The elusive big buck catches a break
Badly timed owl intervention frustrates hunter
South Texas during the 1970s was an open range for deer hunting. High fences were rare and the concepts of game management were just starting to gain favor.
Low-fenced seasonal leases were costly but within reach of many serious hunters. Five or six companions could "throw in" $500 apiece and secure several thousand acres of choice brush in Webb, Dimmit, or LaSalle counties.
Of course, $500 was a chunk of change in 1975, but it sounds better than $5,000 now.
Hunting guidelines were much less formal — if a mature buck with good "horns" stepped out, you attempted to shoot it. Few hunters paid much attention to the regimented Boone & Crockett Club's scoring format.
What every serious South Texas deer hunter wanted was a dark-horned buck with solid mass and a 20-inch inside beam spread and 10 honest points. The "20/10" was the coin of the realm, the established standard of excellence.
This is because most mature white-tailed bucks are 15 to 17 inches across the inside. Anything over an honest 18 starts standing out.
The wide, heavy "chocolate-horned" 10-pointer defined the big-buck aura of the thornbrush region. It remains a coveted trophy. B&C scores aside, the wide buck just seems to leap across the hunter's imagination.
I thought about that on a hunt during the final weekend on a Webb County ranch. I never had tagged a "legit" 20/10. Wide 8s, yes; high-scoring 10s and 12s, yes. But never a 20/10.
The first morning, a stunning "basket-racked" buck stepped from the brush and stood on the sun-splashed flat. The mature deer carried perhaps a 16-inch inside spread with long, swooping beams and high, curving tines.
Hurried calculations grossed the buck between 155 and 160 B&C scoring points — an excellent deer.
But I have several trophies of similar dimensions. Plus, the three-day hunt was only an hour old. I lowered the rifle and the buck soon wandered into the brush.
That afternoon, a heavy-horned 10-pointer appeared. The beam spread was exceptional, maybe 19 or 20 on the inside, but the deer looked to be only 4 1/2 years old — too young to tag on a game-managed ranch.
That night, second-guessing, I regretted passing the high-scoring basket buck and vowed to make amends if given a second chance. But the following morning brought no significant deer.
That afternoon I climbed into a different stand, a 12-foot tower blind overlooking a remote scope of brush.
The blind had been occupied by an owl. White droppings streaked the walls and several dozen "castings," of fur, feathers and bones, were scattered on the floor.
Mercifully, the plastic chair was turned down. I righted it and settled in to watch for deer.
Not much happened. Then, as the sun was setting, a mature eight-point buck moved across the sendero and paused to feed on the scattered corn. A good deer — but not on this trip.
Light was fading, gray on gray, and I brooded again about forfeiting the first-morning chance. The eight pointer lingered, now a black silhouette at 100 yards.
I sighed as I waited for the crunch and rattle of the approaching ranch truck. I glanced absently back at the deer — two deer! Two big, blocky deer!
The binoculars came up. I could discern the faint image of an old warlord with a wide-sweeping rack. The deer turned and stared toward the blind; the mahogany beams reached far outside the cocked ears.
The rack was at least 20 on the inside — maybe 21 — and the straining glasses confirmed five points to a side.
A pounding heart confirmed the moment. The 7mm Magnum rifle eased through the portal and settled into a confident rest. The lighting was poor but the deer stood in the open and the superior illumination of the scope framed the thick shoulder.
I lowered the bolt and prepared to squeeze the trigger. And the resident owl flew through the narrow window.
A flurry of white wings hammered against the plywood frame and a heart-shaped face and round eyes swooped over the rifle. I yelled.
The startled barn owl whipped out the far window while I jammed the rifle back into position. The two bucks were gone. Messrs Boone and Crockett would concur that screaming in a hushed thicket tends to do that.
I lowered the rifle and unloaded the chamber. The session was finished and one day of the season remained.
I sighed the sigh of generations of deer hunters in the magical thornbrush of South Texas. Maybe tomorrow.
Return to The Taxidermy Industry Category Menu
AAaaahee Bet cha would have missed em!
Probably, with my luck ?