It might sound strange to a non-hunter that I think he's beautiful, but the truth is that he is a magnificent creature. His death, by my hand, is honored by the fact that he will help feed my family and that I will remember the wonderful time I had on my trophy hunt - which just happened to be my 40th birthday present from Angie.
In fact, the entire weekend was perfect, in every way.
Angie and I arrived at Las Tejanas Ranch thirty miles outside of Laredo at about noon on Friday. The drive from the front gate to the lodge took what seemed like fifteen minutes. While we drove, we noticed acres and acres of mesquite brush, cactus and other hardy desert plants. The country is foreboding, but also beautiful in its harshness. Las Tejanas Ranch encompasses over 1,000 acres of this rough terrain, surrounded by high fence and sports whitetail, feral hogs, and javelina. The owner, Jim Winch, met us along the way to show us to the lodge.
Once at the lodge, we settled in. He had lunch waiting and Angie and I unpacked our gear and ate a little bit, all while taking in the sights of the lodge, it's decor of old pictures and signs and antlers everywhere. Most of the antlers were castoffs, but several were taken as part of harvests and Jim had a story for all of them. Jim ended up being one of those very kind souls wrapped in a tough exterior hardened by a life of physical labor and the Vietnam War. He also was quite sentimental and had a number of items and pictures from his past, each of which also had a very interesting story. In fact, when we weren't hunting, we enjoyed Jim's stories, or those of his cook for the weekend, Jerry.
After we settled in and had lunch, we went to a clearing on the property and sighted in my gun. After nine shots, we were confident that when it was time to shoot the bullet would go where it was aimed.
We returned to the house and decided it was time to get in the blind. Angie planned on sitting in the blind with us for this afternoon session, video camera in hand, in case there was any action to capture. We got into our cammo and into our snake chaps and headed to the blind in Jim's 4x4 gas powered mule. We got into the blind around 3:30pm and got ready.
Two does came in and we watched them eat, get spooked, and return to eat some more. I've seen many does before, but I was still mesmerized. The are so graceful and skittish, it is fun to watch them. I think Angie enjoyed it, too. We hoped for a buck, but we only saw those two until darkness.
That evening, we met Jerry and he prepared a wonderful meal of tamales, rice, beans, and tortillas. It was delicious and Jerry added to Jim's stories. We sat outside talking, smoking a cigar, and enjoying the campfire under the stars.
The next morning, Angie slept in while Jim and I headed to a ground blind. Although the days were in the low 90's, the morning was surprisingly cold. We sat and watched a doe and her yearling buck come in and eat. Another pair of does came in, as well, so we had four beautiful deer in front of us, but no shooters. The mom and son pair got spooked and left, and we watched the doe pair a while longer. A javelina joined them until they all ran off. We didn't see anything else, so we abandoned the blind at around 9am.
We returned to the lodge and had a wonderful breakfast of bacon and eggs and the left overs from dinner the night before. Jim kept saying that the afternoon session would be the one where we scored the buck I was hoping for. I had no reason to doubt him, so I was confident, as well.
After a nap, we left for another blind. This elevated box blind was located at the junction of six trails and Jim instructed me to keep my eyes out on the four in front of us...one had a feeder and he had scattered corn on the others. For several hours, all I did was count dove. Had I had my shotgun, I could have had a nice meal and there were many dove flying around or landing and eating the corn. At this point, I was getting a little frustrated. We hadn't seen a single deer this session and it was getting close to time to go in. But, that's when it happened.
In a whisper, Jim goes, "Scott. There's one to the right. It's a doe."
I raise my binoculars, but I really didn't need them as the deer was within 100 yards. A buck had walked into the middle of the road to eat. It presented a perfect broadside shot. I whisper back, "that's no doe. It's a buck."
Jim replies, "Shoot it". I hear "DON'T shoot it".
I look again through my binoculars...it looks pretty big to me, so I don't understand his instruction. I ask, "is it a shooter?"
"Yes. Shoot it when you are ready. Just don't bang your gun."
I put my binoculars down and move to get my gun. Maybe because Jim warned me not to do it, I bang my gun on the window sill. The deer hears the clang and looks at me. I remain motionless and the deer looks away. I slowly move my gun into position, resting on the ledge of the open window. I am starting to breath very erratically and the buck fever starts taking over. I look through my scope and it is all blurry. I cannot see the dear clearly, and the crosshairs are invisible. I do notice that he is a very nice buck with a big rack, but that just makes my breathing even worse. I blink to clear my vision and the sight picture becomes clear.
I take deep breath after deep breath to slow my breathing and my heart rate down. As I do this, the crosshairs on the scope move less and less. I finally have gotten myself under control and the scope is still. I exhale, hold my breath, hear Jim say "don't jerk the trigger", and slowly squeeze. The gun fires. I believe that my shot is true. The deer jumps straight up in the air, lands, and bolts into the brush. Jim says, "I think you got him".
I breath again...