fourth 1991 my wife Shirley and I headed out I 10 West towards the picturesque
town of Fredricksburg, Texas, nestled in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.
This town is a tourist Mecca the year round and famous for it's German
and Check, cuisine, its myriad's of shops, juicy, delicious peaches, as
well as being the hometown of WWII admiral Chester Nimitz and the site
of a very interesting museum dedicated to him and WWII memorabilia.
After maybe six weeks of phoning and talking to guides and outfitters
we had decided on a place to hunt. After we got settled into our motel
room we called our host, ranch owner, and guide, James Moellendorf for
instructions to find his ranch. We were scheduled to go to his ranch,
which was about twelve miles outside of town to hunt for a Red Deer Stag.
We got our directions to the ranch and then settled in for a restless
night of anticipation.
Early the next morning we left our motel to go to the ranch and were greeted
with a temperature of near 40 degrees with a steady drizzling rain falling.
Forecasts on the radio said we were in for more rain the whole day, with
highs in the mid forties.
When we arrived and were greeted by our host and his wife, we found organized
confusion. The ranch in addition to being hunted for Whitetail Deer, Axis
and Fallow Deer and Red Deer was also a full-fledged goat raising enterprise.
This was the time that the nannies were dropping their babies. The problem
was that with the frigid temperatures outside and the rain falling the
babies, if not found and put into a warm area very quickly, were dying
James, Shirley, and I climbed into James's four-wheel drive truck to start
our hunt. The Red Deer is the European cousin of our Rocky Mountain Elk.
They are about two thirds the size the size of our native elk and in a
fully mature bull or stag there are a number of times that grow at the
end of the main beam that look like a basket or crown as it is called
in this animal.
As we made our way across the ranch, behind some hills and ridges, a mile
or so from the ranch headquarters, even in four wheel drive the truck
was slipping and sliding back and forth on the black dirt mud of the ranch
road. A couple of times I wondered if we were going to even be able to
get to the hunting area. The hunting area was mostly hills and draws,
interspersed with a few flat meadows and Cedar thickets.
We drove and looked quite awhile without seeing anything but a few Fallow
and Axis Deer You think maybe the stags were smarter than us and staying
under cover out of the rain ? Finally when we started seeing a few stags
they were all too young and too small. After about three hours of playing
in the mud we saw a small herd of red deer on the far side of a small
valley. We decided to try a stalk on foot. The three of us gritted our
teeth and stepped into the rainy cold.
There was a line of trees and brush that we figured might get us to within
a hundred yards or so of them so we could get a better look at the two
stags we thought deserved a better look, and all the while hoping there
was no game holed up in the brush that would bust our stalk. There was
and they did.
We arrived back at the vehicle, each of us weighing about ten pounds more
than when we left. The wet clothes were a contributor, but the main culprits
were the huge balls of mud that clung to our boots and kept giving us
fits the whole day.
The spooked herd had moved over a small ridge, so it was decided to make
a large circle in the truck to try to get ahead of them and set up for
an ambush or a stalk. It worked and we skidded around on foot for a hundred
yards or so to a big pile of boulders and unlimbered our binoculars. There
were a couple of decent stags in the bunch, but James said that he thought
we could do better in spite of the lousy weather.
It was back to page one. We decided that we would move to a different
area of the ranch hoping that our luck would change. We could have gotten
a number of good Fallow and even a decent Whitetail buck. I think they
knew we weren't hunting them. We made at least four more mud weighted
stalks and either couldn't get a shot or they were just not big enough.
We were all chilled to the bone, with numb hands, feet, and ears. We agreed
that, even the periods inside the truck, with the heater going full blast
didn't help us a whole lot. James said that he thought we should go back
to headquarters and warm up and dry out for awhile and then try again.
We were nearly back to ranch headquarters and coming through a stand of
trees near a small lake when lo and behold, a pretty good looking stag
broke out of the trees ahead of us. James sped up to the edge of the clearing
around the lake and skidded to a stop. Like, 10 yards of skidding, nearly
into the lake sideways on the slick road. I jumped out of the truck nearly
busting my rear on that same slick terrain.
I jerked the Remington, model700, 30/06 and found him in the scope, running
to from my left to my right and building into a full gallop. At the boom
of the gun the stag collapsed and skidded about five yards himself, ending
up at the very edge of the lake. The Remington, 180 grain, core-lokt bullet
had done a great job as usual. We got to him and figured that there was
no way to get the truck near him without going swimming, much less get
him into the bed of the truck. James said he had a big four wheel drive
tractor with a scoop on it and we could load him up with it. It worked
and we were even able to hang him from the blade attachment for caping
and cutting up the meat for the trip home. Yeah!! You guessed it. Not
twenty minutes after my shot, the rain stopped and even got a few pale
rays of sunlight. Then it was back on the road home to start planning
the next hunt.
by Steve Mahurin on May 18, 2000.