My best memories hunting is not the kill. My best memories are the moments preparing, the time with my dad, family, and friends. The time spent preparing a meal from a harvest and sharing it with others. Witnessing the emotional rollercoaster of a buddy’s hunt. The elated since of accomplishment all around me. The days hiking, scouting, and viewing wildlife. With each outing comes a memory, a moment, a juncture in time, a point that should be appreciated for what it is. No ego, no opinion, no comparison. Just a reflection of the journey. Hunting is a culture, a heritage, and a lifestyle. Here are a few of those stories and reflections:
Santa Came Early
Christmas Eve I roll out of bed early, loaded from the previous day’s hunt we head out to the land in hopes for an encounter of a buck that has been eluding me since the season opener. No fences, no gates, no landmarks mark the boundaries just a gps file with a few red lines that tell me I am in the right place. I park the truck, grab my gear and start on a short hike, about three quarters of a mile as the crow flies to an old mound that towers over the flat landscape. Here is where I set up my cover to wait as the sun begins to brighten the horizon. No feeders, no food plots, just a small watering hole upwind about 50 yards. To my back, an expanse of grass land intermingled with native flora. The remainder is the thickest mix of thorny plants impenetrable by the human species. It is an area I have been watching, it is an area of a buck that has been frequenting off and on over the last five months. As I sit for hours glassing, a single moment led me to a shimmer of hope as the sun glistened off some light-colored antlers. As I look through my scope I begin to evaluate the deer in my sights. One, two, three…… ten, twelve, thirteen. It slowly strolled through the patch work of trees. It’s strong stature, and unique antlers ensures me I am looking at the deer I have been dreaming about seeing in person for weeks after weeks long grinds, passing up deer that maintain a stable presence, and bucks that have not seen their prime. A flood of emotion begins running through my veins as I slowly get into position to take the perfect shot.
I arrive at first light, on the side of a small ridge just off a creek bottom. Cool crisp morning, I set up in an area that makes for a natural ground blind I begin to peer through the evenly spaced pines for the ever-slightest movement. First time visiting this area, however it has a familiar feel to it, just down the way are the trails I have been pounding out miles and camping over the summer. Between the squirrels rummaging for their winter provisions, leaves floating down with each breeze, and the way the light shines through and shadows, my head stays on a swivel. Internally, I am battling an unfamiliarity and belonging with the means to which I have landed in this spot. A sagacity of uneasiness. Wrestling with the internal question of ownership and belonging. As I struggle with coming to terms of the right of possession my eyes are diverted to a natural shooting lane. I draw my rifle and peering through the scope a doe begins to slip through. With a blink, it disappears in the network of wood columns that make up the surroundings. Like a ghost it fades beyond the human reaches.
Days upon days scouring the horizons and fields of the rolling grassland’s patchworked thickets we fail to turn up a mature deer. We have seen many, but our goal of a mature animal continues to elude us. I am after one that has seen his spell, the peak of it being. One that has stood the test of time through the seasons of past. As I nestle into a small bush. I pound the ground making a thud that permeates through the crisp clean air. Scraping the ground with a fury to warn all near that this is my territory. With a clash of a past harvest, my antlers clash together interlocked in a beat that warns all that I am the king. It is my domain and I am making it know to all around. The air is ripe with the scent of estrous. With a second clash in the distance, I look up to witness the battle I am trying to create. Two bucks from separate corners in the meadow charge each other and lock antlers with a battle for dominance. As fast as it began, it ended. The victor bowed its chest with antlers held high scanned the meadow, to say who is next. Caught up in the moment I watched as it calmed its nerves and trotted out in pride.
Fruit of the Labor
Sweat rolling down the inside of my pant leg the last t-post has been driven into the hard-black clay soil that has been baking in the Texas heat for the last several months. The hog fence is tied in and the corn goes into the barrel of a newly placed feeder. The placement is along an old seismic lane that is now a freshly brush-hogged sendero that cuts through mesquite, granjeno, huisache, catclaw, blackbrush, knitted so tightly that crawling is the only method of passage. The placement of this feeder has come over countless hours patterning the movements of the local wildlife. The placement is perfectly positioned to intercept several natural game trails and small depression that tends to hold water after a good summer shower. The narrow lane gives the security of the thicket with openness for the hunter to take a clean ethical shot. The local wildlife is skittish after decades of poaching and mismanagement. Seeing a deer is common but it is typically just a matter of seconds, their flight zone tends to rival those in the highest of pressure area. Excited I place a game camera to limit my exposure to the area. I load up, leaving no trace but the artificial feed tree and move out of the area with nothing more than future anticipation.
His First hunt
Nikes, jeans, t shirt, and a fleece camo jacket, he stands by the door, waiting in anticipation with pure excitement radiating from his being as I gather our gear. We are going camping as he says his good byes. At five years old, my son, contributes hunting with the same reverence as camping. They are equal, not one above the other. Just a pure appreciation for the outdoors and wild things. We arrive with three hours left of daylight and make our way to the stand. Quieter than he ever has been, he patiently scans the area for wildlife. He spots insects by the dozen, hogs, and birds of all sorts. He only knows what he has heard, he knows to be quiet, be slow in his actions, and keep an eye out for everything. With each scan of his monocular he gently sets it on the shelf. He won’t eat is packet of goldfish because it is too noisy. He saves his juice, so he doesn’t have to pee. He had been waiting for this day forever. We were hunting.
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