Tricks for taking more whitetails

This is the reason so many folks in Texas spend so much time hunting deer. You n

The crazy thing about deer hunting is that you never know what to expect from one minute to the next. That’s the big draw for the well over 700,000 hunters in Texas.

Lumberton’s Phil Brannan has been hunting deer for decades and got the surprise of his life a couple of weeks ago. He was in a Hill Country blind, it was just about dark thirty and all of a sudden, a big 8-pointer comes strutting out of the brush. He was in full rut, and Brannan new instantly that it was now or never. He made the shot and tagged the biggest buck of his deer-hunting career.

“I went from nearly falling asleep to wild excitement in an instant,” he says. “That’s what deer hunting is all about.”

Last season while hunting on the Bell ranch near Lampasas, I was leaning up against a big oak tree, looked up and saw a huge buck running a doe. I thought that was pretty weird seeing as how it was late December. The rut was long over but, like I said, in the world of Texas deer hunting, you never know what to expect . I watched that action for a good 15 minutes before I could move without being seen.

I went back to camp and found three wooden crates, loaded them up, along with my limb clippers, and headed back out. Within about 30 minutes, I had completed a makeshift ground blind that blended in with the terrain perfectly. First I leaned the wooden pallets up against a few oak trees. Next I cut brush and pushed them into the slats of the crate. When it was done, I placed a folding chair inside the blind and it was ready to go.

That evening I returned to the blind, got set up and less than 15 minutes later, I’m looking at the same “hot” doe being chased by that same big buck. I took my time and, low and behold, they came right to me. When I shot the buck at 23 yards with a .223 AR-15, he bolted around a nearby patch of cedar brush and dropped dead. He weighed 187 pounds on the hoof. That’s huge for a Hill Country buck.

I’m a big-time believer in walking up late season deer. That’s when you can see them in places nobody else hunts. And when you set up in that type of hunting arena, anything is possible — especially the chance of getting a shot at a nice buck when he least expects it.

Probably the best way to shoot a late-season buck anywhere in Texas is to still hunt them. That involves slowly slipping around the ranch or lease at just about any time of day. This is how I’ve killed lots of unsuspecting deer. It’s a fun way to hunt. You don’t get bored sitting in a stand, you’re always on the move, and you never know where or when a deer is going to show up.

Still hunting is a good tactic when a front is moving in. The wind and rain will mask your movement. If at all possible, set up in a high-activity area directly after a rain. Deer will more than likely hunker down during a short period of rain, then feed after things clear up.

A good pair of binoculars is a must whenever and wherever you deer hunt in Texas. For the past 34 years, I’ve been hunting with a pair of Steiner Military Marine 7X50 binoculars. They are expensive but probably the best piece of hunting equipment I own. The glass is German made, high quality, clear and easy to focus. That’s what you need when doing any type of deer hunting, especially during late-season hunts when you might be on the ground and on the move.

Another part of my go-anywhere, anytime deer hunting gear is a pair of knee-high, snake proof Redhead hunting boots. They are lightweight, comfortable, zip up and are made of fang-proof Cordura. The last thing I want to do is have to watch out for snakes when I’m deer hunting.

One very good way to sneak up on late-season bucks is to use a creek. I killed an exceptional buck a few years ago while hunting the creek bottoms in Polk County. The trick is to move along in the creek or the banks. Most creeks have high banks. Those are the best. You can ease up those banks, find a tree to lean on and see what comes by. Deer love to follow the high edge of creeks. It’s not only a good source of food, but also a quick escape route.

Using trail cameras is a great way to spy on bucks that are just about totally nocturnal. Ron Jaap, who has a PhD in deer biology from Texas A&M, is a firm believer in trail cameras.

“Where I hunt, the bucks are spread out all over the place,” said Jaap. “I do a lot of driving around looking for big bucks. Once I see one, I’ll set up a game camera along a trail in that area. Sometimes I see nothing. But it’s always exciting to check out a camera and see a big buck on video. That’s when I’ll set up a makeshift blind and hunt the area several times. It’s a very good tactic for hunting the last few weeks of the season.”