Apologies for such a long read, but it’s my first Buck so I think deserves a bit of an Essay!
This is my 4th season hunting South Stephens county, 3rd on the same property. I started hunting after moving to Texas from the UK and marrying into a father in law who has been at it for 20 years or so. He got me onto his lease and has kindly taken time to teach me everything he can. I often think my wife was probably happy at first to see we had a common interest, and now probably curses the fact he has given me this obsession.
Anyway, after 3 seasons of hard hunting, I’d seen not one single legal buck during daylight… ever. Though the TC’s had confirmed they were around, I was starting wonder if they were all playing some elaborate joke on me. The combination of the drought, and I suspect trigger happy neighbors had left the population down to a limited number of nocturnal immature bucks, and probably some clever ones hiding in the bushes we would never see. I went into this season hoping that the rains, and less hunters around would help survival rates and give me a better chance of just seeing a legal Buck. I was in a new spot with 2 feeders setup along near a tank and bluff with an area of thick cover behind both feeders. TC’s confirmed that this year, we had at least 4-5 legal bucks coming to feeders at night, and Doe’s during shooting hours as per usual. Based on this, I felt my only real chance was to catch one chasing a doe.
After sitting 8 times during the first few weeks, it played out as such.
I was seeing small number of Doe’s almost every hunt, but they never seemed to be worried about Bucks on their tail and I began to wonder if the mysterious rut I’d heard so much about had for the 3rd season, just slipped by without me noticing. As the initial excitement and expectation of the first few hunts started to disappear, I settled into my usual state of frustrated acceptance, barely enjoying my time in the stand. I would scour the bushes with Bino’s everytime my Doe’s showed up, but never really expecting to see anything.
After hunting Wednesday night and Thursday morning with Doe’s showing both times, we started packing our stuff up at camp, ready to head out for a Thursday afternoon hunt. My FIL suggested that maybe I hunt one of his stands to get a different look. He’d seen a decent deer down there at last light recently, and the week previous his elderly father had shot a 6 point chasing a doe. Truthfully, I was slightly jealous, just as I was the previous year when my sister in law hunted for a total of 3 hours all season and shot a nice 8 point. But, the old guy won’t get to hunt many more seasons and so I was more just very glad he got a Buck. Reluctant to give up on all the work I had done at my own location, but happy to try something new, I accepted my FIL’s offer. The sit came and went, it was warm and still, and all I had seen was the birds doing their usual thing. . I was kicking back In the stand as the light dwindled, thinking about how ridiculous it was that I had been hunting something for 3 years that never even seen in person. I was feeling particularly down this time, starting to think about the time and money I had put into this without even a look, contemplating next year’s options. As usual, I started to slowly pack up my gear whilst casually glancing out to the catch the last bit of shooting light. A deer walks out from the broom weed under the feeder. I quickly established it was a small doe and consoled myself again that at 0least I had seen a 4 legged animal. I watched her eat for a minute and started thinking about how the buck shot from this very stand last week, had chased a doe in. At first she seemed calm and I figured it was just my usual doe sighting, but she quickly began looking back into the bushes from where she came, this was behavior I had not seen before in person. I thought to myself, there’s either yotes, hogs, or a buck somewhere in there. At that moment she jumped into the air and ran off in the opposite direction from where she came. Immediately afterwards I saw the biggest body I had ever seen come charging in, nose on the ground. I knew it was a buck, but his head was in the broom weed, frustratingly out of sight. As I raised my bino’s, he raised his head and turned straight on, this guy was easily legal, my first experience of buck fever pretty much knocked the breath out of me. After 3 years, I was almost so surprised to see a Buck, I could barely function. The next minute was a blur, but this is what I remember.
I quickly squished my headphones into my ears, got my gun up and watched him slowly shuffle around under the feeder nose on ground, face on. I began to get worried he was going to bolt after the doe without presenting a shot and determined that at this distance I was desperate enough to take a shot even if only a quarter towards presented itself. Eventually he turned side on, before I even had time to gather myself, I had taken the shot. He sprinted off at full speed into the bushes and I sat and listened as he crashed around, and then silence. A minute later, I text my FIL and he said he would be over with the truck and lights in 30. I sat and wondered if I had even hit him. I was sure I had, but he ran off at such full speed I couldn’t believe he had been injured. My only indication was that I thought I heard a dull thud of the bullet hitting him. As I sat there, the doe walked back out and started to eat corn at the exact spot he had been stood. I thought to myself that this probably wasn’t a good sign. My FIL arrived and we drove up there. After 5 minutes under and around the feeder, we couldn’t find a drop of blood and naturally my heart was sinking fast! Desperately hoping for some indication, we started to work our way out in the direction he had bolted to see if we could pick up a trail, about 20 yards away my FIL stopped and said he could smell him. We flashed our lights around and 15 yards away there he was, expired in the bushes. The sense of relief was unbelievable and as I walked up to him, It didn’t even occur to me to look at his horns. I was just so relieved to not have missed, and got it done after 3 years.
As we pulled him out, we realized we’d never seen this guy on camera before and he was pretty solid for our lease. He’s no record breaker, but far better than I could have hoped for my first Buck. The pictures and texts to my wife and friends ensued. My main thought was that I could finally enjoy being out in the woods again without having this dang monkey on my back.