Outdoor Journal: Texas ranch offers chance for big bucks
I’ve spent the majority of my deer hunting time chasing them during the early season in the Northern Zone. Then, when the Southern Zone opened, I’d spend the rest of the season there.
New York state, in my opinion, offers some very good deer hunting opportunities, but over the years, I’ve hunted in other states, and one in particular has become my favorite — Texas.
Don’t get me wrong, getting a buck in New York is an accomplishment, but getting one or two eight-pointers every year here is not going to happen for most of us. Let me explain how this can happen at the Texas Bucks & Birds Ranch, and why I’m so anxious to return there every December.
It actually began in Allegany County while I was sitting in a tree stand on the side of a hill, watching a heavily traveled deer trail about 80 yards down from me and another above me about the same distance away. It was the opening day of the Southern Zone, and my favorite place to be on that day. I’d climbed in my stand well before daylight in a heavily hunted area.
A little before legal shooting time, I saw movement above me and then the silhouette of a hunter headed my way. He never saw me, and ironically, he stopped right under my tree. He was surprised when I said, “Hello” and told him to sit down where he could watch the upper trail.
Neither of us had a shot that morning, but we did get to meet each other and he introduced himself as Jack. He was also a friend of the owner of the property. As we walked back up the hill, we talked about where we were hunting and how generous the owner was to let us hunt there. And Jack said he had been hunting this property for 20-plus years, even though it was a long drive. How long? He came every year from Texas. And now I knew who the landowner was referring to when he talked about “Texas Jack.”
Well, Texas Jack made the mistake of inviting me to his ranch in the spring to hunt the Rio Grande turkey I needed for my first National Wild Turkey Federation’s Grand Slam. I remember him saying, “I think there’s enough room for the both of us to hunt on my ranch.”
I still laugh every time I think about it because Jack’s ranch is 25,000-plus acres, definitely big enough for both of us. And I did get my turkey there. In fact, I’ve now completed seven NWTF Grand Slams, and all seven of the Rio Grande turkeys were taken on Jack’s Bucks & Birds Ranch.
Having hunted only in New York, my first deer hunting trip to Bucks & Birds Ranch in Crockett County that following December was an eye-opening experience. That first afternoon, sitting in the elevated shooting blind was outstanding. In the three hours I sat there, I watched 10 different whitetail bucks feeding. Each of bucks that came in chased off the lesser bucks, and three of these were eight-pointers. I didn’t count the does.
I think I scoped every buck that came in to feed. I did click off my safety on two of the eights, but decided to take Jack’s advice and not shoot the first one I saw. And every morning and afternoon, sitting in a different stand, the deer parade was always the same. I finally pulled the trigger on an eight-pointer and followed up with a second on the last day of my hunt. During that trip, I also collected a Rio Grande turkey and several javelina.
On my third trip to Jack’s ranch, I had several interesting experiences with a big Texas buck and a Texas bobcat. When I arrived the evening before the hunt, Jack said he had camera photos of a big eight-pointer with a spread well beyond the ears, and knowing this, I was awake and dressed well before the alarm went off the next morning. It was still dark when I climbed into the stand that morning carrying my 30.06 and a .223 Thompson Center (T/C) handgun. The handgun was in the event I saw a turkey or a javelina.
At legal shooting time, out stepped the big eight Jack had told me about, and I reached for my rifle but never got to take the safety off, because in bushes about 25 yards from me, I saw something small walking slowly — a bobcat. The Texas bobcat is much different than ours. When the cat stepped out into the open, I had the hammer back on the T/C and centered the crosshair on its shoulder.
When the handgun barked, Mr. Big Buck disappeared. Jack still teases me about passing up a 130-class buck just to shoot a bobcat. But I’m sitting here right now in my office, and overlooking my desk is a full Texas bobcat mounted by Tim Longo of Superior Taxidermy in Schenectady. Never did catch up with that big buck that year, and I had to settle for a pair of eight-pointers.
It was also during this trip that I shot my first javelina. I was in a blind early one morning when about a dozen javelina came in to feed and chased off the does that were there. Not wanting to scare any bucks that might be nearby, I watched and waited. It wasn’t too long before I saw a nice eight-pointer standing in the mesquite, but the javelina saw him, too, and a half-dozen of them literally ran him off. He tried to return twice, but got run off both times. Knowing my deer hunt was over for the time being, I decided to change my target to javelina.
The night before, Jack said if I was going to shoot javelina, to wait and try to get two with one shot. To do this you need a smaller one to stand broadside in front of a bigger one. Then you aim for the top of the small one’s back and the bullet will take them both out. It was worth a try, and when I got the shot, it worked.
It was about three years ago on the final day of my hunt that began with a big eight-pointer chasing a doe. I was waiting to get a good shot when I heard snorting just over the bank from where the eight-pointer was, and decided to wait and see what was coming.
When I saw the rack coming over the bank, I carefully counted 10 points several times and knew this is the one I really wanted. I’d never shot a 10-pointer, anywhere. Surprisingly, the eight didn’t move, and the two bucks began to approach each other slowly. I got caught up in watching and waiting for the fight and had my gun resting across my legs. What was I waiting for?
My shot was right on target hitting him in the shoulder, and he dropped straight down while the eight took off. I was quite excited, and called Jack on the radio and told him the good news, and while I was talking, the eight appeared. I told Jack and he said, “Take him.”
The eight-pointer walked up to the 10-pointer lying lifeless on the ground and horned him once before I dropped him. The two lay there head-to-head, and to say I was one excited and happy deer hunter is an understatement. What made me even happier was that 10-pointer was really an 11-pointer. Two bucks totaling nineteen points, and I did it all in less than 10 minutes. This is what can happen at Bucks & Birds Ranch.
Steve Brzozowski of Mechanicville and I will be getting on a plane Dec. 4 headed for San Antonio, where we’ll rent a car and drive to Bucks & Birds Ranch for six days of deer hunting. There’s room for several more hunters.
This year, hunters can take two deer, with a choice of two whitetail bucks or one whitetail buck and one mule deer buck. Mule deer have been migrating to Jack’s ranch for at least four to five years, and this will be the first year that he’s going to hunt them. I’ve seen these mulies, and they are trophies. Now we have a chance to get one of each.
While there, hunters can also shoot two Rio Grande turkeys — of which there are thousands on the ranch — javelina and bobcat. I
believe enery hunter will see more buck deer in one day there than in New York.
The accommodations are in the ranch house, and the home-cooked food is outstanding. In case you are wondering why early December, because it is when they are in the rut.
For information and rates at Bucks & Birds Ranch, call Jack at (832) 794-3877. For hunting information and/or joining Steve and me this December, email me at email@example.com, and I can also send you a few photos of some Bucks & Birds Ranch bucks, turkeys and a bobcat that no longer live on the ranch.