I’ve had the distinct pleasure of growing up in the Texas Hill Country. To say the people are nice would be like saying Jesus was just alright (with me). If you haven’t had the opportunity to travel to my part of the world, put it on your bucket list. A good portion of the aforementioned uber-friendly folks earn extra money during the fall by leasing their land to big city hunters. Keep in mind that a big city is any city with more than two Dairy Queens . . .
Every fall, thousands of hunters make the migration to the Hill Country. They journey (exact definition unknown) to prime pieces of land carefully tended by their proud owners to facilitate incoming hunters. Come opening weekend, the area sounds likes a war zone, as everyone claims their trophy. Rarely is a shot taken at more than 100 yards, most are under a feeder and EVERYONE wears full camo and scent masking chemicals.
Eventually, the gunfire dies down and the locals take to the field to harvest meat and cull non-trophy animals. Sometimes they use the same blind their hunters used. Truth be told, it’s not out of the norm for locals to take a shot from an ATV or bathroom window. They might make an effort to wear a camo shirt, but nobody I know will be caught dead covering himself in deer piss.
I grew up hunting with my friends in this, uh, casual, manner. I don’t think I could conceal myself unless my life depended on it. I own exactly one set of camo pants and shirt. I enjoy stalking, but I’m not particularly good at it. I normally hunt for meat; I like to make that process as easy as possible.
My coworker Dave (names changed to protect the innocent) is a bit different that way. The avid Oklahoma outdoorsmen grew up hunting and fishing. He’s got a sixth sense for the wind and weather, and an encyclopedic knowledge of most of the ungulates in the lower 48. Dave and I enjoy swapping stories at work, and keep each other sane while living in a city. When I scheduled some harvesting at a family friend’s place, I asked if Dave to join me.
The family friend is a Hill Country native. He moved to the big city to make his fortune as an engineer for a large petroleum company—and then returned to retire. He bought 50 acres, built a house, and now spends most of his days reading. His ex-big city wife loves looking at the local animals. So he erected a feeder in his back yard exactly 50 yards from his back porch. He keeps it stocked year round and puts a water trough out during the dry times.
Each morning, he watches the local fauna come in to enjoy food and water while he drinks coffee. Being a local boy, my family friend believes in harvesting. He takes a fat doe every year that provides enough deer meat for the season. Recently however, he’s started seeing more and more Black Buck Antelope. Beautiful animals, but extremely territorial and prone to destroying shrubbery. in short, he sees them as a pest.
His invite highlighted the fact that I could take one of these if I liked. Black buck is quite delicious, and I was salivating at the thought.
Dave and I met at my ranch at some ungodly hour before heading out to harvest. Dave hopped out of his Tahoe decked from head to toe in long underwear and camo. My bad. I’d told him that my friend had a really nice hunting blind—and no more. Accidentally on purpose. We made the short drive out to my friend’s place, arriving about 20 minutes before the sun started peeking out.
Hot coffee awaited us. The land owner said we needed to be quiet; his wife was still asleep. We chatted for a bit. Dave was antsy to get to the blind. I asked my friend if we could get set up, and he made for the back door. Dave grabbed his gun, binocs and extra ammo. We took five steps and then my friend pointed to the floor and told us to grab some pillows and get set up. Dave looked mortified. He had never been in a 3000 square foot climate controlled blind before!
We opened the windows, got settled in, and watched the sun reveal our target area. Dave was even more shocked to find a feeder at 50 yards with 3 does and a buck already waiting for feeding time.
Right around the time the sun started to show itself, we had at least eight whitetail under the feeder and a black buck doe on the way in. Once the feeder went off, we saw the number of whitetail grow by four, but did not see any more black buck. My friend (sitting in his recliner behind us) told us that we could take anything we wanted except the whitetail buck he was saving for next year.
As I lined up on the black buck doe, Dave nudged me to look out at 200 yards. Headed at a slow trot was a mature black buck. Totally dominant and unafraid, he covered the distance in less than a minute and quickly butted his way to the front of the line.
Dave had only ever seen pictures of a black buck, and was quite awestruck. All confidence and muscle, they look like a coiled spring ready to go off at a moment’s notice. None too subtly, Dave announced with a laugh that Mr. Black Buck sure would look good on his wall. My friend never missed a beat and told us to take him. I nodded at Dave and told him to go ahead and take the shot.
I’m pretty sure I saw his eyes get a little wet at the prospect. He wasted no time in lining up his shot, exhaled, and squeezed the trigger. We’d all taken care to wear earplugs, so the blast wasn’t uncomfortable. We watched the buck run 20 yards and collapse in a heap. Dave made a perfect lung shot that managed not to damage any bone or muscle.
Dave and I made my friend and his wife breakfast, and then headed off to my ranch to divide his kill. I took my half of the deer and let Dave buy me lunch on Monday. It may not be everyone’s idea of hunting, but it wasn’t a bad way to spend a weekend if you ask me.