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#6561379 - 11/27/16 08:52 PM Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them
Kawabuggy Offline
Pro Tracker

Registered: 01/14/08
Posts: 1745
Loc: Houston, TX
This will be a long post. You have been fore-warned.

I've been hunting Sam for 8 years now trying to kill a legal deer. For the record, I have killed does when I've been lucky enough to draw a doe tag. I've also passed on many spikes-at least 8 that I can remember off the top of my head. I've never shot a spike, and don't plan on ever doing it (just my personal preference). I've also watched WAY TOO MANY basket racked 6 & 8 point deer walking around (but that's another subject). Getting that legal deer that is 13" or wider inside spread has never happened. To date I have NEVER seen a 13" wide, or wider, deer on the hoof in Sam. I know they exist, I've just never seen one.

To those of you that think scouting a good location is the answer.. You have it all wrong. Do not waste your time scouting because if you scout early season and find good sign, the deer will be long gone by the time hunting season starts (my trail cameras bear this fact out every single year). Further, if you are scouting right before, or even during, season-all you are doing is blowing the deer out of that area and it will be a LONG time before they come back. So, stop wasting time scouting is the best advise I can give you.

Last year I basically picked a spot on Google Earth, walked in, got in my climber and spooked a doe within 30 minutes of being in the tree-that was during bow season. For the rest of the season I went back to old spots that I had used previously where I had seen deer. Never saw a deer again in any place that I had been to previously. At the end of the season, I decided to just pick another spot, walk in, and have a sit. I had two does walk within shooting range, but alas-I had no doe tag.

So far this season I've hunted every weekend (16 times in total including bow season and some days when I left work early) except this last weekend as I was out of state on vacation. I have not seen a SINGLE deer at any of my locations that I have hunted up to this point this season. It's important to note that all of the stands I've hunted so far this year are stands I've seen deer at in previous years. Tonight, I decided I would just randomly pick a spot on Google Earth (as I have successfully before) and go for it. It gets better after this...

I park my truck on side of the road, get my gear & climbing stand on, and start walking further down the road. I don't like to park right where I enter the woods because I think the deer are watching me and laughing, and then I never see them. So, I walk at least 1/4 mile and then just randomly pick a spot and enter the woods. This is rough going. No trail, & plenty of thick sticker briars. It took me at least 30 minutes to penetrate 50 yards into the woods. I am now cut & bleeding in multiple locations, and have exhausted all swear words in the book. I continue though knowing the deer are just relaxing a little further in drinking Pina Coladas and sharing stories of about how they eluded hunters. After I get another 50 yards or so into the impenetrable mass, it begins to open up to the typical pine tree jungle with sparse undergrowth that I am used to. I realize I am in a place that no other hunters ever go.. No trash on the ground. No marking tape on trees/branches. No indications at all that ANYONE has been in there before. But, also, no indications that there would be any deer either. Ground is covered in pine needles so I could not see any tracks. I can see up ahead that there is a group of oak trees. I know the oaks have been dropping acorns and the deer are feeding on them so I decide I will just set up on the perimeter of this oak mot, play the wind and see what happens. At this point, I'm only 200 yards from the very busy paved road on which I parked my truck. I can occasionally hear the Harley motorcycles with their loud exhaust going by. I did not want to go further in as going back through that sticker briar forest in the darkness DID NOT appeal to me at all. I have no light, no compass, and no means of navigating out if I get lost, so I keep it simple by not going too far in. I DID check Google Earth with my phone and used the distance app to be sure I was legally far enough away from the road, and I also oriented myself such that I was not shooting back towards the road from my climber. At this point I'm at the eastern end of the oak mot, and the wind is out of the west. I decide I don't want to face into the wind as the sun will be setting and I don't want to be staring into the sun for the next 3 hours. So, I work my way around the edge of the mot until I'm on the North side facing south looking into the mot. Wind is now a cross wind to me blowing from my right to my left. I get up about 12 feet in the tree and can see that I have a good clear view of the ground for at least 30 yards straight ahead of me. If I look back the direction I came, there are a few lanes between trees that will allow me to see at least 75 yards. But, I walked in that way, and the wind is blowing that way, so no chance a deer will be over there. Okay, 30 minutes in the blind and I notice LOTS of recent hog activity under the oaks. The entire ground is torn up. I realize after looking through my rifle scope that there are NO acorns on the ground anywhere. So, now I've randomly chosen a spot in the woods with no deer sign, no acorns, no pinch points, and nothing that would appeal to a deer at all. This is typical for me. I seem to have a knack for picking spots least likely to be frequented by deer. But my luck is about to change.

About 35 minutes in I can hear something off to my right walking but I can't see more than about 25 yards due to thick undergrowth. I keep hearing it though so I decide to crane my head a full 90 degrees to my right.. Keep in mind I'm a right handed shooter so if I see something I will have to rotate my entire body to get a shot. And then I see it.. Yep, it's a deer!!!!!

Just the sight of this deer leaves me in shock.. I'm just not believing what I'm seeing so I sit there watching it move slowly at an angle getting closer to me but also heading behind my tree stand. As it moves it is obstructed by branches, and trees, but finally I can see it's head, and it is a doe. So, NOT LEGAL FOR ME. After a while she is too far behind/off to my right and I just can't hold that position trying to watch her anymore. I face forward again. I then hear her back behind me, off to my right again and turn to look and she is now moving back the same direction that she came, but trotting as if something is bothering her. Maybe she caught my scent? She did not blow, and did not flag, just trotted off to the right until I could not see her anymore. That was cool. Had I had a doe tag, it would have been easy pickens' and within 30 minutes of climbing the tree.

Another few minutes go by and I'm now alternating looking forward and to my right hoping I might see the doe again. I hear something really close to me and look down and slightly right and there is a doe at 15 yards. I did not hear her prior to this, and never saw her moving towards me. It's not the same doe I saw before as this one was heading directly towards my tree from 1:00 O' clock. By the time I heard her, she was on top of me. She stopped dead in her tracks and I froze like a statue. I could see she was not looking up, but she was doing that thing where they move their head side to side, and up and down.. Ears at full alert. She's sniffing the air intermittently but the wind is in my favor. Finally I realize she is keyed in on my backpack which I lowered to the ground with my bow string that I use to lift/lower my bow with. She has it pegged and is not sure what it is. I see her slowly pick up a front leg and I know what's about to happen.. She stomps that front leg but never takes her eyes off the back-pack. She then lifts that front leg again, and stomps it again! I'm so pumped at this point because she has not blown yet, and has not ruined my hunt.. I wait to see what she is going to do and as if God himself whispered in her ear, she just suddenly lifts her head and looks right at me. Instantly she lets out a little huff, and then runs off about 5 yards and stops to look back. I'm still frozen. I have not moved a muscle and I'm just hoping she leaves without further incident. She then starts to make a wide circle around me back to my right and behind me. As I lose sight of her out of my peripheral vision I slowly turn my head right and keep watching her until I just can't contort my body anymore to see behind me. I know she is trying to get down wind of me. I slowly stand up and turn and face the tree because I know she is 30 yards directly behind my tree. I'm now leaning against the tree with my upper body facing her direction with just my head off the right side of the tree. I can see her angling back towards my position through the thick stuff. I can only see bits and pieces of her, but I can see the brown spots occasionally through small pockets of openings. She gets to within 10 yards of my tree, and stops, and looks straight up at me. If I had drawn my pistol I could have easily shot her in the face.. We are making eye contact and then she sniffs the air-wheezes, turns and starts running straight away at about a half trot. She does not flag though, but wheezes at least twice more. I can see her come to a stop about 25 to 30 yards out and she is starting to move back towards the west, into the wind, where she came from. At this point, I decide my hunt may be busted, but I throw out my squirrel bark. I can imitate a squirrel like nobody's business. Seriously. I give 3-5 quick squirrel barks followed by a squirrel wheeze. At this, she puts her head down, and just slowly starts walking back through the bushes as if nothing happened. Maybe my hunt is not over?

I decide that since everything is happening to my right, I might as well move my stand to better face that direction and I will be facing directly into the wind. I wait until the wind is blowing pretty good to mask my sound and I slowly begin the rather scary job of moving my climbing stand around the tree to better face where most of the activity has been. I get my stand situated so that the path the doe walked to me is about my 10:00 O' clock. Nothing happens at all for the next 2 hours and I'm starting to lose light.

The mosquitoes are just starting to get busy, and I find that one has landed on my right cheek and is drinking himself silly. As I move my right hand to swat him away-it happens! A buck had literally walked right to within 20 yards of my position and had been standing there for God knows how long. When I moved, it spooked him. He snorted like the first part of a snort wheeze and then trotted off about 5 yards and then stopped. At this point, his head was obscured so I picked up my rifle and got on him as quickly as I could. When I moved to pick up my rifle he began moving again. I could see through the scope only his left eye, and the antlers on his left side. I counted 4 points before I lost sight of his head behind a tree. I could not shoot as I did not know if he was legal or not. He has stopped and I have his head between two trees, but all I can see is the left side of his head!! He inches forward and now all I can see is his front leg, and his heart! It could have been perfect, but I still don't know if he is legal. He puts his head down as I can see his neck pointing down and inches a little more forward.. I'm waiting for his head to clear the other side so I can see what he is.. I can now only see his rear hip through the opening between the trees.. And that's the last I saw of him. Best I can figure is he turned and walked straight away from me with the tree protecting his escape. He never came out the left side of the tree... I can tell you his antlers were white at the tips, and a darker chocolate brown right at the pad on his head.. What I can't tell you is if he was legal or not. I sat there for another 15 minutes hoping he would come back but I lost shooting light and could not see anything clearly through my scope anymore.

The good; Walking into unscouted, uncharted, areas has proven again and again to be the most successful way for me to see deer.

The bad; I should have brought my Thermacell and then I wouldn't have swatted at that mosquitoe. I guess, even if I hadn't have spooked him I still may not have seen him as he got that close to me and I never heard him, or saw him so there's a good chance that I may never have even seen him had I not spooked him.

Will I go back to that spot? No. My experience has proven to me that once I see deer at one location in Sam, I NEVER see them there again.

If anybody wants to join me for a hunt, please PM me and let's see if we can tag team them!

I saw 3 deer from one stand in Sam.. That's a first!
A hog is nothing more than a bullet receptacle.

#6561441 - 11/27/16 09:18 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
Harrier Offline
Bird Dog

Registered: 10/31/11
Posts: 407
Loc: San Antonio
Cool story. I've had similar experiences on public land -- I once looked up to see a large buck maybe 30 yards from my ground blind looking me straight in the eye, and before I could even lift my rifle, he snorted and took off. Another time I jumped a shooter buck on a trail, seconds after passing some hunters going the other direction. I try to think of these as learning experiences or signs that I'm in the right areas instead of blown opportunities, but that doesn't always work.

Keep at it. I kept hoping there would be a photo of you and your buck at the end. Someday there will be.

#6561670 - 11/28/16 06:30 AM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
lunkerm Offline

Registered: 11/15/10
Posts: 70
Great story! Luck is pretty fickle! I hope you get your deer

#6562312 - 11/28/16 12:37 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
Chunky Monkey Offline
Pro Tracker

Registered: 12/03/14
Posts: 1606
Good story.

#6562894 - 11/28/16 06:53 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
decook Online   content
Pro Tracker

Registered: 08/26/09
Posts: 1638
Loc: Montgomery, TX USA
If anybody wants to join me for a hunt, please PM me and let's see if we can tag team them!

That's a great offer. Eight years of experience in this type of hunting is worth alot. I'm hunting the Sam too. This is my first year to do it. This is the toughest hunting I have done, and I come from New Mexico. After struggling for just a few mere yards through the worst of the hate vines, I have a new respect for the common house fly getting caught by a Venus Fly Trap. My wife said I lost some weight but it was really just blood loss. Hunting the SHNF will cause anemia.

Kawabuggy I'm going to PM you a couple of spots that I have been to in the last week. If nothing else you can use the info on where not to go. I saw very few tracks and the ones I did see were over 3 days old (or more).

I have seen 3 stands and only one other hunter. One stand was steel, the other two home made and fastened to trees with straps. I didn't check to see if they had nails or screws in the tree too.

All my hunting has been on the ground with a ground chair. That's just about worthless because the weeds and growth is just about 5 foot high. Finding an overlook hill is very tough to do that doesn't have the weeds. My climber is a month away - Maybe I'll ping you then.
Press for an AMERICAN.

#6563276 - 11/28/16 10:05 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
lunkerm Offline

Registered: 11/15/10
Posts: 70
Kinda makes me want to hunt there!!

#6563300 - 11/28/16 10:25 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
postoak Offline
Veteran Tracker

Registered: 08/19/09
Posts: 2942
Loc: The Woodlands, Tx
And this is why I opposed ARs for the SHNF. Getting any buck there is difficult. It would be interesting to compare buck harvest figures pre and post ARs.

#6563331 - 11/28/16 11:08 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
erok11 Offline
Bird Dog

Registered: 11/26/08
Posts: 474
Heck of an offer Kawa. I've been trying to decide whether to hunt Sam or Davy Crockett ... think I'm gonna hunt DCNF since I've been to a few spots years ago. Looking forward to hunting the piney woods again some.

#6564441 - 11/29/16 04:55 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
Indyoshi Offline

Registered: 10/12/15
Posts: 186
Loc: Dickinson, TX
I hunt the Sam. Got a spike last year opening day and saw at least ten deer so far this year. Passed on a 7 point that was too small. That was the only deer I saw in bow range. I have a couple spots that I regularly see deer, but no doe tag for me this year.
public hunting FB page

#6570241 - 12/03/16 06:22 PM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
bradshaw02 Offline

Registered: 08/26/05
Posts: 802
Loc: Katy
I have seen 3 bucks this year that were legal. Missed one with my bow, couldn't get a shot at the second, and shot the third. I have hunted the same spot seven different hunts and saw deer every time except once. It is a productive spot. Of course there have been other years where I haven't seen a legal deer. The hunting in the national forest is hard but I enjoy it that much more when I get a deer.

#6577228 - 12/08/16 07:44 AM Re: Sam Houston Deer are SMART.. Or, I'm Stupidererer Than Them [Re: Kawabuggy]
tx_basser Offline
Bird Dog

Registered: 09/16/05
Posts: 350
I hunted SHNF many years and it is tuff... but I saw quite a few deer. Found it easier to go in by boat, then travel by foot. I found that some of the weirdest places I saw deer like you mentioned.


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