Sitting in the cold on the first morning of a December NAHC Life Member whitetail hunt in Texas, I was congratulating myself for remembering to bring some hand warmers. In my home state of Michigan, we never leave home without them. I never imagined it would only be 20 degrees in South Texas!
The sounds of nearby coyotes pierced the morning air as the night began to fade into daybreak. It wasn’t long before I could see out the windows of the blind and make out the shapes of two deer to my left. Both were does casually browsing and had no idea I was in the area. At 8 a.m. I spotted the first buck of the day. A spike had wandered in and began feeding toward my ground blind along with the two does. On the far side of the clearing, a nice buck emerged from the woods as sunlight topped the mesquite trees to the east. The binoculars confirmed that the buck was a tall-racked 8-pointer. As I was looking at him, another 8-pointer stepped out of the woods. These two deer allowed me to study them for about 45 minutes before finally making their way around the pond and into the woods. I must admit that it was hard not to shoot one of those bucks, but it was the first morning and I didn’t want to be guilty of taking an immature animal.
At 11:30 a.m., I was picked up by one of the guides for a quick lunch at the lodge. We discussed the events of the morning and concluded that I probably should have taken the buck with the taller rack. I asked to return to the same blind in the evening with the intent of shooting one of those bucks if the opportunity presented itself.
I was searching the edge of the woods with the binoculars at about 4 p.m. when a new buck appeared in the meadow. Clearly this buck was larger than either of the two 8-points I observed that morning! There was no question he was a shooter. He was browsing slowly toward me, offering nothing better than a straight-on shot. Finally, the buck turned and offered a broadside shot opportunity. After the shot, I watched the big buck turn and run directly into the woods—showing no signs of being mortally wounded.
I’ve long had a practice of saying a short prayer for a deer I’ve shot that did not fall immediately. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to hunt, the animal He has provided, for the deer to expire quickly, and for me to be able to track it to the final resting place. This day would be no different as I gathered my composure and said the prayer. I walked off 130 paces to where the deer was standing when I shot. Finding no sign there or on the grass leading to where he entered the woods, I played the shot over again in my mind. Confident in the rifle, the load and the shooter, I knew the buck couldn’t be far. Fifteen yards into the woods I found a deep washout created by flooding and three drops of blood, but there was no other sign to be found. I decide to follow the washout as it appeared to be the path of least resistance. My prayers were answered when I saw the silhouette of a deer lying in the brush. Initially it looked like a very heavy 8-point, but as I picked up the antlers I noticed an extra tine on the left side and both brow tines were forked for a total of 11 points!
The remainder of the day was spent back in the blind photographing wildlife and waiting for my guide. At 5:30 p.m., the tall racked 8-point made an appearance in the meadow, posing for videos and still pictures. I saw 31 deer on the first day, including 10 bucks, two bobcats and three javelinas.
In total, 11 of the 12 hunters from nine different states harvested trophy deer on this hunt, including NAH Managing Editor Dave Maas, accompanied by Dan Larson, “NAH-TV” producer of who filmed Dave’s hunt. The hunt was only 4-days long, but the memories will last a lifetime.