Swann Ranch

This was yet another TYHP hunt.  On this hunt, we were hunting for whitetail does, spikes, and hogs.  Since it wasn’t deer season yet, we were using the ranch owner’s cull permits.  I had applied for about 60 hunts this year, and it’s not surprising to me that I got picked for three of them.

We drove for 3 hours to get to a restaurant/gas station in Putnam where we met with the other hunters and the huntmasters.  Once everybody was there, we drove to Swann Ranch.  It was a 30 minute drive, but only because we had to drive very slowly because of the bumpy dirt roads.  But I’m not complaining– bumpy dirt roads are a symbolic part of hunting.

When we finally got to the ranch house we were staying in, which was a metal barn with a concrete floor, I looked to the right and saw a pen full of deer.  It turns out it was the breeding pen for Swann ranch– they have a very successful one going on there.

As uncomfortable as I made the lodging sound, it was actually very nice in the end.  We filled up air mattresses and threw sleeping bags on top of them, and it was actually very nice.  Other people had brought elevated cots with sleeping bags, and one of my friends had actually brought a little enclosed cot for himself.  I was pretty jealous of him.

On the drive in, it had started to drizzle a bit, and there were some very heavy clouds in the distance.  The other kids and I were starting to hear some thunder.  And then it started to rain.  At first, it was just a moderate rain.  Some of us, including me, went to show off the waterproofness of our coats and jackets.  But then, it started to really rain.  And I mean, REALLY.  It poured so hard that evening.  There was lightning and thunder all around us.  One of the lights outside blew out.  And it rained long into the night.  It sounded like someone was on top of the roof with a machine gun.

I was way too excited to sleep, so I sat on my mattress/sleeping bag awake for a long time.  I saw 4 deer just outside the barn– three does and an 8-point buck.

We were woken up really early the next morning.  Breakfast consisted of Pop Tarts and other plastic-wrapped, bad-for-you, delicious pastries.  We went into the stand with our guide, Billy.  We were hunting over a feeder.  That particular spot was supposed to be full of pigs– but we didn’t see a single thing.  It turned out we were making too much noise that morning.

When we got back, we had a late breakfast of pancakes, egg/bacon casserole, and biscuits.  I was starving, so I ate a lot.

After we ate, I grabbed my slingshot, and my friend did the same, and we went and shot rocks off the edge of a small cliff.  The slingshots were pretty powerful, which I found out in great detail when I accidentally shot myself in the hand.  It drew blood.  My hand hurt really bad, so I went with another friend and looked at the deer in the pen next to the barn we slept in.  These were the deer Swann Ranch had for their breeding program.  There were a few nice bucks in the pens.

We changed guides for the evening.  We went out to the stand fairly early at 3:30.  Our guide, whose name was Raymond, poured out some deer corn in front of the blind, even though there was already a feeder.  But that seemed to pay off.

We sat and waited and glassed through our binoculars for a long time.  We didn’t see a single thing, but we heard a couple gunshots.  Then, all of a sudden, we heard an outbreak of yipping and barking from our left.  It was coyotes.  Those were on the hit list!  I whispered to my dad, “If any of those come in here, I’m going to shoot them dead, because they’ll scare away the deer anyways.”

However, I didn’t get that chance.

I was staring through my binoculars at a tree when my dad slowly reached over and grabbed my thigh.  One of the huntmasters had told us the night before that when he was a kid, he was taught to grab his partner’s thigh because that was under the stand’s windowsill.  That way, the deer wouldn’t see the movement as much.  I knew what was coming.  I looked away from my binoculars and saw a young doe coming through the trees at a fair pace.  She kept looking over her shoulder in the direction we had heard the coyotes yapping their heads off.  They had scared her in to the feeder.  Plus, when we made a bit of noise, she didn’t give us much thought– she was more worried about the coyotes.

I was hyped up.  I could not get steady with my .270.  My guide told me to calm down and take a few breaths, and that I had plenty of time.

Instead of going to the feeder, the deer, strangely enough, went to the corn scattered on the ground.  I tried, and tried, and tried to get steady– and I did.  I pulled the trigger.

BOOM!  The doe ran straight for the bushes.  I didn’t want to lose this deer.  And it didn’t look like I was going to– the deer went straight down in the bushes.

“Thank you Lord!!!” I yelled.  I had prayed for this for a long time.  And he had answered my prayers once again.

Our guide went out and moved the deer to the road where we could find it more easily in the oncoming darkness.  When he got back, he said:

“That’s a young buck.”

I was scared to death, but he said it would count as a spike.  Sweet relief.

We waited some more.  I was staring the tree through my binoculars again when I got my thigh grabbed again.  There were a couple of does that had come in through the bushes.  But they wouldn’t come out and give me a clear shot.  Later, my dad said it was because our guide had had to go out and move the deer, and that had spread scent all over the ground, so the deer wouldn’t some any farther than the bushes.

We didn’t see anything else that evening except for a very large skunk.  I looked at the stars with my binoculars while we waited to be picked up.

On the way back, the ranch owner lent me a spotlight to look for deer on the side of the road.  I was looking, looking, looking and wasn’t seeing anything.  Then I saw a HUGE amount of deer to our left!  Then I looked to the right and saw the barn.  It was the deer in the breeding pen.

After we got back and got the deer skinned and cleaned and the meat in the meat freezer, everyone told the story of their day.  Only one person hadn’t shot anything.  It had been a very good day.

I slept a lot better that night because I was already so tired.  We woke up early again.  I somehow forgot to eat anything.  We tried a different stand that morning.  I looked at birds for a while– and then we heard something.  On top of the blind.  What the heck?  We still don’t know.

We sat for a while longer.  I was watching the birds when we saw a few deer coming in.  My heart started pounding again.  They didn’t come in to the feeder, though– they went around a clump of trees.  We couldn’t see them, but I heard them snorting.  That was an alarm call.  But we didn’t think that we had spooked them.  Anyways, they ran off back into the forest, except for one.  That one stayed on the treeline for a second and looked at us.  Then we were saved by the bell– well, maybe I should call it the grinding rasp of the feeder going off.  This brought the deer right back in.  My guide loaded the gun carefully and quietly and handed it to me.  I slowly got the barrel up on the windowsill.  I just had to get the forearm of my rifle up, and I could shoot them.  But the evil, unknown hunt-spoiler to our left spooked them.  We don’t know what that was, but it was certainly a pain in the butt.

That was all we saw for the morning.  So we got down from the stand and waited for the ranch owner’s son to come and pick us up.  I actually got to drive the ATV all the way back to the barn.

So I went home happy.  I’m still applying for TYHP hunts by the truckload.  I want to go hunting again really badly.  I got a shotgun for my birthday, so I would take a bird hunt as willingly as a deer hunt.

We tried the liver of this deer, but didn’t soak it long enough to get all the blood out of it, so it was not very good.  Next time, we need to soak it longer.

The buttonbuck I shot at Swann Ranch

The buttonbuck I shot at Swann Ranch

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