hours of the seemingly endless expanses of Texas with its busy, but sometimes
desolate and deserted, highways, we arrived at our destination. This was
the "Under The Hill Ranch," headquarters camp for the Rancor Ranch. We
were about 80 miles from Amarillo, Texas with the closest town being Silverton,
Texas. The ranch butted up against the boundary of one of Texas's more
rugged landmarks, Caprock Canyon State Park. We had made one detour into
Dallas on the way to meet two of our hunting companions who followed us
to our destination. They were Walter Draper, an insurance executive, and
Richard Kaufman a semi-retired consultant. The rest of our party was in
my truck and consisted of Don Willis, a heavy equipment operator and my
good friend, taxidermist and outfitter, Richard Lozano.
We had made
this long trek to hunt with Wayne Bruce of Caprock Canyon Outfitters for
the Texas brand of mule deer. A smaller variety than the Rocky Mountain
Muley, the Desert Mule Deer of the Texas panhandle. We arrived at camp
a little after dark and were greeted by guides and the camp cook, plus
the aroma of wild boar ribs roasting over the open flames of a campfire
grill. Just outside the ring of light was a small canyon and from it you
could hear the undulating wail of coyotes greeting the night from less
than a hundred yards away.
meal we sat around the fire discussing plans for our hunt the next morning,
which was the season opener. One of the great pleasures of the outdoors
was realized that night, as I visited with friends, both old and new,
and watched sparks from the fire rise like a swarm of fireflies into the
star studded Texas sky.
was time to go to our bunks and what turned out to be for some of us a
night-long fight with numerous Yellow Jackets. They came through the eaves
from the cold outside, seeking the warmth of the bunkhouse and stinging
anyone who lay in their path. This hazard was finally solved with a few
insect bombs over the next couple of days.
morning came real early, 4 a.m., for our road weary, Yellow Jacket stung
group. It was a crisp, clear, below freezing morning, and we broadcasted
our whereabouts by the white plumes of our breath. We stood in the dark,
under a canopy of stars so bright and numerous you would think it was
painted on black velvet by an overzealous artist. We finally climbed aboard
our horses for the ride to our hunting grounds. My mount was, thank goodness,
a gentle one.
been on a horse for way over 20 years, I was hoping that at the end of
the day I'd be able to dismount and walk without the predicted pain in
a pretty well-padded rear end. As we rode out into the dark, thick cedar
brush and rough, remote canyons and valleys, I listened to the quiet surrounding
us. The only thing intruding on the silence was the sound of the horses
hooves on the ground and the creak of saddle leather.
came we did see two coyotes standing and staring at us from the brush
only 20 yards away. They soon realized that maybe they shouldn't be where
they were and quickly disappeared into the thick brush. About 30 minutes
out we dismounted, tied our horses and snuck up on a big open field, but
saw only three does. So back on the horses and on to our main destination.
"Our" consisted of my guide Ronnie Gossett and Richard Lozano.
We rode across
a wide valley flanked by big fields at one end and mountains and ridges
on the other three. We started up the end of one ridge, threading our
mounts through thick, head-high brush, to about a third of the way up.
Then came the fun part. We clawed our way up through sometimes loose,
sometimes huge boulders and a nearly vertical slope. We finally reached
the summit, but not without lots of panting and numb legs.
Richard picked a promising spot and sat overlooking the valley and opposite
ridge. I moved further down and set up to glass it also. I saw three does
grazing on the opposite slope right away. About then my guide came to
me and said, "There's a big buck down in a ravine on the other ridge.
If I can get you to the end of this ridge do you think you can make a
shot across to the other ridge? I told him that I thought I could. So
off we went.
taken a dozen steps when a big 8- or 10-point buck jumped up, running
in and out of thick brush and up a slope 30-40 yards from us. This buck
had evidently been bedded down just under the rim of the ridge out of
my sight. Ronnie instructed, "Try for him." I took a snap shot at him
and missed. Although we were sure it was a miss, we searched for over
an hour but found no signs of a hit.
then to go ahead and walk to the end of the ridge to see if by blind luck
the buck we started out to get was still there. Would you believe, he
was! Of course he was even bigger than the other one. But he was also
400 yards or more away. I sat down and, resting my elbows on my knees,
touched one off. The guide said, "To the right and low." I tried three
more times with no luck, and the buck unconcernedly trotted away.
back to our perch and about an hour later saw him and a group of does
high up on the far slope about a mile away. The sun had risen up higher
in the sky and was warming us nicely in the 40 mile an hour wind that
had been blowing all morning. We decided to take a break for lunch on
the other side of the ridge, protected from the wind and warmed by the
sun's rays on the big flat rocks we rested on. Lunch consisted of granola
bars, candy bars and sips of water from a canteen. After lunch we laid
our exhausted bodies down on the rocks and napped for an hour or so. When
I woke up, I was alone. My companions said I ran them off with my snoring.
Then it was up and back to our vigil, sitting on the edge of our windblown
perch and hoping a buck would amble by. We had no such luck.