Clayton: Miles and miles of West Texas hunting

Luke Clayton
Special to the E-T

While setting in a deer blind looking out over a West Texas vista that seemed to stretch on forever, the tune, “Miles and Miles of Texas” came to mind. Songwriters Diane Johnston and Tommy Camfield surely must have spent time on this ranch in Mitchell County way back 60 years ago when they penned the words to their famous song.

My friends Larry Weishuhn, Jeff Rice and I were invited out to hunt the vast ranch by Bryan Davis who has leased the property for several years. Davis has long been involved in many facets of outdoor product development and marketing and currently serves as a consultant for several top brands. The first thing I noticed upon pulling up to the camp house was a couple of big boxes of scents and sent removal products by TRHP Outdoors. Having used these products for the past several years, I was already well versed in their effectiveness.

Luke traveled out to West Texas to hunt with some great friends this past week. Larry Weishuhn shows off a fine buck he took on the hunt.

Bryan introduced us to Scott Campbell who has had an extensive career in law enforcement and is trained as, among other things, an interrogator. Scott’s stories around the campfire ensured there was never a dull moment around camp! My buddies and I were first timers on a ranch the size of many cities and without the help of our two guides could have spent a month learning the boundaries of the place and the better spots to hunt.

The ranch is on a whitetail management plan and bucks are categorized into three classes: trophies, management and cull bucks. Bryan informed us that all but two management (mature 8-pointers) bucks had been taken but cull bucks (mature bucks with less than 8 points) and does were available to hunt.

Larry and Jeff had their video cameras along to film an episode of our weekly outdoor video show “A Sportsman’s Life’ on Carbon TV. I was hoping to harvest some venison and cared not if the buck I shot had eight points or was only a spike as long as had reached his potential. I chose to hunt for one of the culls and also put some great eating doe meat in the cooler, my buddies plan was to shoot some video of the management bucks they would hopefully harvest.   

Although the terrain appears rolling and relatively flat at first observation, the landscape along the drainages has many valleys and small canyons. On the first afternoon hunt, Bryan took me on a spot and stalk hunt/tour of a small portion of the ranch and my buddies took their rifles and video cameras and hunted from stands. I’m sure we drove 8 or 10 miles and I was given a good idea of just how large the ranch really is; we only traversed a small part of it.  It didn’t take long for me to realize I was on a piece of well managed deer habitat.

Luke Clayton

The plan was for me to shoot a mature doe or possibly a cull buck during this scouting trip. We spotted countless deer out feeding on distant hillsides and had a couple of very respectable bucks cross the road in front of us. Then Bryan motioned toward a big doe a few hundred yards out. She was standing next to a cedar bush and it was obvious she was big, mature and would provide lots of great venison. I made a short stalk and got in good shooting position and soon had venison on the ground. I did note my shot was high and to the right of where I aimed but it was lethal and I gave the shot placement little thought at the time.

Back at camp that evening, we enjoyed a great dinner and shared some stories of our years spent hunting and fishing! Scott detailed some of his experiences as an interrogator overseas. I guessed he was only giving us a small glimpse into what his duties really entailed. Larry had taken a fine 8-point buck and Jeff was in awe of the game he saw from his stand.

“The most awesome spot I have ever hunted," he later commented about one of the areas he hunted.

The next morning, Scott and I headed out on his side-by-side and covered lots of country in our quest of a cull buck. We glassed a couple of eye-popping, trophy-class bucks at a distance and countless doe, but the buck we were hunting eluded us. Back at camp, I was informed of a good spot to hunt that afternoon; a Lazy Man hunting blind setting atop a ridge overlooking a little valley that had been frequented by a particular heavy horned 6-point buck.  

I settled in mid-afternoon and almost immediately began seeing deer. An approaching cold front had every deer on the place, it seemed, up and moving. After a peaceful hour or so sit, I glanced far to the left and spotted a deer moving through the brush. A couple of does out in front of me looked back over their shoulder. A buck was coming for sure and through my binoculars, it appeared to be a 6-point. But was it an eight with a broken tine? I had to know for sure! The buck slowly walked down off the mesquite flat into the valley and stopped about 100 yards out. I just could not be sure of the number of points and used my Nikon with long lens to take a couple photos. After enlarging the images on the camera, I could readily see he was a slick six with no broken tines.

I got my .270 into position and centered the crosshairs right behind the buck's shoulder. He had moved out to about 225 yards while I was fooling with the camera. I gently tugged the trigger and the buck trotted away, stopped and looked back. I had made a clean miss, but how could I have missed such an easy shot that I was well practiced for? I checked the zero on my rifle before the hunt!

I later determined the rifle was shooting 10 inches high and to the right at 100 yards. The bullet missed the buck by a couple feet.  Always better to miss cleanly than wound an animal. I later took an older doe with Scott’s 6.5 Creedmore. Jeff took a big 8-pointer from the awesome hunting spot he says he will never forget.

To sum it up, this proved to be a hunt I will never forget. What more could an old hunter desire, awesome hunting country, plentiful deer and wonderful friends, both old and new!

Watch Sportsman’s Life on Carbon TV next week for a segment on this hunt. Contact Outdoors writer Luke Clayton via email