A Christmas deer hunt with good friends
By Luke Clayton
Dec 24, 2022
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It’s often been said that new friendships can be made quicker by spending time in the outdoors than any other way. I concur wholeheartedly! After several dreary days last week, the sky cleared and temperatures dropped. A perfect setting for a pre Christmas afternoon deer hunt just before the predicted blast of Arctic air! I was out cutting some campfire wood near the house early morning on this perfect winter’s day. David Cotton, his dad Edgar and I must have been on the same wave length that day.

“Luke, Daddy and I were thinking this would be a perfect afternoon for a sit on one of our food plots," says David. "Deer ought to be up and moving and you might just get a shot at one of those old heavy horned bucks you’ve been after."

David knew I was interested in taking one of the older mature bucks that many consider ‘management bucks’ but I think of as great memory makers as well as sausage and prime venison steak! 

Then I asked a silly question: "Do you and your dad like smothered venison steak, rice and gravy?"

There was a pause on the phone and then the reply, "Well, YEAH!"

"Just checking," I chuckled. "I’ll go to work on dinner right now and see you around three this afternoon."

I had a couple packages of venison steak marinating in the frig and could think of no better way to put them to good use.  I was soon on my way to the grocery story for the other necessary ingredients. Honestly, I’ve yet to meet anyone that didn’t enjoy smothered steak with rice and gravy cooked to ‘fork tender’ in a heavy cast iron skillet with lid.

I busied myself frying steak that morning and getting my gear ready for a deer hunt. I keep most everything needed in my truck this time of year with the exception of my cameras and rifle. By two in the afternoon, the steak was cooked to perfection and loaded with the other ‘necessary’ gear for an afternoon deer hunt followed by dinner at camp.

David and his dad arrived at their camp a bit before me and were in the process of getting a fire going in the fire pit. Not a cloud in the sky and dead calm, more perfect weather conditions, a deer hunter couldn’t ask for. 

Bo, their friend and worker on the ranch, is always a lot of fun and I enjoy kidding him.

“What you got in that big skillet, Luke?” he asked. 

"Oh, just some venison steak, rice and gravy," says I.

When I opened the lid on the skillet for a peek, I could tell I had struck a home run with Bo. 

“Is that brown rice?” he queried me.

I joked with Bo about no deer hunter in his right mind would use “brown” rice when making steak and gravy. Bo says he was on a bit of a diet but he thought he could make the exception and eat a little white rice. He was not wrong!

Spending time with family and friends is a major benefit to the outdoor lifestyle. Luke (center) spent a fine afternoon hunting last week with his friends Edgar Cotton, left and David Cotton (right). No deer were taken but memories that last a lifetime were! (photo by Luke Clayton)

We all warmed up a bit around the fire and updated each other on our recent outdoor adventures. Yes, I had recently  caught a big ‘mess’ of white bass fishing with my buddy Brandon Sargent at Lake Ray Hubbard but fishing talk is overshadowed at deer camp by the sighting of a big buck.

“While here at camp the other day, I spotted a buck easing across the field several hundred yards," David told us. "He was one of those bucks that make hunting in Becker Bottoms famous. We don’t see many like him but he was one of the heaviest antlered bucks I’ve seen around here. Wide, heavy and long tined, he was one of those once-in-a-lifetime bucks. Maybe one of us will see him this afternoon, conditions are perfect and maybe we will get lucky!"

David and I hunted an elevated stand overlooking a big food plot and corn feeder. I was in this stand earlier in the season when my friend Jeff Rice took a big buck that scored in the mid one-fifties. I was toting my Mossberg Partiot chambered in 6.5 Creedmoore. I’d shot the rife in at the range but yet to use it to procure venison. David had seen several mature bucks on trail cameras that fell into the ‘management buck’ category. I told David that if the monster buck shows, I want him to break in the Patriot.  We both knew chances were better at seeing one of the management bucks but we needed a ‘just in case’ plan. Older mature bucks are smart and shots often happen quickly.

Deer moved late this afternoon, about an hour before dark, does began to filter into the field to nibble on the green shoots of the food plot. There were eight in sight at one time. And then, I caught movement along the wood line off to my right. I could tell by the way the deer moved through the brush that it was a buck and when he stepped into the clearing, there was absolutely no doubt. He was mature, at least 4 and possibly 5 years old. Long tined and heavy antlered, he would have been a solid 140-inch buck but, through binoculars, we could see one of the tines had broken off, probably in a fight with another buck over breeding right to a doe. The buck walked within sixty yards of our stand, giving me plenty of time to get some good video.

Back at camp, we put my old cast iron skillet with dinner on a grill over the campfire and talked about how fortunate we were to be able to enjoy God’s creation on such a perfect afternoon.

Bo had absolutely no problem eating the white rice!

Watch the video of this outing on A SPORTSMAN’S LIFE   on Carbon TV www.carbontv.com  or YouTube.
Contact outdoors writer Luke Clayton through his website