Two days in a truck and when you finally get there the heat hits like a sledge hammer. Burning, tearing, soul searing, which makes the skin crinkle kind of heat. It’s a humid lung choking heat that makes the mind wobble in the mist of mindlessness. Looking at the cabin, dragging the gear out, and making ready only an hour after arrival I’m setting up in a brush blind with Nick (horitexan) doing most of the work. Water.. I will need lots of water!
Driving into Texas is like crossing the chasm between reality and fantasy. There is some kind of subtle change that happens when you cross the border. Subtle like a ball peen hammer between the eye balls after a week long binge drinking like a fish and to long into drying out kind of hammer between the eyes. That’s Texas. My dad looking out the window at the sudden plethora of Texas flags on everything says it’s like a whole other country. He ain’t kidding.
Camo’d up and ready for slaying the beastie Southern Texas Hog I’ve got my trusty Martin Slayr set on eviscerate and camo head to toe. I have a baited road bed directly in front of me, tags in my pocket and plenty of time to wait. And I wait. The hogs have been wallowing in the road bed relatively recently. A water filled spot shows signs of some monsters. I’d like to put a stick in one of those monsters. I imagine everybody’s first bow hunt is something like this.
When you arrive at the ranch they give you a read in on the terrain and tens of thousands of acres available for hunting. Getting out into the air and dust of Sabinal Texas it becomes apparent that there is a lot of wild life on the ranch. Deer are everywhere. Getting to the cabins each day I add some Texas pinstripes to my truck finding my way around the ranch. I get lucky and find Greg Ash there the first night. A likeable Texan with the manners of gentleman my dad and I spend the evening talking about everything and nothing.
Sitting in the dirt, in a brush blind, and the dust of the corn feed truck driving by makes my throat dry. Remember water next time. The water in my Camel Bak from the faucet at the cabin has sediment already. I’ll do with out until I can get something more sanitary. I sit very still listening to the world around me. The birds get louder, the Cicadas fill the night air, and each tinkling pebble across the road sounds like boulders in a flooded river. Then dark descends like a cloak of Hades judgment and it descends with very little twilight. Where did I put my flashlight?
A couple hours after dark I make the judgment that nothing will be visiting me tonight. Days later shows a dusting of corn where I was is only lightly picked through. Wandering down road towards my truck parked a third of a mile away something is standing next to my truck. A quick punch on the key fob and the surround lighting on the truck show a cow leaning up against the truck. Surprised by the bright light it ambles away. Two things I need to buy are a better stool for brush blinds and snake boots that allow me to walk quieter.
Sleeping in a hunting cabin filled with bugs, and thankfully really good air-conditioning can be some of the best sleep. I could have crawled out of bed early but with no knowledge of the area I’d hate to go busting through somebody’s early morning hunt in my ineptness. A lack of knowledge surely to be fixed by a day of scouting and talking with Greg Ash (ashx2), Nick (horitexan), Jason (piercedjason), Tink (africanbowhunter), and Cody led me to some conclusions. A jeep ride around some prime hunting grounds show lots of sign, but my worries about the heat leave me wondering if I’ll get to unleash the Slayr.
With spots picked out our collective hunting attention turns to moving cabins for access to new hunting ground (and because the cattle had drained the cisterns). Everybody picks spots suited to their nature and desires. I pick a spot that looks open, but intersects with a bunch of trails. The location is flat, open, filled with prickly pear cactus, and sort of grand central station for hogs. I hike into my location and create a brush blind. Pitiful really for concealment, but I’ll add brush cutters to my things I need to buy when I get back. Using my hunting knife for cutting mesquite is an abomination. As dark descends a crisp summer moon rises and light filters through the trees. After the corn truck drives through and the dust settles quiet descends like the light south Texas dust. And I get very still and patient.
Waiting. I sit with an itchy feeling on my neck. The hair stands up on my arms covered by camouflage. I hear a crunching, a nibbling, deeper thrum in the night air. Sitting a grove of cactus (suitably vetted for snakes) I feel a presence on the other side of the cactus. I can hear a heart beat quickening in the night. The sound is my own heart pounding in my ears. Just on the other side of the cactus something is nibbling on the corn spread there. With bow in my hands I tilt it to vertical very slowly. I can’t see over the cactus (reminder new stool) as I raise my head over the edge of the cactus I see the brownish back hump in the dark just above my eye level. What is this?
A set of eyes raise just five yards from mine and look me straight in the eyes. I’m silhouetted by the moon fully and my shadow casts across the eyes of the animal. I see antlers as far as the eye can see. A white beard or spot on the neck confuses me. I’m charged and ready expecting to see a hog and here I find some kind of strange deer looking at me and five or six more shapes directly behind it. Chewing slowly on the corn kernels the beastie continues to stare into my eyes. I’m lost in those eyes and as I look at it snorts, spins and leaps about fifteen yards from where I’m standing. Stopping and turning it looks at me again and has disappeared into the night before I could even recognize what it was. A hurricane of adrenaline floods my system and shaking I sit down and continue to listen to the evening sounds.
At the pre-determined time between us on that chunk of land I stagger out of my brush blind moving much smoother this night than the previous. Still shaking and thinking about my visitor and wondering what the heck it was. Quietly stalking down the road I look for my earlier visitor but only find some cattle that look at me quizzically. Driving out of the hunting zone I bust right through another hunter’s set up. From a high to a despondent low when Cody gets back I apologize profusely but he lets me off the hook saying I came out when we agreed upon and that it was ok. Cody and Greg inform me that what I saw was a Pope and Young class Axis deer and on Brushy Hill Ranch exotics are free.
Rusty the ranch foreman brings out a video camera and has daylight pictures of this monster and I get ribbed because I had the shot when it stopped at 15 or so yards and turned I had that perfect shot everybody is looking for. Broadside, silhouetted in the moonlight, and I didn’t take it. Thinking the tags I carried in my pocket were inadequate and terrified of shooting a white-tail with my neophyte ways fully aware I’d rather be wistful then begging forgiveness. Add a book on deer to the need to buy list. Sitting at Nicks Birthday party I listen to some really great people telling me about their adventures. I’ll go home without a hog but the trip was well worth it. In the morning when I and the others drag out of the ranch the remainders of the party are obvious. Sneaking out in the morning light I plan on going back. Hopefully with some skills and some ideas on meeting up that monster prepared.