HUNTING WITH MR. WHITETAIL Luke Clayton If youre an avid golfer, chances are good a day spent golfing with your favorite pro golfer would be as good as it gets, at least this side of the Pearly Gates. If youre a football nut, maybe an afternoon spent tossing the old pigskin and talking about the good old days with Roger Staubach might ring your bell. But if a passion for hunting whitetail deer has kept you awake at night, eagerly awaiting this seasons opening day, hunting with Larry Weishuhn during the peak of the whitetail rut on a great ranch has to be high on your wish list. Larry and I have worked together for many years; written for some of the same outdoor publications; done many interviews for my weekly radio show. Larry has been my liaison with Thompson Center Arms, keeping me updated and supplied with the newest innovations in their fine line of rifles and muzzleloaders. But, until recently, Ive never had the privilege of hunting deer with Larry. Our mutual friend, Dr Bob Mcfarlane, owner of The Big Woods hunting ranch near Tennessee Colony, Texas invited Larry, outdoors writer Bob Hood and myself to hunt the peak of the rut on his well managed 7,500 acre ranch that, bordered on one side by the Trinity River and Catfish Creek on the other, produces some mighty big bottomland bucks. The whitetail rut begins a bit earlier in this area than most of the state. Bucks are usually actively chasing does each year by the first week in October. Larry had Ray Boone, a longtime outdoor TV show host and producer, running the camera for him and a full 5 days to hunt. As is often the case, my scheduled only permitted a couple days to hunt, writing deadlines and my weekly radio show were the reason for my short hunt. But, I can truly say, Ive never enjoyed time spent in the deer woods more than with these knowledgeable deer hunters. Mcfarlane set the dates for our hunt back in the summer and he chose well. The rut was in full swing and it seemed every buck on the place was up running does. On one set, I counted a total of 12 deer and seven of them were bucks. With a buck/doe ration of close to one to one, bucks at the Big Woods have to compete for breeding rights with does and, as I learned on this hunt, this competition sets the stage for some very aggressive buck behavior. Through the years, I have taken some nice bucks at the Big Woods and my plan this season was to wait for a chance at one of those old mossy horned bruisers. My venison supply from last year was getting critically low and I planned to use my new TC Triumph 50 caliber to harvest a doe on this short hunt if I did not see the buck I was looking for. Besides, the season is just getting underway and this hunt was all about spending a little time with my friends and watching some sure nuff pros at work. Photo by Luke Clayton The first evening of the hunt coincided perfectly with the first wet northern of the year. I set in a comfortable blind and listened to the rain pelt the metal roof; deer were where they should be under such conditions: seeking shelter back in the thickets. Just before dark, the rain stopped and every deer at Big Woods, is seemed, was up and feeding. In fifteen minutes, I watched several deer feeding within sight of my stand, a couple were good bucks that a few years ago, I would have not hesitated to harvest. Ive taken some good bucks at The Big Woods and have seen some real bruisers taken here. My goal was to harvest one of those mossy horned monsters, or shoot a fat doe for the freezer the next morning. Back at camp that evening Dr. Mcfarlane (Doc) kept everyone entertained with his good natured kidding and Weishuhn talked of his recent hunts all over the globe, where he hunted everything from plains game in Africa to Caribou in Canada. He had just returned from a Kansas hunt where he took a bruiser whitetail with the new TC Triump during the muzzleloader season. Just before turning in for a good nights rest, I took a quick look outside; the heavens were clear and the stars shining. I felt we would have a very, very good hunt the next morning. Conditions could not have been better. The morning broke clear; it was the coolest day of the fall. The plan was for Hood and myself to hunt from stands, Weishuhn would pack his rattling horns into the back woods in hopes of rattling up a big buck. We were to link up at 10 am.and compare notes. In the little over two hours I set on stand, I saw several doe and bucks, one good buck but not quite what I was hoping for. My venison supply was getting critically low and my plan was to harvest a big doe late in the hunt. Around nine-thirty a doe that we later weighed at 102.5 pounds walked within muzzleloader range. I made the shot and she disappeared into the oaks. She went about 60 yards and as I began to drag her back to the road, I heard antlers clashing and brush breaking. I went back into the woods and saw two bucks in mortal combat. There I was without a camera or rifle! I rushed back to get the muzzleloader in case one of the bucks was a shooter. These deer were intent upon proving who was the bull of the woods, they never knew I was near. I WAS near. I had eased within thirty yards and discovered they were both younger bucks. Then, I though it best to back out of there. I didnt want the winner of the battle to look up and charge me; it HAS happened! Photo by Luke Clayton I spent few hours with Weishuhn and Boone, doing some late morning rattling. Larrys expert antler rattling drew the interest of several bucks, including a big ten pointer Boone captured on film for a few seconds. By mid day, I had my venison in the cooler and was heading back to the computer in time to get this story to you. At present, my buddies are still at Big Woods. They have 5 more days to hunt and film. I expect you will be watching the results of their hunt next year on one of Weishuhns TV shows. My prediction is that an exciting show will be forthcoming. I know what kind of bucks are roaming those rich river bottoms and I also know Weishuhns persistence and skill! Make sure to check out my radio show at www.catfishradio.com.