we were on the first hunt in the new millennium. It's March 21, 2000 and
my friends and I are all heading to South Texas near Bracketville,Texas.This
big party of hunters consists of myself, Steve Mahurin, Richard Lozano,taxidermist
and outfitter, who will not be hunting. He will though,accompany me in
the blind to help in judging trophy size and quality. Then comes Kim Hansen
another good friend whose plan included taking a large Black Hawaiian
Sheep. Jerry Nino ,whose vehicle we were riding in, told me that if Kim
and I got our animals he would try for one as well. Also along with us
was a friend of Kim's, Jeff who is an auto plant worker in Detroit. He
was on vacation and had come along to take pictures, and for the experience
of hunting on a famous South Texas ranch. For myself, I'm hoping to take
a monster Pure White, Texas Dall Sheep.
This whole thing got started with a video that Richard received from outfitter
and ranch manager David Mann on Monday. David had just acquired the rights
for exotic hunting on this ranch that hadn't had much hunting except for
Whitetail Deer, and Turkey for nearly six years. On this videotape were
two really superb,Texas Dalls, as well as ten or more that would score
in the gold medal class. For Kim there was at least one huge Black Hawaiian
Ram he liked the looks of.The name of this ranch is the Corazon, 10,000
acres of thick, tall, endless it seems, Blackbrush and Cedar with a few
small trees. Typical South Texas.
Our hopes were high to attain our goals, have some fun, and view what,
according to the video we had seen, some world class Addax Antelope, some
great looking Red Sheep, and Scimitar Horned Oryx, as well as, a number
of other exotic species that have free run of the 10,000 acres of this
The last hour or two of our travels through the pitch black darkness of
the nearly deserted countryside, seldom seeing even the lights, of a house
off the road. The sky was filled with a brilliant display of lighting
that flashed across the velvet black curtain, both vertically and horizontally.
Yet we heard no thunder and only a light misting of rain a couple of times.
It reminded me of film I'd seen depicting night time artillery barrages
during World War II.
We finally got to Bracketville and met our host and outfitter,David Mann,
whom we followed to the ranch gate about five miles out of town. We got
through the gate and to the trailer house we were to stay in. we quickly
hit our bunks at 1:30 A.M. and were lulled to sleep by a very high wind
of 30 to 40 miles per hour rattling the windows. Trouble was, we were
rudely awakened at five a.m by our outfitter and guide, to let him in
the locked door to make coffee for the troops.Richard and I were in our
blind about thirty five to forty minutes before the feeder motor whirred
it's way to life and spewed corn around it's self about seven thirty a.
m. There were already 10 to 15 Blackbuck Antelope there when it went off.
There was a decent male in the bunch.Coal black, and strutting his stuff
for the females, and picking up a few kernels of corn along the way. Shortly
after the feeder went off there seemed to be Axis Deer everywhere within
fifteen minutes. We had a total of nearly 30 Axis, including five bucks,
one of, which was very respectable with main beams around 32 or 33 inches
long. The other bucks were in various stages of velvet, antler growth.
About an hour later, Richard spotted a band of about eight majestic,sandy
colored, Aoudad Sheep Rams about 1000 yards away. They were standing in
a knot about 1,000 yards away and straight across from us. They were in
the middle of a pretty green swale in the bottom of a wide depression,
near the edge of a gentle brushy ridge. They walked, stood, and bedded
down in that area most of the morning. In between, thru our Tasco binoculars,
we saw one huge Axis buck with about three or four does. They were standing
in a deep ravine about five or six hundred yards away. He was by far the
biggest Axis Buck we saw the whole trip. We saw not a single Texas Dall
Sheep the whole morning, that I had hoped to take with my Thompson Contender,
in .375 caliber and Leupold Gold Ring four power scope. Kim wanted to
take the Black Hawaiian Sheep he saw on the video with his Remington,
54 caliber in-line muzzleloader. A little later we heard what sounded
like Sika Deer barking in the distance. All the animals around us threw
up their heads, paused a minute, and took off in alarm, melting quickly
into the thick,tall brush. All the night before and all of the 14 hours
of hunting time that day on the Corazon, we were buffeted by steady winds
blowing out of Mexico. Starting at about 30 miles per hour and gusting
up to 40 and 50 miles per hour.
After being picked up from our blinds and talking over what each of us
had seen, we headed to camp for a quick breakfast. We were treated to
browned meat and scrambled eggs in warm flour tortillas and washed down
with our choice of coffee,milk, or orange juice.
Then it was back to hunting. But this time, using the high rack vehicle.
A high rack vehicle, for those of you that are unfamiliar with the term,
and with the vast tracts of waist high, to over your head Black Brush,
and Cedar thickets that cover most of South Texas, I'll explain. It is
a vehicle with a metal bracket and some type of seat across the bed of
an open bed of a truck. It usually has some type of bar a little higher
in front of the seat to hold on to, or as a rest in the case of a quick
shot, needed while peering down into the brush. On your feet in this stuff
you can usually only see maybe five or ten yards unless you get lucky,
and catch your quarry in one of the rare small opening's you might run
across. Some of the fancier vehicles even have complete sets of controls
up on top so the driver can see the same thing the hunters see.
Early on in the morning as we eased down a perimeter road we saw two large,
pure white Texas Dalls standing at the bottom of a downhill part of the
road right in front of us. I had first choice for a shot. But I was reluctant
to take a shot since these were the first rams we had seen and we knew
that although they would ordinarily, both be animals you would shoot quick
if you had the chance, we knew that there were bigger one's out there.
My buddy Richard Lozano and I decided to try to make a stalk on foot for
them. We eased off to our right into the brush to maybe get a closer look
because we thought there might be others with them. We were right, because
as we got closer to them by circling below and downwind of them, we saw
five white rams in the bunch. We kept having to drop below and circle
them trying to get ahead of them, in the hopes of getting the time to
better evaluate them and get a shot. They were a little slicker than we
were though and we lost them out ahead of us. The guys in the truck circled
out ahead of us and then back toward us, hoping to flush them back towards
us. This made nothing happen and we finally figured out that they had
slipped through a big hole in a nearby fence into an adjoining field.
We moved over to the other side of the ranch and almost immediately spotted
a large bunch of sheep that had the big Black Hawaiian in it that Kim
wanted. Those of you that have hunted sheep much, know that finding them
is not always the hardest part. Usually the hardest thing to do is to
get a clear shot at an individual animal in a big bunch of herd type animals
because they always bunch up in a knot. Of course the one you are after
is nearly always right in the middle or behind all the others. Then started
the real work. For over five hours or more we trailed this bunch, nearly
getting Kim a shot from the high rack many times, but the black either
was screened by brush, or other animals in the herd, or was ass end to
us trotting, walking, or just flat out running away from us through the
brush. Most of the time all we could see were the tops of their backs.Lots
of the time up on that high rack, I felt like I knew what it felt like
to be on the back of one of our Texas bucking horses, as we bounced and
swayed across the rocky terrain.
About 4:00 P.M. we were all getting real thirsty. We left Kim and Jeff
in a tower blind near a waterhole, in the hopes that maybe the sheep would
come to water and Kim could get a shot with his muzzleloader. We went
back to camp for cool drinks and a sandwich. We were there only shortly
and took back drinks and sandwiches to the guys in the blind. Shortly
after we picked Kim and Jeff up we spotted the black ram off by itself.
We dropped Kim and Richard off to try a stalk on foot, while we circled
around the area hoping to keep the ram from giving them the slip. It didn't
work though and we didn't see the animal the rest of the day, though we
glassed a lot of country and a bunch of sheep.
All this time we were hoping to run across the five white rams as well.
About 6:P.M. we did just that. We saw them upwind of us at about 150 yards
in a small clearing in a depression, surrounded with chest to head high
brush. Richard and I decided on a footstalk, with the guys in the high
rack giving us directions with hand signals in case they were needed.
We had the wind, that was still blowing away at 30 to 40 miles per hour,
straight in our faces, so the band of about 30 animals containing at least
three of the big white rams had no idea we were there. We got to within
75 yards of them and Richard glassed them from our position behind a large
bush covered with wicked looking 1-3 inch thorns. He said that the biggest
of the five we had seen was in the bunch. We eased a little closer and
the rams started to move away to our right. The only chance I had for
a shot was to get up almost on the ball's of my feet and peek over the
top of the almost head high brush in front of me. With that precarious
position and nothing for a rest, my scope was doing figure eight's on
the animals. Finally they strung out in single file and started coming
from some thicker brush past a small opening, moving from our left to
our right. About five or six animals passed through the opening as I tried
to hold the cross hairs of the scope steady in the gusting wind. Finally
as one big ram moved into the opening Richard said, "that's him". My crosshairs
were, I fervently hoped, on the rams shoulder as I squeezed the shot off
and the whole herd ran off. Nobody heard the "thunk" you usually hear
when a bullet hits an animal solidly, so I was pretty sure that I'd muffed
the only shot that we'd all worked so hard for, most of the day. We all
five searched the area thoroughly, but none of us could find either the
animal, nor any blood, or any signs of a hit. We drove a couple of more
circles around the area in the hopes of jumping them again but had no
luck. It was quickly getting dark so we headed back to camp, to quickly
pack our bags for the long drive back home. But not before planning for
a three day return hunt. This time determined that all of us would be
coming back with the trophies we desired.
This was a great trip, full of fun and camaraderie, and determination.
Even though unsuccessful in the end, one well worth repeating. Stay tuned
for part two of this saga.
Written by Steve Mahurin on March 23, 2000