By Michael Deming
The great state of Texas is truly a hunter’s paradise. Nearly everywhere you go, there are pickup trucks, American flags, BBQ, and red-blooded Americans talking hunting. They are extremely passionate about their hunting and especially their whitetail deer.
If you have ever spent any time in this part of the country, you have already heard the comment that “Everything is bigger in Texas”, but if not, this article will make you a believer in this statement.
We stumbled onto the DaVine Springs Ranch back in 2014, when a good friend told us about this well managed, family ran operation that had some good hunting and was reasonably priced. We did our first trip with them the following year and we have been making the annual trek to Belton, Texas, to hunt with the Wolff family ever since. The ranch is just about an hour north of Austin and encompasses a couple thousand acres of the finest hunting property I’ve ever experienced.
This year’s trip was our third visit to the ranch, a trip I look forward to each and every year. We do this trek the first week of December when most of the big game hunts here in the west are about done, but the whitetail rut this far south is just about to hit its peak. As if the rut isn’t reason enough for any hard-core hunter to want to head south, getting out of the extreme cold is another reason to want to make this trek. Heck, the world class traditional Texas BBQ alone, put on by Brian Wolff (Lanes dad) every day is truly reason enough to make this visit!
Casey Reynolds was our lucky Pro Membership Sweepstakes winner for this trip. He lives in Idaho and has had the opportunity to hunt whitetail, but nothing close to the experience he was going to see in Texas. This is a trip we give away annually and we have been on the same package since we started hunting here. We are usually able to shoot a big, mature whitetail scoring up to 200” with our investment for our winners. However, Lane Wolff gave me a call the week before we were to arrive and let me know that he had a special treat for us. He informed me that we would not have any restrictions on our hunt this year and that we could shoot anything on the property that presented a shot. I had no idea what that would consist of for this hunt, but I knew that I had seen some real monster whitetail the year before when we were done with our hunt. I didn’t let Casey in on this unbelievable good fortune until we arrived in Texas.
Casey was bringing his wife and his dad, who has also won a grand prize with the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes, so we were going to have a full house and a lot of fun ahead of us. Lane told Casey on his arrival that he was going to have full run of the ranch and he could shoot whatever whitetail presented itself. He had no idea what that meant until Lane started rolling through trail camera pictures that would blow your mind. Not only were there a few bucks on the property that would break that 200” mark, there were some that Lane felt were well over 300”, with one mighty buck that might even go 400”. We are talking bucks that could be measured in board feet instead of inches, but Casey just kept his composure and smiled.
We rolled into the ranch with plenty of time left in the day to check Casey’s rifle for accuracy and still make it to the blind for an evening hunt. The stands we hunt are what are called tower blinds, which are about 15 feet off of the ground and provide a great perch to look into the thicker cover. The Wolff’s have some of the best blinds you will ever hunt out of, as they are oversized and allow three hunters to fit relatively easily into them and still have room for a cameraman’s equipment.
We hadn’t been in the blind long when deer started showing up. Lane said that we were in for a show as he had pulled the trail camera cards for this stand earlier in the week and there was a ton of rutting activity around this stand. As the sun started to fall below the horizon, the bigger deer started showing up and the attitudes and posturing soon followed. Lane was interested in us getting a crack at one of two bucks. They had named one ‘Christmas Tree’ and the other, ‘Left Leaner’. Lane was right - we got a darn good show from some nice Texas bucks and I’m sure Casey would have been happy shooting any of them, but Lane wanted him to at least see our two target bucks on the hoof before he filled his tag. Neither one of these bruisers decided to present themselves on the first evening of our hunt.
Although we didn’t have success in the field, Brian delivered some first-class ribeyes on the smoker that had me really happy that I made the trip to Texas.
The next morning, Lane said that we were going to check out a different part of the ranch in hopes that one of our two target bucks might be there. We were in the blind nice and early this morning, giving us plenty of time to settle in. Just as the grey light was starting, a giant deer appeared in the open area, but we couldn’t determine his overall size. It seemed like time was standing still as we waited for enough light to see if this was one of our target bucks. The sixth sense kicked in and the big buck drifted into the thick brush before we could ever make a positive identification on him. We all chuckled about how those big ones always have the odds on their side.
We scanned the brush vigorously looking for our big buck to come in, but there was nothing. Finally, a doe trotted out into the field, which we were sure was the anchor we needed to get the buck out into the open. Lane finally caught some movement back in the brush and a beautiful buck, with double drop tines, came out into the open. This was truly “My” dream buck and I would have already unloaded my gun on this whopper. But, unfortunately, I didn’t have a tag, but I did have this awesome buck full frame in my camera. I looked over at Lane and he was smiling. He whispered, “This buck and Left Leaner are often together”.
As if on cue, Left Leaner strolled out of the back of the meadow, working his way towards us. His head was down and I was trying to figure out exactly what I was looking at. This giant buck’s momma had to be a moose, based on how much palmation he had going on. When he finally lifted up his head and looked towards the blind, I could see just how big this guy was. He was truly an amazing whitetail and Lane assured us that he was going to be close to 350”. That’s correct and not a type-o; a whitetail with as many inches on his head as a great bull elk. When he walked, he leaned a little to the left, which is how Lane gave him his name. Lane asked Casey what he thought, as Casey mumbled, “Are you kidding me?”, meaning he would be more than happy putting his tag on this Texas giant.
Casey slowly got his rifle up on the rest, readying for a shot to present itself. We waited and waited as the bucks postured and went in and out of the brush and back into the meadow. Finally, Lefty came out and was headed right towards us. He finally cleared a tree and turned broadside. I gave the thumbs up that I was good on the camera and Casey made one fatal shot as the buck dropped in his tracks.
Let me tell you, the walk up to a buck that is 300-plus inches is something that I won’t ever forget, especially when it is on a body of a deer that weighs less than 150 pounds. We did our standard photo shoot and loaded the buck up into the Polaris for its’ final ride back to the lodge. Casey’s wife and father were as elated with his success as was I.
Well as you can see, we experienced another great trip with DaVine Springs Ranch (254-534-0102) and we established a new benchmark for trophy whitetails that I’m sure we may have a tough time exceeding anytime in the near future. However, we have another lucky winner which is going to be headed to Texas this fall. I’m sure we will have another great trip and if you would like to join us, please give Lane a call. Not only do you have the opportunity for great whitetails, but also exotics from all over the world are available on this great family run ranch as well. If you want a chance to win this great hunt or numerous other trips just like it, please visit our website at www.promembershipsweepstakes.com. We giveaway a great trip like this every 10 days and we will be giving away over $300,000 worth of trips, guns and gear again in the next 12 months.