I was able to spend 17 days hunting Mule Deer on our lease west of Ft. Stockton. I left on Thanksgiving morning to head to lease. We hunt on about 108 sections of mainly rolling terrain. Average rainfall is around 11" per year. This year the ranch HQ got over 14" and then another 2.6"+ of rain on Friday night thru Sunday morning after Thanksgiving. Many areas of the ranch had closer to 20" for the year. It was the greenest we have seen in 9 yrs of hunting. We expected hunting to be tough with all the green and it did disappoint us on that fact. Best hunting weather was the first week. I chose not to hunt Friday afternoon or any on Saturday due to rain, fog and ice on south end of ranch. Past experience in that type of weather has been disappointing for deer hunting. 2 of my friends did brave the weather and had a good day of hunting in miserable weather hunting from a Polaris Ranger. They were soaked when the day was over. Deer sightings were good the first few days then went down as the temps rose. The mornings turned out to be the best hunting after the first week with lows in the low to upper 30's. Afternoon temps went from 50 's the first week to upper 80's the end of second week. Deer would not get up till late in the afternoons. Mature buck sightings were way down. With all the green in the drainage bottoms and thick green cover, they had no reason to leave those areas. We have limited elevation to see down in the bottoms. Makes for tough hunting. We had 4 bucks taken in the 2 weeks of hunting out of 8 hunters. One buck was right at 170, another was 166+, a 156+ and 152+. 3 bucks were 7+ on age and one was 5. Here a few pics I took with one camera. I had both cameras and had over 200 pics on the second one of scenery, sunrises, bucks and kill pics of the 4 bucks. I somehow formatted the card from that camera, deleting those pics. We had seen this buck a couple of days before roaming. He came across a greasewood ridge mid-morning and was moving north. Then two days later I saw him at daylight about 1.5 miles to the east. He stayed in this area all day long from daylight till dark. Then was never seen again. This was Dec. 5th
On Dec. 7th I found this buck around 9:30 in the morning. I had sat till 8:30 on one spot with no success glassing then started to move and glass. I spotted 6 does/fawns and stopped to glass them at 250 yards. I sat for 10 minutes and saw no bucks. I moved up closer and this buck jumped up and ran at the does. He started pushing them around and checking everyone of them. I took some of these pics at 200 yards and some at 160 yards.
After I moved up to the 160 yard range, I jumped another young buck on a rock pile that was bedded with the older buck. He was laying on top of it. I moved passed him and took some more pics. After sitting and watching the older buck work does for 10 minutes I turned around behind me to see this starring at me at 70 yards. They were laying on a rock pile in thick cover and thought they were well hidden. There were 4 bucks with the does. The does were feeding in taller greasewood. The bucks were laying on rock piles that were giving them elevation to watch the does feed.
These last 2 bucks would not get up as I took these pics. Finally the one buck was in the sun and it was getting warmer. He got up to move into a shady spot and I think to hide from me. I literally watched him paw the rocks out the way for place to bed down again in thicker more shaded cover.
On my last evening of hunting on Friday, I was finally able to take an older buck. I did not realize it was the same buck I had seen and taken pics of on the 7th. I had hunted that morning on the 11th and left the area I was hunting to try and find him with no success. He has moved 2 miles to the east. He got up at 5:50 pm at 300 yards. I made a quick stalk in on him to 160 yards and made took the shot.
When I saw this buck on the 7th, I new he was mature. I thought he was around 19" or so inside and around 150 gross. I still had several days left to hunt, so I passed him. What was deceptive about him was his size. He field dressed 197 lbs. He had a huge head and a was very long bodied. Looking at this first pic, he looks no where near 22" inside.
The pics of him on the ground were on the card I formatted . So this is all the pics I have of him. His inside spread was 22" and was a 5x6. I did not realize it was the same buck till driving home I remembered the G4 and straight beam on his left side. I downloaded my pics I had taken Saturday night and found it was him. I had not seen the split left browtine when taking the pics of him. He grossed just over 156.
All in all, hunting Mule Deer on this ranch is my favorite hunt of the year now. Even with the difficult conditions the past 2 yrs, I would not trade a single day of my hunts out West.