Ray: The Thanksgiving Peak

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.

Tanner Alexander shot the big buck in the accompanying photo in the Texas Panhandle. The deer's long-tined rack flirts with the 170-inch mark. Tanner shot him with his bow and reports it was one of several mature bucks he rattled in during the course of a couple days of hunting mid-month.

Virtually every hunter I've talked to this week has reported great hunting. Bucks are moving, chasing does and fighting. Judging from what I'm hearing and seeing, I'd say the peak of rut action is happening RIGHT NOW in the northern half of the region. That's on pace with what I've seen my whole life. The week before and just after Thanksgiving is always a great time to hunt from middle Texas up to Oklahoma.

My friend Jeff told the tale of spotting a big mature 8-point and three smaller bucks, all chasing the same doe. Jeff stalked the rut party, then missed an off-hand shot at the big 8-pointer. The deer kept running and chasing. Jeff got closer, then missed again!

Finally, he relocated the big 8-pointer far in the distance. He was bedded now, close to the doe. He stalked in close and at 75 yards, put a bullet in the big buck's rut-swollen neck. You know the rut is popping when you can get three shots at the same 6 ½-year-old buck and he doesn't leave the county!

My family is here at the ranch this week. My nephews will be hunting deer, pigs and turkeys. They are teenagers. They want to hunt everything that moves! It's a tradition to shoot a wild turkey the day before Thanksgiving at the ranch. We cook both a store-bought bird and the wild bird for the traditional feast. And guess what? Year after year, everyone prefers the wild turkey! So don't forget those turkey tags while hunting deer this week.