I was glassing thirteen bucks gathered around the “deer feeder”. A buck with extremely darkly stained hocks from his tarsal glands to his ankles, indicating maturity, had already shed his antlers. The other twelve were 8 to 10 points, likely two to four year olds.
Yes…I was hunting from a raised deer blind watching a feed pen with an automatic feeder that spread corn daily at 8:00 am and again at 5:00 pm…a baited area. I was hunting there in hopes of shooting does, part of our approved Texas Park and Wildlife Department’s Managed Land Deer Permit or MLD Permit. It was late January. Under the MLD Permit hunting for whitetail deer begins the opening day of Texas’ archery season and extends through the end of February. Permits for both bucks and does are issued to the landowner/manager, at a rate based on long and short term goals, current deer densities, buck to doe ratios, fawn survival rates and range conditions. Only those permits can be used to “tag” deer taken on MLDP property and do not “count” against the regular Texas bag limits. The MLD Permit has been in effect for several years in Texas and contributes greatly to properly managing both deer populations and wildlife habitat and contribute greatly to improving habitat for all wild species, including song birds and even butterflies!
“Feeders” tend to attract deer and allow hunters to truly evaluate bucks as to age before pulling the trigger, making a quick and humane killing shot.
During the early season it is not uncommon to see both bucks and does at feeders, and even during the early part of the rut. But as the rut increases and then wanes, bucks, which are only dominant in the deer herd while they are “in hard antler”, tend to take over “feeders”.
Once does are bred they no longer want anything to do with bucks. Rather than come to feeders, where bucks congregate to “repair”, does stay away from such areas. Going into my most recent hunt on my western Texas lease, I suspected that might still be the case, but hoped does were again visiting feeders.
To help me take my remaining “quota” of does, each lease member is assigned a number of does to take, I asked Luke Clayton and Jeff Rice to come hunt. I have been doing a weekly radio segment with Luke on his Luke Clayton Outdoors (aka Catfish Radio) radio show now for something over 16 years, which also is a weekly podcast. Luke and I also co-host the weekly “Campfire Talk with Luke and Larry” podcast for Sporting Classics Daily/Sporting Classics. We too, recently did a book together, “Campfire Talk” which is available through www.catfishradio.org and www.larryweishuhn.net, as well as amazon.com. We also do a weekly digital tv show, “A Sportsman’s Life” which is produced and co-hosted by Jeff Rice. “A Sportsman’s Life” airs on CarbonTV.com, but also can be seen at my www.larryweishuhn.net website. There, one can also listen to my personal weekly podcast “DSC’s Campfires with Larry Weishuhn”, and read my regular blogs and selected articles.
Prior to their arrival I did some scouting and decided to hunt them from blinds where in the past I had taken does. I was hunting the blind where I planned to hunt Luke that afternoon, watching the bachelor herd.
Glassing and filming the bucks I spotted movement over 500-yards away, then watched 51 deer in one herd run by, as if the devil was after them! The herd had 18 bucks, including a really wide 8-point, a massive 10-point and a 24-inches wide very tall 10-point, as well 33 does and nearly grown fawns. Had the herd been closer, I would have done my best to take one of those three bigger bucks. I still had two MLDP buck tags assigned to me. I had earlier accounted for three management bucks, and still had one tag assigned to a 10-point or better and another for the biggest 8-point I could find. The deer on the flat part of the lease tend to run in herds, typical of prairie animals. I had seen herds of 30 but never as large a herd as had just run by.
Jeff and Luke arrived at noon. Over a delicious lunch, camp food is always a big part of our hunt, we discussed our hunt.
Luke had brought a food attractant “Vineyard Max” based on the dried grape skins. After lunch we put some in various places near where I planned to hunt Luke and Jeff the next couple of days. They would hunt from stands while I would walk and stalk.
Jeff hunted with his .30-06 Mossberg Patriot loaded with Hornady’s Outfitter 180-grain CX. Luke hunted with his new CVA Optima which he loaded with Hornady’s 340-grain Bore Driver bullets and IMR’s White Hot Pellets. I was hunting with my .44 Mag Taurus Raging Hunter loaded with Hornady’s 240-grain XTP Custom and my Mossberg Patriot Predator 7mm PRC loaded with Hornady’s 175-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter. Being able to take several deer on the property allows me to hunt with a variety of guns and ammo.
With the two in stands using my .44 Mag revolver, and, was able to take a doe at 80-yards after getting a solid rest. As luck would have it, Jeff and Luke saw bucks, but no does.
Next morning I again put Jeff and Luke in blinds, but with the idea of then during mid-day walking to where we had put out Vineyard Max (www.vineyardmax.net). While they hunted from blinds I shot two more does, this time with my 7mm PRC. I had taken it, knowing my shots that morning might likely be beyond my comfort distance of 100-yards using my Raging Hunter .44 Mag. Picking them up I learned Luke and Jeff saw bucks, no does!
Before heading to camp for lunch, we drove to an area baited with Vineyard Max. We stopped 500-yards short of the area, wind in our face. Luke “capped” his muzzleloader. With Jeff following behind with a camera they started walking toward where he had poured the bait on the ground. I stayed behind to bring the pickup, if I heard a shot.
Twenty minutes later I heard a single shot. A couple of minutes later I saw Luke walk onto the pasture road and wave me forward. Moments later I pulled up to a smiling hunter. “Got her! She had her nose in the Vineyard Max when I shot. Big doe!” I shook his hand and followed him to where the doe lay. She indeed was in excellent body condition, downright fat!
That night gathered around the campfire we enjoyed grilled backstrap. The morrow would bring more adventures. Surely was good to be back in West Texas!