Deer hunting is more than just pulling the trigger

Robert Sloan photo

The thing that draws millions of deer hunters into the wild is the element of surprise – you never know what’s going to show up at any given moment.

I was hunting with a friend a few days ago up in Burnet County. It was a blustery and warm morning just before a major cold front was due to move through. The deer were on the move, and right after first light, a huge buck eased out of the cedar brush just enough for me to see his antlers. He was no doubt the king of the woods in the area. Wayne Simmons was sitting next to me and obviously had not seen the buck. I hissed, he turned and froze.

“That is a shooter if I’ve ever seen one,” he whispered. We were motionless and about 80 yards from the buck. But before he could get his gun up, the buck, obviously spooked, backed into the brush and was gone. 

I had a pair of rattling horns at my feet, picked them up and clacked them together, shattering the quite morning air. Before I could whack the antlers together a second time that same buck came barreling around the corner of a bunch of cedar trees and was looking right at our ground blind.

“Shoot him right now,” I whispered.

Within an instant, Wayne squeezed off a shot, and the buck didn’t know what hit him.

“Wow,” he said. “Talk about intense. That was it.”

It was a beautiful buck, about as good as an eight-pointer gets in the Hill Country.

Stay flexible with a tripod stand

One sure-fire way to see more late season bucks is with a tripod stand. They are cheap, easy to transport and can be set up just about anywhere you can find deer, or pigs for that matter. You can buy these stands for under $150 all day long. Some of the heaviest deer ever shot in Texas have been tagged by a hunter sitting in a tripod. It’s an excellent way to see a lot of land. It’s also a good way to set up where bucks are traveling game trails, or have been seen chasing does.

One of the best hunts I’ve ever had didn’t even involve shooting a deer – it was more about watching a variety of game go by while I was perched on a tripod stand. I was on Bobby Spencer’s Devils River Ranch. That’s out in West Texas where you’ll find deep rocky canyons and some of the finest scenery in Texas. On top of some of those hills, you can see for miles. And with a really good pair of binoculars, you can zoom in on anything from a bobcat to a coyote, and deer that don’t have a clue they are being watched. Just watching wild animals is a hoot, and a big part of every deer hunt.

Another major draw to deer hunting is a dose of good old fashioned relaxation. One of the finer things you can do in life is sit in a deer stand on a cold morning. It’s an excellent way to forget the world and just take in the sights and sounds of the outdoors.


There is no doubt that deer hunting is about tagging tasty animals. But it’s a fact that just being on stand and not knowing what’s going to show up at any second will keep you on your toes.

Stuff you might not know

This is from a 1991 Dr. Harry Jacobson study from 15 years of records kept on a 150-head captive deer herd:

• Antler points of yearling bucks provided no correlation to antler development later in life.

• Spike-antlered yearlings were just as likely to produce large antlers later in life as 6- to 8-point yearlings.

• The prevalence of spike-antlered yearlings was correlated to birth date. No June-born bucks produced spike antlers, while 38 percent of September-born bucks produced spike antlers.

• Overall, the captive herd only produced spikes on 20 percent of yearling bucks, while adjacent private land produced spikes on 60 percent of yearling bucks, the only difference being nutrition.

• The best two sets of antlers produced over the 15 years (168 and 195 B & C points) were both 3-point bucks as yearlings.


• You can do little or nothing to improve antler genetics except to leave obviously superior bucks in the herd.