Sunday, April 20, 2014
Texas is a long way from Maine. Geographically it’s about as far away as you can get and still find white-tailed deer. And in terms of deer it seems even more distant. In Texas a hunter might see a dozen or more deer in a day’s hunt. In Maine, a hunter might see a deer in a dozen days of hunting. That’s why I was particularly excited to be jetting southwest to Eldorado in early December.
It didn’t hurt that the rut should be kicking in just about the time we arrived. We, in this case included Tim Anderson from Mossy Oak camo, Dave Miles from Mossberg firearms, JJ Reich from Federal ammunition and fellow writer Doug Howlett.
The first order of business, as it should be on any destination hunt, was a quick sight-in session. We were shooting Mossberg’s 100 ATR Deer Thugs rifle paired with Federal’s Deer Thugs ammo. We all wanted to be sure the sights were still on, and they were.
That dispensed with, we headed out for our first afternoon sit. Howlett and I were paired with guide Bunk Galbreath. Steve Anderson meticulously manages the free-range whitetails on his Vatoville ranch and insists all hunters are accompanied by a guide. I was more than happy to have Bunk along. Steve requests that his hunters shoot only mature bucks, and West Texas whitetails have much smaller bodies, making it difficult for a foreigner like me to judge their age.
The action started slowly, as it often does, with a few does and small bucks. As the sun dipped below the treetops, deer sightings increased and Bunk’s presence proved purposeful. We saw several nice bucks that, if left alone, I would not have hesitated to shoot. It was a good warm-up, and expectations were high for the following day.
I wasn’t disappointed. Sitting with guide John Mayer I saw even more deer, and more tempters, but they did not fit the bill. With the morning sit over, we moved from place to place hoping to rattle in a shooter. With the rut kicking in, those Texas deer responded well to the horns. We rattled in bucks in six of seven attempts but again, they didn’t fit the bill.
That afternoon I was paired again with Bunk, and Dave Miles, who had tagged out in the morning. We were again treated to numerous sightings, including a buck that sorely tempted me. His antlers were not wide, but the beams were thick and tall. I thought, “If that’s not a shooter, I can’t wait to see what is.” My chance would come soon enough.
For the third morning hunt I drew guide Ben Lawrence. And this time we were after a specific buck, a big 10-point that had been seen near one particular blind. The sun came up and the deer came out, but it was all does and young specimens. Watching their behavior was educational and entertaining, but not the reason we were there.
Deer movement subsided with the rising sun and temperatures. We were starting to think about leaving when a buck showed up, not a shooter, but an older deer. He was soon joined by another, then another.
“That’s him,” Ben calmly said as the 10-point emerged from the mesquite and cedar thicket.
That was all I needed to hear. It took several anxious moments to calm myself before I took the shot. The buck ran a short distance then dropped.
I felt very fortunate to spend a few days with some great folks in a wonderful location. Texas is one of those bucket list destinations that every serious whitetail hunter should visit at least once. The chance to observe so many deer in such a short span of time is reward enough. Taking a trophy buck, if it happens, is icing on the cake. And this time I devoured it.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: