Overall activity status: Hot weather still hangs over the region. High temperatures in the 70s and 80s have been common. Some locations are tying or breaking all-time record highs. In the afternoons, the short 30-minute window from sunset to dark provides the best odds for seeing an old buck. Cool mornings provide a good chance for seeing a buck on the move, before the day heats up.
Fighting: Bucks everywhere have broken tines. I watched two 1 ½-year-old bucks sparring, and even those two youngsters had broken racks!
Rub making: Rub sign now is mostly from earlier in the year. Rub making is more of an early fall ritual, but rutting bucks will take their frustrations out on brush or a tree.
Chasing: On the morning of December 2, I watched a 125-inch 8-point chase a doe in the Texas Panhandle. The buck spent an equal amount of time chasing a smaller buck away from his girl. He stayed by her side for one hour, until they disappeared into thick brush. Half a mile down the river bottom, I spied three broken-racked 140-class bucks. They were all sniffing and courting one doe, then taking turns posturing to each other and threatening each other by lowering their heads, ready to fight.
Daytime movement: The heat has certainly kept some bucks moving only in the dark. We need some cold weather to increase daylight mature buck activity.
Estrous sign: A friend hunting near Breckenridge in North Texas reports that a 158-inch buck was taken on his ranch when the buck chased a doe into a wheat field late in the afternoon. The doe’s attitude, flicking her tail and pausing for the buck, indicates she was likely ready to breed or close to it. The chasing buck was aged at 7 ½ years. The rut is still active in the northern half of the region and it should just start clicking way down south of San Antonio. The rut action is typically best in the month of December and even into early January in the brush country of South Texas.
X factor: Twelve-year-old Garrett Bonner, pictured above, shot this fine 11-point in the eastern Texas Panhandle while hunting with his dad, Jeff. Jeff is a wildlife biologist and aged the buck at 7 ½ years. The deer field-dressed 144 pounds and his rack scored 152-inches despite a broken G-2. Patience was the name of the game as the father/son team stalked the buck and several does in open country in the early morning, then set up and waited for the deer to exit a sagebrush-covered draw. Thirty minutes later, they did. Garrett made a 150-yard shot with his .223 to drop the fine buck.