I shot my biggest buck. Was it the rut, or just pure luck?
I pulled into my lease in north-central Texas midday on Dec. 5. It was warm and windy. I had low expectations with the rut being in the rearview and no real weather to force deer into winter feed patterns. I got unpacked and headed to start checking cameras. The first two showed a few does and mostly younger bucks with the bucks feeding around in the dark or midmorning. The third camera showed much of the same, but as I was scrolling through, at 10:38 a.m. on Dec. 4, there stood the buck of my dreams. I checked the rest of the photos on that card, and that buck was only there one other time in the daylight, at midmorning two days prior. With afternoon fading to evening I decided to just hide my truck and post up right there for the evening. I sat for about 20 minutes and caught antlers moving down a wood line bordering a wheat field about 200 yards away. I immediately recognized that it was him. He was at a fast-paced walk, and his body language told me that he was traveling and not interested in food. I wasted no time and drilled him at 190 yards. He went straight down, and I had just collected my biggest whitetail ever.
The next day I spent all my time checking cameras just to see what was really happening with the deer. I noticed that most of the 3-year-old and older bucks were feeding midmorning and after dark. My buck was on various cameras over the few days prior to my killing him. This leads me to believe he was traveling around trying to clean up any remaining does in estrus. I've sat and watched a lot of deer in the few days since. Bucks are still sparring, but I haven't witnessed any full-on fighting. I watched a pretty nice buck lip curl and eventually spar with and chase off another buck, though no does were present at the time. The does are not very active at feeders right now and judging from what I've seen, I think the second estrus either just happened or is just getting ready to start. Either way, it's a great time to be in the woods in North Texas. I strongly suggest sitting through midmorning, all the way until lunchtime if possible, and if you must get out of your blind or stand, be back in it early in the afternoon. The majority of the daylight buck activity I have witnessed has been two to four hours after daylight and one to three hours before dark.
In South Texas, things are just heating up. Bucks are starting to rut pretty good. If you pay attention to social media at all, you can see that the big boys are starting to show themselves. Pre-rut or early rut tactics are the way to go right now with bucks traveling and staging up, although I do have some reports of breeding already. Rattling has been working well from the reports I have been getting. Now is the best time to be hunting with the peak of the rut for most of South Texas still to come in the next few weeks.
The southern half of New Mexico and Arizona is getting better by the day, with a lot of pre-rut traveling and staging activity. The best days are still ahead for sure, but now is a great time to catch a big buck moving from whatever hidey hole he lives in all year to where he will rut. There is enough activity in the southern half of the region that if the season is open and you have a tag, go hunting.
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