Story and Photos by: Larry Weishuhn
Last year's deer hunting season was one of the more “interesting” I have experienced in a lifetime of pursuing white-tailed deer.
Well, at least since I was a mere tyke growing up in rural Texas where if you found a deer track, you were a “hero” and if you saw and actually took a deer, you were a “legend!”
For me, this past year’s “deer season” started in October with the opening of Texas Managed Land Deer Permit season. I had a hunt set up with Joe Reed’s Nomad Hunts on property in Crockett County just east of the Pecos River. The ranch had not been hunted for mature, quality bucks in several years. Only does and management bucks had been taken.
I arrived in camp along with Dave Fulson, co-host of “Trijicon’s World of Sports Afield” and co-owner of Safari Classics who produces the highly successful outdoor show. Safari Classics’ cameraman, Jeremiah Bennett, was there to film me for an episode and if I shot early, then would film Dave.
After spraying our clothing with TRHP Outdoors’ Scent Guardian, we spent the first morning in a deer stand. Jeremiah and I were waiting when deer fed through the area and stopped to investigate where I had sprayed TRHP Outdoors’ Pre-Orbital Scent. We were set up between water and food sources. The first buck to appear was a really nice, tall, basic 8-point with a couple of “kickers.” No doubt when all inches were added his rack would approach, if not exceed 150 B&C in score - a really nice buck! I suspect Jeremiah questioned my sanity, when I told him I was going to pass him.
There was reason in my madness. During earlier conversations with Joe, we had talked about a buck with a sizeable non-typical rack. I was hoping to have a chance at him. If I shot the big 9-point, my hunt would be over. I was willing to take a chance, particularly since I knew I had several more hunting days.
The second mature buck to appear was a 24-inch wide 10-point. Talking about tempting! But once again I passed.
That afternoon, Jeremiah and I had just gotten to our hunting area when I got a phone call. My mother had unexpectedly passed away. Soon as I could get back to camp I packed up and headed home.
It was numerous days before I got back to hunting. When the regular deer season opened, I hunted with my daughter Theresa and son-in-law Lance Tigrett. For weeks, we had been planning opening day on our land and the adjoining land we lease for hunting. I had a “ground stand” set up in a woody thicket regularly frequented by several legal bucks (our county is set up under an antler restriction program, has been for years and has really made a difference!).
I felt assured during opening weekend between the three of us, we would take at least one buck. As it worked out, Theresa and Lance saw deer, including bucks although not quite legal. Me? I heard a few crows but saw nary a deer. Little did I know that was going to continue throughout the hunting season. Despite hunting our property every opportunity I had, which this past fall unfortunately was not nearly as often as I hoped, it wasn't until the waning moments of the last afternoon of the season when I finally saw two does and a fawn. My story of hunting my personal hunting property: numerous hunts of not seeing a deer.
It was mid-November before I could get back to the Nomad Hunts property. Thankfully, Joe allowed me to return to finish my hunt. At my side once again was Jeremiah Bennett to film.
I will not bore you with details, because when it comes to seeing deer on that hunt, they were few and far between. It simply seemed I was at the right place at the wrong time and the wrong place at the right time. I did rattle in nine bucks one morning, but none were more than two-years old, save for one sizeable antlered buck I caught a glimpse of. He stopped behind a screening of cedars where I could barely see him, and Jeremiah could not. Then he turned and simply disappeared into the underbrush.
Upon arriving in camp, Joe showed me photos of a successful hunter with the 9-point I had passed. The buck grossed 152 B&C. It was that hunter’s biggest buck to date by a wide margin; I was glad and proud I had passed the deer.
First night in camp I met Nikki and Kevin McPherson, regular clients of Nomad Hunts. What a fabulous couple. We spoke late into the night about their hunts for whitetails. A couple days later, Kevin took a great 10-point with a flyer coming off his back tine. A day later, Nikki took the 24-inch ten-point I had passed earlier, her biggest to date. Again, I was extremely pleased, glad and proud I had passed that buck.
Everyone in camp was seeing deer including mature bucks, except me. No matter what Jeremiah and I tried, no matter how we hunted we simply could not find a mature buck.
When the hunt was over, my tag was un-punched. Later, I learned I was the only hunter who hunted with Nomad Hunts this past season that did not take a deer….
There were other whitetail hunts where I scarcely saw a deer and certainly nothing approaching maturity, my requirement for taking a buck. And, you already know what happened on my personal property.
Normally during the fall, I do a lot of whitetail hunting. Admittedly, I did not get to hunt whitetails as much as I wanted to or normally do. Some hunts I cancelled when my mother passed away and unfortunately some I thought I had set up, at the last minute turned out to be empty promises.
So now to the question, “What did I do wrong?”
To quote a friend of long ago, when I failed to accomplish a specific goal, “You didn’t hold your tongue right!” It could indeed simply be that!
Were I given the opportunity for a “do-over” of this past whitetail season, I would not change things all that much, other than nailing down hunts I thought I had set up. There were four such hunts where I had accepted someone’s word the hunt was a go, when as it worked out they were not. My bad! It will not let happen again.
When it comes to hunting itself, whenever possible I hunt all day long, knowing frequently mature, normally totally nocturnal bucks move during mid-day. I stay afield no matter what the moon phase and weather, hot or cold, wet or dry! This I did and will continue to do in the future. There is little, if anything I would change when it came to the actual hunting.
It indeed was an “interesting” deer season. I set a couple of hunts during early pre-rut when bucks are normally still in their later summer patterns. But, likely because of an extreme abundance of natural forage, they simply did not have to move very much or very far. The distance between the bedding and feeding areas was how far a buck could reach from his bed to feed without getting up. Range conditions in many areas were “that good.”
Other hunting times I set up to coincide with normally prime rattling time. For whatever reason, bucks were fighting one day and the next day, feeding side-by-side with no animosity toward each other, something I have not seen in the past.
Many blamed slowed deer movement on “warm weather” and use that reason as an excuse for not hunting or not taking a deer. Yes, it was warm, but “so what?” We have had warm weather in the past when it should be cooler or cold and it will likely happen again. I have often said the best hunting advice is, “go hunting, don’t look for excuses not to go!” And, I will stick by that!
Again…what did I do wrong and what will I do differently this coming 2022 whitetail deer season? After making certain hunts I plan on doing are “real,” I will simply hunt more often!