Tuesday, January 5, 2010

West Texas Mule Deer

I was lucky enough to be invited to a ranch in West Texas to go on a mule deer hunt before Christmas. First thing I packed was my camera gear; I was so excited for this trip.

West Texas was as foreign to me as Russia, I had never been more than 1 hour west of San Antonio my entire life, so I knew the trip was going to be memorable. Car was packed, batteries charged, and tank full of gas when we started on the 7 hour journey.

Immediately after San Antonio I was drawn to the scenery, (very few places in Texas are prettier than the Hill Country), but I was mostly caught in the transition from lush, cedar green rolling hills, to table top mesas, with low, stabbing brush. The greens blending into golds and sandy greys. They sky was immediately doubled and the blue was so intense it demanded respect. (and photos)

After rolling thought a circus or twists and turns, we approached the ranch where we would be staying; nestled right in a valley between 2 mesas, surrounded by dozens of large, white wind turbines

While we were heading down the beaten dirt road, dodging mesquite thorns the size of crayolas, I glanced up to the top and snagged the lucky shot of the weekend:

A Male Barbado Ram, taking sight over his territory, and a smaller female off to the left in the brush.

Mountain Top Barbado

I was immediately hooked.

We settled into our cabin, a newer semi-circle/cylindrical barn with a guest room nestled in the back. Within an hour we were headed to the stand.

Just a short ride from the house was the blind I was going to be in for the night. Walking to the blind I saw my first Mule Deer, a small 4 point strolling across the road 80 yards,(not paying me any mind considering he was in full rut, chasing a doe). The hunt was successful, even though no Mule Deer were taken.

Mule Deer Doe
340mm@f/8, 1/320, ISO200
A Mule Deer Doe

Saturday morning we woke up to full fog. I went to a stand with my feeder 120 yards unloaded everything and waited for the sun to rise. It was about 35 degrees with wet fog rolling in the window right in my face, I was bundled up pretty good trying to stay warm. With the sun rise came a pack of Barbado Rams, a few small Mule does and a couple small bucks. I still haven't been able to see the feeder at this point, and ever couple minutes or so I would look through my binoculars and scan the area, but nothing to shoot just yet.

Young Barbado Ram in Fog

I was scanning the area for about 3 minutes or so when I lowered my binoculars and saw a silhouette of a large buck disappearing into the fog on my right; my heart ached because I knew I had just missed my shot. In full rut I know that big buck would be running around all morning.

45 minutes later the sun was up, which just made the fog harder to see through, I had found the feeder and could barely make out silhouettes, and was still unable to make a decent shot. Suddenly the fog cleared for a few seconds and I saw a big Mule deer facing down eating corn. It was the same buck; apparently he was hungry.

I got my gun ready to shoot, and sat and waited for a broadside shot. And waited. And waited. With the fog rolling in and out and with fatty eating all the corn in one spot, I wasn't presented a shot for over an HOUR!

After a lot of waiting, things finally went my way, and I harvested a beautiful Mule Deer Buck.


The night before we left, I decided not to hunt and sat in the blind with the beautiful view and enjoyed the scenery.

West Texas Hunt
160mm @f/9, 1/500, ISO 200, -2/3EV

It is one beautiful place, that West Texas.
What a Trip.

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