I have hunted deer in many different places, situations, and weather conditions, but this year I have had a unique opportunity at a new lease in North Central Texas. Situated along the Colorado River is a rectangle 600 acre piece of rugged property full of mesquite trees and cactus, no deer stands, one tripod feeder, no cattle, and lots deer trails.
Littered around the county are high box stands overlooking fields of rye or deer feeders for 150 to 200 yards shots. Some Texas stands reach 40 feet high into the sky to get a panoramic view of the rugged, rolling landscape and to increase chances for spotting movement and antlers reflecting the bright orange sun. While East Texas hunters frequently use 30-30s and slug shot guns, West Texan outings require 30-06 and .270 for the long shot.
Having hunted in Runnels county for over 15 years, I carried my trusted .270 on the first trip the this new piece of property the day before opening rifle season. My dad had scouted the property and had some suggestions about hot hunting areas, but I had only used Google maps to look over the property.
With no stands and a property that had not been hunted, we really did not have anything to go on except looking for some signs and trusting the tracks that appeared underneath the one and only feeder.
Since this property did not have cattle, the grasses beneath the trees were high and showed obvious signs of wildlife trails. I did not believe all the feeder trails could all be from deer. I counted over 12 unique paths that led to the one and only clearing around the tripod. With only a few hours of daylight left, I made the decision to put a camo pop-up tent about 45 yards downwind from the feeder and hope a deer came through one of 2-3 openings I had for a clear shot.
Morning came and the walk through the dark, unfamiliar woods brought the same excitement that opening day usually give me, but I had no idea how the morning would go. After quietly entering the zippered opening, I laid my camo bag out with my grunt call, flashlight, PDA, and extra gloves and hat and then leaned my rifle against the fabric wall and watched the 4-5 racoons eyes work their way around the feeder until first light.
Thats when it all started.
I heard a distinct “huff” and legs stomping to my right. I knew I was being watched but did not even turn my head to look. Then another “huff” behind me. More and more movement and noises surrounded me but I could not get a clear view of any of the deer. Too many branches, not enough light, and many nervous deer. I was not sure of my next move.
Over and over, deer would enter the area to get one look at the pop-up blind and raise their tail and run or “huff” for a minute or two then walk away and not eat their morning treat. I saw atleast 20 deer (most bucks) that morning and not one even made it near the tripod or within range of a clean shot.
It is bitter-sweet to say that I got quite a few of the bucks on video and saw an awesome mature 8-pointer that I would have loved to put on my wall. But I never pulled the trigger or even scoped a deer.
I went back to the truck frustrated but excited at the potential. After some wise advice from an experienced hunter. I decided to ditch the tent, slightly change location, and put on camo and scent protection from head to toe. It was time to ground hunt under a tree in West Texas.
The first frost had not hit the area and I was told by the landowner that the property has crawling with rattlesnakes. So I was a little nervous about sitting on the ground in high grass and cactus. Brought a .380 pistol and had a bullet in the chamber for quick draw and firing.
At 3:30 I hit the ground, got comfortable and pretended to be a fat tree or bush for 3 hours. My first deer of the afternoon gave me hope. She got close, huffed, stomped, stared, but did not run away. She did not feed but she stayed near me.
After spotting deer about 60-80 yards behind the feeder in the brush, I started to believe my oppertunity would come. Then the loud “hoof’s” came directly behind me. This was a problem. I was getting deer traffic to my rear and would not be able to raise my rifle to shoot without spooking deer. It took me about 2-3 minutes to slowly turn my head and seeing what was happening. I had three doe. One was a zealot and was working on convincing the other two “something is not right.” They would not leave, they would not walk further, they just wanted make noise and give up my position. I decided to fill the fridge with a doe and eliminate my problem.
But, I could only turn to my left and I shoot left handed. I would never be able to get my gun into position without much noise and movement.
What to do? With my eyes looking behind me, I waited until the “problem” deer was looking down, then in a split second I took the rifle off safety while swinging it into firing position. I scoped the closest deer’s neck with my gun tilted sideways and squeezed the trigger in a matter of a few seconds. She dropped, the other two ran into a different county, and my chest and head began to swell. A great shot and a good campfire story.
It was only 20 minutes before the deer came out again. This time I learned my lesson. My rifle was already in firing position and I scoped the movement instead of looking with the naked eye.
Then it happened. A big body silhouette entered closer than any other deer… directly in front of me. Too many trees to count the antlers but I knew it was a shooter. He paced back and forth for about twenty minutes. Smart enough to not get closer but not smart enough to run away. Finally he decided to go downwind of the feeder and walk way to my right. I saw a small opening in the trees about 20 yards in front of the deer and moved my scope to the “only” shot possible and took the rifle off safety. I waited and hoped. What were my chances? Then it happened. The 10 point rack came into the opening, I counted and decided to harvest. Just seconds later a head and a neck. No time to spare. I aimed at the neck (no shoulder could be seen) and pulled the trigger. He dropped and I closed out my two best shots within hours of each other.
In full camo and with my heart racing, I reached for my deer tags and already started thinking about the morning hunt.