Reading some of the India hunting tales got me to thinking back on a few of my own recent experiences. Additionally, a local writer, that has published his own book about camp life on the deer lease, requested I provide a few tales for his next venture, so I guess I start my practice here The late fall dates are coinciding with the annual deer rut in this part of the South Texas Brush Country. The fabled semi-arid desert of South Texas is known for its large whitetail deer and we were hitting smack dab in the middle of the best time to be there. Literally anything could happen! For the next three days, I’ll be guiding a father-son combo for trophy whitetail over 6K acres of the good stuff. They are not new to hunting with us, but truth be told they are still relatively “green” to hunting in general with the extent of their experience being several previous 3-day bookings with us. The annual trip is the bulk of all their hunting adventures. The father, a middle-aged doctor, is the financier of the group with the 20 something year old son being the “weapons” expert. Both are easy to interact with and a pleasure to be around. I do my best to give them the whole experience and explain animal behavior and the local fauna when the opportunities arise. The son particularly takes interest and recalls information provided on previous trips. First task at hand is a session at the range, which is always awkward. Awkward for both hunter and guide. I have been at both ends on this one. It reinforces these are still inexperienced guys to the field, but we do our best to provide teaching and instill confidence before the hunt. As previously noted, the rut is in full swing. One of the rare brush country treats for inexperienced hunters is to provide a quality rattling session. Few hunters have truly experienced one of those magical brush moments when multiple bucks are beating down on you, riled up, foaming at the mouth, ready to gore you to death episodes. The clash and twisting of the antlers produce a faint, burned bone odor if you pay close attention, coupled with breaking brush and kicking dirt, it’s quite a theatrical production. The timing was perfect and there was a large non-typical buck, Trashcan as he was affectionately referred, roamed the nearby river bottom. As we drove toward the area, I could pick up the distinct odor of colon on our younger hunter coming from the back seat of my crew cab Ford truck. Being our one chance to rattle in the big non-typical before educating him to our tactics, I was taking every precaution. I directed the son to reach into my pack back in the back seat and spray himself with the scent control bottle in an effort to combat the situation. We also discussed there were no girls, at least not pretty ones, in this area and that for the reminder of the trip, he could skip the cologne and scented fancy stuff in his shaving kit We still had another mile before we reached our river bottom hollow and I was laying out our game plan in painstaking detail. We’d approach from upwind, slip down onto the flood plain area of the river that was currently dry, and set up our rattling plan with the expected arrival of our quarry to the downwind direction. I advised we’d need to turn the scope power to its lowest setting and that the shooter and myself would need to stay in close enough proximity that we could communicate about any incoming bucks. As I’m laying out our plan, I catch a whiff of a rather musky odor; however, I keep going through each minute detail. After another gagging whiff I exclaim, “What the hell is that smell?”. Upon seeing a cloud of mist coming from the backseat, I notice the son dousing himself with doe-in-estrus scent!! Holy Crap Bomb. “Whoa, there partner!”, I exclaim, “What are you doing?”. Spraying myself down like you told me. Wrong bottle of spray I calmly advise and after a few lingering seconds, we all bust out in laughter. I slam on the brakes, and everyone exited the truck as if a grisly bear was inside with us. After a few minutes of chocking, coughing and gagging, we were able to regain control of the vehicle and proceeded to our destination without further calamity. I kept the windows rolled down and stepped on the gas a little heavier. As we get into our designated positions, I whisper to the son to go roll around 50 yards in front of us and act like a doe that was ready to breed since he already had the appropriate “mating cologne” applied! Being a rookie, his eyes were frozen in that state where you think it’s probably BS but you aren’t quite sure LOL. Another round of subdued laughter occurred. I knew we were wasting our time by now, but the show must go on as they say, and we put on a full production as noted above. Unfortunately, the rattling session did not produce the big non-typical, but it’s a story that has lived on through every fireside hunting tale at the ranch ever since to much enjoyment and laughter. Later in the trip we were able to rattle in several smaller bucks and both hunters agreed it was an exciting way to hunt, albeit difficult. The remainder of the trip, the son always had a faint scent of doe-in-heat wherever he went He was forced to sit at the end of the dinner table each night. We are still in pursuit of the big non-typical Trashcan, but he had seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth or at least from the confines of our hunting area. There were two, big non-typicals on the ranch that year although the other was even more elusive than our original target buck, which had earned him the nickname Spooky. I had hunted over 10 days that year with clients with no sightings. He would show at a feeder 1-2 times per week in broad daylight, but he always stayed hidden in our presence. I had tried every trick in the book going after him. Driving into the area making plenty of noise associated with us filling feeders, walking in silently, sitting all day which included a 10 hour sit in a driving rainstorm. We barely made it out that evening and back to camp. Another guide and his client had already been successful and were out one evening sightseeing and spotting for us. As luck would have it, they had pulled up to a ranch road intersection and lo and behold, there was Spooky feeding in the road. They quickly communicated to us to come their way. I knew the area well and planned a strategic entry that would place us 150 yards from the feeding buck. The Doc and I finished the 50 yards of our stalk in a duck walk with the last 10 yards in a belly crawl. I knew our only chance was to roll out into the ditch of the ranch road and shoot from a prone position. After witnessing the weapon skills at the range, I felt it best not to attempt a standing shot off sticks, or even a kneeing shot. As such I had lugged my large shooting sandbag with us. I was first to emerge from the brush into the ditch and confirmed the buck indeed was Spooky. I slowly hand motioned for Doc to follow. The buck would periodically pick up his head to scan for danger before going back to eating. Over the course of the next 10 minutes, we both were able to get into position with Doc on my left, closer to the edge of the road. I placed the sandbag in front of him and helped position his rifle over the bag. Several times during this process, we had to freeze for minutes as the buck looked our way. As a seasoned guide, I don’t often react to average hunting conditions that often send my hunters into full blown buck fever mode, but this was becoming very stressful, even for me. Finally, we cleared, and Doc is behind the rifle. I study the buck’s position and began talking Doc through the shot. Facing away, slightly quartered to us, broadside-shoot. This went on for several minutes and I’m becoming increasing agitated to some extent that the shot never comes. I’ve been looking through my binos the whole time and now glance over at Doc and calmly proceed to inquire, “What the hell is the matter?” “I can’t see him clearly”. This dance goes on for several more minutes. With great pleasure I finally hear, “I have him, going to shoot”. Let’er rip. The shot looks good and the buck kicks high into the air similar to a buckling bull at the rodeo trying to shake its rider. I roll over to congratulate Doc when I notice the blood streaming from his forehead. About that same time, I get a call on my cell phone from the other guide who had been watching it all unfold from his position further down the road. He commented, “I see blood on the buck”, to which I replied, “We have blood here also.” Doc was still in shock from all the events over the last 15 minutes and I expect slightly concussed from the scope shiner he was sporting. He kept asking over and over again Did I get him? Did I get him? Yep Doc, I think we did it! The other guide had now joined us, and we all began to recount the events and had a hardy laugh about Doc losing more blood than the buck. A short track led us to a gorgeous 19 pt, low fence monster. Doc would not wipe the blood off his forehead into late in the night. The story was retold countless times that night as the celebration continued and still gets annually relived by the fire pit. Trashcan Spooky Success !!