Follow The Bouncing????
By Steve Mahurin

My, or 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 nor ibex.

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.

Written by Steve Mahurin on May 24, 1998.


Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

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