Ask deer hunters about their favorite whitetail destinations, and Texas is sure to be one of the top responses. With huge numbers of deer and plenty of country in which to chase them—not to mention warm Southern hospitality and world-class cuisine—the Lone Star State has a unique allure and remains a perennial whitetail hunting hot spot for countless hunters in search of a true brush country giant.
For the crew at Field & Stream, there was no better way to welcome the new year than with a South Texas whitetail hunt. We teamed up with Field & Stream Pro Staffer and renowned outfitter Mike Stroff, who also hosts Savage Outdoors on the Sportsman Channel and owns SOE Hunts, which offers premium hunting adventures for whitetails, turkeys, and other game.
With a camp full of high spirits and great camaraderie, we took to the woods in search of big bucks and big adventure. Here’s a look at what happened.
When this handsome buck cruised past my blind at first light on the first morning of the hunt, I knew the stage was set for a great week.
Hunting with a camera is similar to hunting with a gun or bow. To be successful, you need to be aware of your surroundings, pick your shots, stay quiet and be as unobtrusive as possible.
Although we saw several 10- and 12-point deer, our mission was to target management bucks, like this one. A management deer is a mature buck (four-and-a-half years and older) with eight or nine points. It’s a deer that has reached its maximum antler-development potential, and should be thinned from the herd to allow the older, bigger bucks to breed the does. It’s a proven whitetail herd-management strategy that leads to healthier deer numbers and better genetics.
Although we saw several 10- and 12-point deer, our mission was to target management bucks, like this one. A management deer is a mature buck (four and a half years and older) with eight or nine points. It’s a deer that has reached its maximum antler-development potential, and should be thinned from the herd to allow the older, bigger bucks to breed the does. It’s a proven whitetail herd-management strategy that leads to healthier deer numbers and better genetics.
Mike Stroff sits comfortably in high-tech Field & Stream hunting gear and waits for a trophy whitetail buck to walk within bow range. Blinds such as this one offer a perfect hideout for hunters and nature photographers alike.
Good gear is a critical component of any pursuit, whether you’re hunting, hiking, rock climbing or dominating the gridiron, links or diamond. Here, Robby Dorsch from Field & Stream heads to his deer blind decked out in the company’s apparel. The C3 Everyhunt Lightweight Hunting Jacket and Pants provide critical warmth for chilly mornings in the deer stand; two-way stretch fleece for maximum mobility and comfort; odor-minimizing Noscent C3 Technology to keep you undetected from a deer’s keen sense of smell; and hydroRepel fabric to keep you dry. That’s a recipe for success in the whitetail woods.
Meet the men behind the scenes. Mike, Rudy and Ruben (from left to right) were our guides. Their knowledge of the local herd proved invaluable as they consistently put our crew in front of big deer.
This wide-racked buck boasts a rare “drop tine,” which means the left side of his rack broke off most likely during a brawl with another buck. He hung out near my blind for several days and posed for hundreds of pictures.
This curious buck also spent lots of time within camera range. While already an impressive specimen, he has all the makings of a truly world-class buck. In another two or three years, he’ll sport an enviable set of antlers. With any luck, I’ll be there to shoot his portrait again.
Though the whitetail rut, or mating season, was winding down, we still saw a few bucks on the move chasing does, like this giant who wields 170 inches of antler.
The smile says it all. Robby puts his hands on his first-ever whitetail buck. His baptism into the world of whitetail hunting was a memorable one, and the reward for his persistence was this wide, heavy buck… and great memories made with great friends.
That’s a wrap. After a week of big laughs, big fun, thousands of pics and several good deer on the ground, our Texas adventure was one we won’t soon forget.
All Images: John Hafner