The Big Country – The Trapper

As I have mentioned, protection of his Goats and predator control were the rancher’s main objectives. One trip it came back to bite us!

Layla and I would always stop by the ranch house and visit before we went out to hunt on the Millersview lease in Concho County. This trip was no different, but the rancher cautioned us not to hunt his “near” trap. In his vernacular, that meant, the field closest to our camp house. He added that the State Trapper hadn’t picked up his traps out of that one, but he had removed all of the cyanide traps for the Coyotes. The Coyotes played “hob” with the rancher’s Goats.

The cyanide traps were baited with rancid meat and will draw a Dog to them, especially a far ranging Bird Dog, but again, the rancher assured me that, by count, all of the cyanide traps had been removed. Feeling better, we began our hunt one “trap” removed from the near one and had bagged several Quail for our efforts when, Sonny, my Brittany Spaniel, who was working cross wind about 50 yards ahead of us, yelped and jumped into the air!
Sonny on the back porch of our house in Houston.

Rattle Snake I immediately thought, but he kept flopping around and yelping to high heaven! Running up to him, both Layla and I quickly saw the problem the trapper had left one of his traps and my Dog had found it. It was no problem unlocking the trap from its hold on Sonny and digging up the spike that anchored it in the ground.

Fuming, we stopped hunting, loaded up the dogs and hurried to the ranch house. I had cooled off by the time I showed the rancher to trap we “found” and was in no mood for any more “Quailing” until the trapper had removed ALL of his traps from the property.

The rancher’s next solution for predator control was Emus and that sure is another story!

The Big Country – The Bobcat

Opening morning of Deer season I hunted on my ranch in MillsCcounty and shooting a doe, I decided to get on out to the Millersview lease that afternoon to see if the Deer were still coming into the stock tank.

Having climbed up into a good size shin oak and securing myself in a fork, I unslung my rifle and began searching for bucks and does. Soon a 6 pointer walks right beside my tree, goes to the tank and gets himself a drink. Hmmm, not bad for openers.

I notice movement to my right and turning, I spot a half grown Bobcat stalking some birds feeding in and around the prickly pear. He is about the same size of a year old house cat and as the “Friends Of Wildlife” say, “Sooo cute!” The Cat is busy hunting and hasn’t even thought a human would be within 15 feet of him.

Watching him for several minutes, I finally decide to scare him away and get on with my sightseeing for Deer. Being up in the tree I couldn’t pick up a cow chip or rock and toss it at him, so I ponder the situation and remember the empty hull of the bullet I shot the doe with this morning is still in the left pocket of my camo shirt.

The cat is still hunting away as I flip the empty hull toward him and it lands just to his rear, making a tinkling noise. He jumps about 3 feet up in the air, spins around, hisses and hits the ground running, heading for points unknown!

I hunted the area of the stock tank often and never saw a Bobcat again.

Rebekah’s First Hunt

As my Grandchildren approach hunting age and prove proficient in shooting and handling a rifle, they are all ready for Poppy to take them hunting on the ranch.

Rebekah, a 10 year old and one of my 3 Granddaughters, announced this week that she was ready to go hunting with me and I told her that this was one of the nicest birthday presents I had ever received. My birthday was the day before. She was to start practice with her Dad’s .243 this past weekend, but the wind, rain and cold put a halt to that.


Even though she couldn’t shoot a Deer, she was ready to go out, so Friday, November 23, was the day we picked. The temperature was 34 degrees and there was a heavy overcast. All of this weather was the forerunner of a fierce winter storm heading our way from New Mexico. North of us, along I-20, around Abilene, winter storm warnings were posted for the weekend and our part of this system was rain and maybe, light snow flurries.

Rebekah and I established the rules for the mornings hunt; this was to be a fun thing and for her to let me know if she got cold, I would shoot a spike, a big doe, or, of course, a nice buck, so sunrise found us in “The Scaffold Blind”.

This was the same blind that her Dad, my Son, Randy, had shot a nice 11 pointer 10 days earlier.


This is a picture of Randy’s nice, 11 pointer. Also pictured is Randy’s son, my Grandson, Sean and Spike, the Deer tracker.


At 6:50 AM, she spotted two yearlings coming in to the feeder. Soon, this was followed by a steady trickle of young does and their yearlings, and none of the does showed any signs of being in estrus. For the first few Deer, Rebekah would point at my gun for me to shoot, but I would make a “too small” sign for her and she quickly figured out the sizing requirements.

This is one of the many small Deer we saw on our hunt. The lighting is horrible, but the Deer, center/right is rooting around the remnants of a salt block.


At about a count of 10 Deer, Rebekah’s hands had become very cold. Before heading out, I had put 2 pair of gloves on her, cotton next to her skin and wool over them, she had a blanket, and everything else was fine except for her hands. Taking off my wool gloves, I put them over her hands and we kept counting, or hunting.

Finally, the count stopped at 13, we hadn’t seen any horns, but she said, “Poppy, I’m ready to go back. My hands are cold!” We climbed out of the blind and got her back to the old ranch house and a warm stove. After a quick hand warming she went right back out into the cold to play with the rest of her Cousins and her cold hands were quickly forgotten.

She will never forget seeing so many Deer on her first hunt, and best of all, we practiced restraint and not seeing any “shooter”, passed on 13 Deer. She’ll remember that too!

As she was running outside, she said to me, “Poppy, are your gloves different colors so you can remember which hands they belong on?”

The Big Country

In the late 1990’s, Millersview, in Concho County,Texas consisted of a one pump, gas station/feed store, a Post Office and a WW II memorial. Millersview is in the part of West Texas known as “The Big Country”. It is on Farm to Market Road 765, 60 miles west of Goldthwaite and 40 miles east of San Angelo and the closest town is Eden.

Back then I was on a 2,000 acre, Quail/Deer lease with plenty of mesquite and prickly pear cactus, about 3 miles outside of Millersview, absolutely no turkeys and a minimum of 10 points on the bucks. We had a nice camp house (running water) and the place was loaded with game, big Deer and “mucho” Quail and definitely, shoot any Coyote we saw.

Predator control was the foremost item for our rancher. Coyotes would eat and wantonly kill his goats, sometime killing twenty or thirty in one wild frenzy.

My first year on the lease, September 1, found me and my 8 year old, Grandson, Bradley, in the shadow of a mesquite, beside a stock tank being “covered up” by Mourning Doves. Bradley loved it because we had to wade out and retrieve most of the birds.

Sitting under the same mesquite cleaning the birds, I counted 8 Deer that tried to come into the water.

For the next 4 years it only got better!

More to come on my lease at Millersview………

Tom Mix Wash

Jack, “Candy”, me and part of our limits of Gambel Quail, pose (remotely) along Tom Mix Wash, north of Tucson in Arizona.

With the temperature hovering near 90 degrees, Jack Shindler and I started the long walk back to our truck down Tom Mix Wash. The Dogs, Jack’s, Candy, and my, Rooster, were “Quailed” out and we were down to less than one canteen of water, out of the 4 we took along. Back then, mid November, 1973, the wash was rough country, now it is probably million dollar houses!

We had hiked, hunted and worked our way several miles up Tom Mix Wash, where, supposedly, the actor, Tom Mix, was killed in a one car wreck along a road that bisects it. Tom was killed prior to WWII and I barely remember it. Anyway, back then I was a Gene Autry guy.

Starting right after lunch we had headed east, towards the foothills and had bumped into numerous, large coveys of Gamble Quail and had considerably thinned out their population. That day we enjoyed some of the finest Dog work and shooting of all my Arizona hunts. We missed some, the Dogs busted a covey, a covey outran us, but within a little less than 2 hours we had 2 limits!

With our game bags full, 2 limits of birds, walking back to the truck Jack was excited, anticipating trying out his new camera with a “timed” shutter. He was going to set it up on a tripod, get it focused in, then we would rush around, smile and the picture, certainly a potential Pulitzer winner, would capture the “thrill of our hunt”!

Everything worked fine except that our hoard of Quail was cut off.

Turkey Day Hunting Tips,2007

For the past 12 months, the Sovereign State of Texas, received record rainfall and our cover, including our grasses, have exploded! It really looks strange when you see only a does head moving through the grass and broom weed. Because of this unusual cover and a much warmer November, our hunting is much different this year!

My friend, Warren “Bull” Blesh, owner of RRR Ranch and RRR Feeds, here in Goldthwaite, has written a very informative and thoughtful article pertaining to our unusual situation that appear in this week’s local paper, “The Goldthwaite Eagle”. Warren brings up some very good points; use enough gun, take your shots early, take good shots and be a careful tracker! His complete article follows:

“Turkey Day Hunting Tips 2007
By Warren “Bull” Blesh

This Thanksgiving hunting weekend is different and I encourage you to read on and see what is happening locally. Lost deer is what is happening all over the county.

Earlier this year we had record rainfall, some 40+ inches in the county. Our rangeland usually expects about 30 inches so native pasture grass has exploded and yes, we are all happy. Big bluestem, indian grass and little bluestem dot the landscape with most grasses over three feet high.

So Bull you ask, “what does this have to do with my hunting preparation?” YOU WILL HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME FINDING YOUR DEER IF IT RUNS FAR!

Here are my tips!

1. Pick the largest caliber gun in your camp that you know is sighted in. Start with bullets sizes over .243. I suggest a .270, 25.06, 30.06 or even a big 7 MM. I know this seems excessive, but I know a guy still looking for a drop tine buck that was hit.
2. If you must use sporting calibers like the .204, 22.50, .222, and .223 then use the old fashion mushrooming bullets that are soft core. No more ballistic tips this year. Major guide services have banned ballistic tips.
3. Avoid late evening shots. Right now, if you take a shot around 5:30 you got 20 minutes to find your deer. Tracking in waist high grass at dark is like trying to win the lottery.
4. Go to the spot you first hit the deer. Look for blood and mark that spot with your hat. Now, mark each spot of your trail as you go with something you can see. You will get a better idea where the animal headed.
5. Take good shots where you have confidence you can hit the vital zones. This is not a year for “Hail Mary’s”.

Have a great weekend and be sure to attend the Hunter Supper at the Civic Center.”

Here’s To You Mrs. Robinson – Part 1

Brad, my soon to be son-in-law, Mike Mitchell, who was marrying Layla’s Daughter, Laura, and me left Houston bound for my Deer lease in McCulloch County, Texas. Our objectives were for Mike and Brad to shoot a Deer, maybe all of us shoot a few Quail, for me to try to decoy some Ducks into a big spring fed stock tank, and last, for me to pick up a new kitten from Mrs. Robinson, the rancher’s Wife.

The first morning the boys shot their Deer and I had some fabulous Duck shooting, noticing that the Ducks, when shot at, would make speed to another stock tank on the ranch. I filed this away for the next morning’s hunt and that afternoon was spent processing the Deer and chasing Quail with Gus, my Brittany Spaniel.

The next morning, Sunday, was cold, right at freezing and I went out and hunted with the boys, but we weren’t successful at shooting a Deer. We decided to jump shoot some Ducks so I told them what I had noticed about the flight pattern the previous morning and we decided to check that particular tank last.

That “particular” tank was on the side of a hill and was almost 5 foot deep along its north bank with a very convenient “sneak up” place on the south. It was about a half-mile from the main ranch house, but that wouldn’t be a problem since the rancher and his wife would be at Church. We planned our “sneak”, agreed not to shoot them on the water, but to let them rise up into the air. Then we would sit back and let Gus, who was an excellent retriever, “fetch ‘em”.

We drove within a hundred yards of the tank, loaded up and started our “sneak”, that ranged from crab walking, to hunched over walking, to crawling, and arrived at the shooting spot, rose up, and up came the Ducks, hundreds of them. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, we all shot at once and I thought, “Where did they all come from?” Splash, splash, they were raining down onto the water, Mallards, Pintails, Gadwalls, Widgeons, Teal, all the varieties of “puddle” Ducks, all good eating, but so many of them.

There were a lot of Ducks on the water dead, many cripples that we dispatched, twenty-five or thirty in all, and with the complicated bag limits, one Pintail, one Mallard Hen, not more than a combination of Red Heads and Canvasbacks (luckily we didn’t have one of these), we would be close to, or exceeding, our limits. Ouch!

I set Gus about the business of retrieving. Out he paddled, secured one in his mouth and paddled back to shore. Repeating this once, more, then back into the water, securing another Duck and he spit it out! He swam over to another, picked it up and spit it out! Obviously, he didn’t like the way the Ducks tasted. He paddled back to shore, got out of the water, came over to me and shook the water off of his coat, his signal that he was finished retrieving. So much for the excellent retriever, we now had to figure how to get those Ducks out of the near freezing water.

Mike, in true, soon to be so n-in-law fashion, volunteered saying, “I’ll wade out and get ‘em.” Breathing a hidden sigh, I quickly agreed, Brad following suit. Mike stripped down to his shorts and waded out . At the same time I turned around and looked toward the ranch house, and to my horror, a green, official looking, pickup was parked by the back door. I alerted the guys, “We’ve got to get those ducks in quick.” Mike retrieved them, and we dumped the decoys out of my two toe sacks and filled both with ducks.

By our quick count we had 22 Ducks and were over our limit. Maybe our guns wouldn’t be confiscated. The green pickup was still there.

To be continued…

An Update On Brad

From experience and talking with families of cancer patients I knew, and Layla and I had discussed, the inevitable ups and downs to be encountered with Brad’s cancer challenge. In my life, I thought I had experienced the ultimate in highs and lows, but the past 5 days with Brad’s contracting pneumonia along with a lung infection and pleurisy dropped me to the bottom.

The doctors were very concerned, one, because of the severity of his condition, and, two, because his special trial chemo program at M.D.Anderson was scheduled to begin yesterday and they believed that speed was most important in attacking his cancer! Besides these concerns, Brad’s fever had been over 100 for 10 days, he was continuously coughing, and couldn’t take a deep breath.

His condition was bad, but in the face of this adversity his faith, strength and courage remained unshaken! Our family, our Churches, friends and even folks that had never met Brad continued their fervent, believer’s prayers, and yesterday afternoon I saw our Lord at work!

Brad looked good, his fever was gone, he was up and walking around and best, his doctors said they could beat the infection in 7 to 10 days instead of the original estimate of 2 + weeks, and chemo treatments could begin immediately after that.

Brad told me that he was certainly blessed by our Lord and that his struggle is his testimony for the Lord’s work!

Praise the Lord!

Everyone keep praying for Brad.

The Peek-A-Boo Spike

Randy and “The Peek-A-Boo Spike”.

Shortly after e-mailing the story and picture of the Buck in “Rattled In” to my youngest son, Randy, he called me and quickly let me know that he wanted me to rattle one up for him. Agreeing just as quick, but reminding him that “rattling” was not a 100% deal and a lot of things wind, time of the rut and deer activity had to come together for success, so we agreed on Saturday, December 2 for our hunt. Randy is a Baptist Minister in San Marcos, Texas, and his hunting time is limited, but since I’m retired, working my schedule into his is not a problem.

The second phase of the rut was about a week off, but for the past several days there had been some buck movement on my place, which is five miles southwest of Goldthwaite, so our timing might be good after all. Randy and I had both gotten in just before midnight, he from San Marcos and me from Stephenville, where Goldthwaite had lost an Area Round game in the Class A state football playoffs. We were in no mood for an early morning hunt and since the moon was almost full, we decided to go out around 1:00 PM and try our luck.

Randy decided that we, Randy, his eleven year old son, Austin and I, would hunt first in the southwest corner of my ranch close to where, the day before around lunch time, I had seen a nice buck. We silently approached “The Tripod Blind” and Randy climbed up on to the seat that was surrounded by lightweight camo netting, making him nearly invisible, while Austin and I chose a comfortable seat inside of the Oak Shinnery. We were 95% hidden and after a fifteen minute wait I began “rattling”. Nothing. Another wait, more “rattling”. Nothing. Austin was fast asleep. Another wait, more “rattling”. Nothing.

It was after 2:00 PM and Randy wanted to try one more place about a quarter of a mile away. I said, “Fine,” Austin said, “I’m going back to the house and take a nap.” Our time was short since we had to be finished and get cleaned up by 5:00 PM so we could go and see Goldthwaite’s annual “Parade Of Lights” and attend the Lions Club pancake supper, which left us with little time to “rattle” up a Buck,

Moving carefully to “Poppy’s Blind”, Randy climbed into the camouflaged tree stand and I squirmed into some thick brush and after a ten minute wait, began “rattling”. Nothing. Another wait, more “rattling”. Randy whispers down to me, and since I had my game ears in, heard him say, “Dad, I see a Deer, grunt and rattle again.” Which I did. Nothing, but I look up and see Randy tense up and Bam! His .243 Remington 660 barked and Randy said, “I got him and he is down and not moving!” I reply, “Good shot! I guess we don’t need Spike (my Dog) this to find this one.”

We waited for five minutes and walked the one hundred yards down to the Deer, and not what I had expected, there lay a dead spike. He had heard the “rattling” and was trying to sneak off with a doe while the two bucks were fighting. I was surprised, having heard of spikes coming in to “rattling”, but had not seen it before. I can only hope I don’t rattle up a big cat!

Walking back to the house to get the Jeep, Randy described the past event, saying, “The second time you “rattled” I was half-dozing and to my left I thought I saw a Deer peeking around a cedar tree toward the sounds. You stopped and it peeked around again. I didn’t see it for a couple of minutes so I told you to repeat the process and then I see him about one hundred yards to my front peeking around some buck brush and I can make out his spikes. He makes a fatal error and steps out from behind the brush and “bam”, down he goes, right in his tracks!”

While Randy is preparing his deer, my wife, Layla, Austin, and his sister, Rebekah, and I get ready in time for the pancake supper and parade. Randy is taking the Deer to a processor in New Braunfels and is having it turned into German dry sausage. He says he will give me some.