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After you’ve been kicking around in the outdoors hunting and fishing as long as I have, it’s pretty exciting to partake of an entirely new outdoor experience such as deer hunting with an airgun. This past week, during the peak of the cold weather pushed down by the first Arctic blast of the season, I was deer hunting up on the Brazos River on the Dale River Ranch, using my .45-caliber Airforce Airguns Texan air rifle.
This ranch offers affordable day hunts where hunters pay a fee for the day’s use of the ranch ($250) and additional modest fee for buck ($500 up to 140 Boone/Crockett ) or doe ($250) harvested. My friend, Randy Douglas, manages the ranch and keeps feeders going year-around to assure there is plenty of game to hunt. Whitetail deer, hogs, turkey and even free ranging red deer roam the rugged hills.
The author and his partner did a bit of antler rattling and spot-and-stalk hunting.

Back in the late 1800, many of the cattle drives headed by Oliver Loving and Charlie Goodnight originated there. As I set in a comfortable blind situated about a half mile from the banks of the Brazos, I wondered how the cowboys of that era ever managed to gather those wild cattle from the thick cover along the river.
My hunt took place during the middle of the week and I headquartered in a camper situated a couple miles from the nearest human. Randy was there with me during the day scouting and taking care of the many duties on the ranch while I was hunting. At night, it was just me out there listening to the howls of the coyotes, eating simple camp food and enjoying every minute of being entirely on my own. I love to share camps with my friends, but occasionally it’s good to go solo. “It’s good for the soul,” as my dad used to say.
During my first afternoon set on stand, I had a mature 6-pointer walk within 30 yards, his nose to the ground, obviously on the trail of a doe that had crossed earlier. I am not a counter of points or one who worries about the BC score of a buck when I’m hunting. Actually, I prefer to take what some deer hunters would consider management bucks. This old boy, obviously still in his prime as far as antler development goes, had a high rack and a spread of about 20 inches. But this early into the hunt, I decided to wait and see what I might see.
Texan .45-caliber airgun.

The rut was going strong in many areas of the state, and up in Palo Pinto County where I was hunting, I expected it to peak out within the next few days. I hunted from stands during mornings and afternoons, and during the day Randy and I did a bit of antler rattling and spot-and-stalk hunting. Just after noon, we spotted what I believe to be the biggest buck I’ve encountered in this part of the state.
He was a 10-pointer, with a high and wide rack, hot on the trail of a doe. The doe passed by a grove of sumac and the buck held up just on the opposite side about 70 yards out. That’s well within the effective range of my airgun, but there were a few sumac limbs in the way and I just couldn’t gamble on such a shot. There was a good chance the 240-grain hollow-point airgun bullet by Nielsen Specialty Ammo would have found it’s mark, but I only take high percentage shots that I feel I can make. We owe that to the game we hunt. The big buck left the cover of the sumacs on a trot and never slowed down. He was one of those bucks you don’t soon forget!
The author used 240-grain hollow-point airgun bullets from Nielsen Specialty Ammo.

As is so often the case when hunting, I was down to my last afternoon and had yet to harvest a buck. I’d had a great opportunity early on and seen several bucks that would fill the bill, but I was hunting on an excellent ranch with the opportunity to harvest a fine buck and I was holding out. Then I noticed movement on the far right side of my blind.
It was getting late and I had only a few minutes of legal shooting light left. A doe came trotting out of cover and paused an instant, looking over her shoulder. When hunting during the rut, a skittish doe is usually a good sign that she has a buck hot on her trail.
Just as the doe walked behind a cedar tree, a big bodied and heavily antlered buck appeared along the trail she was following. It’s didn’t take but a second for me to flip the safety off and get the crosshairs centered on the crease of the buck’s shoulder. He was only about 55 yards out and standing broadside.
Bucks on the trail of a doe during the rut usually don’t remain stationary long, and I knew I needed to get this one shot right away. The 240-grain Nielsen hollow-point found its mark, and no tracking was needed. I watched the buck go down right there.
Luke used his Airforce Airguns .45-caliber Texan airgun to harvest this fine buck on the Dale River Ranch.

Ten years ago, if someone told me that I would be hunting deer with a rifle powered by air, I would never have believed them. I have taken many wild hogs and several exotics including an aoudad with airguns during the past seven years, but this was my first whitetail and one of the top three whitetails I’ve taken over a deer hunting career that spans more than a half-century.
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