bowshot. Finally, at seven A.M., he turned. I drew the 61 pound Hoyt Carbon Matrix Plus bow and lined up the top pin for the 18 yard shot. “Center the pin in the peep. Touch your nose to the string. Watch the arrow hit him,” I coached myself silently.

The 390 grain Gold Tip carbon arrow led by a CS Montec broadhead blasted through the buck’s chest. He trotted 40 yards, turned around, then wobbled and it was over. That’s when I started to shake. I kept my eye on him, but he never moved again.

What a beautiful buck. Tooth wear looks like he was 6 ½-years-old. His symmetrical rack is one of the prettiest I’ve ever laid my hands on. Don’t know the score–don’t really care–but he’s huge!

The most interesting part of this story, at least for me, is the history behind this buck. Once I got him on the ground, I realized the past I had with him. I’ve hunted this buck for three seasons. I saw him twice in daylight in 2009, but passed him up because I was after a big non-typical. I never saw him in 2010, but got his picture on trail cameras in the dark. And this year, I got quite a few pictures of him, all in the dark, back in October. (Look back at my old post labeled “Nocturnal Wanderings.” That’s him.)

The shocker is where I killed him. He was 3-4 miles from the main ground blind where my trail camera chronicled him the last three years of his life! And those 3-4 miles that separate one blind from the other are rough, rocky, steep country. You’d never dream a whitetail would travel there.

It was a pattern I noticed back in 2009. He stayed near that one stand for most of the fall, although moving only after dark. Then, in November, he would move 3-4 miles away, to the river corridor, to look for does, I assume. Then in December, he’d go back to that main area. True testament to how far these western whitetails will move, even when they have food, cover, water and light hunting pressure, just to look for love in the rut!

My e-mail is blowing up this week with big buck photos from around the region. I’ll get some posted in the upcoming reports. The rut is on. Get out and hunt!