Three shots…three kills. Thus began my best hunting outing to date this past Saturday. If you remember reading my last post about hunting in Coleman County here
, you will recall it was an adventure in survival from a manic, attention starved know-it-all who saw fit to ruin the entire weekend for the rest of us who truly enjoy the outdoors and the SOLITUDE that comes with communing with nature and her four-footed wards.
But this weekend my two companions were great, optimistic and knew when to speak and speak appropriately, and with practiced brevity that can only be had by experiencing life in a ‘real world’ social setting- not working with animals.
The morning broke windless, crisp, clean and bitterly cold (for West Texas). Though none of us had a thermometer we guessed it to be around 20 degrees. Fortunately for me, as I was using an exposed tripod stand from which to hunt, there was no wind to add insult to the injurious cold. As I walked from the drop off point to the stand I was immediately struck by the wonderful, dark blanket thrown overhead and littered with what had to be millions of stars. Every constellation was in stark contrast and seemed to be in 3-D. I had a hard time watching my steps in the dark while gazing upward. When I reached the ten foot tall tripod stand and climbed the ladder to set up in the chair, I glanced up in time to see a spectacular meteor race directly overhead from behind and in front of me- West to East. It was a good sign for the day. With that little tip of the hat from the Man upstairs I began my hunt.
The first strands of daylight broke evenly on the horizon at 6:45AM. I had been in the stand about 45 minutes listening intently. Since all the surrounding countryside was bathed in a shimmering cloth of ice crystals, anything moving would have been heard for hundreds of feet as the frozen countryside shattered beneath its movements. At about 7:20 I saw my first doe walking around the transition area towards the feeding area. She didn’t stand still long enough for me to get a clean shot. At 7:30, two does walked out together, but something spooked them and they took off with tails pointed straight up like periscopes. Something was agitating them and I hoped it was a big male coming in for his breakfast. I turned to my left from watching this scene in front of me and noticed not one but two figures near a feeder. Sure enough, one of them had antlers. Raising my binoculars, I saw a nice bodied 4-pt. with a smallish, but equally beautiful doe. Raising my .30-’06 into position I drew down on the buck first, wanting to make sure if I only bagged one deer, that it would be one worth butchering and cleaning! I squeezed off my shot and he fell where he stood, pole axed. Quickly chambering a fresh round, I looked through the scope and the little doe just stood there as if she hadn’t heard what just happened. I quickly drew a bead on her and squeezed off another round which took out her spine and she dropped where she stood. Two deer in under 10 seconds! (This was a first for me in a single day, let alone a single hunting trip.)
Since I didn’t have to track these two, and had plenty of hunting morning left, I waited for something else to appear. All the hunters had permission to fill all their tags if they were so inclined (and lucky enough to do so). So, I waited and waited and waited. Sure enough, around 8:15 a pair of does walked out to the other feeder in front of me. One was noticeably bigger than the other but she wouldn’t cooperate with my sights moving behind a large bush and browsing on the tender, frozen grass and eating the tips of the evergreen bush along with her free faire of corn. The smaller doe stepped directly in front of me and put her head down. I moved my gun from left to in front of me and settled down behind the scope. As I moved the safety to the “off” position, her head came up and she looked directly towards me. It was now or never. My heart leapt at the chance for another double. Two “doubles” in one day had never been achieved by myself and I later found out it had never been done on this property although some had tried. (Three was the record.) I squeezed the trigger and…the deer jumped straight up and ran right to left disappearing into the brush! I was crushed. (The shot was only 65 yards- how in the world could I have missed?) Quickly chambering my fourth round I waited for the 4th doe to come back around. She didn’t come. I waited another 30 minutes and nothing appeared. By now it was nearing 9 o’clock. Full sun was streaming in and setting the countryside on fire and turning everything frozen into diamond-encrusted flora. It was beautiful, but I remained worried about my last shot and wondering if I had indeed missed- or worse- nicked the poor doe to go off and die a horrible death. About the time I made the decision to get off the stand and go check, I heard a quick rushing sound off to my immediate right and noticed a lot of movement at my 3 o’clock. A large buck was quartering away from my front and to my left. When I checked his rack with the binoculars he slowed down enough and gave me a brief glimpse of a beautiful head! But he wouldn’t stop and I had no call or antlers with which to get his attention. Besides, the wonderfully sleek doe accompanying him had his full attention. His nose rarely left the ground as he sauntered away- a full 200/250 yards away with at least as many obstacles between them and myself. (Coleman County is a 2-buck county. It would have been perfectly legal for me to take him.)
Waiting another 30 minutes brought the time to 9:30AM. This was the prearranged time for my hunting partner to come after me if he didn’t score an animal. I walked to the feeder in front of me and immediately spied a very small bit of blood- droplets pointing in the direction of travel when I last spotted the (now wounded) doe heading into the woods. As I slowly watched the ground tell its tale of escape I marveled at how straight the trail led. This deer was not in evasive mode; it was in survival mode and made to put as much distance between herself and whatever slapped her. Jumping a small fence about 15 yards from point of impact, the doe had gone another 5 yards and rounded to the right away from a large mesquite tree with low, sprawling branches and slumped over. She too, was hit high but missed the spine catching her in the lungs. She had a gaping hole on her right side where the bullet passed completely through. Three deer with three shots! I was thrilled and would have been a little happier if the poor thing had not suffered but dropped in her tracks like her two cousins.
For me, it was a great day! A first for me personally, and tying the record for most deer taken in a single day on this particular ranch (that we knew of anyway). You would think I would be satisfied, overly satisfied with the blessing of having harvested three beautiful animals, even if one turned out to be a 4-pt instead of the 6-pt I thought I spotted through the scope! No, I was already thinking about my return to see if that monster that raced away would give me another chance, a chance to bag him as well. After a couple of hours, I told my host, “There is no need to stay out here until evening for another hunt, it would just be pure greed on my part and there is no sense in that. Let’s leave and come back another time.” My host was a little taken aback but agreed and my other companion had not fared as well as I had that day- he was going home empty-handed. I was a little embarrassed at my largesse when he drove up with nothing to show for his efforts that morning.
So what did I learn yesterday morning, out in the cold trying my best to stay warm while attempting to enjoy the solitude and the frozen beauty of a West Texas countryside in early December? I learned that patience pays off when incorporated faithfully and consistently and that the hunting gods do smile on you once in awhile- even if you get a little too greedy to pay proper homage.
PS Total weight of all three deer field dressed was a little under three hundred pounds. I had the buck tagged for total processing and the two does I tagged for the Hunter Harvester Program which allows hunters to pay a nominal $25 fee for each animal donated for processing and distribution to local shelters and non-profit agencies needing foods for their charitable activities. The hunter gets to keep the backstrap and tenderloins, the rest of the meat goes to the charities.