our day started well before daylight. Like 4:00 am. It was April 3rd,
1998, when myself and three friends, Betty Hathorne and Richard and Sharon
Arnhart departed our home area near Galveston,Texas to make the trip up
I 10 West toward Kerrville Texas for a unique experience for Betty and
a frustrating one for Sharon.To explain a little bit and not give the
plot away I'll say that Betty would experience something she had never
experienced before, a hunt for big game. More later about Sharons frustration.
We were all headed for Ingram,Texas right outside Kerrville to participate
in Sharon's quest for an American Ibex, as well as to the Records of Exotics
1997 awards dinner at which I was to receive a major award, as well as
some of the attractions of the San Antonio area.
We arrived at the office of my friend Thompson Temple and he gave us the
gate combination to the Hi Hatch Ranch where we were to hunt , as well
loaning us a 4x4 4 speed truck to hunt out of Safari Style.As I hadn't
driven a 4 speed in many years it was decided that Richard would drive
it as he'd driven one recently. With well wishes from Thompson we embarked
on the 40 minute drive to the ranch gate. Once inside the gate we pulled
under a big shade tree, since it was climbing to about 85 degrees for
that day under a typical crystal clear, agate blue Texas sky, to have
a cool drink and plan our strategy for the hunt.
Since I was guiding and Sharon was to be the hunter we would get in the
open bed of the truck, so as to be able to spot the game easier and maybe
get a rest on the cab roof in case a quick shot was needed.Richard would
drive and Betty would observe. Sharon would be using a handgun for the
first time was a Thompson Contender in 7x30 caliber borrowed from my gun
cabinet at home. Having hunted this ranch many times knew that most often
the goat type animals like Catalina and ibex type goats ,which we were
after, usually hung out towards the rockiest,roughest section on the back
half of the place. But I figured it wouldn't hurt to check out the front
part of the place just in case. We crisscrossed this easier area to hunt
for a couple of hours spotting a number of different types of exotic sheep,
a buffalo, Sika deer, red deer, turkey and others,but of course no goats
So finally biting the bullet I gave directions to go to the "boulder patch,"to
look for them. As we circled around the pit, a 1/2 acre wide and 20-30
foot deep hole used on the ranch, much like many other ranches I've been
on ,as a garbage dump, we spotted a big bodied, black and white Catalina
goat.He was with two ibex types and had pretty good horns so we looked
him over real close and Sharon said she was very tempted but passed on
him since he wasn't an ibex type which was what we were looking for.I
told her that if she didn't find anything else she wanted we would come
back to the area and take a second look.
We wove our way down and across a dry, rough stream bed. As we climbed
back up the other side we spotted a small bunch of 10-12 Catalina goats,
but no Ibex.We crisscrossed a large area of land covered with so many
boulders it reminded me of a pumpkin patch in the fall except gray instead
of orange.I was desperately holding on to the headache rack and Sharon
was on a built in bench along the side of the truck bed with a pillow
to cushion her from the constant pounding and bouncing over the rocks.
After a couple of hours we finally found the main herd of ibex and Catalina
goats. Of course we saw them at about 400 yards going away from us. There
were about 60 animals in the herd, which meant 120 eyes and ears to see
and hear us coming and 240 legs to distance them from us. We found them
2or 3 times with the same results.
So I told the group it was time for a change in strategy. The last time
we had seen the herd they had traveled thru a small depression and up
a little ridge into a grove of sparse trees and brush.I told Richard that
Sharon and I would sneak down the draw for an ambush while he and Betty
took the truck and made a wide circle around the area in the hope that,
spooky as the herd was , that it would go away from the truck and toward
us.My idea worked like a charm and about 15 minutes later the whole herd
filed past us at about 50-60 yards. I'd told Sharon when we set up to
find a tree branch to serve as a rest ,which she did. The only fly in
the ointment was twofold. First, Sharon found out that it was a lot different
and took a lot longer to get a pistol scope on target in the field than
it did on a bench rest at the range, and the only two possible trophies
were safely inbedded in a bunch of females and smaller rams as they passed
by us. The animals never knew we were there so we tried trailing along
behind them using patches of brush as cover.We did get pretty close 2or
3 times but could never get set up in time to make a clean shot. We angled
back toward our drop off point and found our ride a few minutes later.
We circled nearly the whole ranch, twice, leapfrogging around trying to
spot our quarry again. We saw them a number of times but always far off
and going away.Finally right about the spot we first saw the big black
and white Catalina, through our binoculars we saw the whole herd grazing
in the distance. Having had little or no luck with our previous strategy
I decided to have a conference to figure what to do next.
We had started this hunt at 11:00 a.m. and it was close to 4:30 p.m. and
our time was running out. This being Betty's first experience on a hunt,
I asked her how she felt about it. She said that it was okay except for
a couple of things. Those being , hitting her head on the roof of the
cab twice, bouncing over the rocks. She described her rear end as like
following the bouncing ball at the Saturday morning matinee sing along.
Seeing as nothing else seemed to work I directed them on a circuitous
route to get to the other side of the herd, hopefully surprising them.I
told Richard if it worked I wanted him to drive fast as he could straight
toward the herd. Hopefully this would cause the herd to split into smaller
groups making it a little easier to make a stalk on them. Finally I did
something that worked out. The herd split up into 3 groups. We spotted
the two largest sets of horns in a small bunch about 50 yards away. Richard
pointed the truck directly at them and while he was doing that Sharon
put the bipod on the pistol down and lay across the top of the cab, which
wasn't easy as the metal on it was very hot from the high 80's sun blazing
down on us. We both ended up with a pretty good sunburn. I evaluated the
two animals as she found them in the 4 power Leupold Scope sitting on
top of the Contender. I told her that I didn't think that either was as
good as what she wanted and we could pass and go find the black and white
Catalina, but didn't think he was that good either. It was her choice.
But if she wanted one of the two Ibex to take the shot now. She made what
I felt was a commendable decision, and agreed, she didn't think they were
what she was after and passed on them.
We all agreed that we'd had a hard and demanding day of hunting and would
come back for another try. As we left the ranch the shadows were starting
to lengthen. The last thing I heard before climbing into the vehicle to
leave, was the gobble of a lonesome and maybe romantic Rio Grande turkey
in the distance.
by Steve Mahurin on May 24, 1998.