I’d be hunting with Steve and Michelle Anderson at their Vatoville Outdoors ranch, located on the edge of the Edwards Plateau south of San Angelo. I’m the guest of Mossy Oak and Under Armour.
If you are used to walking down deer or hunting them in the big woods of the Midwest or Northeast, Texas-style hunting can be a little strange. For starters, most hunting takes place in box blinds such as this.
The view from the first day’s blind.
The focal point of blinds is almost always an automatic feeding station, calibrated to dispense corn just after sunrise and just before sunset.
This intensive management yields some impressive results, trophy bucks in an area that doesn’t have the rich soils of Ohio or small-grain protein of Iowa.
But I’m here to hunt what are called “management bucks,” mature 8-points that probably won’t make trophy status. Steve Anderson is committed to trophy deer management here. He’s cultivating clean 5x5s with good mass, tall tines and long main beams.
I’m joined by San Antonio photographer/videographer Darren Abate, who brings at least three cameras into the blind with him.
We see plenty of smaller bucks. In fact, the buck-to-doe ratio seems wildly skewed toward bucks, especially little 2- and 3-year olds.
A classic Texas scene: Rio Grande turkeys and bush-country whitetails.
My fellow hunters and I have been asked to help thin Vatoville’s doe populations. Mark Melotik took three does with his compound bow. I scratched out a 5-1/2-year-old doe my first night on stand.
Meanwhile, Mossy Oak’s Tim Anderson was doing his part to manage the ranch’s bucks.
Anderson and Mossy Oak colleague Dustin Whitacre shot these two management bucks the same morning of the hunt.
This West Texas bull pawed at the dust to intimidate passers-by on the remote ranch roads.
Only in Texas do you see this sort of message in a hunting blind.
We’re here for the tail end of the rut. On one hand, it’s a good thing because bucks are visible and cycling from one bait site to the next, checking out estrus does. On the other hand, all that movement makes their patterns hard to predict. I have only three days to hunt, and besides thin-horned bucks like this, I haven’t seen a deer I want to shoot. Check back at for part 2 of my hunt.

OL’s Hunting, Editor Andrew McKean, headed to West Texas to hunt whitetails on the Vatoville Ranch. Would he encounter one of the wide-racked brush bucks the region is famous for?