It's Not Just a Rumor Anymore

By Terrell McCombs

It's not just a rumor anymore

Terrell McCombs
Texas, 2009, Guided

I have, like many of you, diligently hunted mule deer for a good portion of my life. I have looked for great bucks in several western states and have taken some nice ones along the way. However, few experienced hunters would argue with the notion that a truly great mule deer buck is one of the toughest trophies to take in North America. So it’s surprising to me, in hindsight, that my best buck to date came from my home state of Texas.

You don’t hear a lot about Texas mule deer hunting, which is a shame, because the state holds some very nice bucks. This wasn’t always the case. In the past, a great Texas mule deer would score in the high 160s. Today, in well-managed areas, 170-class mule deer are relatively common and many 180-plus bucks are taken annually, with a few even crossing the rarified 200-inch mark.

Most mule deer hunting in Texas takes place in the Trans-Pecos region, which encompasses a majority of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in North America. This area is vast, arid, and remote, with some mountain ranges exceeding 8,700 feet.

The Texas mule deer, properly Odocoileus hemionus crooki, are desert mule deer named after General Crook, who chased Geronimo through their range. They range from El Paso in the western part of the state to the Pecos River region, with good numbers in the Panhandle region as well. This desert mule deer subspecies is larger in body than its Sonoran cousins, with live weights often exceeding 220 pounds.

Hunter Ross, of Desert Safaris, operates one of the best mule deer operations in this remote region. I have hunted with him many times, taking trophies such as a 17-inch pronghorn, but I have always coveted a great Texas mulie, so I figured in late November of 2009 it was time to give it a try.

The first morning dawned clear and cold, with temperatures in the low 30s. I bundled up, jumped in a jeep, and we slowly pulled out of camp. It was a beautiful morning and the desert sky was streaked with magenta and gold as the sun slowly rose from its dark bed. We carefully glassed several likely areas, but only saw does and a few young bucks. I was quite fine with it, as I was totally immersed in the beauty of the desert landscape. Besides, it was only the first morning.

We slowly made our way into a huge greasewood flat with several rocky canyons and draws rising above it at the far end. That’s when my guide, Dalton, and I saw a scene that can only be described as surreal. We watched in awe as a high, heavy rack seemingly floated over the tops of the greasewood at the far end of the flat. It was a big buck making his way toward a sanctuary in the far rocky canyons. When you glass a deer of this caliber, even at long distance, you know immediately it’s “the one”. No further analysis is needed.

It's not just a rumor anymore

For a full account of Terrell's adventure, go to page 32 in the October/November 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.