I can still remember the day when it all started. It was a cold winter morning hunting in 1972.
I was at my uncle’s ranch in south Texas with my uncle and some of my cousins. We awoke early in the morning to huddle around the stove to cook breakfast and also because it was the only heat in the cabin. Up until this point my hunting experience had been with a shotgun for dove and my trusty 22 for rabbits and small game. When we were getting ready to head to the field, my uncle handed me a rifle and asked if I knew how to use it.
Even though I had never shot a rifle with a scope before I confidently replied, “Yes sir. You put the cross where you want to shoot and pull the trigger”. He said, “that’s right” and off we headed to the pasture. Thank God for the new laws and the youth education courses. After dropping off other hunters at their blinds we arrived at the spot where I was going to hunt. Unlike the other enclosed blinds, when we arrived at the spot I was going to hunt there was nothing but a metal frame about six feet tall and a piece of plywood attached to the top.
My uncle instructed me to climb onto the platform. When I got on top he handed me the rifle and then tossed me a blanket and said, “wrap up in this to stay warm”.
Before he pulled away, I asked, “won’t the deer see me?” To which he replied, “no they never look up”. After a long cold wait for the sun to come up over the horizon I spotted a few deer working their way through the brush. As they cleared the brush I raised the gun to take a look. It was at this moment when I experienced my first lesson in deer hunting deer definitely do look up. Fortunately for me, a young buck stopped for a second look and I had my first deer.
Fast forward a few decades of hunting south and central Texas on a number of leases and numerous ranches with friends and family. I still had never seen the deer of my dreams. I had taken some nice deer with my largest being a 12 point buck. In 2001, we purchased a family ranch near Beeville. By now I had started a family of my own and had a son who has grown up to be an avid hunter. As he had grown older and started hunting alone, first in youth season and later in bow season, every deer season started the same way. He would come in from a hunt and tell me a story about the big buck he had seen.
And every year I would go to the blind and come back with pictures to confirm the big buck story and every year he would confirm that was the one that he had seen and I would tell him that wasn’t what I was looking for even though there were some nice deer. As the 2018 season approached we had high hopes for the season. Unfortunately, do to the abnormally high rain fall we had not been able to do our usual pre season scouting, shredding and brush clearing. When bow season arrived my son was off to the brush and as usual, about two weeks later the big buck story started. He said that he had seen a buck bigger than anything he had ever seen. He had taken some pictures through his range finder but the quality was so bad that you really couldn’t tell anything about the deer.
I chalked it up to this years monster buck story and didn’t give it much more thought. The evening before rifle season started I decided to sit in a blind near where my son had seen the buck. As the evening turned to darkness not much had happened. I had seen a lot of deer but no sign of the monster buck. Though, I had noticed one thing during my hunt that needed to be taken care of. On one of the roads there was a tree limb that was blocking the view to most of the road. I had brought a pair of cutters with me in case I needed to do some trimming.
When I exited the blind I completely forgot about trimming the tree. The next day on opening morning I decided to hunt the same blind again. As day started to break I had seen a few deer moving but nothing special. Then about 15 minutes after sun up I noticed movement down the road where I had forgotten to trim the tree. When I pulled my binoculars up to have a look I got quite a surprise. I couldn’t tell exactly how big the buck was, due to the limb in the way, but I saw enough to know that he was an exceptional deer. The deer never came out from behind the limb. He made a scrape and disappeared into the brush. I was so mad at myself for not trimming the limb the night before that I could have chewed it off with my teeth. This was the beginning of the rest of the story. When I exited the blind after the morning hunt I trimmed the branches from the road in case I was lucky enough to get a second chance. When I returned from my hunt my
son was also back and wanted to know how the hunt had gone. I told him about the mornings events and that I thought his deer sizing abilities had definitely improved. That evening I returned to the same blind and saw plenty of deer, but not the buck I had seen that morning.
This continued for the next 6 days. I was in the blind an hour before daylight and staying in it 8 to 9 hours a day. I was trying everything I could think of to not disturb the deer from his normal routine. I was walking to the blind, coming in from down wind and never got close to where I had seen the buck. I was so desperate that I had even started using my sons anti-scent products. After the sixth day without even a glimpse of the buck and another front headed down with more rain, I decided to abandon the hunt until the weather cleared.
When I returned home my wife told me that she was wanting to do some Christmas shopping in San Antonio. I suggested that we take off while the weather was bad and I couldn’t hunt.
The next day when we arrived home from our trip, my wife said that she wanted to go hunting. I had already spoke with the neighbors at the ranch and they were back home because we had another 5” of rain and everything was under water. She insisted that we go anyway, so off we went. The next morning I decided to put her in another blind that was in the same area hoping that one of us may see the buck.
After the morning hunt with no luck, I decided to check the scrape where I had seen the buck. There were two other scrapes on the road where I had seen different bucks and they had been back since the rain, but the scrape where I had seen the big buck had not been revisited. At this point I had pretty much given up hope of seeing the buck again. I figured that he had moved to another property or had been taken by another hunter.
When we returned to the house after the hunt, my wife decided to take a nap before the evening hunt. I was watching T.V. and had already put things away hoping to talk my wife out of the evening hunt because it had started to rain again. Around 3:00 I decided to check the weather again.
I walked to the back door and looked out. I saw a couple of doe and then something caught my eye along a brush line. Much to my surprise, it appeared to be the buck that I had been hunting. I ran to get my binoculars; and sure enough, it was him.
I went to get my gun and out the front door I went. When I peered around the corner of the house, sure enough he was still there. As I raised my rifle the buck noticed me and had turned looking directly at me. I moved the cross hairs to his shoulder and fired. I watched as the deer buckled and bolted off towards the brush. When I came back inside the house I was nervously pacing back and forth. My wife asked me what was going on- that she had heard a shot. I told her that I had shot the big buck. Not believing me, she said, “well let’s go get him”.
I told her that we needed to wait for a little while before we went to look for him. After about 20 minutes, that seemed like a lifetime, we went to the spot where I had shot the deer. We found a blood trail and about 30 yards from there l found the buck of my dreams. So after all of these years there are still lessons that I learned in pursuit of this deer.
First, as the young hunters you have taught mature and become more experienced in our sport, listen to what they have to say. Second, never give up on the buck of your dreams. Sometimes it takes a while, but you never know when or where he might show up. Finally, if your wife wants to go hunting, load up and get your butt to the brush as fast as you can.