A mix of emotions overcame me as I grasp the antlers in my hand and looked at the beautiful buck I had taken.
Last December I ventured down to Inez, Texas to hunt with Diamond M Whitetails and was able to take a gorgeous, tall, wide nine-pointer on their low fence acreage in the middle of beautiful scrub brush and live oak country.
It was not one of those, "Wow, I did it!" feelings though.
This was something deeper and more profound than outsiders might think could arise during a deer hunt.
This huge set of antlers came from the Diamond M Ranch. This is the kind of thing that keeps hunters awake at night. PHOTO: Kenneth Holder
You see this buck was now part of a lineage of nice bucks taken by members of my family namely my father Chester Moore, Sr., my late Uncle Jackie Moore and his son Frank along with myself.
Over the years when we gathered, the conversation often ended up centered on deer and growing up Frank and I loved to hear the stories about their biggest bucks as well as their misadventures.
My Dad tells the story of shooting a big nine pointer while listening to the Dallas Cowboys play the Detroit Lions on a Thanksgiving Day. He was sitting on a big rock overlooking a hill listening to the game and out walked a big buck paying him virtually no attention. That was its last mistake.
My Uncle Jackie admitted to missing some distant shots on an absolutely monster buck he said had a "Christmas tree rack," running out of bullets and the having it run several hundred yards directly toward him and stand less than 50 yards away.
Frank and I used to love that one.
As time went on we took bucks of our own and then our interest in deer waned a bit. Frank found a true passion for hog hunting and I jumped head first into duck hunting although we both still sought deer just about every season.
Hunters who pursue predators must have a whole other level of senses. Their noses, ears and eyes are super in tune with their surroundings. Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Interestingly we both got back into it in a big way last year and both took nine-pointers. Our conversation a few days later led to an interesting revelation. As we got to looking at the products we used to pursue game, we realized virtually all of it has to do with overcoming the incredible senses of these great animals. In fact, a huge portion of our communication over the years has been how to get around these super senses.
Camouflage is the most obvious.
While it is a widespread fashion statement these days, camouflage is a practical application against the eyes of the game we pursue. Here are a few interesting facts about the eyes of Texas game animals.
The author feeds a huge tame fallow back on Swenson Ranch in Orange County. Non-hunters get the idea this is what hunting is like but when you are actually pursuing game. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This buck is practically a member of the Swenson family whereas the deer, hogs and ducks we pursue are wild and wary. Photo: Lisa Moore:
According to the Quality Deer Management association UV light can be a factor in deer hunting. The human eye is protected by a filter that blocks about 99 percent of UV light from entering the eye. This filter protects our eye, much like a pair of sunglasses. It also allows us to focus more sharply on fine detail. The trade-off for having this filter is a severe loss of sensitivity to short wavelength colors, especially those in the UV spectrum.
Wild turkeys have a field of vision of about 270 degrees, which allows them to pick up movement, and notice things that are out of place more easily than most animals.
Mallard ducks have even more impressive visual abilities. According to researchers, the mallard has a retinal visual field giving 360 degrees visual coverage in the horizontal plane and a narrow binocular field of approximately uniform width (approximately equal to 20 degrees) extending through 220 degrees from the bill to directly behind the head.
The nose of a whitetail deer is super sensitive. Does get little credit but mature ones can be just as wary as bucks. Photo: Chester Moore
That is why you should remain still in the duck blind until it is time to shoot.
Over the years numerous products have developed to help us hear game better and bowhunters are constantly using a variety of gadgets to help silence their bows because of the deers sense of hearing.
Here is an interesting tidbit on deer hearing from the University of Georgia via Tinks:
"A couple of years ago, David Osborn and Larry Marchinton here at the University of Georgia discovered an unpublished study by Mr. Arthur Stattelman who researched the hearing capability of deer confined to a sound-proof room. They compiled the data from this research and reported some interesting results."
"They described the study as follows: "The deer was conditioned to seek and accept food whenever it heard a sound. A machine called an audiometer was used to create a wide range of sounds varying in intensity (loudness as measured in Decibels) and frequency (tone as measured in Hertz). The intensity at each frequency was increased until it produced a positive response from the deer. When repeated over time this procedure provided some understanding of what sound the deer was able to hear."
"The results of the experiment are presented (in the accompanying graph) and are compared to some common sounds and the minimum hearing capability of humans and the domestic cat. Deer and humans apparently can detect sounds of low-to-moderate frequency at approximately the same intensity. A cat can hear much fainter sounds than either the deer tested or humans across a wide range of frequencies. Deer probably detect high frequency sounds slightly better than humans. These findings may shock many hunters who have formed opinions about the hearing ability of deer based on personal experiences."
The sense of smell of deer is legendary. There are hundreds of products on the market and homegrown remedies for eliminating human scent and appealing to hunger and sexual urges through smell. Did you know however deer actually have two noses?
According to a fascinating article put out by Dr. Karl V. Miller from the University of Georgia, few hunters realize that a deer actually has two noses.
Feral hogs have an acute sense of smell and an underrated ability to see. Photos: Chester Moore
"The second nose is technically not a nose, but it serves some of the same purpose. If you look on the roof of the deers mouth you will see a diamond shaped structure with a small passage leading into the palate. This additional nose, called the vomeronasal organ (VNO), is similar to the Jacobsons organ that snakes use to taste the air. Deer use the VNO exclusively to analyze urine. When a buck sees a doe urinate, he will often take some of this urine into his mouth and perform a behavior called flehmen, or lip-curl."
"This flehmen helps to introduce urine into the VNO. It is interesting that this organ is not connected to the same part of the brain that the nose is connected to. Instead it is connected to the part of the brain that controls the reproductive condition of the deer. What type of information the deer is getting is unknown, but it is likely that odors analyzed in the VNO help get the hormones pumping in the buck and bring him into rutting condition."
When I got that information I sent a text to Frank as eagerly as I did when I shot my big buck down at the Diamond M Ranch last year. He has been working super hard to ensure he gets a buck with his bow this year and has done everything. He put out three stands around his feeder so he can hunt it effectively with virtually any wind to investing in 3-D camouflage to taking soil from beneath his stand and putting his hunting clothes in it thanks to a tip from TF&G Bowhunting Editor Lou Marullo.
"Great! I was worried enough about the first nose and the eyes and ears now I have to worry about appealing to or avoiding a second one. Yikes! LOL."
Camouflage is super important to waterfowlers who must often deal with many sets of eyes at once.
Those are the kinds of things that make hunting so appealing. For the game we pursue it is an issue of survival but in reality without something to challenge us, the tradition of hunting would not continue. You see deer hunting is a very important tradition in our great state. It is a source of everything from family bonding to wildlife management and is the economic backbone of many communities.
It is the way many parents spend the greatest quality time with their children and how valuable life lessons are taught. We are at a point in Texas deer hunting where some ending those traditions and some never begin them due to economic, regulatory and social factors.
I am blessed to have been born into a hunting family that gladly took their children into the great outdoors and who had very serious deer hunting traditions that while never verbalized have been passed down.
Hundreds of thousands of other Texans have similar stories and deeply held beliefs and traditions regarding deer hunting that have helped make Texas the number one deer hunting state in the nation.
I have always loved the pursuit of whitetails and stand with all hunters who hit the field happy to simply collect some venison but are always pursuing that big, heavy antlered buck.
I am no giant whitetail specialist nor am I any kind of deer purist. My lease is a $400 a year East Texas hunting club with lots of members and super skittish deer. That often translates to no tags filled for yours truly. I however am grateful for that opportunity because it helps keep alive a long-standing tradition. For that I love my lease.
The author took his super nice buck hunting last fall with Dr. Jerry MacShane
Occasionally there are chances to hunt other properties and regions with higher deer densities. That is a privilege that I will never take for granted and it reminds me of the first time I rode out to hunt with Dad and Uncle Jackie on the Winkle Ranch in Llano County back in 1986. That is exactly what I felt like last year as Dr. Jerry MacShane showed me his amazing Diamond M Whitetails operation. I could not help but feel like a kid again. Actually I feel like a kid all the time but it was almost as if I was transported back to that first Hill Country.
Back then it was so exciting to see all of the deer alongside the road and to get to take my first-ever deer, a doe or "slick head" as my uncle called them. That is the feeling that hit me while looking at the beautiful buck last weekend. There are certainly far bigger bucks taken every day of the season in Texas but for me this deer meant something special.
Another nice Moore family buck photo will go into the photo album that will hopefully be passed down to coming generations. Taking that buck was a reminder of the responsibility to help keep it alive.
And that has a value that unlike antlers cannot be measured.