Freddie Haney and I met at the Bow Show in Louisville, KY in February 1993. He was just another Archery Dealer walking the isles looking at all the stuff people like me were trying to get them to buy. He stopped and looked over Hot Trails. He was interested and we exchanged business cards with promises of getting back in touch with each other. Little did we know a close friendship would develop, and we would eventually become hunting partners.
Freddie is from Lafayette, TN. about 52 miles north and east of Nashville. His Archery shop was called Primitive Weapons. He started carrying Hot Trails in his shop, and invited me to come to help him sell it at the Nashville hunting show that year. While in Nashville I started telling him about the ranch I manage for hunting in South Texas. One thing led to another and soon I had invited him and several others out for a Hog Hunt. That was twelve years ago, and every year since he has come and brought a group with him to hunt hogs. We have one heck of a good time, and I’ve even been introduced to real Tennessee Moonshine, or just shine as they call it. You can say what you want about drinking that worm out of that tequila, but until you get to that peach in the bottom of a jar of Peach shine you haven’t done anything.
Several years ago Freddie decided to close his shop. Then several months later his mother died unexpectedly. I though he needed a change of scenery, and invited him out for a management deer hunt. It was mid December and the rut was just about to really kick into high gear. Freddie had always wanted to come hunt deer, but up until this time we had not been taking any management deer and the price of a deer was just too much for him to pay. He has seen some really tremendous bucks in the time he has been coming to hog hunt. Once he had a 15 pt, triple drop tine, 173 5/8 BC buck 10 yards from where he was hunting hogs. He still gets buck fever just thinking about it. He said up until then it was the highlight of his hunting career. To be so close to such an animal was a thrill he doesn’t get to experience back in the hills of Tennessee.
Fred showed up on Monday and said he had a week to stay and hunt. I told him we should be able to get him on a good management buck with that much time allowed.
The first morning started out like many in South Texas, foggy. We saw several young deer but passed them up. On the ranch I require all management deer to be at least 4 ½ years old. We want to cull from the upper age groups to make sure we make no mistakes.
This is a rule Freddie had a hard time understanding. Back in Tennessee you see horn, you shoot. To watch 120 to 140 class deer come and go was a new lesson he had to learn. Being a successful hunter for many years let him fall right into the groove of aging animals on the hoof.
Several days went by and we were still looking for that special deer. As it usually does, we saw his deer just at dark running a doe in and out of a cactus flat. We decided that was where we were hunting the next morning. Back at camp we talked about how we would set up the morning hunt. I asked him if he had ever rattled up a buck before. He said it was something he had only read about in magazines. I smiled and told him to get a good night rest; tomorrow was going to be a hoot.
The alarm went off at 5:30 a.m. and our feet hit the floor about the same time. I went out side to relive myself and it was foggy again. Went back in and told Freddie to get back in bed the fog would not be lifting until mid morning. We went back to sleep and I awoke about 8 a.m. and looked out side, so much for my ability to forecast the weather, it was clear. I yelled at Freddie to get up and be in a hurry. We left camp about 15 minutes later headed to the cactus flat.
We stopped the truck about ¼ mile from the flat and walked in from there. We got to a good spot and started to set up. When I rattle, I use two different Hot Trails ® scent candles. Out downwind about 15 yards I light up a Dominant Buck candle. This gives off the scent of another Buck. Then about 6 feet downwind of where I am rattling I light up a Doe-n-Heat candle. This puts out the scent of the doe in estrus, what the bucks are fighting about, and it also covers our scent with something the deer is expecting to be smelling, a doe-n-heat. I don’t think you can find a better cover scent. We let the candles burn for about 15 minutes before starting to rattle. Freddie was sitting in a small 4 ft tripod we had carried with us, backed up into some mesquite. I was on the ground behind some brush everything was ready. The candles must have been doing their job because the first time I hit the horns together immediately a small 8 pt. came charging in and stopped about 15 yards from us looking for the action. Soon to our left came another buck but he was more cautious, peaking from behind some black brush. This went on for awhile until it just played out. We never saw the buck from the day before, but Freddie was now well acquainted with Texas rattling.
I have talked to a lot of hunters at hunting shows all over the United States in the last 15 years, and I am always surprised at reactions when I talk about rattling up deer. Most all say they have had no luck when trying to rattle up deer. I am not trying to say I have come up on a fool proof, guaranteed method, but if you try it you might be real surprised at the results. First of all it has been proven that all bucks respond to rattling. When they hear horns crash, brush breaking, dirt and rocks being dislodged, they pay attention.
When a deer is coming to horns he first is using his HEARING to locate the fight. He comes in from downwind for what purpose? To get his NOSE involved. His best sense is his sense of smell. When he comes in from downwind and does not smell deer, he is going to sneak away and you will never know he was even in the area. This is what I think happens to most hunters who have no luck rattling. Bucks are coming in downwind to verify it is a real DEER fight.
If you are burning a Dominant Buck (smell of another buck) Candle, you are giving to him another positive stimulant to go along with his hearing. He is hearing a fight, now he smells bucks, he has two of his senses (not just one) telling him this is a real fight, he will come in. Then you add the Doe-n-Heat scent to tell him maybe he can slip away with the prize while the fight is going on, Bingo he is coming in full speed ahead, hell or high water. Now if you are using the TWO scents to also COVER up your scent, you are not giving him any other smell to deal with. I tried to use skunk scent many years ago to cover my scent while rattling. If you think about it, a skunk sprays when in danger. Animals in the wild know this also. If you use it, it will cover your scent, but also puts the deer on alert and it makes it easier for you to get busted.
You want to present the best case scenario to the Buck coming into your Rattling. If you give him all the right reasons, he will fall for it Hook, Line, and Sinker. Why do our Candles work so good in this type of situation? The candle heats the scent, so it is more like the scent off a real live animal. The candle puts the scent in the Air, so wind currents can deliver the scent out to 500 + yards. If the deer can’t smell it, they can’t come to it, just that simple.
Freddie and I went back to camp for lunch, and to plan our evening hunt. It was obvious the doe must have taken the Buck we had planned on Freddie to take out of the area. We needed to regroup and try to figure where they might have gone. We had 12,000 acres to hunt, about 20 square miles, so it wasn’t like we were running out of places to look. I decided to try an area not usually hunted. It is mostly low brush and open areas. We left camp about 3:00 p.m. It was going to take about 30 minutes of driving to get to the spot I had always wanted to hunt but for some reason had not.
We again took the small tri-pod. We got into position and set up for rattling but it was to early to rattle. We just sat, held tight to the area, and watched and waited. We saw one hell of a buck 180+ about 600 yards off running a doe. It really got us excited. As we watched several other deer come and go during the afternoon we both felt something good was going to happen.
Around 5 p.m. I set up the candles and started to rattle. We saw movement on a ridge of a buck moving in our direction. In open country it is fascinating to watch a mature deer come to horns. He is coming, but he is also using cover to shield himself. He would stop every 50 yards and wind us, and just kept on coming. Freddie had gotten out of the tri-pod earlier in case we needed to stalk or change positions at a moments notice. But there was no need for that, the deer just kept on coming as long as I kept rattling. He passed by Freddie at about 20 yards and his arrow struck home. It was not the Buck we had seen earlier, but it was bigger than anything Freddie had ever taken. It was 8 pts., with a 22 ¾ “spread. It field dressed 178 lbs. and was 5 ½ years old. A great trophy, a perfect management buck, for a good friend.
Now Freddie had to take his trophy back to Tennessee. We had to cut the top of his ice chest so the antlers would stick out so it could stay cool all the way home. I have hunted a lot, but will remember this hunt forever. My hillbilly redneck friend, and his first successful try at rattling up a South Texas Trophy.