OPEN SEASON by Reavis Z. Wortham

Of Bucks and Bacon

W rong Willie, Big Jake and I arrived at the Quanah lease with high expectations. The ranch we’re working on is alive with game, and we all wanted different things.

Big Jake was after a distinctive eight-point that’d been hanging around his stand. I’d seen the same buck two weeks earlier. His antlers rose high before spreading beyond the deer’s ears and Big Jake wanted him for his wall.

“I’ve never shot a buck that looks like that.”

“You’ve never shot a buck,” I reminded my 6-foot 8-inch son-in-law. In order to meet his eye and establish my age-appropriate dominance, I had to tilt my head up and squint to see him up there.

“Well, then. You don’t have to say it like that.”

While Big Jake wanted the big buck, I’d seen a 12-point near my stand, but didn’t hold out much hope for success. He’d only shown himself once, during the rut when lust had overcome common sense, and he was chasing a doe across a plowed field.

I wanted either a Lifetime Buck, or a doe for the freezer—nothing in between.

We were out of venison, and the War Department frequently reminded me that I was going to the lease and coming back with nothing but a lot of mud on the truck and sandburs stuck in my pants. She put it this way. “Hey, Great White Hunter, forget the horns and shoot us some meat.”

She’s direct that way.

Wrong Willie on the other hand had his own ideas of a successful weekend. First, he wanted to get away from the house—check. Second, he wanted to eat bacon. Jan won’t let him have bacon at home, so he makes up for it on the lease.

I was settled into my pop-up ground blind on Friday evening. Instead of hunting where I usually went, I let Big Jake have my old location because that’s where “High 8” lived. I settled into the new surroundings, laid the .243 across my knees and looked up to see High 8 standing right in front of me, not 40 yards away, offering a perfect shot.

He was Big Jake’s deer, so I passed, cataloging that evening two six-points, a four-point, and two dozen does, all too young to shoot, three coveys of quail, and one big gobbler that flickered through a shelter belt without offering me a shot.

Shelter belts are common in that part of Texas. Two rows of trees separated by about 20 yards of open land were planted during the Dust Bowl Days to block the wind. The belts defining individual pastures have aged well to provide excellent shelter and highways for game animals.

Big Jake only saw a spike, but High 8 had drifted past Willie’s rifle muzzle just before dark.

Willie fried acres of bacon Saturday morning, and we set out for our stands once again, burping hardwood smoke. I’d switched places with Big Jake so he could shoot High 8.

I settled in before dawn. As the sun rose, High 8 came by with a six-point in tow. He stopped to offer me a shot he probably knew I wouldn’t take and left. By that time I think High 8 liked the smell of bacon coming off my clothes.

Three coveys of quail moved by that morning, all driven away by does, but none that I wanted to shoot. I was waiting for a big, mature doe instead of a skinny little girl.

Back at lunch, Willie eyed the cooler. “What are we having?”

“Not bacon.”

“I have bread. We can have bacon sandwiches.”

“We had bacon for breakfast this morning, and we’ll have it again tomorrow. No.”

“Well, I like bacon, as much as I liked seeing High 8 come by again this morning.” 

We high-fived to taunt Big Jake who sighed. “I only saw that spike again.”

Willie settled for a ham sandwich. “Take my stand tonight. You can shoot him then.”

We were back in the stands by three that afternoon. Willie switched with Jake, and I moved again. High 8 came by, and I began to worry that we were forming some kind of relationship. A big doe finally stepped into the open. I took the shot, and my phone immediately lit up with texts from Big Jake.

Did you shoot High 8?

No. A doe.

See High 8?


Willie texted. What did you shoot? High 8 is in front of me.

Are you eating a bacon sandwich?


The next morning found Willie frying all the bacon he had left, which was two pounds. “Bacon sandwiches this morning.”

I frowned. “All we have left is that dry foo-foo artisan bread full of rosemary that your wife bought. It’s inedible. Tell her men like plain white bread, and besides, there’s no tomatoes, lettuce, or mayonnaise.”

“Bacon on bread.”

“It won’t be toasted.”

He slapped several strips onto the foul bread. “It’s a new kind of bacon sandwich.”

Burping bacon and rosemary in my stand which was again in a different location, I watched High 8 wander past. I gave him a friendly wave and Willie saw him an hour later. Big Jake, back in his original stand, enjoyed a spar between a four and six-point. 

My son-in-law is learning about life as my arteries harden.

I’ll probably die from Wrong Willie’s bacon and leave High 8 in my will to Big Jake. It’s a shame, because I’m beginning to like that guy…High 8, I mean.


Email Reavis Wortham at ContactUs@fishgame.com


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