By Luke Clayton, Outdoors Editor
Just this past week, I enjoyed what I consider to be the most challenging bow hunt for whitetail of my career, and the total Boone and Crockett score of both bucks might have tallied 80 inches. I’ve taken whitetail scoring up to 167 BC with my bow in areas as diverse as the big farm country of southern Alberta to the remote ranches south of the border and, lots of places in-between. But still, I consider my hunt last week as the most challenging and in many ways, rewarding. Here’s why.
For the past 3 years I’ve hunted a big 11,000-acre ranch west of San Angelo. Three years ago, I killed a very nice buck there. Regular readers might remember my account of the bruiser buck rattled in by my friend Steven Ray, the owner of Rattling Forks www.rattlingforks.com.
A year ago, Ray arranged for me to hunt a big section of the ranch that had just been high fenced. The plan was to remove the native genetics and begin stocking with deer of superior genetics. I used my Darton Talon Crossbow to harvest a heavy horned 8-point and other hunters removed over 60 head of the native deer. Now, let’s fast forward to this year.
With the majority of the native whitetails harvested, Harrell Newton with H & K Whitetails www.hkwhitetails.com and his partners Gary Bullock and Kenny Ellis began stocking some super genetic whitetail into this section of the ranch.
This past week, I joined my friends Larry Weishuhn, Steven Ray, and Newton for several days of hunting. I truly can’t remember a more enjoyable time spent at deer camp. Weishuhn and his cameraman Dustin Blankenship were filming for his TV show “Trailing the Hunters Moon.” While Ray was out rattling in big bucks for Weishuhn and the camera, I was back in the area I had hunted the previous year with my Darton 3800 compound bow. I was given permission to harvest any remaining “native buck” that came in to the stands I was hunting.
Photo by Luke ClaytonNewton gave me instructions that went something like this, “Luke, there are several native bucks in this section of the ranch, but also a good number of high genetic deer. All these introduced bucks have ear tags so they will be easy for you to identify. You have my blessing to remove any of the native bucks that come within bow range. Just be careful and make sure you shoot the native deer.”
I was greatly appreciative of the fact that Newton had enough trust in my ability as a hunter to correctly identify the “native” deer from the trophy class bucks that had been introduced on the property.
When I first accepted the challenge back at the camp house, I really had little idea as to how challenging and just how much pure adrenaline packed excitement this hunt would offer. My first thirty minutes in a stand made this point crystal clear!
The blind I was hunting from was ideal for a bow hunter. It was about 10 foot long and four feet wide. The front was covered in camo mesh, which greatly helps to conceal a hunter when deer are really close. From a blind such as this, it’s possible to back up and draw the bow from the back of the blind without spooking deer.
I’d been hunting about 20 minutes when the feeder went off and distributed corn in a 30 foot radius. A protein feeder was situated a few yards away. The first deer to appear was a BIG 2 ½ year old buck and I didn’t have to look for an ear tag to determine that he was not a native deer. This buck was sporting a big, heavy rack, but I could tell by his body size that he was still young. He was the kind of buck that would, at the age of 3.5 years or older, make any hunter drool. Following this buck came several doe that were also carrying ear tags, which indicated they were introduced deer.
Next came a very “skittish” spike buck. I judged him to be 2.5 years old. He was most obviously a native deer and sported no ear tag. The buck appeared to be fat as a seal and packing lots of protein fed venison. I immediately targeted him as a deer I wished to harvest and backed into the back of the hunting blind, waiting for a clean shot. This buck came in “wired.” I attempted to draw on him once and he must have heard the arrow sliding across the arrow rest. He immediately became nervous, stomped his forefoot and spooked all the deer around the feeder. They soon returned and he again came within bow range, but when I attempted to draw the bow a second time, he again spooked and took the five or six other deer with him. At this point, I was beginning to think this evening hunt was over.
About thirty minutes later, a 1.5 year-old native buck with one antler (pictured) slipped in from heavy cover on the left side of my blind and joined several doe and one trophy class buck for a little late afternoon protein. I immediately targeted him as a shooter and again backed into the very back of the blind. Twice I drew my Darton bow and each time the buck either turned, presenting a bad shot opportunity or another deer walked behind him. After an intense fifteen minutes of waiting for the perfect opportunity, the buck finally walked off to the side a bit and a properly placed arrow found its mark. He went a scant 45 yards, making for an easy recovery. I found waiting for the perfect shot and then making it to be among my most exciting memories as a bow hunter. The next morning, I harvested another fat 2.5 year-old native buck that presented almost as much challenge as the first.
During this hunt, I was within easy bow range of several young introduced bucks with heavy racks that would make many bow hunters blood boil, but I waited for the perfect shot at the native bucks I was hunting.
Back in Dallas, I dropped both bucks off at Kuby’s Game Processing and a couple of hunters I knew began kidding me about the small bucks that I had harvested. My reply was, “Guys, the hunt for these two bucks will become a fond memory as the most challenging deer hunt of a 50 year career.” After I told them the story, they both agreed.
Listen to “Outdoors with Luke Clayton and Friends” weekends on radio stations from Nebraska to Texas on anytime online at www.catfishradio.com .