Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Great Hunting Road Trip - Success Edition

The title gives it away. After a day and a half of frustration, things fell into place.

Day Five

Today started like yesterday - chasing those damn antelope all over Hell and back. The locals call them "speed goats" for a reason. Their natural defense mechanisms are exceptionally keen eyesight, speed, and a predilection for hanging out in the middle of wide open spaces ... emphasis on the "wide" and "open."

We started off the morning by spotting a good sized herd of 20 or so in the middle of a field that had to be at least one mile by one mile. It was, however, criss-crossed by several ravines and draws. So the game plan was to slip into one of the draws and sneak into shooting distance. Off we went.

It was a replay of yesterday. Muddy, sloppy footing - and uphill, of course. When we got to what we thought was a good spot we climbed (staggered) up the side of the ravine. Easing over the top we saw the herd moseying over the next ridge. We repeated this process three more times before we gave up and trudged back to the truck, which by this time was about two miles away. That futile exercise took over two hours.

After chugging down several bottles of water and gobbling an energy bar, we headed off to another field. There we spotted a small group on a slope about 1000 yards away. We tried the same tactic that failed miserably before (who says humans learn from their mistakes). We dropped down behind a ridge, made a 45 minute trek to a little hillock near where they were, and slithered our way to the top. I stuck my head over the edge and was almost face to face with an antelope buck bedded down on the reverse side of the hill. I don't know who was more shocked - me or him. I do know who reacted faster. He was on his feet and hauling ass away before I finished exclaiming "Oh Shit!"

To make matters even more confused, five other bucks jumped up and started dashing around. After I got over the initial shock I tried to do a quick assessment and pick out a good one, but it was utter chaos. They finally all started running in the same direction, curving around me to my left. However, my buddy was behind me to my left. I didn't want to risk a snap shot while turning, afraid my twisting to the left would bring the muzzle across him, so I let them go.

My 'friend' consoled my with the comment that I probably would have missed the shot anyway. Thanks a lot...

At that point we were tired, hungry, and frustrated, so we headed back to HQ for lunch. As luck would have it, we again ran into the first group we saw. We decided to give it one more try. This time, however, we changed tactics. We drove into the field, but when we dropped below their line of sight my friend stopped the truck and I slipped out. He then drove off parallel to them. While they were watching him I pulled a Sneaky Pete on them. I got within 100 yards before a doe busted me. There was no rest available, and I couldn't go prone because of the tall grass, so I had to shoot offhand. I normally try to avoid that because it's difficult to be accurate from that position, but at this point I was determined to get a shot off. I zeroed in on a nice buck and squeezed one off. It was like shooting birds - pick your target, swing through, and fire as the muzzle passes the front of the target. I was a little off - spined him midway back. That anchored him, and I moved in and put him down.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me. We couldn't get the truck to him because of the terrain, so we drove back to the ranch and got an ATV. My friend went back to get the antelope while I cleaned up. When I went to the skinning shed with my camera he had already caped and skinned the buck. So no pictures (sorry, Bear).

Back out in the fields that afternoon looking for whitetails. We had word about a couple of good bucks hanging out near a feeder ditch into a small creek. Sat there from mid-afternoon until an hour or so before sundown. Then I decided to stalk along the ditch. Spent another hour creeping through the brush. Saw plenty of doe, but no bucks. Oh well, the day was already a success - and I was plumb tuckered out. Dinner, drinks, and bed - the hunting version of shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Day Six

Headed out before sunup. Got into position near the ditch and creek we sat on last night. Waited until about an hour after sunup, then repeated the ditch stalk from last night. This time I crossed the ditch and followed some brush on the other side. After just a few minutes I spotted a nice buck. While I was watching him and maneuvering into a shooting position another buck came up behind him. For a little while it looked like a two-headed deer. They were lined up nose to tail facing me. I saw one body, one head turned to the left, and the other turned to the right. The deer in the back was very impressive, but he stayed behind the first one. They finally separated, about the same time they spotted us.

Just like yesterday's antelope, I had to decide between an offhand shot at a moving target, or not shooting. The difference was the deer was a bigger target and wasn't moving as fast. I was also a little more confident, since I made the same shot yesterday. In a case of deja vu I hit the deer in the spine with my first shot and then finished him off with a second.

Usually a deer shrinks on the ground as you get closer to him. This was one of those special cases where the deer grows as you approach him. He is easily the best one I've ever taken. The folks at the ranch say he's the biggest one ever shot there. The picture below really doesn't do him justice. He's a big-bodied 5x6, with much more mass than shows up in the photo.

The rest of the morning was spent caping and skinning him. We then took him and yesterday's antelope to the taxidermist. On the way back to the ranch we stopped for a celebratory beer. It was 11:30 in the morning, but I justified it by figuring that was 12:30 p.m. back home, so it was okay. Then a couple of people next to us at the bar ordered vodka and tonics. That made us feel even better, since serious drinkers drink hard liquor in the morning. We were only having beer, so we felt better about it.

Then it was back to the ranch to clean up, have some lunch, take a little nap, and then go out to harass all the other lessor hunters who still hadn't filled their tags.

Life is good...


Bear said...

My friend, that is an absolute beast. I can't get over the brows on that bad boy. Congratulations on a phenomenal two days of hunting! I'll even forgive you for the lack of goat pictures. I'll be patient and wait for the taxidermy pictures instead!

Old NFO said...

Great news! And congrats on taking the off-hand shots! You've absolutely had a successful trip and deserved it after the first couple of days... LOL

Harper said...

Nice. Typical Texas opening weekend here, my Facebook is filled with pictures of 12-year old girls with their first deer. I like to share those photos just to bother the PETA types.

CenTexTim said...

Bear - Thanks. Yeah, those are about the longest brow tines I've ever seen.

NFO - Thanks. It's been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. I'm already looking forward to next year.

Harper - We get those stories in our local paper. I love it!