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Texas Whitetail Odyssey
By Steve Mahurin
     

1998

This is the story of my quest for a trophy Whitetail. I have been hunting Exotics in Texas for nearly twenty years. I've been lucky to take many of them, with a major portion, of them being high up in the record books. I decided late in 1997 that it was time for me to renew my search for a trophy Whitetail. That by itself is a pretty good hill to climb, but I had decided to make it even harder. I was going to try and take my trophy with a handgun, and didn't want to settle for anything less than an animal in the 150 class of Boone and Crockett. This is the tale of that search.

The 1998 season was to be a real busy one for me. The first place I hunted was, would you believe a freebie. My buddy, Thompson Temple, had graciously extended me an invitation to take part in his annual Bonanza Hunt. This was to take place not far outside of the picturesque town of Kerrville, Texas. The nearest town to the ranch I was to hunt on was called Hunt, Texas. Now can you possibly think of a better name for a town nestled in middle of the fabled hunting area called the Texas Hill Country. This area is probably the most intensely hunted places in the state. The ranch was called the Low Hatch. Thompson had shown me pictures of animals taken the preceding year on this hunt and there were a couple of the bucks that looked pretty good. My hope was that although it wasn't likely that any of them would be in the 150 class, if I saw one that was decent it would be a good warm up for the next hunt.

The first morning was a typical Texas fall morning. It was pretty crisp to start out as we rode in the open jeep to our blinds. But also typically Texas, within a couple of hours I was ready to come out of the heavier jacket I had started out with.

As the moon started its trip down, the sun started it's way into the sky. The birds cheerily greeted the beginning of the day. Right after it got light enough to see a little, a small group of deer sauntered into the clearing. Sadly the four does and the young five-point buck weren't what I was looking for. They stuck around for nearly an hour. As they vacated the small clearing around the blind a herd of eighteen exotic sheep entered the scene and stayed around until my guide picked me up for the trip back to the bunkhouse.

The evening hunt was uneventful, except for one lonely doe about a hundred yards away, and the same band of sheep I had seen that morning. The rest of the weekend was a repeat of the first day. Not only did I not get a Thanksgiving dinner, that weekend, but I didn't get to take a shot with my .375 caliber Contender either.

The following weekend I was scheduled to help out a friend corral eight corporate hunters on a ranch in the junction area. We were guides, cooks, skinners, and butchers that weekend. We did get to sit in a blind one morning and take a few photos of the deer, which was fun. Our hunters each got eight pointers along with does and a turkey or two.

The next excursion was again with my buddy Richard Lozano, of Lozano Taxidermy and 0utfitting. Richard had found an outfitter for me with a good reputation and some big and well-known south Texas ranches to hunt. We arrived at the lodge a few miles outside of the town of Carrizo Springs, Texas, late on a Thursday night for a couple of days of pursuing the wily Whitetail. We met our outfitter, a lady named Carolyn Faggord and after talking over a game plan for the following morning headed to our bunks to try and get a few hours of shut-eye.

The alarm went off at 4:30 the next morning and we stumbled out of our bunks and into our clothes for the morning's hunt. Our destination that first morning was to be a place called Crawford Farms. We met our guide at the front gate and it was decided we would hunt out of an elevated stand in the middle of a ranch. This place is a typical south Texas ranch thick with cedar and a few openings and roads over its 4000 acres. We arrived at the blind well before daylight and made the climb up its twenty-foot height. We got settled in and began the wait for daylight. The temperature was, sadly, typical Texas as well. Even before daylight it was pushing the high seventies with a thick pea soup fog making it feel like a sauna instead of the outdoors.

We had been told to expect to see bucks in the 130 -= 140 class. After what seemed like forever the feeble rays of sunshine struggled through the fog to barely illuminate the road we had come in on and the feeder, which never spread it's meal of corn, about sixty yards away.

About two hours later we spotted the bare outline of a buck about fifty yards away. Trouble was that even though he looked promising and hung around for nearly an hour, playing peekaboo in the tenuous swirls of fog, we could never get a good enough look to say if he was the caliber of buck I was looking for. After the buck disappeared for the final time into the mist we settled back down in the hopes that the fog would dissipate and let us see a few more and hopefully some trophy sized bucks. We did see about an hour and a half later about a dozen turkeys flitting on their long legs through the edge of the brush. Alas they weren't what we were looking for.

One unusual thing did happen though. As we sat in the blind we saw three beautiful Red Tailed Hawks all sitting in the same tree right across from us. They hung around for over two hours.

The truck finally showed up to take us back to our vehicle. First though we went to pick up my buddy, Richard Lozano, from the blind he had been sitting in, hopefully to spot something big that maybe I could try for that evening if I had no luck that morning. He told us that he had seen a real good looking ten point that he thought I should try for on the evening hunt. He had also spotted about eight or ten smaller bucks as well.

As we drove some of the roads on our way out we spotted a huge buck going away from us. His wide heavy horned rack was a deep reddish bronze color. Sadly there was only the sight of him running away from us, and not a ghost of a chance for a shot.

We went back to our lodge for a light breakfast and a little air-conditioned respite from the steamy morning. We even got in a couple of hours of bunk time. About three o'clock that afternoon I was back in the blind that Richard had been in that morning with my contender ready for that big ten pointer. Yeah, you're right, we didn't see a single deer, much less the big ten point.

When we arrived back at the lodge well after dark we were greeted very pleasantly with a huge meal of steaks on the grill, with baked potatoes and just about anything else you could think of to go with it. Maybe I hadn't gotten a trophy buck that day but the hospitality and cuisine were of record book proportions.

The next morning we decided to try something a little different. We were to take out a high rack vehicle to the edge of a small food plot of about forty acres in the hopes a buck might show up for a morning snack.

For those that are not familiar with South Texas style hunting I'll explain what a high rack is. Short and sweet, it's a truck with an elevated seat so you can be above to look down into the thick brush. This lets you, hopefully, see a deer approaching before it sees you. That way you have a little more time to make a shot that you would otherwise have. Most of these high racks also have a complete set of controls up on top so it can be driven from there as well as inside the cab.

We got to our spot and parked and began the wait for daylight. It wasn't too long a wait. As the weak rays of sunshine finally illuminated the clearing we saw nothing. In fact for nearly three hours that was all we saw nothing. We were treated many times to the warbling call of many flights of migrating Sandhill Cranes. Even on the drive back to the entrance we didn't see a single animal. I guess the combination of heat and fog combined was all against us. We got back to the lodge and packed our gear for the trip home.

The next weekend we were back in South Texas near a town called Carrizo Springs. This time we were on a ranch, which covered nearly ten thousand, low fenced acres of dense South Texas Mesquite and Blackbrush. Because of my friend and hunting companion's schedule we would only have one full day of hunting. This ranch actually wasn't scheduled to be hunted that year so most of the blinds had been newly constructed. We figured since the ranch hadn't been hunted for a couple of years that even with newly placed blinds we had a decent chance of getting a big one.

We were in our spots well before even the slightest hint of the dawn showed. Almost immediately I heard the lilting, quavering yodel of coyotes both behind my ground blind as well as what sounded to be very close to the front of me. Dawn finally showed itself on the horizon. The coyotes had nearly continuously serenaded me. Just after I could see for a few yards I saw a small three point buck edge its way out of the edge of the brush to feed alongside of the caliche road running nearly out of sight in front of my blind. There were quite a few deer in sight but nothing of any size.

About an hour or so into my vigil the coyote's music seemed even closer than before. Sure enough within ten minutes I saw a lone coyote step from the brush into the edge of the road. I had my Contender at the ready, but decided it was too early in the day to shoot and maybe spook that monster, brush bustin, Whitetail buck away so I would never see him. The yodel dog quickly crossed the road and melted back into the brush. Then a second one came out, paused and crossed to my right like the first one. Then came a third one and then a fourth one, all repeating their cautious exit from the brush and a quick crossing to the brush on the other side of the opening. I said to myself, self, if just one more of those coyotes come out you go ahead and shoot. You guessed it, not another showed itself. An interesting mix of animals, but none that I was looking for. We were picked up and went back to our motel for a meal and a little rest before the evening hunt.

That afternoon I was back in the same blind and hoping for better luck. As the afternoon wore on I hadn't seen much of anything. A couple of hours later about 250 yards away I saw a movement at the edge of the road. I jammed my binoculars to my eyes and saw something I had never had the privilege of seeing in the thirty plus years that I have spent hunting in many areas of my home state of Texas as well as many forays into the mountains of Colorado. Crossing the road at a fast trot was a female Cougar with two of that springs cubs trailing along behind her. I was only able to watch them for a few seconds, but put that sighting very high in the many pleasurable experiences in the outdoors. A little later there were at least four bucks and nine does in and out of the open area. Alas none of the bucks were shooters.

Very late in the evening as the bright orange sun was nearly down, its bright rays nearly obscured my vision toward a drop off about eighty yards away. Just under the intense light I could see the dark looking backs of what I thought was animals moving toward me. About fifteen minutes later ten Black feral hogs fed and grunted their way up over the edge of the rise. I wanted to try and kill at least one of them but still waited stubbornly hoping to sight a big buck. As it got darker and still darker, the pigs stayed about fifty yards away. By the time I decided to take a shot they had fed out of sight. As it got well into past dark I began to wonder where my ride was. About 7:30 I was beginning to wonder if I was going to have to walk out in the dark to the truck. Then I started to hear the hogs moving and squealing right in front of my blind. Listening to the hogs and thinking about the coyotes and the mountain lions I decided that walking in the dark might not be such a good idea. Finally at 8:30 I saw headlights headed my way. The guides suburban had gotten buried in a mud hole and he had to walk about two or three miles to get another vehicle to pick us up and help in getting his Suburban unstuck. Quite a day in the outdoors, huh? Then it was back on the road home.

Next up was a trip back to the South Texas countryside to a ranch I had heard of for years when big Whitetail are spoken of. This was the Corazon ranch a few miles outside of Bracketville, Texas. Richard Lozano, my friend and outfitter, and I met the ramrod of the hunting part of the Corazon, David Mann, at the front gate at the appointed time and he opened the gate for the start of our adventure. As it was still an hour or so before daylight we prepared to head to our blinds in the warm, muggy, predawn stillness of the South Texas, brush country.

I was the first to be put out and slowly climbed into the tower blind. This blind was very unsteady and every time I moved would move back and forth to the outer reaches of the cables tethering it to the ground. Needless to say it wasn't very easy to turn and scan all around me. I finally worked out a system whereby I made the least possible noise and still would be able to do a decent job of watching for game. As the first rays of daylight started to peek through the darkness I began to hear the birds greet the new day with song. Over across the opening and below the creek bed, I could also hear the sound of heavy wings fluttering, along with the calls of turkey. Within thirty minutes of daylight my blind was literally surrounded by a huge flock of native Rio Grande Turkeys. What surprised me most though was that the males were still gobbling and strutting even though it was nearly the middle of January. For nearly the whole time I was in that blind there were turkey all over the place.

Not to mention the many Whitetail deer that sauntered into the clearing to partake of the corn spread by the feeder. In fact most of the time spent in that spot there were deer and turkey in sight. Trouble was although I was itching to take a turkey with my Thompson Contender I didn't because I didn't want to spook any big bucks that might be in the area. There were at least seven bucks within pistol shot range at various times but none that I wanted to bust a cap at.

When the truck came to pick me up I reported what I had seen and the numerous pictures I'd made. Richard had seen one big buck at extreme range with no chance at a shot. He had gotten a real good gobbler though.

David's son had picked us both up, and as we made our way back to camp he told us about a large water hole on thew other side of the ranch that was usually covered with ducks. We asked what kind and he described Blue and Green Winged Teal and a duck that he didn't have any idea what it was. From his description, I thought they were Ring Billed Ducks. H e asked if I would like to borrow a shotgun and take a crack at one. Of course I was ready to go for it. We got back to camp, got a bite to eat, got the shotgun, and took off. It took about thirty minutes to arrive at our destination. I was to crawl about thirty yards up to the top of the embankment for my shot. Luck was with me and I got one Ring-Bill as the whole flock started to wing their way off the water. Then it was back to camp for a little rest in the air conditioning, away from what had turned out to be another very hot, very clear blue skied day in the South, Texas brush.

I had promised myself that morning that if all those turkey were still around my blind that evening, I was going to put one on the ground. Wouldn't you know it, David decided to move me to a different part of the ranch since all I had seen were small bucks. And you guessed it a young hunter sat in the blind I had been in that morning and shot a real nice nine point buck that evening.

The blind that I was in was situated at the center of two senderos in the form of a plus and gave me a long field of view in four directions. It turned out that it was a pretty uneventful evening. I saw about four does and a medium sized eight pointer. Before I was picked up I did get what turned out to be some spectacular pictures of the South Texas sunset. We decided to spend the majority of the night at the camp and leave from there in time to arrive for hunting on a different ranch near Sabinal, Texas, the next morning.

The guides for our next try had told us it was a virtual lock that we would have a chance at 130 to 140 class bucks. We had only one day of hunting time left before Richard had to be back at his Taxidermy Studio in South Houston, Texas. The drive to the stands was in total darkness and we were dropped off at a spot that a couple of big bucks had been seen a number of times in the last few days. Guess what our blind was. A windmill! You don't think it was easy to make that straight up vertical climb, with all our gear plus the heavy coats we needed for the just below freezing temperatures that had greeted us as we started out that morning. One of the famous Texas Blue Northers had arrived while we slept All we saw that morning was our white breath and three or four does. We hoped for much better luck on the evening hunt.

As we made our way back to our blind that afternoon we passed through some fabulous looking deer country. We went down into and through a deep canyon with the rushing waters of the Sabinal, within a few yards of the narrow dirt track we traveled along. When we topped out the ridge you could see a vista of nonstop brush and trees for nearly a dozen miles. The road to the blind was nine and a half miles from camp. After the climb back up to the top of the windmill it was back to waiting and watching and hoping. We saw a good number of small bucks as well as over twenty does. But nothing of the two big eight pointers and the two big ten pointers we had been told hung around in the area of the windmill. Busted again. That was our last chance for the 1988 season so it was back home and start planning for next year.

1999

The only hunt for the 1999 season was on the last weekend of the South Texas, season. This hunt took place on a very well known ranch near Pearsall, Texas smack dab in some of the best of the South Texas brush country. My companions on this hunt were Richard Lozano, my good friend and taxidermist, His cousin Jim Chapa, and a new friend, James Patella, who we would help in taking a trophy Aoudad Sheep and a Fallow Deer. The ranch we were hunting is the Galloway Ranch.

We had arrived at the ranch about an hour after dark and started to unload our gear. As we did we heard a sound of something banging together. We all suspected it might be a couple of deer fighting. We climbed into both vehicles and pointed the headlights into the big open field adjacent to the lodge. There in the cone of light shining through the darkness were two white Fallow Deer banging away at each other. They completely ignored the presence of the lights and vehicles. This saga continued for over fifteen minutes before they finally retired from the field of battle. The very next night at about the same time the exact same thing happened.

The next morning Richard and I dropped Jim and James, sounds like a vaudeville act huh! at a blind to try for a Fallow Deer. Richard and I spotted a couple of pretty good bucks on the way to where we were going to try for my Whitetail Buck. Sadly none were in the B& C 150 class that I was looking for. Our morning hunt was non-eventful. James had gotten lucky that morning and had bagged a trophy Chocolate Fallow Deer. After getting the Fallow skinned and quartered and in the cooler, we decided to go out and look for him an Aoudad Sheep.

Shortly after we got into the heavy brush area we spotted a big bunch of Aoudads ghosting along through the brush about a hundred yards off the road we were on. After circling around and around the area and seeing the rams a half dozen times, with no chance at a shot, it was decided we had to change tactics. I suggested we drop Jim and James off at a junction of two roads and that we circle and hopefully move the animals in such a manner as to give them a chance at a shot. A little later Richard and I spotted the rams off to our left. We were only three or four hundred yards from where Jim and James had set up their ambush. I told Richard, let me stay with the truck so the rams won't come this way and if you walk the brush behind them they should cross the opening and give James a shot. We did, They did, and James made a good shot and had his ram.

That evening, since Jim was the resident expert on judging Whitetail antlers, it was decided that he would go with me to hunt for my buck. We first tried driving the pasture surrounding the owner's home. About all we saw were deer diving into the tall Blackbrush with not enough time to judge them or anything, much less time for a shot. Later we sat in a ground blind on the edge of an open field. We had a visit from wily coyote and five does but not a buck one.

The next morning Jim and I were perched high up off the ground in a tower box blind. As it slowly began to get light enough to see, the first animal we saw was a small eight point Whitetail buck. Next to show up were a few Whitetail does and about twenty or so Axis Deer does. I tried a grunt call while Jim was working with a set of rattling antlers. There was almost instant success. About seventy or eighty yards away to our right came two very good bucks. The trouble was that they were just inside the confines of a high fenced enclosure into which we couldn't shoot. In the first couple of hours of daylight we saw a total of maybe eighty Axis including two very shootable males, over twenty Whitetail, a Waterbuck, A Barasinga, and a couple of Blackbuck Antelope. Way off in the distance we could see on a big green, irrigated field, dozens of Elk and other exotic species feeding. A little later we spotted at least three very good Whitetail bucks in the middle of that same field. Trouble was they were at least a thousand yards away and not a snowballs chance in mid-July to get a shot.

After leaving the elevated blind we decided to try one more thing before we had to leave for home about noon. We were to try Safari style for a Whitetail. Safari style would be Jim and I in the open pickup bed so we would have a better chance of seeing deer by being above the nearly chest high Blackbrush that hid the game so well. As we drove we spotted at least half of the nearly 200 Rocky Mountain Elk that abound on the property. We spotted at least a dozen does and seven Fallow bucks on our drive. After nearly an hour we, really Jim, spotted a huge wide racked Whitetail buck. All you could see was his head and his antlers reflecting in the bright sun at over three hundred yards away. We headed in his general direction. There was no way under the existing conditions that I was going to be able to get a shot at him with my Contender, so I switched over to my trusty Remington model 700, 30/06. That old buck was a wily one, and kept just out of range and wouldn't stand still for even a minute. When we had been playing cat and mouse for a good thirty or forty minutes he almost gave us a break, but not quite. ON a curve in the narrow trail we had been following we closed to under a hundred yards. Four different times just as I found him in my scope he would move. The one time he did stand still a few seconds, the thick brush screened him, so I couldn't get a clear shot. Finally we lost him completely and decided it was time to head back to the lodge and pack up for the trip home. It was the last day of the season, so all we could do was head home and promise ourselves to be back next year and in one of the blinds in the area we had played cat and mouse with that buck..

2000 Well here we are in the new millennium and waiting for deer season to continue my search for a big Whitetail buck. In the first week of June a hunting buddy of mine, Kim Hansen, and I were discussing and trying to figure out a place to try and book for a hunt. He told me about a ranch he had done a meat hunt on last year. He said he had seen some really good bucks on that hunt and that he had an email address for the lady who ran it and would check if they were going to have any big bucks available for the 2000 season.

I asked what the name of the place was. It was called the Kyle Ranch and was located about 12 miles from Bandera Texas. He said that the people who owned and ran it were very nice people and that he was sure that I would like them and enjoy any hunt I went on there.

Being the impatient type I decided that when I got home I would just for the heck of it, see if they had an internet site. Sure enough there was and I emailed them, telling them that I was a friend of Kim's and he had told me about them. They replied that yes they remembered Kim and to tell him hello for them. They told me that they did indeed have three of their special breeder Whitetail bucks that would be available for hunting this season. And in fact that all three of them were 12 pointers last year. These bucks were all getting around the five or six years of age bracket and they figured it was time to let someone crop them from the herd before they started on the downhill side of their antler growth.

So with a bunch of emails zipping back and forth, as well as some pictures of the potential bucks from last year, it was decided that I would be there opening weekend to have a try for one of them and stay in their trailer on site, for the three days or so of my hunt.

On November 3, 2000 I was on my way for what I hoped would be the end of my three year quest for a big whitetail buck. This time I had a companion or accomplice, however you want to put it. This companion was my close friend, Betty Hathorn. Betty was along to try for her first ever Whitetail, and 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 awhile 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 rest.

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 2waterfalls 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. The 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 jr. 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. 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.

Written by Steve Mahurin.

     
     
Oddysey Deer
     
     

Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568
409-935-9673

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

Copyright 2001 - 2011


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