To people that have never hunted deer, they may be disillusioned by thinking all hunting is shooting and killing. They may assume all hunts are measured by the number and size of animals taken. Not so.
One of the major joys of hunting deer is to get away from the pressure of jobs, the noise of crowds and the everyday demands of society. I suppose some fishing is the same as hunting, but only when alone on a body of water and not in a crowded guide boat on a Texas bay, or certainly not in a hectic fishing tournament. The hunting to which I’m referring is not in a tight duck blind or crowded dove field when you have an audience. Deer hunting, specifically whitetail deer, is in most instances a solo excursion where a person is alone with nature.
Let me tell you about one of my hunts in December of 2009. I was invited to shoot doe and spikes on a big South Texas low fence ranch about half way between Carrizo Springs and Eagle Pass. This property was in eastern Maverick County. I was a guest of my nephews, Tye and Sam Gunn, and their dad, Henry. This ranch had and still has some of the best hunting on open range in the State. The hunters on the ranch and surrounding tracts are all on the same page regarding population control and selective culling. Over the years I have seen quality shoot through the ceiling with this place.
My duty was to shoot a doe or two on this trip and any spikes that were seen. I was also assigned another role to take note of any exceptional trophy bucks seen. The lease members each had their own blind where they regularly hunted and most had a tri-pod set up at likely spots. However, there were still hundreds of acres of basically un-hunted sections of the ranch. That is where I headed.
I went to an area of the property towards the northwest corner that saw little if any human activity. I got a folding chair, a machete, a shooting stick for a rifle rest and a bag of corn. I told my hosts I would be back after dark. I found a spot where a road through that section made an “L” curve. I took note of where the thickest brush was (along a creek drainage about 200 yards away) and was pleased the wind was puffing in the right direction as not to disturb any game down each leg of the road, or any deer approaching from what I suspected was the bedding spot.
I slung corn by hand down each road leg being careful not to have it too close to where I was going to set up. I put my chair behind a fallen mesquite tree in a little granjeno bush that more or less gave me cover in all directions. The next thing I did was walk back into the brush to hack off several black brush limbs. These still had dark green leaves attached and I stacked them in front of me by weaving them in and out of the mesquite limbs of the fallen tree. The finished product was perfect.
The wait began. I know people that hunt deer can relate to my story now. When I first get into the field, it takes about five minutes for me to decompress. It seems my breathing slows, my senses sharpen and a different type of awareness takes hold. I’m at peace. My mind uncoils and drifts. I tune in to the environment to catch flickers of movement and subtle changes in wildlife behaviors that begin to surround me. Where there are no birds, raccoons or rabbits to distract me, I often think about past hunting incidents with friends and relatives. Many times I reflect on the BIG PICTURE. There is a lot of God in Mother Nature. This is what keeps drawing me back.
Well, the magic time hit and deer started to sneak out. An unusual racked middle aged buck was feeding to my left. He had very unique antlers so I slowly set aside my 243 and picked up my camera. He got right on top of me and I was afraid he would see me but at the last minute, he turned back and never alerted.
When I glanced down the other road angle, my heart skipped. There stood old Macho Man. He was an eye catcher for sure! As I was slowly pivoting my set up for a good photo attempt of this big guy, a movement caught my eye about five feet in front of me. A western diamondback rattlesnake was crawling towards me!
What happened next took place in about three seconds. As my eyes bulged out I thought of my rifle, but perhaps a mesquite club (long handle) would work better. I thought about jumping out of my chair. If I jumped, what direction is best without getting tangled up in my brush hide? Should I remain frozen while holding my breath? At that instant, the reptile started to angle at a slight tangent to the side of my chair. It was crawling purposefully from Point A to Point B, just traveling along I suppose looking for a wood rat to strike. Maybe it was looking for a mate. It was crawling slowly with little side to side exaggerated movement. It had its head slightly raised and its rattlers lifted. It was just cruising minding its own business. I remained frozen and tried to mind my own business. If the snake was looking at me, I wanted him to think I was a true rattlesnake lover and that there was no death in my heart! I’ll leave you alone if you leave me alone! The snake was never agitated and never got into a strike position. His closest point came when he crawled by my chair. My guess is he was three feet from me. Three feet is one thing while looking at a yard stick but much shorter when looking at a rattlesnake!
Well, that strategy worked. As it went by me I thought of my camera so I snapped one photo. When it was gone, I hate to admit it but my goose bumps and tingly feeling remained awhile. It helped that deer were still out soI refocused on the big buck. I got a good photo of it.
Although there were a slew of doe out picking up corn, I let my rifle lay. I did not wish to spook the big guy. I already had enough excitement. All and all, this was a very satisfying hunt with a surprise thrown in for good measure.
PS – Not until I saw the second photo of the big deer on my large computer screen did I realize a coyote was in the frame (click the photo, you’ll see). I was focused so much on the big deer I never saw the predator. Here was another surprise.