John's Journal... Entry 70, Day 1
The Amazing Quinn Ranch
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each year hunters learn more and more about deer hunting. This week, we'll look at decision-making time when you're judging whitetails, including where do you look for bucks, which buck do should you take, and when is your hunt over? This week, we'll discuss hot-weather hunting in Texas.
Two trophy bucks stood in front of me at 70 yards as I sat in a shooting house at the Quinn Ranch near Brady, Texas, on the first morning of my gun hunt. The 8 point had long tines and would score between 120 and 130 points on the Boone & Crockett scale. The 8 pointer's body weighed about 150 pounds, and his rack was tall -- with G2s that would have measured 10 inches or more. But the inside spread of his main beams was only 16- to 17-inches wide. The other buck I was considering bagging had a 19- to 20-inch inside spread and shorter tines, but a bigger body. I also could see six other bucks besides the two trophies. Although these six bucks were smaller than the two trophy deer, any hunter would have wanted to take any one of four of them. Many hunters would refer to these bucks as Jazzy Eights -- bucks that would score between 90 and 110 points. Hunters would take these four bucks on most hunting leases anywhere in the United States. However Texas and particularly the Quinn Ranch boast plenty of trophies. So, many hunters wouldn't even consider shooting the Jazzy Eights there. Two of the other bucks were much younger and much smaller: one, a 4 point and the other, a 6 pointer.
Having eight bucks to choose from on the first morning of a hunt sounds like a dream for most sportsmen anywhere in the country. If you've never hunted Texas, the number of bucks you'll see and the size of their antlers will blow you away. In Texas you have the opportunity to see more trophy bucks in a day than you may see in a lifetime of hunting anywhere else. Moreover, the antlers on these bucks can be deceiving. Antlers that will score 110 points on the B&C scale look enormous resting atop the head of a buck that only weighs 120 pounds. If you put that same set of antlers on a buck that weighs 200 to 250 pounds, they won't appear nearly as large. When you hunt in Texas, you'll see many more bucks than you'll ever see at home and spot antlers on smaller-bodied deer, which can make field-judging rack size difficult.
But I knew I had two shooters in front of him. The bigger-bodied buck would have weighed about 175 pounds and seemed bigger than all the other bucks in front of me. I studied the buck's antlers carefully for 30 to 45 minutes and thought, "He's definitely a shooter buck, but his brow tines are only 2- to 3-inches high. He'll score between 128 and 132 on B&C, and he's a nice trophy. But I've only been hunting this first afternoon of a three-day hunt. I know I'll see many more bucks -- perhaps even a buck bigger than either of these two. So what should I do? Do I take one of these two deer, or do I continue to hunt in hopes of the opportunity to take a bigger one?"
What do you think I should have done? Each season, many of us face this same dilemma. Do we take the buck in front of us, or do we wait for a bigger buck? If I'd been hunting almost anywhere else, I would have shot either buck as soon as I spotted the bucks. However, in Texas, big bucks are as common as rocks. And if you're hunting on the Quinn ranch, which has had a well-managed deer herd for several years and produces trophies every season, well, you'll certainly think twice before shooting.
"We want to carry over 75 to 80 percent of our bucks each season," John Quinn, the owner, said. "We want to make sure that each of our hunters has six or eight bucks to choose from when he goes to a stand. We want all our hunters to get the opportunity to harvest 3- to 5-year-old bucks that will score 120 points B&C or better."
I opted not to shoot but rather to hunt the remaining three days instead. Every morning and every afternoon when I went out, I saw bucks around my stand site. On the last day of my hunt, I watched a really big buck that never presented a shot. I remembered an old adage I'd learned many years ago but tended to forget: "Never pass up a buck on the first day of the hunt that you would take on the last day of the hunt."
To know more about hunting on the Quinn Ranch, contact John Quinn at HC 69 Box 440, Brady, TX 76825, or, call him at (915) 597-2647. You can also visit their webpage at http://www.jquinnranch.com or e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow: The Backyard Buck You Won't Believe