The only prenuptial agreement my bride agreed to before our marriage nearly 3 decades ago was that she would try hard to hunt with me on the opening weekend of each deer season. We did not fret too much about what was hers and what was mine before we joined up, but that one clause mattered to me. I think she has only missed 3 or 4 over the years. That included the 2017 season opener because she was up in Oklahoma dealing with her 90-year-old mother’s fall and subsequent broken hip. But Grandmother is recovering well now and the Lady Danell went out to our 25+ year high fenced lease the afternoon of the 3rd Saturday with me.
We sat about ¼ mile apart on a long pipeline that runs through numerous ranches. It is 80+ feet wide and a good travel road and sendero. We have food plots and a feeder at both locations. The wind was high but favorable to sit at those spots and we got all settled in before spooking any wildlife off.
She had a doe with a still nursing fawn come out and I had a good looking 2.5-year-old 8-point that showed lots of promise in front of me before the feeder went off. A text came from the other blind saying a big buck with little horns was standing just inside the tree line behind the feeder. I responded back to sit still and make certain he was exactly that… a mature buck with under average headgear.
Sure enough that is what she confirmed a few minutes later, and I encouraged her to make the shot. About that same time my little buck was sure getting nervous, staring over into the thick brush from the same direction he came.
Danell fired and then reported the buck dropped in his tracks. I responded with congratulations and said I planned to sit there a spell longer and see what was making that young deer so spooky. Sure enough, out walked a fully mature 10-point that got my attention. He carried decent width, with good tine length and mass. My “Aggie Guesstimate Calculator” would put him in the upper 150’s to lower 160’s Boone and Crockett score.
I watched him for maybe 10 minutes and then slipped out and made it quietly to the truck. Driving the “long way” around, I went over to my wife and her buck. He was just what she reported… a 6-year-old with not much of a set of horns. I had tried to harvest this guy last year and failed to see him during buck season.
We pushed and pulled and with the help from a winch on my truck managed to get that big bruiser loaded. He was as fat as a grain-fed steer and not one bit “stinky” like he would have been in a few more weeks. Even after cutting out multiple pounds of fat in order to cleanly field dress him, the deer weighed just under 150 pounds at the processer. The buck I left feeding at my spot was the same size or a bit larger.
In reviewing the events of the day later on with our daughter, a fine huntress in her own right with 3 national magazine articles about bucks she has harvested, Jessica asked why I did not shoot that big 10. My answer was partly based on stewardship to be sure as I want that dude to breed this year. But it was also based on being well into my 6th decade on this earth. I reminded her of our ages (her mom and me), and said one buck that size was all the energy we had in us for one afternoon!
Well the end of general hunting season is now officially over. It lasts for about 90 days in La Brasada; starting the first weekend of November and running this time through the first weekend of February. To the “hunting widows and widowers”, that period has been an eternity. For those of us who love being out there, it seems to fly by.
In my younger, more intense days, this was a time of annual depression and regret. Now with some additional wisdom, or maybe it is old age and fatigue, I see things differently. It is a time for reflection and review.
I can go out and walk the game trails without worrying about “bumping up” a deer. It is still a bit too cool for much snake activity and so that caution is not eliminated, but reduced. The thermometer is still a friend, so the walks are not filled with a sweaty brow and soaked shirt. A shed might be discovered before long. I call looking for them: “Adult Easter Egg Hunting”.
Much good can come from this period. It is also a time for thinking about and discussing certain deer to monitor for November 2018.
On one ranch we have a very wide 8-point that is four years old. Another four-year-old 10-point, that we call White Patch because of some color on his hips, shows great promise. It will be fun to see how/if they “grow out” next fall.
Several of the deer we harvested this year were post mature and past their prime. Thank goodness old Aggie doctors are not “managed” in the same manner or this writer might be in trouble!
A couple of other younger deer did not meet the criteria of what we want our breeder bucks to pass along to our future deer herd populations, and now will be enjoyed at our supper table and with those we enjoy sharing the harvest with.
The last Saturday of the season, I watched several up and comers that promise good possibilities and a couple of others that will have to show some significant improvement or they will join the early season “hit list”. Feeding those type of deer is not my idea of good management, but our practice is to let them get to three years of age before making the final decision of whether to remove before maturity.
Looking over and culling out trail camera footage is another pleasant task this time of the year. There are a couple we “shot” on camera that never showed up in my presence. I sure would have liked to get my eyeballs on them, but those wise old trophy bucks are a lot smarter than me. I am pretty much resigned to seeing them once, if lucky, and not even that some years.
It is also time to get those protein feeders up and running. The deer I have been seeing since mid- January, especially the males 2.5 years or older, all look like greyhounds after the rut. And the bred does are “feeding two” so they could use some help as well. Of course, the Good Lord is the best food maker by giving our fertile soils some much needed moisture. We sure could use some soon on our little pieces of heaven.
All in all there is no reason to be sad that hunting season is over. We just shift into post-season mode and continue to try and be good stewards of the blessings bestowed upon us as land owners and managers.
There is a situation most hunters will experience during their deer hunting times. I have been guilty of falling victim to it and have seen it happen on many different occasions. The process goes something like this. A hunter sees a buck that is an exact replica of the Hartford Insurance Elk logo and launches a bullet towards it. Whether immediately or after some searching, the animal is found and the Boone and Crockett award-winning specimen has somehow mysteriously transformed into a MUCH smaller version of what the hunter thought he was looking at. We call this ground shrinkage and it is alive and well in La Brasada, and I am pretty sure in other places as well.
Such an experience happened to one of our paying hunters recently. On that particular ranch, the two men have hunted with us for several years and are good guys. They have been patient and supportive of the management program we have in place. Our goal is the harvesting of mature bucks and an adequate number of other deer to keep the population in check on this long-time high fenced operation.
This year we have been blessed to raise up a really nice fully mature buck that is a ten-point with about a 22-inch inside spread. The more experienced of the two paying hunters and I have seen the old boy several times and agree he might grow a little bit with one more year of age but does not appear to be one either of us want to harvest.
A really pretty buck, he would be a great deer for the newer hunter. So I gave the “green light” to take him. I received a picture of a deer laying on the ground from this fellow. Assuming he did not stumble across the buck taking a nap, wise old Aggie that I am, I figured he was showing me his trophy. Many years of using trail cameras has taught me one photo can be tricky to get a fully accurate story of a particular animal. My reply text was that the buck seemed to be narrower and younger than the one we had discussed him taking.
Well that comment proved to be true. Observed on a foggy and cloudy day, the deer was two years younger, six inches narrower in spread, and 30 or more Boone and Crockett points smaller than the targeted buck. While disappointed, I was quick to acknowledge mistakes happen and it was not in my purview to start casting stones, having done the same thing more than I care to admit.
The above event made me recall the last “mistake deer” I took. It was a cloudy and gloomy evening and just before dark a profile appeared out of the thick brush along a creek bottom where a blind I usually don’t hunt much is located. The deer showed a forked brow tine one side and a kicker on the other. The 12-point was further away than I thought but more importantly was two years younger than my estimate. While a unique and beautiful specimen of his species, my thoughts often wander to what he could have been without my bad judgement interfering in his life cycle. I mounted that buck as a reminder to myself and others who see him that even a very serious and a bit talented steward can make a mistake from time to time.
If the worst thing that came out of the entire 2017-2018 hunting season on our places is one too young a deer being taken, it will be just fine. Chalk it up as a lesson learned and a reaffirmation that the phenomenon known as ground shrinkage is still alive and going strong in our little neck of the woods out in La Brasada!
Back a few years ago on a long-term high-fenced place we lease, our trail cameras caught the picture of a really strange looking two-year-old. His right side was a typical four points, which never changed over the years – only growing as would be expected. But his left side was simply a long single tine with a small fork at the end. Subsequent visual sightings confirmed the pictures and we named him Freak. My partners and I agreed it could be an anomaly and wrote it off to an injury. We let him walk.
As a three-year-old, Freak carried that same single tine but now had a G1 (brow tine or eye guard as it is sometimes called). We agreed that in this well-balanced herd he would likely not breed and decided to see what might happen.
When he was both four and five years old, Freak continued to have an abnormal left side to his rack and was now “big enough” to become a breeder in the herd. We decided one such funny looking deer was enough and put him on the hit list. The challenge was we never saw him except on trail camera pictures both of those years.
At age six I was very dedicated to hunting for Freak. He had developed into a pretty nice looking buck except that now he had 3 points on the left side growing out of one spot! Not only was it a “lopsided” rack, but it look downright weird. I passed on numerous other bucks that could have been taken, not wanting to ever make a noise that would scare the cagey old guy off.
It had been a wet fall and our food plots were doing really well. One mid-December day I was sitting at a spot we called High Blind. It was named this because of the elevation of the terrain and not the height of the stand. This location was a semi-wagon wheel with a total of six senderos spread out in a 180 degree half circle. Oats were knee deep in three of the clearings.
Pretty late in the day a deer showed up at the very end of one sendero. It was about 250 yards long and the mature buck stayed just at the edge of the brush. A quick look with binocs confirmed it was indeed the elusive Freak.
A careful setup with a solid rest resulted in Freak moving from standing to laying. He sure was a pretty sight laying in that thick green patch of oats. Because it was rutting time, he had broken off one of the 3 points coming out of that same spot and so seemed a bit less odd, but it was still a different kind of looking rack. Old Freak sits on the wall right about the desk in my home office and is the first thing most folks notice when they walk into the room.
We never have seen any offspring that looked like Old Freak, and for that I am grateful. He was a sly animal and a worthy challenge in my search for him. As the years have passed, I am reminded it is less about the harvest itself, and more about the experiences that come from days out in La Brasada. Thanks, Freak, for the memories.
About the only “prenuptial” agreement my husband discussed with me before we married 22+ years ago, was that I would hunt with him on the first day of deer season in south Texas. I think he has missed only two openers in something like 50 years. One to attend a basketball game of our daughter’s and another to help get me delivered to the proper location to attend a church missions meeting in Dallas. That pretty well might give you a hint.
He is a SERIOUS deer hunter, with only family and church taking a higher priority (most days). Life Member, Dr. Johnnie Rosenauer, has been allowed to author numerous articles through the years for Texas Trophy Hunters Association (TTHA). Those nice folks have even allowed our 19-year-old daughter, Jessica, to have two articles in recent years about her hunting experiences. But this article is my first and is about something none of us expected.
The evening of November 30, 2013 found me sitting in a nice blind on a small Frio County place the Rosenauer family has owned since 1938. We have always had a “real” deer lease or two besides this family place that we call The Farm. Granddad Rosenauer harvested the first deer at The Farm in the late 60’s and populations have existed pretty much since then. We have “settled” into a long-term high-fenced lease not far away from The Farm so we can drive our tractor and equipment between the places in an hour or so. Much of our hunting has been done over at the high-fenced lease for 15+ years, but The Farm is a nice break and we use it some, depending on the wind conditions and sign. Not many deer stay on The Farm permanently. You might imagine who pays attention to such deer and hunting details at our house.
Our 15-year-old son, Corban, was with me that day. He and I enjoy our deer blind time together. We are a bit more “relaxed” than someone else in our household when it comes to the whole hunting experience thing; visiting and talking about whatever is on our minds that day. We were in the blind called the Pursch Palace, given that title for our long-time friend, John Pursch, who has hunted with my husband for 40+ years. John was not hunting that day and the wind was perfect for the location.
We first saw a middle age 8-point come weaving in and out of the brush towards the feeder. There were a few does around, but the buck kept moving around a good bit. I figured he was three or four years old and in texting Johnnie, he said to just enjoy watching him as he needed a few more years of age. It was pre-rut in south Texas and a buck that age was not yet willing to fully show himself long before dark.
In another hour or so, when it was getting pretty late, a buck came out nearly 400 yards away and was walking along the edge of a 100-foot sendero where we plant oats in when rain allows. The buck moved toward the feeder area but stayed in the brush. The grass had come back pretty tall after a September mowing due to good rains and the buck was hard to see clearly. Something about his horns looked odd, but until he got closer I could not figure it out.
I was having Corban text his dad to tell him the buck had a long drop tine! I could not believe it! Somehow the text came out, “We have a 17-point with a drop tine”. Johnnie immediately texted back, “SHOOT HIM!”
Only the really serious deer managers will understand the context of that short text. My husband is very strict about what age and quality of bucks we harvest on our places. He seeks great detail about the bucks we all see and, like many managers, has lots of pictures of deer to review and evaluate each year. So for him to simply say “SHOOT HIM” tells you how excited he was with such an animal before us. More on the “points thing” later.
I shoot a Model 700 in 7mm-08 and we call it Mom’s Sniper Rifle. It has been accurized and has a good Vari X 3 scope on it. I shoot the gun well and loved it from the first time I shot it. So much so that I told Johnnie he was going to have to buy something else ‘cause that one was mine. So he did just that and got a Model 70 Featherweight in the same caliber which Jessica promptly “claimed”. I guess he finally learned something because he recently bought a Nosler Model 48 Trophy Grade in 257 Roberts and gave it to Corban so he would not “lose” anymore guns. It is all in good fun, but he works hard to make sure our guns are well-cared-for and sighted in properly whenever we go hunt with him.
The buck was very coy and did not present himself for a clear shot for what seemed like an eternity. I knew that a shoulder shot was the order of the day for such a nice trophy. The distance was a bit over 100 yards when he finally squared up and stood still for a moment. This playing cat and mouse had worked me over in terms of my nerves. I dared not focus too much on the drop tine or the rest of the horns on his head. After the shot, which was a solid hit, the deer immediately dropped. Corban texted his Dad and said, “Mom is still shaking a lot”.
It was then that I had a moment to review the texts to and from, only to discover Corban had said 17-points. Two thoughts ran through my mind almost at the same time: One, Johnnie will know I could not count that many points so late in the day. Two, oh my goodness, he is going to think I thought this buck has 17 points!
It was not ten minutes before Johnnie pulled up in the truck. Johnnie had been hunting about half a mile away with one of Corban’s classmates, Ethan, who is new to hunting and very interested in learning. Of course Johnnie is a firm believer in teaching sound game management whenever and to whoever he can. They had hurried over after walking to the vehicle.
Well as it turned out, the buck was not a 17-point. We are still not sure how Corban got that number in his head, but he is a 15-year-old teenager after all. None the less, the buck was a great looking 9-point and my husband was delighted for me. The buck carried G1’s that are 5.5 and 6 inches long with his G 2’s and G 3’s all being 8-10 inches long. His drop measured out at over 6.5 inches, coming off his right main beam. He is going to look really good in our vaulted ceiling living room along with some of our other special trophies.
The weird part of this story is that we have NEVER seen any hint of a drop tine characteristic at The Farm before. Johnnie has been responsible for the game management out there since 1976 and this was a big surprise to all of us. In going back through the 2013 early fall deer pictures, we do have one shot of this guy as part of a bachelor club group. It is not a good picture of him and we had failed to notice the drop, thinking it was part of the brush in the background of the picture.
So, my story is a good reminder – when it comes to deer hunting, you just never know what might walk out of the brush! Or what text might come from the mind of a 15-year-old.
As best I can recall, my deer hunting adventures began in the fall of 1957 as a six-year-old. I had been pestering my dad and grandfather to let me go with them since I was about four. The first trip was a Saturday afternoon, sitting with my dad in a brush pile overlooking the edge of thick brush and a newly-cleared piece of land destined to become farmland. It was cold and I could not keep still. Net result… banished as my dad’s hunting “partner” for two years!
In fairness, Johnnie Sr. was working 60-hour weeks with an invalid wife confined to a wheelchair due to polio and two little kids. It was easier for me to comprehend later that “the woods” represented his mental hygiene sessions and he did not need a squirming kid messing up that rare and precious time.
I hunted mostly with my grandfather during those years, and he sure did teach me a whole lot. After age 12 or so I was on my own and recall my first buck vividly. Especially the part where dad and granddad said, “You killed it, you clean it”!
If my math is right, 2017 totals the 60th year out in La Brasada for me. Every year that has passed represents significant time working and hunting the land. Here lately something happened on a trip that was a new experience for me and worth telling about.
In our little neck of the woods once all my fingers have counted off the first ten days of December, it is time to start hunting for rutting bucks. On December 16th I was able to rattle and grunt up two mature bucks and then three smaller ones in the span of about an hour from two different locations. The younger bucks came out within about five minutes of each other and were standing around trying to figure out where “the fight” was.
All of a sudden three sets of eyes and ears became focused on one spot. Then they high tailed it out of the country like something big and mean was headed towards them! I got all ready, thinking either some hogs or another big old buck was coming to my horns and grunts.
When our cattle tenant moved his animals off this particular ranch in the late summer, he discovered one small calf was accidentally left. He asked and of course I agreed for him to take the cow back to save the baby. That day and a half or so abandonment made this little guy very attached to his momma and we hardly ever saw them apart.
Well the monster that was coming to my horn rattling and buck grunting happened to be that calf, now weighing upwards of 400 pounds. He came out of the thicket bawling and raising a big ruckus, thinking my calling was for him and from his mother.
I did not see one more game animal after that, even after things settled down for a couple of hours. In retrospect there may be some more new and wonderful sights and experiences yet to come for this old Aggie out in La Brasada. But I do not think any of them will surprise me more than “rattling up a bawling calf”!