In order to be a very successful whitetail deer hunter you must do two things fairly well: (1) You have to outsmart the deer (2) You have to outsmart other hunters. That’s it in a nutshell with deer hunting.
Each year after the hunting season there are a group of industry buying shows scattered around the country. The largest by far is the shooting and sports show (usually in Las Vegas) better known as the SHOT Show. I’ve attended this particular event nearly 30 times over the years.
A few years back I was in the Arctic Shield booth when one of their reps walked into the booth unexpected. The fact is he showed up two days early and there weren’t any rooms available in Vegas for him to stay. There were several other conventions in town and hotels were simply booked up. I overheard the potential problem and offered for him to stay with me a couple of nights. I was attending the show by myself and I had double beds in my room. It was no big deal to me.
However in my room that night I was getting ready to go to bed and in walked my new room mate. He was young and I could tell he had been kicking up his heals a bit. It was about 10 p.m. “I’m going back out. I just need to change my clothes. There’s a group of my friends waiting down stairs,” he stated.
Of course I didn’t care if he went back out. It was none of my business. I didn’t care what he did while he was out. But I got to thinking, I don’t know this guy or anything about him. I sure don’t know who his friends are. So before he headed out the door I decided I should probably set some rules for the evening. It was my room. I was paying for it. He was simply a good faith guest.
So very politely I said, “Look I don’t care what you do or when you come back in but I’d appreciate it that when you do come back in try and be quiet and don’t wake me up. Also you’re leaving alone, I’d appreciate it that you return alone. And I really don’t want any liquor brought back to the room. OK?”
I must have hit a nerve. All of a sudden he started slinging his arms around and throwing his clothes down. I had made him mad. I couldn’t believe it. Having raised 5 kids I had seen plenty of fits in my time so I just ignored it. During his temper tantrum he was muttering under his breath and I did manage to make out a complaint that sounded something like this, ’Well all you TV guys get to hunt the great places and all of us no bodies are stuck hunting terrible places.” And he went on and on about that.
That’s when I decided to chime in by asking, “Hey, where you from?” “East Texas,” he answered looking surprised.
“You know where Lufkin is?” I ask.
“Yeh, I just live about 30 miles from there.”
“Is that Quality Inn still open there on the north side of town,” I ask.
“I don’t know. I think it is,” he said shrugging his shoulders.
“Well that’s where I would say on weekends when I would drive down after work on Friday
from Tulsa. I’d get in there before midnight and then hunt the Davy Crockett National Forest all weekend, leaving after my Sunday evening hunt and getting back home by 1 a.m. so I could go back to work on Monday morning. I did this weekend after weekend all fall,” I pointed out.
He just stared at me with a surprised look on his face.
“You mean you’ve hunt public land in East Texas? Wait until I tell all my buddies that Roger Raglin has hunted the Davy Crockett National Forest. They won’t believe it,” he remarked.
I didn’t say anything else and for some reason after that he sure seemed to be pretty nice about everything. I suppose there was a new found respect from him because I had hunted some of his old stomping grounds in East Texas.
I have news for him and everybody else in the world. There’s not many people running around out there that has hunted more public land than me. I could begin to list all the public land places in various states and it would shock most everyone.
I didn’t grown up with a silver spoon stuck in my mouth when it comes to hunting whitetail deer. I was the son or nephew of any big wig from any hunting industry company. My dad wasn’t anoutfitter. He sure wasn’t rich either. I learned to deer hunt the hard way. I put my time in on public land and I mean a lot of it. And it was on public land where I learned so many things about hunting whitetails. I learned what to do as well as what not to do. And one of the ’what to do’ things was learned in East Texas on the Davy Crockett National Forest (DCNF). Here it is.
I had talked an old college room mate of mine who was living in Dallas into going with me to hunt the DCNF, the largest public land area in East Texas. I had made the mistake of going through Dallas and having him follow me down to Lufkin the night before. We didn’t get there until about 3 in the morning. It didn’t make sense to get a motel room for 2 hours so we went straight to the main gate at DCNF and just set there until light. That was a long night.
Since I had never been on this piece of land I decided to just wait until daylight to get things going. There was a big sign up at the entrance stating: No vehicles allowed beyond this point including ATV’s. So it was a walk in only parcel. It was large too: as I recall about 14,000 acres Even though I was really tired I was still anxious. As the sun finally broke through just enough to see out of the truck we bailed with our weapons in hand. The plan was simple. I told my friend to go one way and I’ll go the next and we’ll meet back at the truck at dark.
I didn’t want to get lost right off the bat so I just hugged the fence line to the east. I mean I pretty much kept it in sight the best I could. This is a heavy timbered region of the country and there was a lot of brush to boot. You really couldn’t see very far in the first place.
I mean I hadn’t walked 300 yards when all of a sudden I heard this strange noise heading my direction. It almost sounded like a pig grunting or rooting around. Where I was standing you could barely see 50 yards. Inexperience that day cost me dearly.
In only a matter of a few seconds out of the heavy brush stepped a giant whitetail buck. This was the biggest buck I’d ever seen. I don’t know who was more surprised him or me. Of course he was on the trail of a hot doe and he while he was rutted up he knew I wasn’t that doe. It all happened in a flash. He snorted, blew at me and bolted back towards the heavy cover. I nearly wet on myself, raised my rifle and tried to find him in my scope as quickly as I could. There just wasn’t enough time. He was gone.
After I stopped shaking and calmed myself. I beat myself up a bit for not being ready. That was the first time anything quite like that had happened to me. All I could do to comfort myself was to say the one thing I always saying after a new experience with a whitetail buck that went wrong:
NOW I KNOW. THAT WON’T HAPPEN AGAIN. NEXT TIME I’LL BE READY!
Being about 1⁄2 shook up. I made sure I got back to the fence line so I didn’t get turned around. I didn’t walk 100 yards when out of the wild blue I heard a voice speaking to me.
“Hey you. You make darn sure you stay on that side of the fence. This is private ground over here and I’m hunting a giant buck. You understand?”
Since you don’t have to wear blaze orange in Texas I had to look around a bit to find where this person was sitting. He literally was right across the fence tucked in behind an oak tree only 40 yards from me. It caught me by surprise. I just nodded my head and kept walking.
Of course I hadn’t had any plans on crossing the fence. I didn’t know that on the other side was private land but I figured as much. However I do remember like it was yesterday my next thoughts. I just kept them to myself but boy those thoughts rung true and clear:
‘That monster buck you’re hunting just stepped out in front of me at 50 yards on public land. I guess someone needs to tell him not to jump that fence next time.’
And there you go. I learned an important lesson that day and got chewed out by one of the locals to boot. I had done nothing to deserve being jumped onto like that. I did the right thing and avoided any confrontation with the guy. There wasn’t any need. I totally had a right to be where I was. I had no intention on crossing onto his property or shooting onto it either. If I had been more prepared I would have killed ‘his buck’ on my side of the fence. Of course it wasn’t his buck. It was the state of Texas’ buck. The buck decided where he wanted to go: on one side of the fence is private property and on the other side of the fence is public property.
That’s the way it works with a whitetail deer. He may be on one side of the property one day and on the other side the next day. It’s his choice. He decides. A buck in rut will travel where the doe goes. He doesn’t care whose property he is on when that happens. If a deer is hungry he is going to where the food is. He doesn’t care what side of the fence the food is on. He going. If a deer is being pushed or bothered by hunters, he will go where he is not being pushed or bothered. He doesn’t care what side of the fence that is.
So I hunt lots of fence lines. As long as I don’t shoot across the fence line onto another person’s property I’m A OK according to the laws in every single state in the U.S. It’s smart deer hunting my friend. It’s common sense deer hunting at its best.
Good deer hunting to you my friend!
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