Between high school, college, the U.S. Army, marriage and children, my business career, duck and goose hunting, fishing and church, little time was left for deer hunting and I certainly didn’t miss it! However, with the elimination of screw worms and the devastation they wrought on the cattle industry and the deer population, deer herds in our fine, State flourished, soon almost everyone had became a deer hunter. Twenty-eight years after my Dad took me to El Campo for my second try at deer hunting, my third chance came up unexpectedly and it turned out to be a doozy!
One of my computer customers, Larry Earle, controller of a large manufacturer in Houston, asked me and several other of his suppliers to accompany him to his company’s hunting lease near Sanderson, Texas. Sanderson is way out in west Texas, 80 miles west of Langtry, the home of the infamous Judge Roy Bean, see my June 13, 2007 post “The Law West Of The Pecos”. The lease offered a copious amount deer, turkey and scaled, or blue, quail, aka scalies.
To crowd in a Friday afternoon hunt, we left Houston before sun up and girded ourselves for the 9-hour, drive out to Sanderson. Late that same afternoon, with a borrowed 30.06 rifle, here I was, for the first time in my life, in a raised deer blind, overlooking a dry wash, with a corn feeder perched on a rise, two hundred yards to my front. I had been assured the rifle “shot where I held it”, later, this claim turned out to be false!
Sitting for almost an hour, a hundred yards out, on their way to the feeder, walked 7 or 8 turkeys, two being gobblers and I was in awe of the copper/bronze sheen of the sun’s reflection on their backs, these being the first wild turkeys I’d ever seen. One stopped and looked my way, centering the scope where its neck attached to the body, bam, I let fly, and I saw the bullet strike between the birds feet, human error, I thought. Cranking in another shell, bam, another shot, same low results, now the turkeys were in full speed escape mode. No more shots for me as I sat back and watched the desert for the hour of sunlight left. It turned out the riflescope had been banged on something and, as it was, was shooting 18 inches low at 100 yards!
Saturday was quail hunting day, or more like quail running day! We chased the scalies in a Jeep and on foot, from just after breakfast until sundown and four of us bagged over 30 of the runners. Two years later I would move to Arizona and find out what “runnin’ quail” really meant! We had a great hunt saw and ran over a lot of rugged, west Texas, country side with only one downside. We ran up a skunk and as the Jeep was pulling away, I ran to it, jumped up on the bumper, went to climb into the back, my foot slipped and coming down, I cracked two ribs on the sharp, little, tail gate. Ouch, this slowed me down for the rest of the hunt!
With my ribs hurting, the foreman put me in a “can’t miss” blind for a deer on Sunday mornings hunt, an elevated stand, 40 yards away from a deer feeder. A front had come in overnight, a big wind was blowing from the north and it was cold, so much for a comfortable deer hunt. My blind was a metal stand, attached to 12-foot poles and painfully climbing in, at least there was a wind break as I awaited shooting time.
Nothing happened as the sun came up, then at 8:15 AM, the feeder went off and as if on queue, here came the doe, no problem except that our fine State had a permit system for harvesting doe and I, being a greenhorn deer hunter, hadn’t asked the foreman for a permit. The rancher had to apply, a game count was taken, permits were issued, at least that was the way it was supposed to happen, but “the good ole’ boy system prevailed in south Texas! Stopping counting at 20, with my rib hurting at each breath, I decided not even to try to shoot one, worrying would he give me a permit, was the rifle’s scope aligned OK, how could I exert the force to clean one, how even, could I get up and over the blind to climb down? Now years, and many deer later, these worries were nothing. So, all I could do then was to sit and wait for the foreman to come and pick me up.
One last chance at hunting was a sweep to be made down a brushy draw, said to be a morning feeding spot for turkeys. Volunteering for this one, it dawned on me that I only had #8 shot, no 4’s or 5’s, which are best for turkey. Pampering my rib, the other hunters said they would walk slowly and we creeped down the wash. Not a hundred yards into our slow walk, in front of me, glimpsing its beard as it took off, up jumped a gobbler, I aimed for the head like leading a mourning dove and let fly, boom, the big bird wavered in flight, crumpled up and fell to the ground, a lucky shot!
Having enough of this fun for the morning, I picked up the turkey and headed back to the Jeep to wait for the hunters to finish their sweep of the wash. Thinking all the way back, something always gets in the way of deer hunting, maybe I’ll stick to birds, ducks and geese?