“THE BLOODY BUCK went the wrong way!” whispered Dean Stubbs in a heavy professional hunter, Zimbabwean accent.
“He’s trying to get down wind. He’ll reappear to our right,” he hissed.
I kept rattling.
Soon as the buck reappeared I grunted a guttural “Ekkkkk!” The buck stopped. He had one great antler and the other “mis-shaped.” He looked behind and to his right. I suspected another buck was about to make an appearance.
Dean, on a “busman’s holiday” from his normal guiding and outfitting in Africa was on the FTW Ranch, nestled in the middle of no-where northwest of Uvalde. He was helping squire me around on the spacious ranch.
Dean wagged his head indicating not to shoot. He knew I was tempted. The buck standing broadside in the open grassy patch was a really good Texas Hill Country whitetail.
“Been seeing a really big ten, with a short drop-tine running with the buck you are looking at,” Dean stage-whispered. “If you can find him, I think you’ll like him a lot more.”
I nodded, and lowered my Ruger Guide Rifle. It was loaded with Hornady’s .375 Ruger 300-grain DGX ammo, which my rifle dearly loved.
The buck with the messed-up antler took several steps forward. A nice eight-point stepped out. I kept rattling.
The two bucks started to walk away. I snort-wheezed, “fit,fit,fit-ffffeeeeeeeeee.” Both bucks turned, came back toward us. “I love messing with whitetails,” I quipped, almost out loud.
Just then another buck stepped out. This one ran up to us. He stopped a few steps away. He had ten points with an outside spread well past his erect ears. No doubt he was mature.
My Ruger came up to shooting position as I glanced at Dean. He again shook his head.
The buck started walking away. I grunted. He stopped and turned to look at us. Again, I looked at Dean.
He mouthed the word, “No!”
I continued “messing” with the bucks for another three minutes, grunting at them as well as snort wheezing, the most aggressive vocalization a buck makes.
It was a sound I first heard back in the late 1960s when I worked with captive deer for Texas’s then Wildlife Disease Project. I had used grunts and snort-wheezes many times since, with great success.
Finally, the bucks walked away.
A couple of days later, I was in the same area with my then-cameraman, Blake Barnett. Today, Blake is co-host of our DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon television show which appears year-round on Pursuit Channel.
I started rattling. Four bucks responded. The last one to come in was the wide, massive ten-point with the short drop-tine that Dean had told me about. I wasted no time getting crosshairs on the buck and pulling the trigger.
His antlers were impressive! He was large of body and absolutely delicious.
A couple years later, I hunted near Llano in the Texas Hill Country, again being filmed for our TV show. At my side was long-time friend Chris Treiber.
“I suggest we set up on a food plot in the central part of the property, Chris said. There are several good bucks visiting it. They’ve got scrapes along the edges.
”We’ve got an elevated blind there, but I know you like hunting on the ground and from natural blinds. There’s a rock wall we can set up behind, with trees and brush behind. I think you’ll like the place.”
A short time later, we drove to where he suggested. I immediately fell in love with the place.
Later that afternoon, several young bucks made their appearance, along with numerous does. One of the younger bucks had a huge set of antlers, but he was not yet mature. I strive only to take five-year-old and older bucks.
After dark, I compared notes with Blake Barnett. He was also hunting the Sandstone. Blake had seen a couple of really good bucks. He said he would have taken one of them had the buck given him a killing shot.
As we sat around the campfire, the wind changed and blew briskly out of the north. The temperature started dropping. By get-up time the next predawn, the temperature dropped to near freezing, and it was cloudy, threatening snow.
It was black, in spite of a full moon high above a thick layer of moisture laden skies, but soon turned to graying light. Shapes moved in the food plot and eventually morphed into deer, bucks and does. Most were young bucks and a couple of “almost shooters.” Then they were gone.
“Want to go back to camp for breakfast?” questioned Chris.
“No, let’s stick it out until at least one o’clock,” I replied. “Tempting, but I think the bigger bucks will move during mid-day with the full moon,” I added. “Shot some of my best whitetails from ten in the morning till three in the afternoon when there’s been a full moon shining all night long.”
We saw no deer movement until a few minutes after ten. Then, deer started appearing in the food plot. First came does and six-month-old fawns, then bucks, both young and old.
Near high noon, across the field through a screening of brush, I could see a mature, typical ten-point with split back tines. He moved slowly toward the field. I glanced at Chris. He was watching the buck through his binocular, nodding.
I lowered my binocular and started watching the buck through the scope on my Ruger Number 1. It was chambered in .450-400 NE 3-inch and loaded with Hornady’s 400-grain DGX.
I know, that round is an “a lot of gun,“ but I like using the old African cartridges, even on Texas whitetails. I followed the buck onto the field.
When he stopped broadside, I pushed the Ruger’s tang safety to “Fire,” took a deep breath, let it all out and gently pulled the trigger.
At the shot the buck jumped, took off running, but within twenty steps was dead. I could not have been more pleased. At the buck’s side, I declared him one of the most handsome I had ever taken.
Immediately, I decided, after properly taking care of the venison, I would take the cape and antlers to Double Nickle Taxidermy near New Braunfels. Today, the mount graces my office walls to honor the animal and help remind me of every minor detail of the hunt.
Later that day while admiring a buck Blake had taken, Chris commented, “There’s an ancient ten-point on the ranch that needs to be taken. He’s had the same basic rack now for about three years. Think you should take him. If you can….”
Of course I agreed.
Next morning we sat in a natural ground blind that we had constructed the afternoon before, long before first light.
It was horribly foggy!
As dawn approached, the lead-gray light revealed numerous deer around the nearby food plot. We had built our brush ground blind in a staging area.
“The one we’re looking for is the one on the far right,” whispered Chris. With luck, the buck would stay in the area until legal shooting light. As I had hoped, the buck I was after was hungry and kept feeding on the Tecomate food plot.
I looked back at Chris who was watching the time on his phone. Finally, he confirmed I could shoot.
The crosshairs of my Ruger Number 1 locked on the chosen buck’s vitals, and I gently pulled the trigger. The buck dropped. He was mine.
Deep in South Texas deer country, host “Mr. Whitetail” Larry Weishuhn returns to Zapata County to look for trophy bucks.
When Chronic Wasting Disease made its way to Texas White-tailed Deer, the Texas Parks and Wildlife CWD Response TWIMS Reprogramming Team took action to save our natural resources.
—story by LARRY WEISHUHN