Draw a line from San Antonio south to Laredo and from that line east to the Gulf of Mexico: This is the land we call South Texas. In the beginning, it was big ranch country with some of the ranches encompassing 100,000 acres. Just one, the King Ranch, covers almost 1 million acres. Today, there are many fertile farms in the area but a large number of the big ranches still exist and prosper.
Due to these large ranches, whitetail deer have prospered and thrived. The area is covered with numerous varieties of brush that create good browse and cover for deer. These nutritious plants and the high mineral content of the soil have created, and continue to create, some monster bucks.
Early on, area ranchers began to see hunting as a much-needed source of additional revenue. They also figured out that, by giving Mother Nature a helping hand, they could guarantee South Texas would always have great deer hunting. For this reason, ranchers in the area were among the first to begin studying whitetail genetics and ways to maintain, and improve, the quality of their trophy deer. One only needs to consult the record books to see that this has been a successful endeavor. Record-class whitetail bucks have been taken, and are still being taken, out of the South Texas area. In short, deer hunting here has become big business.
One interesting thing about Texas hunting is that there is very little public land in the state. When Texas joined the Union, by treaty, Texans elected to keep their public land and sell it to settlers. To hunt South Texas, one has to book a hunt on a private ranch or obtain an annual hunting lease on the property. Some of the better hunting leases have been passed down through generations of hunters, and it is a matter of family pride to hold a good South Texas lease.
While fairly expensive, this method guarantees a fellow he will be in an area with a substantial deer population. Further, due to deer population counts and range surveys, the well-run Texas ranch will generally have some outstanding trophies on it.
None of this should suggest that these whitetail deer are tame pets. The vast majority of these animals are free-ranging, wild and wary. Savvy deer hunters know that a whitetail buck, as he becomes older and more cautious, will seek the deepest cover and generally become nocturnal. And South Texas has more brush and hiding places than most hunters have ever seen.
Ranches have installed tall hunting stands that get the hunter above the brush and increase his range and view. Another popular method is to hunt from pickups that have high racks installed, with seats, so that, again, the hunter can see over the brush.
Another popular hunting method is the rattling of antlers to simulate a fight between two bucks. During the rut, this method will often draw out the big bucks to watch the fight, or try to steal the doe that the fight is about. I think it's sort of the same reason you see guys crowding around a fight in a beer joint.
One of the best whitetail bucks I ever shot was on the Shipp Ranch, east of Laredo. Colonel Evan Quiros' grandson did the honors with his set of rattling antlers, and I collected a really nice 10-point with my Ruger Super Blackhawk at about 25 yards. It was quite a thrill to see that big fellow come charging in, looking to see what the fight was all about and who was winning.
Whether one hunts from an elevated stand or the high rack of a hunting truck, a flat-shooting rifle, with good optics, is the ticket for success. The best results are obtained with a rifle of at least .25 caliber, pushing at least a 120-grain bullet in the vicinity of 3000 fps muzzle velocity. Magnum rifle calibers are nice, but not required. A fellow could do just fine with a .25-06, a .308, a .270 or the tried-and-true .30-06.
While the cost of a South Texas whitetail hunt may seem expensive to some, the chance to take a real trophy whitetail is extremely good. The region is truly the home of some monster whitetail bucks.