October Surprise

By Chester Moore

Be careful where you sit in bow (or squirrel) season. Also be careful where you climb and when you crawl on the ground tracking that buck after the sun sets.

Although October brings with it deer hunting opportunities, it also has some hidden dangers, like copperheads.

These pit vipers are responsible for more bites than any other snake in Texas due to their abundance and extremely effective camouflage. People strolling through parks walk right on top of them and hunters paying no attention get hit every year. Sometimes the strike is the buttocks. Although the venom of the copperhead rarely kills, you probably will not get your hunting friend to help you treat such a wound.

Copperheads are of course not the only venomous snakes prowling the wild grounds of Texas in October. Cottonmouths and rattlesnakes are also on the move and although the chance of being bitten is low, so are coral snakes.

To avoid snakebite, hunters should remember a few important things. First off, look where you sit and step. Any spot can potentially hold a snake but areas around deadfall in the forest, rock crevices and anywhere near water is the most likely location.

If you are on property with bunches of small potholes filed with water keep your eyes out for cottonmouths as that is their preferred habitat. I have seen far more cottonmouths in puddles in the woods than I ever have in the marsh or deep swamp.

Something else to consider is all of the pit vipers move around more at night so be careful walking to your blind and also when trailing animals after hours. The last time I trailed a deer in South Texas at night, I found myself on my hands and knees just a few yards away from a monster western diamondback.

A less frightening but equally dangerous foe is heat exhaustion.

Temperatures can push 100 degrees in parts of Texas during October so make sure to get plenty of fluids. It is best to hydrate yourself early and often. Water is the best but mixing it up with electrolyte-supplying drinks such as Gator-Aid will get the job done as well.

Nothing frightens me more in the wilds of Texas than bees, particularly the deadly Africanized “killer” bees. These bees are spreading and have firmly established populations in the Brush Country and part of the Trans-Pecos and Hill Country.

The sting of one bee might only cause some pain (unless you’re allergic) but the wrath of a swarm could spell death.

In 2003, I had a truly frightening bee experience near Bracketville. While about to draw down on a turkey, I heard what I literally thought was a low-flying plane in the distance. All of a sudden, a shadow passed overhead and I looked up to see a massive swarm of bees less than 30 feet up. I remained calm, said a prayer, and watched the huge swarm pass by.

After talking with ranch officials, I learned the Africanized kind is present in the area, and thanked God the swarm did not sense how frightened I was.

Back in 1998, I guided my father on a hunt for red deer out in Kerr County. After bagging a big 8-pointer, we hoisted it into a strong oak and began to skin it. Suddenly, thousands of bees moved in, started buzzing all around us, and began to cover the animal. Dad backed his truck up under the deer, I cut the hoist down, and we moved more than a mile away.

Other stinging insects such as yellow jackets can be problematic around deer blinds where they have a tendency to inhabit just as you decide to go hunting. Always approach blinds cautiously and examine  them before the actual hunt and never under any circumstance approach a beehive.

Scorpions can deliver a nasty surprise to hunters who don't look where they sit.

Scorpions can deliver a nasty surprise to hunters who don’t look where they sit.

Scorpions are problematic for some hunters especially in the Hill Country and Brush County where they are super abundant. Always make sure to check your sleeping bag before climbing in. That seems to be the most popular place for a scorpion ambush.

Anything could happen in October so make sure to keep your wits about you as you hit the field. But the danger might not be one listed in this story.

I have a problem with bulls.

Yes, bulls, as in Elmer.

While TF&G Bowhunting Editor Lou Marullo and I hunted with Exotics Plus out near Mason, we ran into a bad bull. I was set up a few feet away from Marullo in a makeshift ground blind to film him (hopefully) shooting an axis deer. A couple of hours into the hunt a big, black bull came in and stood about 20 feet in front of me. This thing looked like the Anti-Christ with a toothache.

The beast struck an enraged pose as it fixated on me. I tried not to look scared, but it was too late. The bull had fire and brimstone raging in its eyes.

I did not know whether to remain still or stand up and let the bull know I was a human. Just then, Marullo chunked a few rocks at the thing and broke its concentration. The ugly thing soon walked off and I breathed a sigh of relief. I could have sworn I saw three 6′s on its hind end, but that could have been the heat getting to me.

After the hunt, I told him I was glad the bull did not kill me for more than one reason. I can see the obituary now: “Chester Moore: dove with great white sharks in the Pacific, milked rattlesnakes, played with jaguars, waded through piranha-infested waters in South America—killed by a hornless bull.”

I would like to tell you this was my only crazy bull encounter but it was not. It is one of several and for some reason it always happens when I have a bow in my hand.

There is something about bowhunting that brings out adventure and sometimes it is not the kind we are seeking.

Stay alert!