Being able to hunt in South Texas is unlike any hunting adventure I have ever been on. There is a flavor of old time Texas history that engulfs you as cross that magic line that divides South Texas from the rest of the state. Everything seems to change and take you back to what Texas must have been like years ago. If you don’t speak Spanish you will pick up on a few words like muy grande, venado, scendero, to name a few. I had been hunting on a very large and historic ranch in the heart of the South Texas brush country for four years. I would hunt in another part of the state where I operated an outfitting business that had me showing people from all over the country a good time hunting in West Texas. I would then make sure to leave my calendar open to capitalize on the rut in South Texas during the middle of December.
I had set my sights on a 10 point with a lot of width that I had seen previously while helping to get blinds and feeders ready for the upcoming hunting season. Hunting from a blind located on a scendero that he liked to frequent; I was privileged one morning to settle my cross hairs on him. I squeezed the trigger and to my surprise he stood there like nothing was wrong with him. He trotted off just before I could get another round in. I waited a little and went down to investigate. After not being able to find any evidence of a hit I enlisted the help from the outfitter I hunted with. Nothing.
That afternoon we both sat the same area to see if he would return. A large 5 point showed up and it was decided that I must have been looking at horns as this deer was him and he now sported only one side of his original 10 point rack. This was my last evening to hunt as I had other hunts scheduled and another hunt to outfit. A very nice 9 point with 13” G-2’s made an appearance so that concluded my hunt on this ranch for the year.
Towards the end of the season the outfitter called me to let me know he had seen the deer I was after. I had not hit his horn. We had mistaken a different deer for the one I was after. A small kicker on his right G-2 confirmed he was fine and intact. I knew which deer I would be looking for the following year.
The following year found me in the same blind waiting on the same deer. This year however I had a buddy who would video the hunt for me. Early on the first morning he came meandering down the scendero to check out all of the activity that was going on from the accumulation of deer we had in front of us. I settled the cross hairs on him and although I had not hit a horn earlier I had been coaching myself all of the last 12 months to not look at antlers and concentrated only on his vitals. The shot sounded good. The playback of the video in the blind showed a good hit. We waited awhile and after the congratulatory celebration went down to collect my prize. We found blood where he had gone into the thick brush and started in slowly, expecting to see him any minute. We had worked our way in quite a ways when it began to mist and looked as though we were in for a drenching. It was time to call the local guy with dogs and finish this thing up. By the time he showed up it had really started coming down hard. The trail went cold and there was not much to do except get out of the rain. After it cleared up all sign had been eliminated. We checked water holes, which was futile due to all the pockets of water left from the previous rain. I had drawn blood so this hunt was over.
That was the longest 6 hour drive home I had ever experienced. I had just paid a trophy price, had him in my sights and was going home empty handed. The outfitter promised to keep an eye out for the Cara Cara’s that would eventually claim my prize. Hopefully a coyote would deposit the remaining carcass in an opening and he could be recovered. In any event I was going home empty handed.
A couple of weeks later, while I was on my way home from work one afternoon I received a call from the outfitter and in a quiet voice he asked me to guess what he was looking at. He was on a different area of the ranch and sure enough he was watching the deer I was after chasing does. I couldn’t believe it. I had one more hunt to be on and he had another hunt to put on before I could come back down and try again. Two weeks later found me pulling into the ranch with my hopes high once again.
I arrived a little after lunch and as we discussed where I should start that evening I was told they had not seen him for the last week. The area they had been seeing him in was a ways from his normal stomping grounds. He had been at neither of these places for a while. I decided to move a tripod to the last place he had been seen to start my quest. I spent the early afternoon rearranging the ranches equipment to accommodate my hunt and felt all the activity on my part would surely mess up the deer’s patterns for a day or so. I had to start somewhere and where he had been seen last was all I knew to do. I was settled in for the afternoon around 3:00 with my video camera. I planned on filming what would show up as not much hunting had taken place in this area and this would help the outfitter out. Sure enough I was getting to look at some deer that I felt confident were “new” deer. At about 5:30 activity was winding down. The corn I had sprinkled had been gone for some time now by all of the early arrivals. A few young bucks were entertaining themselves chasing the remaining does and after they had run all of them off they found themselves chasing each other. The area got quite and I was second guessing my choice of stand sights for that evening.
About 50 yards away out stepped the deer that had given me so many sleepless nights recently. It was him and after milling around a bit he was now standing broadside at 75 yards looking directly at me in my tripod. I could not move. He finally looked down the other direction of the now empty scendero. I knew with no corn and no other deer to keep him occupied that my time was limited in doing what I had come to do. I once again placed my crosshairs on his chest and pulled the trigger. To my amazement dirt kicked up way down the scendero. I had shot over him. It was not the rifle as I had checked it many times to make sure that was not the problem. He bolted for the security of the thick brush and out of sight. I was mortified.
Not generally prone to throwing a tantrum all I could think to do was discard my trusty rifle to the ground. As I was contemplating if it would make me feel better to pull such a stunt, out stepped this deer one more time. I really felt like a fool now. I am standing in my open top tripod with my potential trophy less than 50 yards away and he is looking right at me. I slowly eased down into the seat, positioning my rifle as I was going down. He never took his eyes off of me as I readied for the shot. This time he went down, straight down. I had a radio that connected me with the outfitter and as I was readying for my first shot I had it turned off so as not to get an update at a critical moment. I turned it back on and heard someone calling for me. I responded. He had only heard the first shot and knew it was a miss. At that point he had started towards my direction in case I needed consoling. I informed him that there was a second shot and it wasn’t a miss. It was agreed that I was ready to be picked up.
I gathered my things from my perch and proceeded down the tripod to claim my prize. As I was exiting to the ground I had not taken my eyes off of my deer. He was 50 yards away and I was getting ready to put a tag on him. As I got to the ground and set my things down I checked my rifle to be sure I had a cartridge in just in case it would be needed. As I looked up to head to my trophy I couldn’t believe my eyes, he was gone. At about the same time I am trying to figure that out I see the outfitter coming to meet me about 500 yards down the scendero. This is not good. I wave the suburban to stop in case my deer has only gone in a short way. We meet on foot at about where I had seen him lying. I was asked where he was and I pointed down to the ground where we are standing. “Well where is he”, I was asked. I couldn’t think of anything to say. It was now starting to get dark and we were making a plan on what to do next. He had laid there for at least 10 minutes and now he was gone. In the time it took to check for a shell he had vanished. Should we wait, should we go on in after him, it was starting to get dark. We decided to make large circles in the direction the sign showed him having gone.
At about a hundred yards in and in the darkness I heard the best thing you want to hear in this situation. A call from my right announced “he’s over here”. As I found my way through the thicket to my deer I couldn’t believe what all had transpired. He was a perfectly balanced 10 point with a 2 inch kicker. He was 24” wide and scored 160”. It truly was the first deer that grew as I walked up on him. The shot placement showed to be right where it should have been. The hit earlier in the season had barely grazed the front of his brisket and was already healing up.
It is amazing to me, even after 30+ years of hunting, how things can sometimes go. I had invested 2 years and a lot of anxious time in the pursuit of this trophy. He was now going home with me and I could not have been prouder. He now occupies a prime spot on my wall and I find myself reliving this adventure just about every time I look at him. I hope the rest of my hunting career is less eventful.