Safari Revisited
By Steve Mahurin

This second Part of an earlier story called, Safari Times Five, will be a little different. First, only two of us will be on this trip, instead of five like the last time.

My friend, Kim Hansen, and I would be on this trip by ourselves, driving the six hours to our hunt destination, which was the Corazon Ranch near the south Texas town of Bracketville, Texas. We would be after the same animals that we were unable to get on our last outing.

Those animals would be for me, a big pure white Texas Dall exotic sheep, and for Kim, a big Black Hawaiian ram. Kim had said on our way up that if the opportunity arose that he might take one of the beautiful spotted Axis Deer that abound on this 14,000 acre ranch.Kim's words were if he saw the right one "It would be kissing the ground."

We would be getting a little earlier start on this trip. On the last trip it was 8:30 in the evening before we were on the road. This time we were leaving at 9:30 A.M. This meant that we would have a chance to look over some of the areas we had been through in the dark the time before. We could probably get in a little hunting time as well that evening before dark.

I was still adamant about taking my ram with my .375 caliber Thompson Contender, with a Leupold Gold Ring 4 power scope on it. Kim was going to be using a Remington .54 caliber muzzleloader to try for his Black Hawaiian Ram.

Kim had talked to the ranch manager and outfitter, David Mann, just before we left and had been told that since our last hunt, two rifle hunters had taken two of the white Dalls with horns in the 36 to 38 inch class. We didn't know if the particular ram I'd been after had been one of those taken or not. David told Kim that he had counted at least seven other white rams that were nearly identical to those that had been killed. Guess we will just have to wait and see about that one huh!

We had allocated at least three days to hunt these elusive rams, instead of the 12 hours we'd had to hunt them both on the previous hunt. So here we were on April 17, 2000 at 9:30 in the morning headed for Bracketville,Texas for a hopefully much more successful ending than the last try for these spooky animals.

This time we were able to see and enjoy the countryside as we passed through it. There were still isolated patches of Bluebonnets, the state flower of Texas ,along the way, mixed with even fewer of the reddish orange colors of the also native,Indian Paintbrush blooms. But there was a veritable almost unbroken carpet of bright yellow wild flowers, covering many miles of the roadside areas for miles at a time.

We met our guide\outfitter on the main highway going thru the sleepy town of Bracketville about 4:00 P.M, and followed him to the ranch gate.When we arrived at the camp headquarters, we stowed our gear in the bunkhouse, changed into our camouflage clothes and were ready for hunting. There were already four other hunters in camp as well. Two of them were from Arkansas and the other two were from Ohio.

All four of them had made the long drive to south Texas in search of the wary, crafty, and spooky, Rio Grande Turkey. This time of the year is the breeding season for these bronze-backed trophies. During this time the gobblers are a little less wary and can sometimes be coaxed into shotgun range, with some skillful calling and lots of patience. These calls can either be the challenging call of another gobbler guarding his harem of hens or the lovesick sound of a lonesome turkey hen wanting some company.

We dropped two of the turkey hunters of at their hunting areas and proceeded on to the elevated blinds, near feeders, It had been decided Kim and I would hunt from, for the evening and the following morning. If this tactic proved to be unsuccessful we would hunt safari style later in the morning to try and spot and then stalk on foot for our quarry.

By 5:00 p.m., I was in a blind and Kim and David were off to Kims blind, leaving with good luck wishes both ways. I saw a few Blackbuck Antelope shortly after entering the blind.

At 5:58 p.m. the feeder went off, spreading corn in a good sized circle. Then Blackbuck came from all over. There were about 15 females and 3 males. There was also a couple of Sika bucks just showing velvet knobs where their horns were starting to grow out. Shortly after 6:00p.m. a single Rio Grande Turkey Hen came to the feeder and all the other game spooked and ran off about 60 to 100 yards and stopped and looked back.

From the 8 to 10 foot elevation of the blind the hot Texas sun made the hundreds of Prickly Pear Cactus blooms in my view sparkle like yellow jewels against the dark green of the cactus pads and dark Blackbrush.

At 7:18 two very stately Axis Deer bucks, with long horns, and three Axis does, stepped daintily into the opening in front of the blind. They stood there, looked around for about five minutes and then turned and with their beautiful spotted coats, just melted into the brush again. A few minutes later a small Sika buck with very little four point antlers appeared and stayed around quite awhile, nibbling on the corn spread by the feeder.

Heavy wind gusts were again a major problem as they had been on my last hunt in the SouthTexas brush country. It wasn't nearly as bad as the last time, but it wasn't any slouch either. My blind was moving left and right like a rocking chair, back and forth,back and forth it went. Moving suddenly, like someone shoving your shoulder hard. If an animal I'd wanted to try and take had come by, I doubt I could have held my scope crosshairs on target long enough to get a shot off.

Still a few Blackbuck does and a couple of males hanging around the area, along with the four point Sika buck the hard horns about like a small Whitetail Deer buck. Strange!!, all the other Sika's have dropped their horns and are starting to grow them out again. Yet heres one with hard horns. At 7:15 a turkey hen appeared behind me, her neck peering above the grass,weaving to and fro like a snake. Something strange appeared in the Jason 10 x 50 Binoculars. It was white like a deer's tail waving back and forth rapidly. Then all of a sudden it was gone. Then I saw a number of something's, shining brightly, coming toward me in the distant brush. Kind of like some kind of reflection, that after a few minutes, just disappeared, leaving me with no idea what I had been seeing. The next thing I spotted behind me in the binoculars was the serpentine neck of a Rhea moving through the tall blackbrush.

I then saw in front of me two big Axis bucks flirting around 50 to 60 yards from the edge of the clearing for some time.One of them had real tall antlers, maybe in the 32 - 34 inch range. The other was the best of the many Axis bucks I had seen, with a very wide spread and long tines, with main beams of maybe 36 inches or better. Could be the one Kim was hoping to get a shot at. About 7:30 p.m. a whole herd of Axis appeared and were hanging around just inside the edge of the heavy brush line near the clearing, I was watching. There must have been at least 30 or 40 in the bunch, including 4 or 5 bucks in velvet. Fifteen minutes later there wasn't an animal in sight.

About ten minutes after 8:00 p.m. a big bunch of exotic sheep ewes came filing out of the brush to my right and quickly went into the enclosure around the windmill and water trough. They were gone back into the brush where they had come from in record time. About 30 minutes later I saw a patch of white move, way out to my right. Jamming the binoculars to my eyes I saw a medium sized white ram. It was feeding along the same trail through the brush that the ewes had came and left on. All of a sudden I saw a bunch of rams. There were Corsicans,Mouflon, and more Texas Dall's as well. I thought to myself, surely I'm not going to be lucky for them to come in like the ewes did. But sure enough after nearly thirty minutes of waiting and sporadically spotting them through the thick blackbrush, they appeared in the edge of the opening and quickly walked, almost running, to the water source. Among them was the white ram, with the huge mass of chest hair that Kim had told me he thought was the best ram we had seen on the previous trip. As they all filed back out into the open area, the big ram with wide flaring horns stopped to look around. I was ready for a shot, with my gun resting on a shot bag I had laid across the window ledge of the blind windowsill. As I squeezed off the shot, you guessed it; the blind lurched in a wind gust to the left causing a clean miss. After the shot the whole band of rams went running pell mell back into the brush. I was sick at heart and really doubting my luck as well as my marksmanship by then. I got down from the stand to check for any blood sign, just in case a miracle had happened and I had hit the ram before the blind had moved. No such luck though. Within a few minutes my ride picked me up and I had to relive my humiliating experience as we drove back, me dejectedly, to camp.

Kim said that he had thought about me, when within less than 20 yards from his blind, he had videotaped four white rams, all of which were shooters in his opinion. A couple of which he said were exceptional.

We looked that tape over backwards and forwards, for 30 minutes that night after supper. I would be seeing those rams and reliving that missed shot in my sleep that night. It was decided before bedtime that in the morning that I would hunt the blind Kim had been in that evening and that Kim would hunt my rock and roll blind the next morning.

By 6:45 a.m. the next morning I was in my blind and as soon as it was light enough to see, started testing the best way to get a shot off from all sides of my blind.Kim had told me that right at dark the band of rams had drifted into a thick, brushy, draw a short distance from the feeder and blind area. I was hoping and praying that they had bedded down close by and that when the feeder whirred to life they would come out and give me a chance for a shot.

At 7:30 a.m. the feeder came to life, broadcasting its shelled corn in a wide circle. Still no sign of game yet. Within seven minutes though, through my binoculars, I saw to my right, two young Aoudad Sheep ewes and one baby working their way along the side of the hill and over the ridge behind me. Shortly afterward I heard two shots from over the ridge behind me. I hoped that Kim had gotten either his ram or the Axis he was hoping for. I Also saw what I think were the same two Sika bucks in velvet I'd seen from the other blind, as well as a pretty good sized bunch of Axis. Again all of them working across the slope and up over the ridge top behind me.

Suddenly I heard the sound of sheep but couldn't tell from which direction it was coming. Suddenly at 7:50 a.m. I saw something white moving in the brush, behind and to the left of the feeder. I jerked my binoculars to my eyes and there was a great, large horned ram standing there. Then another, then another and then a fourth ram with a sandy colored coat. This was the group of four rams that Kim had videotaped the evening before at about twenty yards. I had earlier used my Bushnell Yardage Pro 400 and found the feeder to be 81 yards away. The four rams slowly fed out under the feeder and into an opening around it. I kept my Jason 10 x 50 binoculars glued to my eyes for nearly twenty minutes, and realized that when Kim said, "good luck picking which ram to shoot if they show up", was right on the money. They kept moving back and forth and back and forth. Every time I'd figure out which one to try for they would mix and mill around and I'd have to start looking all over again. I was of course breathing shallow and fast, heart pounding, and remembering those missed shots. Finally I picked out the one I liked the best and started my trigger squeeze. The gun went off and the ram's all ran to my left, about 40 yards away into the edge of the brush.

"I had missed again." I just hung my head in disgust. My confidence level was about six foot lower than the ground beneath my elevated stand which was about 12 to 15 feet off the ground. Even though I thought it was a waste of time, I put another round of the Remington,200 grain, core lokt in the chamber of my single shot Thompson Contender.

I watched them through the binoculars. They were real nervous and couldn't figure out where the loud noise had come from. Then miracle of miracles the rams started to amble slowly back toward the opening. The first one in line was the one I'd shot at. As soon as he was in the clear and stopped to look around, I shot at him again. All four of the rams took off running to my left. Could I have missed again?? Then I saw it, a blossom of red on the side of the rearmost ram. Sure enough the ram faltered, and went down, and all I could see was a couple of legs kicking above the low brush, for a couple of seconds, about 40 yards or so away. My shot at a little over 80 yards had done the job. The other three rams stopped, looked back at where my animal had fallen and then raced away and out of sight into the heavy brush.

I thanked the good Lord for my second chance, gathered my gear, and started the climb down from the stand to check my ram out. Luckily in the brush I went straight to him. He was a real dandy with a rough field measurement of it's long, wide, honey colored horns going approximately 34 inches long and maintained their mass throughout their length.

All that was left now was to wait for my guide to pick up me and my ram, and find out if it was Kim that had shot earlier and if he had connected. I spent the time enjoying the sweet taste of fresh air and cedar, and admiring my trophy. About 9:00 a.m. the truck showed up and Kim was in the truck with Dave. In the back of the truck was a nice velvet antlered Axis Deer that Kim had harvested with his muzzleloader. As the sun had come up that morning it looked like an orange perched on a bank of clouds, but it had shone down on a luckier day for two happy hunters. Kim said he had seen not only the ram I'd missed the evening before, but the black ram he'd been looking for, but hadn't been able to get a shot at it.

After some picture taking, it was back to camp to skin out our game and get the meat and hides into a cold spot. We caped out my ram for a life size mount and Kim's Axis for a shoulder mount.

The Arkansas turkey hunters came back in empty handed. But they did say that they were having a good time chasing and trying to fool an old wily gobbler they had been trying to outwit for three days now.

David and Kim went out to pick up the other two turkey hunters. Kim took along a weapon just in case they might see that black ram. Well they didn't see the ram and the two Ohio turkey hunters had gotten skunked again.

About 2:30 we decided to go out high racking, to try and spot Kim's black ram. Kim wasn't going to take his muzzleloader along, but I told him that I'd hold his .270 in case he needed it. So he decided to go ahead and take the muzzleloader after all. That rattling high rack is very rough riding. We bounced down the rocky ranch road for four or five miles, dust boiling up around us and wishing we had seat belts to keep us from bouncing out of our seats, while trying to hold onto guns and railings, with our binoculars bouncing against our chests, like rocks on a string around our neck.

As we got close to one of the few windmills and watering holes on the ranch, Kim and I both spotted rams through the Huisache Trees and I pulled the rope tied to the drivers wrist to let him know we wanted him to stop. By that time he'd spotted the rams as well.

We conferred and decided to ease the vehicle further up the road. As we did we saw some more white rams, and I do mean big ones. As we made a slow curve to the left, we saw a dozen or more rams strung out in a line, with a small number, about 10 or so, bunched up together. We threw up our binoculars, because there was a black ram right in the middle of that bunch. Dave and I said, is that the one and Kim said yes, followed by an immediate boom from the muzzleloader and the ram dropped in it's tracks. That was because Kim had been looking through the scope on his rifle and not his binoculars.

There were lots of high fives and congratulations and pictures. Then it was back to camp for the hard work of skinning the Black Hawaiian ram for a life-size mount. Kim's ram's horns field measurements were slightly over 36 inches and it had tons of mass from bases to tips. All in all a great trophy. This particular hunt proves out my theory of "I'd rather be lucky than skillful in hunting anytime". The grand total of time spent hunting this ram was a total of under an hour and a half, from leaving camp to arriving back in camp.

We figured to use the rest of the day, just cleaning up, kicking back, and eating mesquite smoked B.B.Q. goat, steaks, and sausage. We planned on being on the road early the next morning for the trip home. This had been an all-together pleasant, fun trip, with thankfully much better results than our last safari to the Corazon ranch. We sat on the camp veranda and swapped stories, tales, and lies with the other hunters in camp until 1:00 a.m.. The next morning we downed a good breakfast and left the ranch gate for our six hour trip back, about 8:30 a.m., savoring our luck, our trophies, and already talking about our next hunt.

Written by Steve Mahurin on April 15, 2000.

Dall Sheep

Steve Mahurin
25 North Heights
La Marque, Texas 77568

Email: samahurin@comcast.net

Copyright 2001 - 2011

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