September 22, 2010
In Spanish, "el Rucio" denotes the color of a horse. To David Coleman, who was hunting in the el Rucio portion of the McAllen Ranch in south Texas last year, the name will always denote a horse of a whitetail!
Doing it the hard way: Upon spotting this "muy grande" in a sendero nearly 500 yards away, David Coleman climbed down from his high-rack stand and made a long, successful stalk through the brush. David's buck took second place in the popular Los Cazadores Deer Contest in Pearsall, Texas.
Hunting deer in South Texas wasn't new to David Coleman of Columbus, Mississippi, when he booked a 2006 hunt on the McAllen Ranch near Edinburg. But even time spent chasing big bucks on the famed King Ranch couldn't have prepared him for the events that unfolded in mid-December in "el Rucio."
"El Rucio is the name they use for one side of the ranch, where I began my hunt," David said. "The name is Spanish meaning 'color of a horse,' and the area I was hunting in was some 10,000 acres. I didn't see as many deer as my buddies did hunting elsewhere the first afternoon, but I decided to continue hunting that area, anyway."
David's decision was easy. He'd seen plenty of bucks in the 130 to 140 class the first afternoon out in el Rucio. What's more, for a brief instant he had indeed seen a "gray horse" materialize in the ghost-like fog during his first morning hunt, only this horse was wearing antlers and it was a potential Booner.
"December 13 was our first day on the ranch," David said. "My longtime hunting buddy Dr. Scott Jones was along on the trip, as was my friend Dustin Waldrip. We shot our guns to check them, and then we hunted that first afternoon. After comparing notes that night, we'd all seen several bucks in the 130 to 140 range."
AN EXCELLENT CHOICE
In researching ranches for the 2006 trip, David had learned that hunters on the McAllen Ranch often get opportunities to take 160-class bucks. Larger deer are possible. He trusted the information because he knew the ranch manager, Travis DeWitt.
"Travis' daddy, Amos, had worked on the King Ranch, and we'd hunted there for years," David said. "I actually turkey hunted on the King Ranch with Travis. When we found him and the McAllen Ranch on the Web, we contacted him and booked the hunt."
Having hunted on the King Ranch, David and his companions weren't unacquainted with big whitetails. But that doesn't mean they weren't surprised by what they found on the sprawling McAllen operation.
"The ranch is primarily a cattle ranch," David said. "I learned very quickly that the deer were very skittish. These were wild deer we were hunting -- just like the deer we hunt in Mississippi. At dinner that first night, we talked about the need to make an accurate judgment of a buck quickly because we might not have long to make a good shot."
Fog compounded things for David and his buddies during their first morning's hunt. "The ranch uses ground blinds, but they also use vehicles with elevated 'high rack' blinds," David explained. "That first morning, we were all in vehicles with our guides, moving slowly along senderos while looking for good bucks. Since it was the beginning of the rut, we also had the opportunity to try some rattling."
VISIONS IN THE MIST
As the first morning's hunt unfolded for David, el Rucio revealed a healthy population of bucks in the 130 to 140 class -- that is, until 9:30. "I caught a glimpse of a big buck through the fog," David said. "He was a 170-class buck, no doubt. But there was no way to get a good shot, and he disappeared. I ended up rattling in several bucks after that, but the big boy never came back."
David and his guide returned to camp for lunch, and the hunters compared notes again.
Everyone had seen a number of 140-class bucks, but only David had seen a deer that might reach record-book proportions. He decided to stick with el Rucio, and to get back out there quickly.
"I was ready to go back out at 12:45," he said. "It was hot, and that definitely was early, but I knew there were big bucks on that side of the ranch. I wasn't going to see them sitting at the lodge."
Heading out for the afternoon, David and his guide Adam Braune made their way to a crossroads of sorts, the intersection of a sendero and a pipeline easement that provided shooting opportunities in four directions. Here they had the chance to play the wind, and there was enough cover to conceal the high-rack truck.
"We were all set up by 2:30, and deer started coming out," David said. "But they were very skittish for some reason. The ranch trucks all have corn feeders in their beds, and it finally occurred to me that the bright sun was reflecting off the feeder in our truck and making the deer even more nervous than usual. So I took off my Realtree shirt and covered the feeder with it. That seemed to help a little."
During the afternoon, David and his guide saw upwards of 20 deer from their position just inside the brush at the crossroads. Then 4:30 arrived.
"Suddenly it was like someone flicked on a switch," David said. "We had deer in all four directions on the senderos, lots of them! I let a pretty good 13-point buck walk because I knew there were bigger deer in the area. A 180-class buck had been seen before we arrived, and I thought I might get a look at him."
Fortunately, David never got a look at the 180. He had an appointment with a bigger buck instead!
DATE WITH A MUY GRANDE
"There was a white stake in the edge of the sendero about 200 yards from where we were sitting," David said. "When we first saw this giant buck walk out, I guessed that he was another 200 yards beyond the stake. I checked the rangefinder, and he was 487 yards."
The buck fed in the sendero, albeit on very edgy nerves. David soon had two mature does between him and the buck. He knew that if the does detected the slightest movement, it would wreck any chance he might have to get a shot at the buck.
"I told Adam that I'd like to try making a stalk through the brush," David said. "My plan was to make a big loop and come out at the edge of the sendero near that white stake.
That would give me about a 200- to 250-yard shot."
After assuring his guide that (1)€‚he wouldn't get lost in the thick, tangled mesquite, and (2)€‚that he could, indeed, make the shot, David moved off as quickly as he could toward his date with destiny. Practically
every step added intensity to the moment.
"A lot of doves were roosting in that cover," he said. "And it seemed like a handful of them busted out of there every time I covered more than a few steps. It worried me sick because I was afraid they'd spook the two does on the sendero and that would alarm the buck.
"Then it occurred to me that the deer worked through that stuff all the time, and that there were lots of other animals in there as well. I hoped that the deer didn't see anything unusual in doves flushing like that. As things turned out, this time, at least, they didn't."
In a matter of minutes -- though it seemed like hours -- David found himself at the edge of the sendero just a few yards past the white stake. This was after he had walked, stalked and belly-crawled through cactus, thorns, grass and briars.
"I came out almost exactly where I expected to," he said. "The buck was still there, and I had closed the distance to about 225 yards."
A HORSE OF A BUCK
David set up his shooting sticks, steadied himself for a shot, took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. His gun, a Remington Model 700 chambered in .264 Winchester Magnum, was armed with handloads courtesy of his dad -- 140-grain bullets sitting atop Hodgdon 4831 smokeless powder ignited by Federal Magnum primers.
"I heard the big 'whop' of my bullet hitting him," David said. "And it seemed like only a second passed before Adam was sitting next to me in the truck, on the sendero, telling me he'd gotten the whole thing on video!"
David and his guide first saw this amazing buck at 4:45 p.m. David pulled the trigger at 5 o'clock. "It turned out that nobody had ever seen this buck before on the ranch," he said.
"When we first saw it, Adam and I guessed him to be in the 170- to 175-class range." A few minutes after 5 p.m. on the afternoon of Dec. 14, 2006, David and Adam found themselves in the presence of true South Texas royalty.
"'Oh my,' I remember saying," David recalled. "'He's a little bigger than what we thought.'" Talk about an understatement.€‚.€‚.€‚.
"I counted 31 points the first time," David said. "But I kept counting over and over, and I got a different number every time. I was a little nervous, I guess."
In truth, David's south Texas "muy grande" from el Rucio had 23 measurable points and officially scored 227€‚7/8 non-typical B&C points. David and Adam got on the radio and contacted David's hunting buddies on the other side of the ranch.
"I told them, 'Y'all might want to ride over here -- this is a 200-plus-class buck,'" David said. "Of course, they immediately hollered back that it probably wasn't even a 195, giving me lots of grief. However, Adam convinced them that this was indeed a buck they needed to come take a look at."
A LOS CAZADORES WINNER
The buck, probably weighing less than 200 pounds on the hoof, was thought to be 6€‚1/2 years old. It was later green-scored in the mid-220s. "We started sending photos out on our cell phones, and before you know it, this deer was all over the place!" David noted.
Ultimately, it ended up in one of the most sought-after places in Texas deer hunting -- the Los Cazadores contest in Pearsall. Having hunted in Texas for many years, David always entered this well-known contest. Now it proved very worthwhile, as the buck took second place overall in the prestigious event. What's more, it was the largest free-ranging whitetail (no high fence) taken in Texas last season.
"During the 1994-1995 season, I killed a buck in Mississippi that was my biggest deer ever before this guy," David said. "That buck, a 16-pointer scoring 181€‚3/8 non-typical, was second only to the Tony Fulton buck that season in Mississippi." (The Fulton buck scored 295€‚6/8 non-typical points and is one of only a handful of 300-class bucks ever taken by a hunter.)
David's hunting partners also scored on the trip. Dr. Jones tagged a 147-inch 9-pointer "literally at the last minute," David said. "Dustin took a 131-inch management buck -- an 11-pointer with a really pretty rack."
As you might imagine, David and his buddies quickly booked a 2007 trip to the McAllen Ranch. "We're definitely going back," he said, "but we're going a week later because we believe it will be even better."
Editor's Note: The ever-popular Los Cazadores ("the hunters" in Spanish) Deer Contest in Pearsall, Texas, was established in 1986. The 2006-2007 season marked the contest's 21st year. Since south Texas and northern Mexico have long been annual big-buck destinations for whitetail hunters from all parts of the country, many non-residents like David Coleman enter this popular contest every season.