Good Ole Days are Now for Deer Hunters
Over the course of five decades of very actively pursuing whitetail deer, mostly in Texas but in many other places as well, I’ve seen the deer and the hunters that pursue them go through many changes. Back in the early sixties when I first began hunting deer around my home in northeast Texas, numbers were low. Seed deer stocked in the area were on the verge of gaining a foothold and restoring the population that was once strong. Back in those days, a buck was a buck and anything with antlers was a candidate for the meat pole.
We had a core of veteran deer hunters in Red River County, and thanks to knowledge gained from spending their lifetimes in the woods, they usually harvested their buck. For greenhorn deer hunters such as myself, my pulse quickened when I occasionally got a glimpse of a doe or found a scrape or rub line. Things have changed drastically where I grew up and all across the country!
Whitetail deer can once again be found in large numbers habituating their old haunts across most of the US. With increased hunting opportunities came a renewed interest in deer hunting and a whole new generation of hunters. Back in the late sixties and throughout the seventies and eighties the interest in hunting deer grew rapidly. So did the knowledge of the animal’s habits. I could not imagine some of those older deer hunters I knew as a boy doing things like creating mock buck scrapes or using a call that perfectly imitated the sound of a buck wheezing! And, rest assured, they would never have believed that a white tailed bucks buck scoring over 200 Boone and Crockett inches would be harvested on a regular basis.
All this talk of Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young score might mislead newcomers to deer hunting into thinking that hunting deer is all about numbers. Deer hunting, to those of us that dearly love the sport, is more than the net score of the antlers harvested. When reminiscing about my many years as a deer hunter, it’s not the size of the buck’s antlers harvested years ago that I remember best, it’s the cool evenings around the campfire spent with family or friends or that great recipe for venison chili I learned from an old cow camp cook. It’s getting out of a warm sleeping bag on a frosty November morning and gulping down a couple cups of black, strong coffee and maybe taking time for one of those jumbo camp breakfast tacos, you know the ones with plenty of ground venison, jalapeno, cheese and potatoes left over from the previous night’s meal! It’s the time I devoted to teaching my sons what deer hunting is really all about and their excitement when they finally executed a good shot and harvested their first buck or doe. I would often take them out of school a day early so we could spend an extra day at deer camp during the holidays. I would bring along some venison or pork harvest earlier in the season and prepare it a different way for each meal. Our favorite was fried venison baked in a Dutch Kettle with Crème of mushroom gravy, served with fresh Jasmine Rice, it remains a favorite today!
Back in the day we deer hunters would have been shocked at the prospect of having the very real opportunity of harvesting a 130 class buck. Oh, deer of this class were taken occasionally but the truth is that we simply didn’t let the young bucks grow up. A 2.5 year old eight pointer was considered a taker and we seldom allowed them to walk. Most deer hunters today wait for a buck at least 3.5 years old before releasing their arrow or squeezing the trigger.
With all that has been learned about genetics, nutrition and most importantly, giving deer enough time to mature, it’s a good bet that the bar will continue to rise when it comes to harvesting trophy bucks. Personally, I like where the sport of deer hunting has advanced to but, I hope we never, ever judge the success of our deer hunts simply by the size of antlers harvested! That’s not what deer hunting is all about!
TROPHY SEASON FOR BLUE CATFISH AT HAND
Ask any serious blue catfish angler when the big ones bite best and they’ll tell you “October through the end of winter. As early as the passing of the next cold front, the trophy blue catfish bite could be in its early stages. Drift fishing is one of the best ways to locate and catch big cats right now. A Santee Rig works best for this style of fishing. The rig is easy to make, it’s a basic Carolina Rig with a 4 or 5 foot leader with a small floater pegged about 6 inches up from the hook. Fresh shad is the preferred bait. The floater keeps the drifting piece of cutbait up a few feet from bottom and makes it easy for a catfish to grab it as it drifts by overhead. Drift fishing is an excellent way to locate concentrations of blue catfish. Once a fish is landed, it’s a good idea to toss out a marker buoy and make repeated drifts over the areas. Blues tend to feed in small schools and where you catch one, others are often nearby. Luke Clayton
The second edition of Luke’s book, “Kill to Grill, the Ultimate Guide to Hunting and Cooking Wild Hogs” is available via www.catfishradio.org.