On a hot
September weekend we were headed back to the Texas hill country in the
hopes of taking a big Dybowski Sika .My wife, Shirley was with me as usual,
being my good luck charm, spotter, and photographer. Our guide L. R. Castleberry
was to take us out on a 4000-acre ranch near Mt. Home, Texas to try our
After checking in with the ranch foreman we headed for the Sika pasture,
which is one of many that the ranch is broken up into. Each pasture has
a different species of animal in it. Of course nothing is ever perfect
We hunted hard and covered many acres that day. Right away we saw Sika
in the brush, under trees, and even in open areas. A number were good
trophies, but it was decided to pass them by, as it was only the first
day of the hunt. We even saw two or three non typicals of which I'd never
The second day of hunting dawned clear and promised to be as hot as the
one before. About two or three hours later we spotted a herd of Sika about
two hundred yards past a huge pile of brush we were drawing close to.
L.R. and I exited the vehicle and started our stalk. We walked stooped
over, on our hands and knees, and on our bellies for over a 100 yards,
to no avail. I know we must have made 8 or 10 similar foray's that day,
but alas they all ended the same way,"BUSTED". We ended our second day
in the long shadows of a grove of trees watching deer after deer pass
through the dappled sunlight on the other side of the trees. In range
but not big enough. Tired and sore, it was back to our hotel room for
a well earned night's rest. Tomorrow would be our last hunting day.
Another clear, hot day dawned as we pulled into the "Sika Pasture". By
this the third day of hunting we'd seen most of the Sika so many times
we were starting to name them. You know, "forkhorn, spike, big non typical,
nine pointer, etc: You all know what I'm talking about! By this time we
were beginning to wonder if we were going to connect or not. After two
or three hours of seeing the same Sika, same land, landmarks, and the
same results my hopes were getting, like a snakes belly, low! low!
That was when our guide said let's try somewhere new. He proceeded to
go to the "Fallow Deer Pasture". Wouldn't you know it, within an hour
we found " The Big One". One shot at 150 yards, from my old friend, my
Remington model 700, 30/06, w/Remington 180 grain soft point bullets,
topped with a Weaver 3 - 9 scope and the hunt was over. A great buck whose
main beams went 27 3/8 X 28 1/8, with an inside spread of 21 inches. A
great hunt and great results.
I had been wanting to get a bigger Aoudad Sheep for my trophy room. I
was looking for one with horns at least 32 inches long. I'd been communicating
with an outfitter named David Groce who was head of an organization called
Southern Safaris near Mt. Home, Texas. David told me he knew of a ranch
that had a large population of these spooky and elusive natives of Africa.
My wife, Shirley, and I arrived at the lodge as per our instructions and
were very satisfied with our lodging. The lodge sat in a nice grove of
trees and had high ceilings adorned with trophy heads of a number of species.
The first two days of hunting was on a huge ranch called the Green Longhorn,
and it stretched out over 100,000 acres, into parts of two counties.We
drove parts of the ranch and saw more Axis than you could believe, but
no Aoudad. We hunted out of ground blinds most of the time. To our detriment
the ranch was undergoing major brush clearing, road construction, and
who knows what. One evening we saw one animal, an Aoudad, but real small.
Our next try was on a big pie shaped wedge of land that was known to have
a single, supposedly, large Aoudad on it. We sat in a blind most of one
day and saw many Fallow, Axis, and Blackbuck but no Aoudad. So the next
day we decided to try a drive. Shirley and I sat in the back of a pickup
at a choke point while two others walked towards us from the back of the
property making some noise. It worked just fine as we had hoped. After
about 30 minutes here came that Aoudad traveling with a big Catalina Goat.Trouble
was they both were just a blur as they streaked in and out of the thick,
green, leafy brush all around us. Definitely no chance for a shot.We tried
again and about 30 or 40 minutes later our drivers came back to the vehicle
and told us they had gotten a good look at him from 20 to 30 yards and
he just wasn't what I was looking for.
The next morning we were back in the backseat and even colder than the
evening before. We rode to the far backside of the ranch to try finding
some rams. Well, we did see a herd of about 30 Aoudad rams with a couple
of promising heads in it. We played cat and mouse with them for over three
hours, but never a chance for a shot. The next time we saw the herd it
was standing at the far end of an opening, near one corner of a fence
line, about 400 yards away from us.
Finally there was one ram David pointed out to me and said "that's the
one you want". It was really difficult twisting way to the right from
my position so quickly, but I did and let loose a shot at the ram. He
was hit but a little farther back than I wanted, but went down after a
100 yards or so. I had my Aoudad after a very long and difficult hunt.
In late 1992 my wife, Shirley and I had been on a lazy weekend, staying
on a friends ranch in the hill country of Texas near Mt. Home, Texas.
This ranch was located about five miles off highway 41, and was aptly
called Rocky Creek Ranch. As we drove those few miles back to highway
41 we passed a ranch with the name Southern Safaris on the big steel gate.
About 100 yards inside the perimeter fence we saw a herd of animals with
striking, backward curving horns. We stopped the truck and grabbed our
binoculars to take a closer look. This herd of about fifteen animals were
all trophy record book class, Persian Ibex.
I had wanted to take an Ibex to go toward the completion of my Super Slam
of Exotics. I figured that all I had to lose was the cost of a few phone
calls and some of my time to find out if I could afford to hunt one of
those great looking game animals.
I got the phone number and made the call. David Groce the headman of Southern
Safaris answered and after a fifteen-minute phone conversation we had
settled on a price and date for my hunt.
So here I was a couple of months later heading west on I 10 toward the
hill country again for a try for my Ibex. Our guide the next morning would
be well known taxidermist and hunter, Jim Robinson, of Ingram, Texas and
would be at our door about seven a. m. As we left the lodge I checked
out the cool feeling temperature on the thermometer on the porch. A cool
We tried finding the Ibex herd by driving the acreage thru and around
the mesquite thickets to no avail.
We had decided to try hunting our animal on foot. This seemed to accomplish
the same as driving and looking for them. Nothing but frustration.
We could stay at least in sight of our target animal most of the time,
but of course it was imbedded deep into the herd. We made our stalk attempts
at least six times but got busted each time, either too noisy or we couldn't
get the Ibex separated from the herd for a shot. On about our seventh
stalk the herd had split up and we spotted the one I wanted all by itself
about 150 yards away.
It was barely visible through a misty, foggy, veil of rain. The only shot
possible was offhand, as there were no trees around big enough to get
a rest on. When the gun went off my Persian Ibex folded in its tracks.
When we got to it, I just had to put a tape on its sweeping horns. They
measured out at 34 5/8 by 35 3/8, a solid gold medal animal.
On 9/6/92 I made the trip up I 10 west to the area that is my favorite
place around the Texas hill country. I'd decided to try for an animal
to work toward completing my Super Slam of Exotics, and had contacted
my friend Thompson Temple about trying for maybe a Red Deer Stag, if I
could find one that was of good trophy quality.
We got a late start the next day as my friend asked me to help guide some
Sheep hunters, which I did. So it was, that as we left, my host introduced
me to a young couple and their 6 month old baby who were to hunt the next
week and had stopped by to check things out. My host told them we were
leaving for a Red Stag hunt, and would they like to come along and observe.
So here I was entering the ranch gate with an entourage of 5 adults and
an infant along to watch me as I hunted my quarry. Would you believe we
found a nice Red Stag within 15 minutes, standing broadside at about 50-60
yards. I shot under him and he was gone. Nerves maybe??. About two hours
later and on the far side of the ranch from where we saw the Stag, we
lucked out and found a herd of over 50 Red Stags. We got within 30 yards
for an easy shot. When I pulled the trigger I heard nothing but a click.
A dud. So I quickly ejected the round and replaced it with another. The
result was the same. But this time it wouldn't eject. So I had to look
around the area for a stick or branch that was the right size and hardness
to push the stuck bullet out. Of course by the time I did all this the
whole herd had vanished.
Well, back to the chase. Awhile later we spotted my Stag again. He was
standing facing me at 100 plus yards. The bad part was that it was standing
between two trees with only a little of its neck and chest exposed. At
my shot the rest of the herd ran off with my buck slightly behind them.
I said to myself, it was a difficult shot but I should have made it. As
it turned out I hadn't missed. While I berated myself for a second miss
he had traveled about 20 yards and then went down to stay.
After congratulations, pictures, and field dressing we started back toward
the gate. and it was time to head for town and a taxidermist. My animal
made it into the record book and earned a silver medal.
It was the 1st of February 1991 and a cool, drizzly rain mixed with fog
was falling when my guide picked up my wife Shirley and I at our hotel
to embark on the rocky road for a hunt for a pure bred Mouflon sheep,
the smallest of the wild sheep of the world. My guide L. R. Castleberry
assured me that he had imported the original animals stocked on the ranch
we were to hunt almost 10 years earlier. We would be hunting the descendants
of those animals today. Turkey Run Ranch on the Harper Highway near Kerrville
Texas was our destination as we drove thru the dark, wet countryside.
Arriving at the big wrought iron gate L. R. Punched in the combination
and it swung wide in welcome, to start the odyssey of one of the longest,
hardest, and most satisfying hunts for an animal I've experienced in over
30 years of hunting exotics in Texas.
Another guide, Sonny, a friend of L.R.'s. greeted us at that time Sonny
took us out that day and it was a long and wet one. The first four or
five hours was driving to the top of the ridges to glass for sheep. The
best we did was see a number of animals running away from us at long distance.
Finally, near dusk, with a drizzling cold rain mixed with fog falling,
we spotted the ghostly outlines of five rams feeding along the top of
a small hill. My guide said, take the one at the rear. Only being able
to see outlines peeking in and out of the eddying swirls of fog I had
a hard time finding my ram in the Weaver 3 - 9 scope and asked the guide
" HOW FAR"?. He replied, about 150 yards. Finally finding the ram in my
scope, in spite of the moisture running down my eyeglasses, I took a deep
breath, let out 1/2 of it and squeezed off a shot. A miss. An inch or
so over its back. Of course the whole band just melted into the white
blanket of moisture. Sonny said he saw the bullet hit over its back but
we climbed to the top of the hill anyway to check for any sign of blood.
Tracks we found but nothing else. Sonny said, sorry, that was my fault,
that ram was closer to 50 yards so that's why you shot over his back.
Well to bad and to dark to hunt any more. Time to head back home to Texas
City and the every day grind of work and normal life. But not before vowing
to return and get that ram yet.
Two weeks later we were back on Turkey Run Ranch on a bright sunny day
looking for that elusive Mouflon ram again. We hunted hard, glassing many
bands of sheep, stalking a few of them, but to no avail. Mostly we saw
rams and ewes both running away at 100 yds. plus. We decided to take a
break for lunch. Since our motel was only a short distance away in Ingram
we left the hunting area. But as my luck was still on the downhill side
that trip, as we passed the ranch owners house we stopped to tell him
that we were leaving. He said that he had friends coming out that day
to tour the ranch and for us not to come back that week end and I'd have
to come back another time. My guide. said he knew of a couple of other
ranches we could try. So after lunch we tried again with no luck. So back
to the motel to wait for another try, another day, tomorrow.
The next morning dawned clear and cool and full of expectation as we searched
another ranch for trophy Mouflon. Search as we might we found nothing
that we wanted to hang on the wall. So having a five-hour trip home we
checked out of our motel and hit the highway toward home. But not before
setting a date to return for another try at the big one that got away.
It is said that the third try is the charm. So on March 1st of 1991 we
were back with guide L.R. Castleberry on the Turkey Run Ranch to hunt
Mouflon again. It was again a clear sunny day. But unlike the last two
hunts the sheep were not as spooky as they had been. We were able to glass
3 small herds without their running away, but passed on them. We made
two stalks and had shots, but not big enough. On a third stalk L.R. spotted
some good rams feeding in a big open area. So down on hands and knees
we went for about 100 yards. But for some reason we couldn't get on the
same page because I could never spot the ram L.R. wanted me to shoot.
So the rams ambled off out of sight, down into a small canyon. Of course
by that time I'd spotted the ram in question, but no chance for a shot.
So it was back on our all fours and thru the cactus, and knee bruising,
rock covered ground. After 300 yards of punishing my poor knees we came
to the edge of the canyon rim. About 100 yards, almost straight down was
our band of sheep bedded down. This gave us a chance to look them over
and decide which was the best trophy. Having solved this problem, I was
faced with another. When I tried to shoot prone I couldn't see the ram.
When I tried to sit up and shoot across my knees, I only had a little
green bush about 6-8 inches high and 4 inches wide to hide from the sharp
eyes of the rams. I finally took the chest on shot, which was all I had
as the ram was facing toward me. The Remington Model 700, 30/06, shooting,
a Remington 180-grain soft point bullet did its duty and the ram lurched
to its feet for a final death run and piled up after about 50 yards.
As it was quickly getting dark and we were in the edge of a grove of trees
we pulled the ram into some better light for pictures. We field dressed
him and carried him to the top of the canyon where we could get the vehicle
close enough to load him for the trip out. He was a dandy. His horns measured
32 inches around the curl with bases 10 inches around. Whenever I look
at that mount on my wall, I flash back to sore knees, the rocky road to
success and the feeling that I really earned that trophy. It's a great
feeling isn't it?
The following year at the awards banquet I was lucky enough to have my
name called out as Hunter of the Year.
Written by Steve Mahurin on May 23, 2000