Although hit hard through both lungs, the bull managed to make it into thick cover. With light fading and a drizzle beginning to fall, Forrest decided to call on his son, Wade, and tracking dog, Waylon, to lend a hand.
Whereas most whitetail hunters are busy packing away their gear in late December, I packed away my holiday dinner and headed for the last Record Quest whitetail hunt of the season at the Ford Ranch in Brady, Texas. The Ford Ranch was once home to the 78-point, world-record non-typical. There’s something pretty cool about hunting the same pastures where a world-record whitetail once roamed. The Ford spans 35,000 acres of Hill Country brush. Here, average spreads on mature bucks measure 17 to 18 inches and field-dress at 108 pounds. With a buck-to-doe ratio of one buck for every two does, rutting activity is tremendous as is the trophy potential. The Ford is not a high-fence operation and this past summer’s count was more than 2,600 deer. Average success rate is 97% and trophy buck hunters are permitted to take one buck and up to four does. I was joined on the hunt by buddy Dave Streb and videographer Scott Standiford and it wasn’t long before we saw our first bucks.
I dearly love non-typicals and when this double-beamed buck showed up, I had to force myself to resist trying to take him. Neat rack, but a youngster. He’ll be a stud in another couple of years. Interestingly, double-beam characteristics are not uncommon on the ranch.
His rack makes it past his ears, but just barely. Back home, he’d be a deer to brag on. At the Ford, he’s a couple years from being a ‘shooter.’
Here’s a good view of the buck’s odd rack.
This guy showed up shortly after the double-beamed buck. He, too, would benefit from a bit more age on his rack. The ranch’s biggest bucks rarely get caught out in the open–another indication that this buck is relatively immature. The true trophies typically approach feeding areas from the downwind side, assess the situation in an attempt to locate estrous does and then run down them down. The hunter has mere seconds to size up the buck and take the shot.
Multiple deer–both bucks and does–fed on truck-feeder spread corn for much of the morning providing ample time to size up antler size. The majority of deer we saw were just shy of what we were looking for. Buck-zilla did show up at one point, but was far out of crossbow range. Total deer count was upwards of 20, the majority of which were bucks.
That evening, we swapped blinds and the still camera for video. Within 20 minutes, Streb and I had multiple deer out in front of us–both axis and whitetails. Streb locked in on this ‘junked-up’ buck. (Look for video of our hunt next week.)
Streb’s Ten Point Turbo performed flawlessly resulting in a solid shoulder hit. The buck piled up within 50 yards of the blind.
Whereas Streb was focused on his non-typical, I was more intent on the axis deer that joined the fray. Ranch manager Forrest Armke sang the axis’ praises when it came to edibility and that about made up my mind. When I saw how big they were, it was a done deal in my head and when a bull eased into crossbow range, I fired.
Although hit hard through both lungs, the bull managed to make it into thick cover. With light fading and a drizzle beginning to fall, Forrest decided to call on his son, Wade, and tracking dog, Waylon, to lend a hand.
Waylon jumped the bull out of its bed and the race was on. It amazingly ended 2.2 miles away according to Waylon’s GPS collar!
We stood amazed that any animal hit through the lungs could show such stamina. (By the way, we didn’t stand in amazement too long since the bull happened to expire atop on the Ford’s biggest rattlesnake dens. Although it was too chilly for snakes, we didn’t take too many chances.)
Waylon with his prize.
I was intrigued with the opportunity to shoot an axis as soon as I saw my first bull. There’s lots of prime venison on this guy.
Streb and I with our Ford Ranch crossbow memories.
Streb shows off his first crossbow buck ever…. Indeed our hunt was memorable for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the quality of the hunting on the Ford Ranch. One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by both friends and Outdoor Life readers is: “Where can I go and have the opportunity to take a really big buck.” Places such as Saskatchewan, Kansas and Illinois are always mentioned but, for me, the Ford Ranch deserves some serious consideration. The quality of the deer herd is the prime drawing card. Again, this is not a high-fence operation (if you are averse to high-fence hunting in Texas which is common) and the opportunity to take the buck of your life exists in spades. If you’re interested in booking a hunt, take a look at the Ford’s website and give Forrest Armke a call. Hunts are typically booked by March. Next week, check out the hunt on video.