December 21, 2015
While the whitetail rut has wound down over most of the nation's deer hunting heartland, as the end of the year approaches, it's just now hitting its stride in the Deep South.
Especially in the famed "Golden Triangle" Texas counties lying to the south and southeast of San Antonio, the legendary Brush Country where mid-December offers the best deer hunting action of the year.
Which is why you'll see a number of Outdoor Channel and Sportsman Channel hunting personalities making their way to the region just north of the Rio Grande River with their hunting rifles – or in some cases, their compound bows – in tow.
Jordan Shipley, the football wide receiver turned co-host of The Bucks of Tecomate television show, lives for this time of the year on his home turf in the Lone Star State when the region's legendary Muy Grande bucks throw caution to the wind and chase estrous does across rolling flats of prickly pear cactus, mesquite trees and thorny brush.
That's especially true when he gets to carry a set of rattling horns with him into a South Texas blind set-up.
Do keep in mind, however, that Shipley cautions that he'll rarely use such horns indiscriminately.
"I never rattle just to see if something will come in," said Shipley. "I only do it if I feel like I have a legitimate chance of killing the buck (I'm seeing or the caliber of buck that) I'm after.
"When actually rattling, I try to simulate an actual fight … thrashing brush, (pounding the) ground, raking the antlers (together) and making it sound real," he added.
Speaking of making it all sound real, Shipley doesn't worry much about the size of the antlers that he is using or in how they might make a smaller buck feel.
"I hear a lot of people say they don't use antlers with much size to rattle with because they don't want to intimidate a buck," said the former UT and NFL wide receiver, now a resident of Boerne, Texas, and the sponsor relations director for the Tecomate Wildlife Systems food plot seed company.
"I can tell you, that's bad logic," he added. "For one thing, the type of bucks that I'm after are mature and big."
Muy Grandes, that is.
"I've (rattled) in countless young bucks too, even yearlings and spikes with beefy antlers that had no business messing with a buck that could carry the antlers I'm using," said Shipley.
"So I think one reason for that (kind of behavior) is that bucks coming in to rattling aren't necessarily always coming to fight," he added. "Some of them are coming in to see if they can steal that hot doe while the fighting bucks are distracted."
As with his horn rattling strategy, Shipley also puts some thought into how he utilizes a grunt call while hunting rutting South Texas bucks.
"I typically use grunt calls as a shorter range tactic to bring a buck closer or to pull one back out that has gone into cover," he said. "If a buck is hung up in cover after coming to the horns, I'll (then) use a grunt to (try and) draw him out at times."
Rattling isn't always effective, but it can produce some great excitement for hunters sitting afield during the South Texas rut in December. (Lynn Burkhead photo)
David Blanton, executive producer of Realtree Outdoors, on Outdoor Channel, and Realtree's Monster Bucks, on Sportsman Channel, television programs, also has plenty of experience hunting the South Texas rut in December.
And like Shipley, he agrees that the combination of grunting and rattling can be a deadly one-two punch combination for a deer hunter seeking a set of big Lone Star State antlers.
But like Shipley, he does offer some cautionary advice.
"If you give out three or four grunts to simulate a buck chasing a doe, that's fine," said Blanton, a longtime member of Bill Jordan's Team Realtree. "But if you blow on it like a duck call, I think that does have a negative effect."
That’s particularly true when a white-tailed buck isn’t too far away from Blanton's hidden position.
"If I see a buck cruising 150 yards away and I don't want to shock him with the (rattling) horns because they'll be too loud and he's too close, then I'll hit him with the grunt call, see how he responds, and if that does the trick, that's all I'll do," said Blanton.
If a buck is much farther away from Blanton – which can often be the case down a big Brush Country sendero – he'll opt to be more aggressive with the rattling horns.
"It (rattling) gives me a greater range of effectiveness," said Blanton. "I can reach out there and bring a buck in from 400 or 500 yards away."
Blanton cautions hunters sitting on a stand to use a pair of rattling horns sparingly however, about once every half-hour or so, particularly as the rut begins to wane and turn towards the post-rut phase.
"When you rattle, I think you've got to be very aggressive and loud, but I don't think you've got to rattle for long," said Blanton.
"I'd say hit the horns for a good 30- to 40-second rattling sequence, then hang them up and resist the urge to pick them up again," he added.
"That often works to the hunter's advantage because the buck has heard it. He may have been 300 or 400 yards away though, and when he comes in, he's not sure of where it (the sound) came from."
Until, that is, that big Brush Country whitetail hears all too late the report of a rifle or the faint whistle of an arrow-and-broadhead combination heading for the boiler room.
And when that happens, usually another Muy Grande legend hits the ground for good, a big buck taken deep in the heart of South Texas.