Better Late Than Never

Our central Texas Deer season opens in a few days and I think a post and picture of a very, unappearing, successful hunt would be quite appropriate.

Better Late Than Never

My “second rut” buck!

Having retired to my ranch in Goldthwaite, Texas, the previous May, I was looking forward to, and planning on a “bang-up” Deer season, but as Robert Burns, the Scottish poet said, “Sometimes our plans falter and go astray.” I had spotted some real nice bucks before the season, but the first rut had ended without me getting a clear shot.

Getting out of bed early the Friday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 28, it was raining copiously and I decided to sleep in, telling myself that I would try hunting around noon. Noon found me climbing into “Poppy’s Stand” stand that was near a corn feeder and a well used Deer trail. Of course, as I climbed into the stand, the seat had caught some water from the rain, finding me without even a hankie.

Roughing it, I plop into the wet seat and very soon my rear has soaked up the water. Thank goodness it is 80 degrees now. Looking back, that year our temperature didn’t get to freezing until just before Christmas.

Not 5 minutes after I settle down, a young doe comes bouncing down the trail and following her is an equally young 6 pointer, not an option, but, maybe, the second phase of the rut is beginning. Maybe today will be the day.

For some reason, I had left my rattling horns at home, but I did have my grunt call looped around my neck, and the next thing I know, trotting out of the thick brush, is a nice buck.
A quick glance/study and I see that his nose seems to be too short and he has some size. His neck is swollen and his legs look short. Checking his horns, which aren’t that heavy, I see they are well past his ears.

Raising my Ruger .270 to my shoulder and holding it up with my left hand, he’s still trotting along the trail when I let him have a grrrrunt! He stops and looks directly at me and the .270 booms and the buck hops and takes off.

He is hit solid and after a 15 minute wait, I track him for 50 yards and see he is down for good. I head back to the ranch house to get Spike, our Dachshund, so he can get some more practice tracking a downed Deer. He “noses” right to the buck and begins his ritual of guarding him, keeping all of the onlookers but my wife, Layla, away.

Today’s hunt will be well remembered, but its funny how quickly we forget the hours and hours of preparation and wet britches that we endure.

Bradley’s Deer, 2004

Bradley is another successful youth, Deer hunter!

On Sunday afternoon Bradley decided we would hunt in our “Guest Blind” on the eastern part of my ranch. This was a new, spacious, elevated blind with a feeder 100 yards to its north. We climbed in and got ready, opening the windows and loading his gun. An adult must accompany the youth on the hunt, but the adult can’t do any of the shooting and can’t carry a rifle.

Does and yearlings came to the feeder and did not display the jitters we were used to seeing later in the season and finally out came a spike and a four pointer, neither of them being a “shooter”. More does and yearlings, but nothing “big”.

After about an hour, a glance to the left and I saw a nice, big buck in the brush by the edge of a trail. Leaning over and pointing to the left I said to Bradley, “There’s a shooter by the edge of the trail.” I leaned back in my chair as Bradley tried to get his .270 out of the window and line up the Deer. No luck. The buck didn’t tarry long and moved back into the thick stuff. A missed opportunity! “Maybe later,” I murmured under my breath.

With 30 minutes to go before the end of shooting time, I was apprehensive that we wouldn’t get Bradley a Deer. Then, right up to the feeder comes a 6 pointer but not big enough and behind him a nice 8. We both have our binocs on him and see his horns are outside of his ears and have good height, but not much mass.

Bradley whispers, “Poppy, should I shoot?” And I reply, “No, let’s wait a minute.” The Deer feeds leisurely on the corn with us watching him intently through our binocs and, as the Deer walks off, I think to myself that this is a marginal shooter but it will really be a good one next year, but that is a long way off. Finally the Grandfather in me takes over and I whisper to Bradley, “Go ahead and take him!”

Sliding his .270 out of the window, Bam, the buck hops, takes 2 steps and down he goes! A good shot! We wait for 10, or so, minutes with no movement from the Deer, unload his rifle, climb down out of the blind and go and inspect his prize.

It could have been a bigger spread, but, once again, the objectives of our states youth hunt program have been met, with success!

Colton’s Deer, 2004

Colton is very happy, youth hunter!

The last week of October 2004, was comfortable, not hot and sweaty warm as Colton and I climbed into our famous “Scaffold Blind” that some call an elevated contraption. It is ideal for young hunters since it has plenty of room for 2 people and 2 real comfortable chairs. Only one drawback, it has no roof. As we say, “If its not raining, you won’t get wet.”

Texas hunting law enables hunters to feed or bait Deer and there was a feeder 95 yards south of the Scaffold Blind, tucked into a clearing along several Deer trails. That afternoon we watched several does and yearlings feed on the corn that was on the ground, and to our surprise, a Red Fox trotted not 20 feet in front of the blind. We both wondered what the Fox was doing out this early?

We knew the does would hang around and Colton could take one for “camp meat”, but he was holding out for a nice buck. I’m watching/dozing as Colton whispers, “Poppy, I see a real nice Deer!” “Where, son” I reply? Keeping his hand under the blind’s window he points toward a nearby mesquite tree and sure enough, tucked into the tree is a very nice buck, but I’m afraid there’s too many branches for a clear shot, then Colton says, “Poppy, I can hit him in the neck right below his chin.” I reply, “If you’re sure, take him!”

Bam, Colton’s .257 Roberts barks, and the Deer crumples in his tracks! Colton had hit him dead center! A fine shot!

“Poppy, I got him,” he said as he jumped up to go and admire his feat, but I told him, “Boy, let’s give the Deer 10 or 15 minutes and make sure he’s done.”

The objective of the youth hunt was fulfilled in Colton’s case. The boy shot a nice buck, received proper training from an adult and will be a successful, careful hunter the rest of his life.

A new ranch rule was also established, the next buck he takes, must be bigger than this one!

Youth Hunts, 2004

Each year, The Sovereign State of Texas allows a youth hunt the weekend before the regular Deer season opens and in 2004 I had 2 Grandsons, Colton Mitchell and Bradley Bryan, that were “chompin’ at the bit” to take advantage of this opportunity. Both were excellent shots, had attended the State’s hunter safety course and had been hunting Deer since they were 8 and each had enjoyed several successful hunts.

As the youth hunt was approaching both boys had asked me to take them since their Dads were both out of town. Colton’s Dad, my Son-In-Law, Mike Mitchell, was working in west Texas and Bradley’s Dad, my Son Brad, was serving a tour with the U.S. Army in Iraq. I was still working but made quick arrangements to take a long weekend and guide the boys and inwardly pleased that both had honored me with this request!

Colton was playing youth football and had a game on the Saturday A.M. of the opening and Bradley had some chores on that Saturday and wouldn’t be able to hunt until Sunday P.M., so the hunts were arranged accordingly.

The stories of both hunts will follow.

This Man Needs a Psychiatrist

This past August 28, I visited Scott and White Clinic in Temple, Texas to have the skin Docs look at a small, rough place below my left eye. My personal diagnosis was a pre cancerous spot they would freeze off and I would then continue to prepare for the opening of Dove season the coming Saturday, September 1. One look at the spot under my eye and my Doctor went into high gear, not even bothering to do a biopsy, calling in the head of the Dermatology Department for a look, scheduling me for surgery at 8:00 AM the next morning and chiding me for not noticing the spot sooner.

The squamous cell cancer, all of 7/8” long and 3/8” wide and deep, was removed in its entirety and as I was being closed up, 30 stitches worth, I remarked to my Doctor that Dove season opened on the coming Saturday and I saw no reason why I couldn’t shoot my gun since the incision and stitches were on the left side of my face. With my comment, he placed his sewing tools on the table and announced to his staff in attendance, “This man doesn’t need a surgeon, he needs a psychiatrist!” Finishing the job he told me no shooting for 4 weeks but I could play softball in a national championship tournament in 3 weeks, but be sure to cover and pad the incision.

A sunny afternoon, the last week in September, found me at a friends place in San Saba, Texas loading up my Remington 1100 for a late season opener. Being almost a month after opening day, the swarms of White Wing and Mourning Doves were now replaced by scattered bunches and the shooting was spotty, just like I knew it would be. However, it is better to be out hunting than to be on the DL!

BandedAndWhitewingDove

Notice the difference in size between the smaller White Wing and larger “Ring Neck Dove”. In Texas there is no closed season or bag limit on Ring Necks.

Shortly, several large Doves, not White Wings Doves, Zenaida Asiatica, are boring in on me and picking one out I swing, and BAM, the bird crumples. I retrieve and identify it as a, what we call, Ring Neck Dove, better known as an European Collared Dove, Streptopelia Decacto. This bird is twice as big as a Mourning Dove and half again as big as a White Wing and just as tasty as a Mourner, especially if you wrap them in bacon and tuck a sliced jalapeno in their breast bone cavity.

The White Wings are flying way high and by leading them 3 or 4 feet, I knock down several, ending up with a nice mess of birds. Not a scorching, gun barrel bird hunt, but they’ll taste great on the grill (especially wrapped in bacon, stuffed with a slice of jalapeno)!

Loading The Deer Feeders

The next to last item on this year’s “Getting Ready” list is loading the feeders.

Gravity is just finishing draining the feed corn out of the bag.

After going “down town”. I stopped at my friend Warren Blesh’s, RRR Feeds, and picked up 20, 50 pound, bags of feed corn for the feeders. Loading up the feeders is not a glorious event like shooting a B&C buck or winning a National Championship. It is just backing up to the feeder, taking off the cover, cutting the top off of the corn bag, then hefting the bag and corn up and over the edge and gravity takes over. Close up the feeder, drive to the next one and soon you are done.

Layla, Spike, our Deer finder, and I started at The Guest Blind” and ended at “Colton’s Blind”, now having 5 full feeders. Two of the blinds only have food plots and “The Crooked Blind” just sits by near a well used trail and has no attractant.

Our hope is the Deer eat up all of the acorns soon and then start on the corn.

Big tournament In Phoenix

Sluggo is on his way to play in the 2007 Senior Softball, World Championships being held in Phoenix, Az. Play starts on Oct. 22 and ends on Oct 25. Sluggo’s team, “The Texans”, has played well all year and hopes to “bring home the bacon” in this last tournament of the season.

Sluggo has left posts to cover his absence but is not taking his computer along on this trip – no distractions!