Note: Deer & Deer Hunting Editor Dan Schmidt has just returned from a week-long rut hunt near Eldorado, Texas. This is the fourth installment of a five-part blog series on his adventure. Check back each day this week for updates.
It doesn’t matter where you hunt in this state, Texas offers some of the most incredible whitetail hunting opportunities in the country. Although the state boasts one of the largest deer herds in the country, it does receive a fairly bad rap amongst hunter from the North and Midwest. There is a feeling out there that the only hunting that takes place in Texas is behind high fences and high-priced ranches. True, there are a lot of high-fenced operations in Texas and — like anywhere else — lease prices and outfitting fees are rising. But the fact remains that there is still plenty of ground that is free-range … and plenty of places where the fees aren’t out of line with other big-deer states.
One of the redeeming factors about hunting Texas is the state allows nonresidents to shoot several deer on one license. What’s more, many ranches openly welcome hunters to shoot deer they call “management bucks.” These are usually mature deer that are 8-points or less and are considered nuisances to wildlife managers who are trying to grow trophy deer. Some guys call them “cull” bucks. I call them incredible whitetails that I will always trip over myself to get a crack at. Such was the case with a giant 7-pointer that showed up on the second day of our hunt at Vatoville Outdoors (Steve and Michelle Anderson; 325-450-0287).
Head guide Billy Bob Galbreath and I were still getting settled in the box blind that afternoon when D&DH videographer Jay Ellioff (who was already settled) spied a deer in the distance.
“Deer coming,” he said matter-of-factly while putting his binoculars up to his eyes. “Buck. GOOD BUCK!”
To me, it’s weird having other people on stand with me while hunting. But in this case, I was glad to have those extra eyes. I finished stuffing my air-activated hand-warmers in my coat pocket and grabbed my Kowa binoculars.
“Whoa! He’s a dandy!” I stuttered as soon as the buck’s rack came into focus. “Looks like he’s a 4×3.”
“Yep, sure is,” said Galbreath. “That’s a good management buck. Exactly the kind of deer we want to take out of here.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” I chimed in, as the buck stepped out from a sprawling live oak and nosed his way toward a doe and its fawn.
My heartbeat went into overdrive and my breathing became labored. When I’m hunting by myself, I usually talk to myself. I’ll actually whisper out loud, “Calm down; calm down; don’t look at the antlers.” I felt kind of awkward doing that with an audience, so I just tried to take some deep breaths.
“I’m on him,” said Ellioff. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Maybe it was pressure of the moment, but I couldn’t seem to hold the scope’s cross-hairs on the deer. I lifted my head, exhaled one big breath, and went back to the scope. Long pause. Now the cross-hairs were steady.
Immediately at the shot, I knew I had flinched slightly. It didn’t matter, though. In the instant after the percussion, I saw the buck mule kick and whirl. The shot had been true. The deer ran just 75 yards through the cedars, oaks and scrub brush, before piling up in a newly created sendero.
“Oh, my gosh!” I stammered while turning toward the camera. “Oh, my gosh am I shaking! I can hardly breathe. Hang on, I have to calm down here.”
In that instant, I could hear both Ellioff and Galbreath chuckling.
“Well, that’s all right,” Galbreath said. “That’s what hunting is all about. Should be, anyway.”
He’s absolutely right. No matter how many deer I shoot — buck, doe, young or old — I still get that same feeling every time. When I lose that feeling, someone had better come and usher me out of the deer woods.
UP NEXT: Part 5: A Monster Buck Pays a Visit
Other entries from this series: