I hunted the Vatoville Ranch of Steve and Michelle Anderson. Big boys like this wide 5×5 were off limits; instead we were asked to look for older 8-points.
It was hard to watch the big boys and know that I couldn’t shoot them. But after a spell, I had fun shooting them with just my camera.
If you look closely at the physique of this buck you’ll notice he’s not an old deer, probably a rangy 3-1/2-year-old.
But he was in full-on chase mode. Like most wide-racked deer, he looks especially good from the back.
His antler dimensions are a little deceiving. He’s probably no bigger than a 146-inch buck. The small size of his body exaggerates the size of his rack. On a northern deer he’d be a 160- or 165-inch buck, but this guy would dress out at only 120 pounds.
This is a buck that fits the management definition. He’s an older 4×5. The thinking is that this deer has reached his potential, and Steve Anderson is interested in removing the genes that express this sort of antler from his population.
Billy Bob “Bunk” Galbraith weighs a doe. We hunters were asked to kill as many mature does as we wanted. Galbraith runs Vatoville’s wildlife program, and he’s been provided with landowner permits for up to 100 does and up to 40 bucks. The culling is certainly warranted. The 9,000-acre ranch’s deer population is well over 600.
All the deer are aged, weighed and cleaned, then the carcass is stored in a walk-in cooler. The carcasses will go to a San Antonio food bank. Galbraith has an extensive database of deer weights. Does here dress out at an average of just 60 pounds; bucks a little over 100 pounds.
Aging a deer by looking at the teeth. The worn molars indicate this doe was at least 6 years old and possibly 7.
There are so many little bucks on the ranch that during the doe culling we had to be sure the deer in our scopes didn’t have button or little spike antlers, like this one did.
After I passed on dozens of management bucks, Steve finally took charge. Here, he draws me a map of a stand where I can rattle, and if I don’t see any shooter bucks, where a couple of heavy 8 points have been seen.
My final night’s stand, in the lower end of a gentle bowl. The terrain funnels deer to this feeding station. Unfortunately, I didn’t see a deer I wanted to kill here.
Which meant that I was down to my final morning to put a whitetail in the Texas dust. When this good buck walked out of the shadows, I settled the crosshairs of my Nikon BDC on his shoulder.
He’s a great buck, 5 points on one side, 6 on the other, including a small point that sticks off his left browtine.
The best part of any hunt is the people you share it with. On the left is Bunk Galbraith, on the right is John Mayer. Both were entertaining, knowledgeable guides.
This is the essence of Record Quest, taking a good buck fairly. He’s no world record, but what I learned this year is that while it’s great to hold out for the biggest buck in the time zone, at some point you also have to take stock of the opportunity and simply pull the trigger.
Hunting in West Texas is unlike hunting anywhere else in America. Deer densities are through the roof, big bucks push runts around the feeders, and selective hunters can expect to see scores of deer every day.