Whitetail Deer Hunt: An Excuse to Return

There’s an old East Texas saying that’s used to explain why you don’t plan on traveling to a particular place. Let’s say a friend has suggested that you pack up and head for New Orleans with him. You might scratch your head and stall for time while trying to word your negative response as delicately as possible.

“I never lost anything in New Orleans,” is what you’d say. The implication is that, since you never lost anything in New Orleans (certainly nothing you’d care to get back), you have no reason to go there.

My wife and daughter went to Germany one summer. They flew for 11 hours, one way, on an airplane. They paid $200 one night to stay in a hotel with no air conditioning. They saw lots of real old buildings and still talk about how bad the traffic was. They had a great time and they want me to go back with them, but I never lost anything in Germany.

I lost something in the pine forests whilte hunting in texas one time. It was during a misting rain. I was texas hunting at the invitation of a major timber company. The afternoon before, I’d shot the best whitetail deer I’d ever seen up until that time, a mature 20-inch-wide 8-pointer, and I was feeling pretty good.

Now I was sitting in a tree stand overlooking an oat patch so green that it almost appeared to be neon. A doe trotted out of the thick woods on the far side of the food plot and frisked about in that coy style that guarantees you’re about to see a buck.

I saw him 30 seconds after the whitetail buck first appeared. He was bigger than the whitetail deer I’d shot the day before while hunting in texas — a brute of a deep-woods buck with a swollen neck, sticky black hocks, and thick antlers. I watched him chase the doe in and out of that oat patch for 30 minutes. The doe wasn’t much interested in losing her suitor, although she almost lost him once, when I actually shouldered the rifle and counted coup through the scope before talking myself out of the shot. At one point, the deer was within 50 yards of my stand. It was mid-November, though, and the good deer hunting down south had not even begun so hunting in texas was yet to go into full swing. I was reluctant to spend my only two buck tags within a 12-hour period and effectively end my hunting season before it was good and started. So I lost that whitetail buck there in the thick woods — just let him walk away to spread his genes and become, with any luck, the best buck some other hunter had ever shot.

A lot of people think New York City is a mighty fine place. To me , New York seems like the kind of mess you’d have if you took the populations of Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin and stacked them into a place about the size of Waco, except the surrounding countryside is not nearly as interesting. I never lost anything in New York.

I lost something in the rolling plains of West Texas one crisp November morning while hunting in texas after a brilliant sun had melted the frost that glittered like diamonds at first light. Chuck Dalchau had spotted a whitetail buck with a doe through his spotting scope and had driven me to the spot where the pair had entered a brushy draw.

“He was so far away, I couldn’t tell much about him,” said Chuck. “I just know he was wide.”

That’s a good place to start so I eased into the cover, encouraged by a light wind in my face. A game trail penetrated the brush and I stayed on it, moving as slowly and as quietly as possible. I stopped once to glass four does on the opposite side of the draw. The whitetail buck wasn’t with them.

I must not have moved as quietly as I thought because a doe suddenly stood up from where she’d been bedded in a tangle of briars about 75 yards across a side ravine. I still had the wind in my favor, but the doe had heard me. She was giving me the wide-eyed stare when the buck stood up beside her.

My first impulse was to shoot and shoot quickly! Chuck was right. The whitetail buck was wide, probably 22 inches of inside spread. His antlers were extremely thick. Through the scope, I could see the steamy vapor from his breath in the cold morning air. Pumped full of testosterone, he gave me a hard look, as if challenging me to take his girlfriend away.

Unfortunately, he had only eight points and they weren’t particularly long. The weather was perfect, I had two more days to hunt, and I had my heart set on a deer with 10 points or more. I lost that 8-pointer when he followed his girlfriend into a clump of thick brush. Passing up the shot was a decision I’ve regretted many times since.

I saw a ballet once in Dallas. Dressed up in coat and tie, I watched athletic men and women pirouette across a stage. They were dancing The Nutcracker, which, I understand, does not classify as a fancy ballet. I’m glad I went but I’m not likely to see another ballet unless someone I know is dancing. I never lost anything at the ballet.

I lost something on the Lohn Valley Ranch near Brady one crisp November morning while texas hunting. Not long after the sun spilled color across the green stubble of winter wheatfield, I saw the deer step out of a mesquite thicket on the far side of the field.

He had the deep body and bulky neck of a mature whitetail buck. At 250 yards, my 8-power binoculars confirmed what I already suspected. The buck carried a great rack with 10 long points accented by three kickers. Alas, I’d shot another good buck two days earlier and was hunting does this morning. For the next 20 minutes, I watched this deer as he fed on the wheat and interacted with several other whitetail bucks and does in the field. He had a small puncture wound on the left side of his neck, an obvious momento of a recent dominance battle.

The deer wasn’t really doing anything other than going about the business of being a dominant buck on a glorious November morning. Because I had no intention of shooting him, I could fully appreciate the graceful subtleties of his movements. On the wheatfield stage, he unwittingly danced for 20 minutes, the performance better than any ballet I can imagine. Then he disappeared with nary a curtain call.

Occasionally, some friends of mine will jet off to Mexico where they lie in the sun on sandy beaches, drink exotic liquids served in glasses festooned with toy umbrellas, and barter with roving vendors over the price of useless trinkets. I’ve visiting a few Mexican resort cities but I never lost anything there.

I did lose something in deep South Texas, once while texas hunting. It was a misty January morning. David Davis and I were huddled in an open tower blind, trying to protect binoculars and scopes from the moisture when a major buck strolled out and began feeding beside a handful of does and smaller bucks.

In retrospect, I should have grabbed my rifle and shot the deer the instant he appeared, but David and I were both playing it cool. We studied the buck first through binoculars, then through the powerful spotting scope. His beams swooped as they headed toward their forward curve even with the buck’s nose. Even the broken tine did little to detract from the reality that we were glassing a great whitetail. Three kicker points added character to a rack that didn’t really need much help. We smiled at each other and whispered excitedly about how good this buck looked. As the deer moved farther away, I finally laid my rifle across the blind and tracked him with the scope, passing up two marginal shots, waiting for the perfect broadside, standing chance I was confident would present itself. The scope 8-power tunnel vision kept me from realizing that the deer was about to exit the clearing. Finally, he did just that and we never saw him again.

Through nobody’s fault but mine, I lost that wonderful buck in the brushy motte of southern Texas, a texas hunting experience I will never forget. Over the years, I’ve lost a dozen such deer in similar places while texas hunting. Most of the time, I made a conscious decision not to shoot. Or maybe it was a subconscious decision to lose the buck. That way, there’s always an excuse to return.

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