Hunters: Country Music Singer Rhett Akins, Travis "T-Bone" Turner and Michael Waddell
Location: Double M&R Ranch in Senora, Texas
Dates: October 23-28, 2005
Weapons: New Hoyt 2006 Trykon bows
Weather: Varied temperatures from really hot to really cold and very windy
RHETT'S FIRST TEXAS DEER HUNT
Editor's Note: Country music star Rhett Akins has become a close friend to the Realtree team over the past several years. This Valdosta, Georgia, native and avid outdoorsman has attended many hunts with the Realtree staff and promotes Realtree's patterns at all of his concerts throughout the country.
When Michael called me and invited me to hunt with him at the M&R ranch, I was thrilled to death. I had never hunted with Steven Anderson at the M&R before, but I felt like I knew him from watching Michael's hunts with him on Realtree Road Trips. I knew that I was in for a good time before I got there. Michael and Steve are very good friends, and they always have a blast together. I was really pumped up about going somewhere new, but the moment I arrived, it felt like home.
The first few days I was there, I was completely blown away by the number of deer I saw. I hunt in mostly Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia and am elated if I see up to five deer in a day. But out in Texas, the deer were as numerous as birds. I saw more deer in one day hunting the M&R Ranch than I'd see in an entire season in the Southeast. The ranch boasted thousands of undisturbed acres to hunt with no cars, buildings or people to disturb the deer. In addition to deer, I saw tons of turkeys, raccoons and my first porcupine.
The terrain is so wide open so you can spot deer standing several hundred yards from the stand.
The weather was very unpredictable during the days we hunted. The first day out there, it was freezing cold and very windy. I thought we'd get blown out of the stand. The next morning, temperatures rose to almost 80 degrees. Every day was different, but the deer did pretty much the same thing each day without letting the weather affect them.
Where I hunt back home, there are a lot of ridges, hills and thick woods that make it difficult to locate the deer. But, out in that part of Texas, the terrain is so wide open so you can spot deer standing several hundred yards from the stand.
HERE A BUCK, THERE A BUCK
When the guide drove us up to the stand the first morning of the hunt, deer scattered everywhere. We hunted out of a tripod stand nestled among a live oak tree from where we could see for miles. We hadn't sat in the stand for more than two minutes before deer started walking by us. Marc Womack, my camera guy, was totally calm. He was used to seeing that many deer, but I was flipping out. I had never seen anything like it.
We saw tons of does and several bucks the first day, but they weren't shooters according to Mark. I was glad to have Marc with me because he explained that all of the bucks look big from the stand, but it would be a different story when we got down on the ground with one of them. The deer have smaller bodies than the bucks back home, so their antlers look really large in proportion to their bodies. I wanted to shoot on several different occasions, but Marc convinced me to wait informing me that a mature buck in Texas only weighs about 130 pounds. Some of the bucks back home weigh around 200 pounds. That's quite a difference.
We saw a ton of deer the first two days hunting in the same stand, but many of the deer were the same ones returning again and again. We even named some of them. If there was a big buck in the area, he wasn't showing himself, so we decided to move.
The third day we went to a different stand where Michael had actually shot a deer the previous year. No one had shot a deer out of that stand since then. We set up in a patch of mesquite with 50 yards of wide open space to the front, left and right of us. Behind us was a thick area of brush and mesquite. We hadn't sat in the stand for more than five or 10 minutes when three bucks appeared at about 100 yards and started coming in to us. We thought that one of them might be a shooter, but we weren't sure.
After about 30 minutes of waiting, we watched as a nice shooter buck came in to within about 23 yards of me. He was close, but he didn't stop where I wanted him to. I wanted him to stop straight in front of my stand so I could get a clear shot. He was to my right at an angle. I watched for 20 minutes waiting for him to turn or to get a little bit closer, but he wouldn't move. Finally, with my patience exhausted, I decided to take the shot, and I nailed him.
He was a nice 8-point deer rough scoring somewhere between 125 and 130 inches. I was very proud of that shot and the deer. In addition to that buck, I shot several does during the trip as well. A helicopter survey counted 1,200 deer on the property. More than 900 of those were does. Steve wanted us to shoot some does to get the buck-to-doe ratio a little more even.
I had a great time on the hunt with Travis and Michael. I had hung out with Travis some before during previous events, but had never hunted with him. He's a great guy with a lot of knowledge about archery. Michael and I have hunted numerous times together and have become really good friends. We're so much alike. We both played football, we play the guitar and we love to hunt. It's almost like we're long lost brothers. I love hunting with him, but it's really just more about hanging out and having a good time. Michael didn't get his deer until the last day, but he didn't let that stop him from having a good time. We just goofed off, shot our bows and played guitars at night. We had a blast, much in part to Steve Anderson who's a really a fun guy.
T-BONE GETS A CRACK
I was really excited about this hunt. I had hunted with Michael on several occasions, but had never hunted with Rhett and was looking forward to getting to know him better. Hoyt had given us the new 2006 Trykon bows for the hunt, which I rigged up for us. Michael and I also brought our recurves because neither of us had killed deer with a recurve, and we decided that was our quest for this hunt. All summer long we had practiced with the recurves hoping that we'd have an opportunity to hunt with them.
SHORT DEER SYNDROME
I hunted out of a tripod stand that was tucked up inside of a live oak 10 or 12 feet off the ground. The first couple of days I hunted, I saw tons of deer, but I saw nothing over a 100-inch buck. For some reason, those Texas deer are much more skittish than the deer I'm used to hunting in the Southeast. Getting a shot without spooking them is tough. They experience no real hunting pressure or predation, so I'm not sure why they spook so easily. Maybe they're more skittish and hyper than their bigger cousins for the same reason a small Chihuahua is more hyper and feisty than a big dog. For whatever reason, those deer were afraid of their own shadows.
THE THREE-LEGGED TRICKSTER
On the morning of the third day, a 6-point, 3-legged buck come in to my stand at 27 yards. I decided to shoot him because he was injured. As soon as I drew back my bow, he went into alert mode. He looked my way, but didn't see me. Then I started over-thinking it. I thought, "He's only got three legs, so he's probably not going to drop too much. He won't drop like a healthy deer." So, I aimed higher than I usually do on uninjured deer. When I shot, he dropped faster than any deer I'd ever seen. I completely missed him. I was dumbfounded. I guess he dropped so quickly because he didn't have as many legs holding him up. I learned a hard lesson that morning.
As the morning came to an end, I shot a doe with my compound at the request of Steve who wanted to thin out the doe population.
TRAVIS' BEST BUCK TO DATE?
The next evening, we tried a different stand in an area with a lot of good buck sign. Two shooter bucks came in early, but they were far off. A few minutes later, a group of does came in off to our left. Then, my heart stopped, when off to my left I spotted a big 11-pointer mingling with those does 80 or 90 yards from my stand.
To my delight, he slowly started making his way toward me. Then I saw a mid 130, 8-pointer to my right making his way to me as well. I couldn't believe it. I was going to have my choice of two really nice shooter bucks.
I got really excited but started to have some doubts. I thought to myself, "Why would he come in to us when he's got all he needs as far as does and food right there?" There were two bucks in front of us that weren't shooters, so I decided to use them to help me. I grunted a couple of times, and he couldn't stand it. I guess curiosity killed the cat. He just had to see what all of the ruckus was about. To my delight, he slowly started making his way toward me. Then I saw a mid 130, 8-pointer to my right making his way to me as well. I couldn't believe it. I was going to have my choice of two really nice shooter bucks. How often does that happen? I was watching the 8-pointer then moved slowly toward the 11-pointer, which, lucky for me, was really picking up its pace. I thought, "I better get ready."
When the 11-pointer was 20 yards from me, I decided to draw. I got halfway through my draw when he looked up at me, but he didn't spot me. He turned his head, so I pulled all the way back. Then, he started walking from left to right.
The cameraman couldn't film the deer because I was in the way, so I had to wait to shoot him. The deer continued to walk to my left and stopped by a big tree. Then, neither the cameraman nor I could see him, so I was stuck at full draw. I don't know how long I stayed in full draw -- maybe a minute and a half, but my arms were beginning to shake. He took three more steps to where the cameraman could see him, and I finally got off a shot.
After I shot him, he ran up the hill. When he got about 90 yards away, he started walking slowly. When he wondered into the trees, I could tell he went down.
I knew he was by far the biggest deer I'd ever taken, and I was excited beyond belief. After I shot the deer, we filmed a few scenes up in the stand with the camera. While we were filming, we heard something running off the rock hill behind us. We turned around and spotted a huge 10 pointer that would probably score in the mid 150s about 50 yards behind us. He ran down the hill, stopped, looked around a minute and left. He was a monster.
We had a day and a half left to hunt. Since I had tagged my buck for the hunt, I decided to hunt some does with my recurve bow. Mark ended up filming me successfully shooting two does with my recurve. They were small does, but I was just as excited about taking them with the recurve as I was taking that big buck with my compound.
The fact that all of us killed deer on this trip was just the cherry on top.
Hunting with a recurve is very tough. I missed four deer in one evening one time with a recurve, which was very humbling. With a recurve, you have no let-off, your draw length changes, you have no sight and no release. It is the purest form of archery with success relying totally on your instinct. I felt very proud to have made two successful shots.
On the last evening, Michael killed a nice buck out of an Ameristep blind. He shot right through the netting. It was about a 130-inch, 8-pointer.
So by the end of the hunt, we had all experienced success. I had so much fun with both Michael and Rhett playing guitars, singing and just goofing off. The fact that all of us killed deer on this trip was just the cherry on top.
Editor's note: Look for the three exciting bowhunts on Realtree Road Trips during the upcoming 2006 season. You won't want to miss the great bowhunting action and some pretty good guitar playing, too!
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