The best way to describe what friends and I are seeing in north Texas right now is “cruising.” A few bucks are chasing, but most of our sightings are of bucks cruising the countryside, searching for females. Neck half-cocked, sniffing like a bird dog, they are obviously on a mission. If they spy a doe, they usually investigate her or follow her, but don’t necessarily “chase” her.

For most of us, that has translated into few if any buck sightings at feeders, but the bucks are certainly on the move. If you have a feeder pounded by lots of does, that’s probably where you could see a good buck now. Otherwise, set yourself on a good vantage point where you can glass prime travel corridors, like creek bottoms, to spot these cruising bucks.

According to my journal, I’ve hunted deer on 24 days in the period from October 1 to November 14. Most of those days I hunted half a day, either morning or afternoon. I’ve checked trail cameras, but not hunted, a few other days. Add to that the days spent scouting before the season, prepping blinds, and filling feeders, and I’ve spent many more days than that thinking about deer.

Despite all that time invested, I have yet to convince a Texas whitetail buck to wear my tag. Last year, I hunted fewer days with very different results. Last year at this point of the season I’d already tagged a 150-inch Texas 10-point buck, a 157-inch Texas 10-point buck and a 125-inch 8-point Oklahoma buck, all with a bow.

So this year the reality of the difficulty of bowhunting mature deer is setting in. The season is far from over, and the peak of the rut is still yet to come, so I’m not giving up. But it might take me 24 more days to finally tag a respectable buck.

I’ve passed up 20-yard shots at three different 140-class bucks because they each had at least one major tine broken. I had a close call with a 135-inch 9-point at the windmill the other day. I was at full draw, the buck 15 yards away, and needed him to take one more step into my lane. Instead, he backpedaled and gave me no shot. I’ve also blown a 21-yard shot at a huge typical 12-point.

The point of all this rambling is that bowhunting mature whitetail bucks is a very difficult endeavor. And just because you invest a lot of time doing it, which usually means more success, there is no guarantee. And once you’ve experienced some success at this sport, you start to expect those same results each season. But make no mistake–bowhunting big bucks is a low-odds game.

My friend Ronnie Parsons’ season has been just the opposite of mine. Last weekend he arrowed the heavy-horned 9-point pictured above on his middle Texas lease. Yes, that’s Parson’s third P&Y buck this season, and his 37th P&Y buck from Texas. He put in the time, hunted hard and smart–and beat the odds.