If you have an addiction to deer hunting - not watching television shows about deer hunting, not attending sports shows to look at deer somebody else shot, not watching videos or reading books about deer hunting—but really deer hunting for yourself come February, there's one place to scratch that itch. On qualifying ranches in Texas you can hunt a buck deer with your tool of choice through the end of February.
Ranches with a Managed Lands Deer (MLD) permit program Level 3 Certification can choose to allow management hunting through the end of the month. And that's what I've been doing for the last week on a Lone Hollow Camp property down near Big Wells. It's a very different hunting experience even from hunting late season deer anywhere else.
It's interesting because even though we're seeing some bucks which have already shed half their racks, others are acting "rutty." I'm hearing different theories. One is does that were somehow missed in December and January are in a third estrus cycle. Another says does that will be a year old in May are "growing up" and putting off odors enticing to bucks, though they are not really cycling. Whatever the case, a few bucks sure act like it's Christmas, not Presidents' Day.
So far no shooter bucks, but we've got a few days to go. Hopefully we'll get one within bow or pistol range to make a "North American Hunter-TV" show out of.
I've been in Texas in late February before hunting hogs, quail and nilgai and such. And there are things you'll see at that time of year that you never elsewhere. First are the amazing populations of fully plumed song birds like cardinals, flickers and jays. You can look at the gray mesquite at times and think you're looking at a Texas Christmas tree decorated with bright red bows—each one a male cardinal.
Then there are sights that aren't quite so pretty—like giant Western diamond back rattlesnakes fighting over a mate. This is a scene few get to see, but I just witnessed for the second time in my life. The first time was on a February hunt for nilgai and hogs on the King Ranch. Yesterday was the second! The snakes intertwine and roll over an over each other. Then they raise taller up than seems possible appearing to compete on which can "stand" higher. There's rattling and striking involved, too.
I am not a snake guy in any way, shape or form, but I've gotten better about it over the years. When I first started coming down to this country any snake would have me literally on the roof of the pickup refusing to move until the snake was killed. Now I've overcome the fear to the point where we shot a stand up for the show with me about 10 yards from these snakes.
Actually, seeing snakes like this at a safe distance is a good, meaningful reminder. Believe it when I tell you, I'm inspecting that pop-up blind mighty closely from outside the windows before I reach down an open that zipper entrance. And when the producer shuffles his feet in the bottom of the blind ... well, he's about to get cuffed!