defines metamorphosis as the transformation and change in the structure
and habits. This story is about such a change in a person. That person
is my friend and companion, Betty Hathorn.
About two years after the death of both our spouses we renewed a friendship
of about twenty years, which became close companionship for these last
three years. At the outset Betty knew of my love of guns, hunting, and
the outdoors but told me that she was afraid of guns.
So I set out to change that fear to, if nothing else, respect for a weapon.
To make a long story short, after about five months of slow familiarization,
she not only became proficient with a handgun, but also began to enjoy
our twice-weekly trips to the local shooting range for target practice.
Shortly after that she was tested for, passed with flying colors, and
became the proud bearer of a Texas license to carry a concealed weapon.
Then came what I hoped would be the next step in this metamorphosis. She
started to talk about going hunting with me. She wanted to hunt with her
.40 Glock, but I told her sorry, but that isn't quite enough gun for a
safe, quick and humane kill on most animals.
Just after that I was asked by my friend, Richard Lozano of Lozano Taxidermy
and Outfitting to man a table at the Alvin, Texas, chapter of the Rocky
Mountain Elk Foundation, fund raising dinner. After getting the exhibit
set up, I walked around and looked at the items that were to be up for
auction the next day. There staring me in the face was a poster for an
exotic ram and hog hunt on a place that I had hunted before and run by
a friend of mine. You guessed it, the light bulb winked on in my mind
and I said to myself that would be the perfect hunt to start Betty out
on. Saturday night's auction came and I was the lucky bidder on the hunt
and the gears were set in motion for Betty's first hunt.
On Monday I called my friend Mark Strickland of S&H Adventures to talk
over the hunt. It was the latter part of July in Texas and as usual, blazing
hot. It was decided that we would wait for the weather to get a little
cooler and for Betty to get proficient with my Remington model 700, .243
So then came the next step in this change. The rifle, the range, and lots
of practice. At first it was pretty discouraging for both of us. But as
I had hoped it would after a couple of practice sessions she graduated
from being completely unfamiliar with a rifle to starting to have fun
shooting. Then came a fierce desire to "hit that bulls eye". As the month
of October began to get on the downside, we saw a major percentage of
her shots getting into that bulls eye, with the remainder in the kill
zone. So now came the time to schedule her first ever hunt to take place
on the 25th of October.
Here we are getting ready to head to Alvin, Texas for Betty's first try
at hunting and taking of a game animal. Poor Betty, she was as nervous
as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. She told me that
she had been for at least three days, sick to her stomach, very apprehensive,
and worried about how she would perform under actual hunting conditions.
I had warned her that when she did shoot, that the animal might react
in any number of ways. It might just run off to fall aways off, it might
jump up and kick its hind legs and run off, or hopefully just drop in
its tracks. Little did I know that none of the above would apply? I had
told my friend, and the donor of the hunt, Mark Strickland that Betty
was not very physically fit due to a number of health problems. He told
me that he would do the following to make it easier and a hopefully pleasant
experience for her first hunt. He said he had set up a bow blind near
a feeder and that he would take her out to the blind on a four-wheeler
since the path to the blind was not only wet and rough, but very overgrown
in tall grass and small saplings. We got to the place and met Mark at
the gate. We discussed a strategy and he took Betty out to the blind.
I walked in and carried the Remington .243 loaded with Remington 100 grain
soft nosed ammo. I also carried the camera and some binoculars. We got
situated in the blind and sat back to wait on whatever fate had in store
for Betty's first hunting experience.
We had been there about forty-five minutes when the feeder went off. Almost
immediately I saw some black feral hogs headed toward the blind area.
All you could see was the top of their back at first. When they came into
the opening, I had already told her where they were coming from. She was
just kind of in awe, never having seen anything like this before. Her
first comment was, "they look like little bears." The hogs grunted and
rooted around for a while, giving us a little entertainment. I was hoping
that their presence wouldn't keep the other animals away as it will sometimes
do. About 20 minutes later they took off into the waist high grass surrounding
the small opening of about 20 yards across. Suddenly I saw two sheep run
by about 40 yards to the left if the clearing, showing only the tops of
their horns and part of the neck. The pigs came back again just a few
minutes later and brought some friends. There were at least eight of them
all around us. Then I saw directly behind the feeder about 40 yards away
a dark colored ram coming straight toward our blind. He hesitated at the
far side of the opening for what seemed like forever, but was probably
only five or ten minutes. He finally eased out into the open letting us
get our first decent look at him. I was sitting directly behind Betty
with my binoculars glued to my eyes. The weather was not the best either.
It was 100% humidity, hot. And getting nearly dark at 5:30. I whispered
to Betty that the ram was a Corsican, a little wooly but nice. I thought
it would go in the record book at least silver, maybe gold. This went
on for about 20 minutes with me telling her to only shoot if she wanted
to and we could wait for a better one if she wanted or come back for another
try if need be. All this time I was keeping up a running commentary, trying
to keep her calm. I had just about; well really I had decided that she
wasn't going to shoot when all of a sudden the gun went off taking me
unawares and just about deafening me. At the shot the ram just stood in
his tracks and didn't move at all except for turning his head and looking
toward the sound and the blind. I told Betty to put another one in him.
She did and he did the same thing. Then finally he just went down. There
was a little thank goodness from me and lots of smiles and a couple of
tears from Betty, I think of relief as well as joy at her first hunt's
success. We got a couple of pictures and by then it was pitch black dark
so we made our way back to the gate and processed the ram and were on
our way home. The next day we took it to the taxidermist for a shoulder
mount and scoring. Her Corsican ram went gold medal in the Records of
Exotics record book. Not a bad start for a hunter of any age or gender.
There was one more step to take for this metamorphosis, and it would happen
starting a few days later on the whitetail hunt I had scheduled for both
of us on opening weekend of the Texas Hill Country deer season.
On November 3, 2000 we were off for what I hoped would be the end of my
three-year quest for a big whitetail buck, and Betty's next step as a
hunter. Betty was to try for her first ever Whitetail, on only her second
ever hunt. We arrived at our destination around noon on a dreary, cloudy,
rainy, muddy day. We made our way up a steep hill to a large house sitting
at the summit to meet our guides, outfitters Kathryn Kyle and Dick Johnson.
They informed us that all three of the bigger bucks on the place had been
frequenting the same feeder area up until two days before and hopefully
we could get a good look at them on opening morning. They directed us
down the hill to a nice trailer that would be our home away from home
for our hunt. We quickly got all our gear unloaded. We had been invited
by our hosts to attend a hunters BBQ dinner in Bandera that evening. We
did get to take a short tour of the 6100-acre ranch before it was time
to leave for town. The rain that had been falling since before we had
arrived was still coming down as we left. After a good meal and an auction
we headed back to the ranch with the rain falling even harder and lasting
most of the night.
Opening day of the Texas 2000 deer season dawned rainless but very overcast
and cool, in the 50's. We started out in a Blazer with no top. Arriving
at our hunting spot we covered most of the vehicle with camouflage netting.
Betty and Kathryn were up front with me in the back. We were on the edge
of a ravine with a feeder that I ranged at 50 yards on the other side
of the ravine. It wasn't raining as I had mentioned but the humidity was
so high and the clouds so low and threatening that it might as well have
been. About 7:15 a. m. the feeder whirred to life and broadcasted its
corn around the area. Shortly afterward we saw two small bucks ease out
of the brush to partake of the free meal. Shortly after that a young eight
point buck came from the ridge behind and to the left of us. We all stayed
very still and he crossed behind us within 20 yards, and then crossed
the ravine to join the other deer. About an hour later I spotted a much
better 8-point buck edging out from behind a big brushy downed tree. He
evidently didn't like what he either saw or smelled because he never came
fully out and left for other places after only a few minutes of standing
and staring. Just a little after nine a nosy doe came up from directly
behind us and started stomping her feet in an effort to make us move so
she could tell what we were. Finally she decided she didn't like what
she saw and gave out with that wheezing snort that says danger to all
deer within hearing and hightailed it back over the ridge. We figured
that after that we might as well leave the area and see if we could find
anything by driving safari style.
We saw quite a large number of exotics as we moved around the ranch. We
saw Addax Antelope, White Elk, Red Deer, and Barasinga Deer, along with
a few Blackbuck Antelope, Axis Deer, and White Fallow Deer. Best of all
though was what we saw about an hour later. We saw bedded down with a
bunch of Fallow Deer the biggest Whitetail buck I had ever seen in the
wild. This was one of the bucks that Kathryn had told us about. She called
him "Wide" because of his extremely wide spread. On an educated guess
this animal had a spread of at least 26 inches and 11 points. We got a
real long look at him and though he was a real dandy I thought that his
antlers looked a little spindly, so I regretfully decided to pass on him,
this being opening morning, and pray that I would have a chance to see
the other two bucks before I had to make the decision to shoot or not.
We looked for a while and took some pictures, which didn't come out, and
went our way trying to find the other two big bucks. We did see a number
of bucks, seven, but nothing but young ones. After an hour long break
we were back at it again to no avail. About 3:00 p.m. it was decided that
Betty and I would go to a ground blind in the hopes of seeing a deer for
Betty to take.
The blind Kathryn wanted us to hunt was one that she said had been there
for as long as she could remember. She had grown up on this ranch, which
was owned by her father. She explained that it was made of metal and was
very small so we might be a little cramped in it. This turned out to be
an understatement. We had to ease our way down a steep, slippery, slope
to a creek crossing, then drive about a hundred yards or so on a rock
ledge coming up out of the creek bed, then back up another muddy slope
to get to the blind area. Kathryn told us that she had seen a nice, heavy
8 pointer and an even nicer 10 pointer coming to that blind. When we got
there, she wasn't kidding. This blind was half the size of any blind I
had ever been in. We unloaded our gear and started to shoehorn our way
into the blind. Betty who is a little claustrophobic said she wasn't sure
she would be able to get in it and close the door. Picture this! To be
able to see through the same window that Betty would be shooting from
and help her to judge the size of the deer before she shot we had to do
the following. First take the boards used for a seat and slide them out
toward the center of the blind, then straddle them, with me directly behind
her trying to use binoculars over her shoulder. Picture a bicycle built
for two only much closer together. Betty was having a ball seeing so many
things she had never seen before. In fact with all the birds and the many
huge Monarch Butterflies flitting around the area she kept thinking she
was seeing deer move. Finally what she saw was actually a deer. I had
to warn her not to point and move so much when she got excited about seeing
her first deer in the wild. The first thing we saw was, which is usually
the case, a couple of does We did finally have a couple of small 8 point
bucks come in. The best of the two eight pointers hung around for about
40 minutes and then left. Shortly afterward a spike and a six pointer
showed up. Never having shot a deer nor even seeing a deer in the wild,
much less the 48 yards we had ranged the feeder, I kept her busy practicing
finding the deer in her scope and simulating firing at it. She was starting
to get confident in doing this when all of a sudden all the deer threw
up their heads and were looking at something off to our right. Suddenly
they all took off running in the other direction and in ran a bunch of
about 8 feral pigs. That pretty much was it for the hunt that evening.
I tried to get Betty to pop one of the pigs since the ranch owner wanted
any and all hogs killed that we saw. She refused saying she hared the
sight of them so much that she didn't even want to shoot one of them.
But at least she got some more practice at finding animals in her scope.
Finally they left as well and shortly after we were picked up and we went
back to the trailer for a quick meal and then to bed for a much needed
The next morning came too early at 5:45. This morning we decided to go
back to the same spot we had been in the previous morning. This time it
was foggy mixed with a misty rain. We had only been there a little while
and had seen 4 does. They were super spooky and sending out their alarm
call so we decided to leave. Not long afterward we headed back to the
area we had seen "Wide" the morning before and sure enough there he was.
We had a lot better look at him this time and I decide he was probably
a little better in the antler department than I had thought the day before.
We figured he would maybe be in the 130 B & C class. But with Kathryn
telling me that she thought that the deer she called Wide Jr., because
he wasn't quite as wide as he other one, had more mass. The other one
which was called "Bookie" she thought was the best of all of them. Being
greedy I decided to pass on Wide again. The weather all that day was in
one word, wet. We saw 2 waterfalls where not too long ago there had been
no water at all. Deep ponds where a short while earlier they had been
dry. All this water was great for the ranch but lousy for hunting in an
open vehicle. Don't get me wrong but even though it we were in light rain
all the time it wasn't to bad, and we saw lots of game of all kinds. We
saw the glittering beads of moisture clinging to the beautiful geometric
shapes of spider webs. The moisture made the new shoots of grass springing
up everywhere almost glow a pale blue in the pale shifting light. The
mist shrouded hills looked like what I would imagine the rolling hills
of the Irish or English countryside would look. We decided on an early
break for lunch since we were not really seeing much game anyway. That
afternoon rain and all we went to the most distant back part of the ranch
hoping to see the other two bucks. We saw a few does and a flock of about
20 turkey, all gobblers. They were even doing a little bit of strutting
with their tail feathers fanned out for all to see. Kathryn showed us
a trick that I had never seen. When she banged on the side of the vehicle
with the palm of her hand, every one of them would gobble.
I guess that one of the most enjoyable things on this trip was having
Betty along and watching her wide -eyed amazement at almost everything
that unfolded before her that she had never seen before.
That evening it was back to the same old bicycle built for two stand.
The feeder went off shortly after 4:00 p.m. Within 30 minutes we were
overrun by deer. There were 8 or 10 does and up to 4 bucks at a time around
us. Most of them were too small to shoot though. A decent, average Hill
Country buck did come in. While we were procrastinating over whether to
shoot or not, you guessed it, the pigs came back and the deer left. During
the time we had so many deer around there was a doe within 4 or 5 yards
of the side window of the blind. So close in fact, that I had to lean
forward and to the left to keep her from seeing me. Suddenly the thunder
and dark clouds that we had been watching as well got much darker, louder,
and closer. Within a few minutes our guide had shown up figuring that
the weather was going to get worse quickly. She was very right. We had
no more than gotten into the covered jeep, that we had prudently switched
into before going out after lunch, than the bottom dropped out. It rained
so hard that the water rapidly accumulated in the center of the roof.
It bulged down enough that we had to keep pushing up on it to keep it
from leaking. Of course that would sometimes cause it to pour in around
the seams and get the people in the front wetter than they wanted to be.
Even worse was the prospect of that creek crossing. The water was probably
twice as deep as when we first crossed it as well as flowing much faster.
Luckily Kathryn was a skillful driver and negotiated the current, rock
ledge, and slippery slope with no major difficulties. She did say that
just before she left the spot she had been setting the wide spread buck
had walked within 10 feet of her going toward the area we had seen him
at before. We finally got back to the trailer and inside. It rained hard
most of the night. The next morning we found out that we had gotten nearly
four inches in four hours. We went to bed hoping that the next day would
give us better weather.
When the alarms jangling awoke us the next morning we found that the early
mornings dark skies were clear and we could see the stars for the first
time in many days. Before we even got to the hunting area we saw 5 bucks
in our headlights. Ranging from a cull type spike to a young basket type
eight pointer. We had decided to go back to small metal blind this morning
in the hopes that Betty could get her buck this morning and then we could
spend the rest of the day trying to find and harvest one of the big bucks.
As we made our way to the blind we felt the crispness of the air and could
see the stars twinkling in the sky.
About 10 minutes after we were dropped off and were in the blind a big
fat doe ambled by. It was obvious that she was on a mission to somewhere
else since she never paused in her stride through the opening that our
blind sat in. After that not a thing stirred even after the feeder went
off, except for a bushy tailed squirrel whose antics helped to pass the
time until our guide picked us up. We decided to drive around awhile and
see if we could spot anything that way. We busted the brush and anything
else we could think of before and after lunch and only figured out one
thing. None of the animals including the exotics were stirring. Even at
the feeders we found feed on the ground, with no evidence that anything
had been feeding on it.
Finally about 3:45 we decided to make a last try at the blind we had seen
the wide buck at in the hopes that the game would be feeding that evening
since they definitely hadn't the rest of the day.
We started the drive to that part of the ranch and just as we turned off
the main vehicle trail I spotted a very good buck coming out of the brush
and timber accompanied by a doe. I shouted, quietly to our guide and driver,
"There's a real good looking buck, " and she slammed on the brakes for
a look. Up went the binoculars and a quick look told me it was a very
nice nine point with more mass than the big wide spread buck we had seen
before. Kathryn whispered that it was the buck they called wide junior.
and that she thought that he would score a little lower than the other
buck. I decided that I liked him best and with their not being any guarantee
we would even see the other buck again it was time to shoot. I quickly
brought up my .375 caliber, Thompson Contender and in the process of trying
to get a rest on the Suburban roll bar somehow made a clanking metallic
sound. The buck whirled around and started back into the thick brush.
I commented to our guide, guess that takes care of the decision as to
which buck I should try for. Kathryn said I think he might come back.
She said she would drive off a few yards and point the front of the vehicle
toward where he had went into the brush and wait and see what happened.
No sooner than we had made the turn toward the area than there he was
with a doe trailing behind him, starting back across the opening. I quickly
ranged him at 43 yards. The Contender was up with no problem this time
and I found his shoulder in the crosshairs of the Leupold 4 power scope.
Then at 4:00 p.m. the gun barked and the 200-grain Remington core - lokt
bullet did its job, and the buck went down without making a single step.
Yes !! My quest for the biggest buck I had ever taken was over and the
Texas Whitetail Odyssey was finally over after 3 years of searching. After
lots of congratulations and smiles and picture taking our guide told me,
I think there is still time if we just leave your deer here and I take
ya'll to a blind for Betty to get a deer and I 'll come back and take
care of your buck in the meantime. That seemed like a good plan to me
so off we went, back to the tin blind.
We had barely gotten settled into the blind when the feeder came alive
and broadcast its bounty in a broad circle around the area. It didn't
take long for the game to start making an appearance. First a few does
moved in and a couple of small bucks were close behind. After awhile a
small 8-point came in. Then an 8-point that was much better than anything
we had seen here so far came in. Whispered to Betty that it was up to
her if she wanted to take this buck or to wait awhile and see if anything
better might show up. She kept saying, I've got a good sight picture,
I could shoot him easy. I think maybe she talked herself into it, because
at 5:30 her Remington .243 went off. The buck ran in a tight little circle
then went down in a heap. Betty had her first ever whitetail buck. In
only an hour and a half we had both taken the best bucks ever. Shortly
after our guides showed up and with many congratulations and pictures
our adventure was at an end. On our way back to camp in the nearly dark
evening we went back past where I had taken my buck. You guessed it !!
We saw a very large buck running into the brush no more than a 100 yards
from the spot where my buck had went down. Yes, guess where I will probably
be opening day next year? Betty says she just might be there with me.
The buck scored an approximate 122 B&C points, and had a spread of better
than 22 inches.
Written by Steve Mahurin in 2000.