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. 21–Overall Activity Status: As we get closer to the New Year and winter sets in, I’m seeing more deer visiting corn feeders and food plots. In my backyard in the Texas Panhandle, both mule deer and whitetails are regular visitors at two feed troughs I keep filled with corn and alfalfa hay. I monitor both with trail cameras. Most of the older bucks wait till after dark to visit. I feed through the winter, to help the deer when native browse is limited, snow gets deep, temperatures drop, and to help bucks recover from the stress of the rut. It’s also a good time to take inventory and see which bucks are still alive. Gives me a chance to locate a good buck to watch for come next season.
My friend Shawn in western Oklahoma told me just the other day he saw a big 10-point dogging a doe. Seems late for rut activity up there, but he saw what he saw. The pair were only 100 yards from his pickup, darting back and forth like cutting horses, but cared less about the truck. The buck was one Shawn knew well. A big 10-point that would score over 150, but now his rack is busted up. He should be a stud next year.
Rubs:** I found one new rub this week, about 100 yards from one of those feed areas. It was a small mesquite tree shredded from top to bottom.
Scrapes: A friend in South Texas, where the rut is heating up, tells me he’s got a line of scrapes where the brush line meets a small food plot. He says each scrape is about the size of a basketball and most are hit every day or two. Lots of bucks seen cruising the edges of that food plot, looking for receptive does.
Chasing: Another friend in South Texas tells me just in the last few days, he’s seen a noticeable increase in bucks chasing does. He says the hunting has been great with lots of older age class bucks on the move.
X Factor: In South Texas, regulars know the Christmas holidays are prime time for hunting rutting bucks. From what I’ve heard, the next week to two weeks should be prime this year. I’ve included a photo of a big 8-point I shot a couple of years ago in the brush country just after Christmas. Sniped him from a tower blind overlooking a couple of long senderos. Shot him with a custom Match Grade Arms rifle in 300 Win Mag topped with a Swarovski scope, firing 180-grain Winchester bullets.
Although Texas’ mule deer season is over, the rut is clearly in high gear. That’s about normal from most years. Mid-December, when the season is over, is when I see mulie bucks acting goofy and chasing does. I usually see at least one monster I’ve never seen before during this time frame. They usually rut till early January.
In New Mexico, the archery deer season opens on January 1. Archers have the advantage of hunting bucks in the rut on this late season hunt. A couple of years ago, I shot a fine 4×4 mulie in New Mexico on that hunt. I shot him over water, but saw an even bigger buck hazing does just across a neighbor’s fence where I could not hunt. A hunt in the Southwest, whether it’s for whitetails or mule deer, is a great escape from winter whiteout up north.