The Spike

On October 28, I packed my bag and we got everything in the truck to go on another TYHP hunt. For those of you who don’t know, Texas Youth Hunting Program is an organization that gets kids out into the field for not very much money. It’s pretty awesome and I have been on a lot of hunts with them. Check it out at tyhp.org.

Anyways, this hunt was on the Middle Valley Ranch in Schleicher county, Texas. It’s close to El Dorado.

We were driving for about 3 hours. When we were almost there, I was continually staring out the window, trying to figure out what the land we would hunt was going to look like. However, this turned out to be pointless as the land was constantly changing from flat with  thick brush to rolling hills. The place we finally stopped at was somewhere between the two.

We set up out giant 240 square foot tent, which took about an hour, and then we had dinner. Dinner was an amazing stew made by the Huntmaster. Once that was over, the Huntmaster went over what we could and couldn’t shoot.

We were allowed to shoot mature whitetail does and spikes. We could shoot hogs, coyotes and wild cats too. We could shoot two deer.

Interestingly, while the Huntmaster was telling us all this, we were serenaded by a rattlesnake ten yards away constantly rattling at us.

We got to bed late. I didn’t get to sleep until even later. But we were up early by 5:30 the next morning.

We had a few snacks and headed out into the blind around 6:15. It was very dark and pretty cold. We sat there for about ten minutes when I thought I saw something moving to our left. I tapped the guide’s shoulder and said, “Is that a deer?

It sure was. That deer was ten yards away from us and didn’t care at all. He just walked on to the feeder in front of us as if we didn’t exist.

We could barely see and had to wait another 20 minutes before we could really see the deer. We still couldn’t see well enough to figure out what it wasn’t, though. All we saw were small antlers.

Unfortunately, he decided the right time to leave was five minutes before it was light enough to tell what he was.

We saw nothing for the rest of the morning except doves and a woodpecker. We found out later that the feeder the buck had come to was actually empty. That probably wasn’t helpful.

We headed back around 10. When we picked up the guy we had dropped off, he had two deer on the ground.

We went back to camp and cleaned his deer. One was a doe, one was a spike. Then we had pancakes and sausage for breakfast. It was really good, especially because I had worked up an appetite in the blind.

After that, we went to the shooting range. My brother and I took three shots total and we were done, since the rifles were on and we were accurate enough.

Then we got to go back to camp and relax for a little while. I was tired and had no complaints whatsoever about that. We had lunch and rested for about an hour before heading out into the field again.

This time, we were at a different blind. It was the one the other guy had killed two at that morning. It was warmer than the morning, the wind was perfect and in our faces, and the feeder was 50 yards away. I was ready.

We watched birds and squirrels for about two hours. Then a buck came in. He was a small 8 point. We watched him for a while. It was pretty cool.

Then it got interesting.

Ten yards away from us, a huge buck burst out of the brush and trotted to the feeder. He was a tall, perfectly symmetrical 10 point. 

He was really nice. The pictures don’t show it all that well. I really wanted that buck, but we weren’t  allowed to take him. It was fun to watch, though.

Later, another buck came in. This one was another 8 point, but he was much bigger than the first.


It was about half an hour until we had to stop shooting, and by now I had figured I wouldn’t get anything that night. That’s about when we saw a spike.

The feeder was 50 yards in front of us. This deer was about 250 yards away and far to the left. I hoped he would come in to the feeder, but since the big bucks were there, he wasn’t planning to do so. He moved in the general direction of the feeder, but very, very, slowly. Then he moved the other way agin. I knew he wouldn’t make it to the feeder before the end of shooting time.

However, he had a change of mind. He didn’t go to the feeder, but he did come a lot closer to us. He stayed far to the left of the feeder, but walked back toward the trees and past us. I quickly pulled my gun out of the blind window it was in and put it through the far left window. It was a bad position. I would be shooting across the whole blind. It wasn’t very steady at all. But then it was only about a hundred yards away, which is an easy shot, so I was going to try anyways.

I put the crosshairs on the spike. My heart was pounding so hard, the crosshairs went completely off the deer every time my heart beat. I’m surprised I didn’t break a rib with it going like that.

My mom was sitting on the left side of the blind, so she was closest to the end of the barrel. She said she could see the tip of the barrel moving, twitching, with my heartbeat. Then she saw it move less and less until it stopped moving, as I practiced my breathing routine. That’s when I pulled the trigger.

The deer went down on the spot. He didn’t run even a foot. Perfect shot.

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We took it back to camp and cleaned it. He weighed 77 pounds without the guts.

I got to bed late that night, around midnight, and I was right back up at 5:30 the next morning. We got into another blind around 6. We saw one buck close to us and a few does 300 yards out. I would have taken that shot, but we weren’t allowed to shoot over 150.

After that; we headed back to camp, packed up and left. It was a pretty good weekend for me. My brother got a deer too, so we headed home with a cooler full of venison.

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Chaparall WMA

This hunt was really close to the border, only 75 or 50 miles away from Mexico. It was about a 3 hour drive. This one was a TPWD (Texas Parks and Wildlife) hunt, where you enter for a drawing through the state organization. The hunt was at Chapparal Wildlife Management Area.
We got to the camping section of the WMA and set up our tent. Most of the people weren’t there yet because they were standby hunters. The way you do that is simply by showing up and putting your name on a list so that, if someone who has drawn for the hunt doesn’t show up, you get to hunt. However, on some of the TPWD hunts, like this one, standby hunters get in no matter what, as long as there’s space. On this one all the standby hunters got in.
We had hotdogs around the campfire that night and went to bed fairly early.
The next morning we got up at about 7 o’clock, had breakfast and went to the check-in station. There they made sure everybody had showed up and gave them their hunting zones. It was about 3 o’clock by the time everything was finished and we went out into the stand. I would be hunting by myself for the first time ever.
The stands were elevated off the ground, but they were only half blinds– the edges only came up to my waist.
I got settled in and waited.
Around 4:30, a buck showed up. It was a little forkhorn. We could only shoot does, so I just watched him. But then he left and a doe showed up. She was really cautious. I had a hard time getting my gun up without scaring her off, but I managed it. I put my crosshairs on her shoulder, or tried to, at least. I was still trying to get steady when she decided she had had enough and left.
There were three senderos, which are long, straight cuts in the thick brush to shoot down. That doe had shown up in the one straight in front of me. There was also one to my left and to my right. Once I was eating a sandwich and I looked to my right and I could have sworn I saw a deer moving into the brush. I got my gun up, but it didn’t come back out, if it had even been there in the first place.
Later, things really got exciting. One, then two, then six deer, all at once, came out of the sendero on the right. Trying to be fast and quiet at the same time, I moved my gun so that it was pointing to the right, but I was a little late. The deer were close enough so that, if I tried to put the crosshairs on one of them, I would have to stand up. That would scare them off for sure.
Then one more came out of the brush. This one was far enough to shoot. It reached a bush, came into view from behind it, and I pulled the trigger.
The gun roared and all the deer took off, except for two not-so-smart fawns that stayed staring at me. They didn’t run until I got out of the blind.
Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single drop of blood. My dad showed up and helped me look, but… Nothing.
We went back to camp and asked one of the game wardens what to do. He said I had probably hit a spot on the point of the shoulder where it would be a clean passthrough and not hit any vitals. But he said we would still have to go back in the morning and look for blood.
So the next morning, when I got back in the stand, I waited until light to go look. I knew I wouldn’t find anything, but I had to do it. I did a scan of the area again and got back in the stand.
It was just my luck that I ended up scaring off two deer as I climbed back up the ladder.
It was 11:30 when my dad picked me up. We went back to camp, grabbed a sandwich, and I was back in the stand within an hour. Did I mention that this was my most difficult hunt yet?
A couple deer showed up in front of me, but they disappeared. Then, I saw what I thought was a hog. When I looked through my scope, I saw that it was a javelina.
I put my scope on it, but by that time, it was gone.
I waited for a while, and another one came out. It was in the clear and out of it in just a few seconds, but I had a feeling there was a whole big group of them.
Sure enough, several more javelina came out and milled around in the sendero. I had more time on this one. I looked through my scope and picked one out. I took a couple of deep breaths and…
No. I couldn’t do it. I was just shaking too much for a good shot. It was too far.
But then I thought, No. It’s a javelina. I’m not going to lose this one.
Once the group left, I got out of the stand. I moved forward towards where they had been and tried to go prone in case they came back out, but they didn’t.
My dad showed up to sit in the stand with me. I put my gun back up and got ready. I thought they might come back out.
They did. They walked out into the sendero and we’re sort of moving back and forth. But then they started to leave again. I picked out the back one and pulled the trigger.
BOOM! They all ran off. We quickly got out of the stand and hurried over there.
We found no blood at all. I had just missed.
We went back to the blind. We climbed up the ladder, just to see one more javelina cross the sendero.
We got out of the stand and went to a point sort of in between it and the spot where the javelina had been coming out, hoping that more would come out, giving us a closer shot this time. But they didn’t. We sat there for a while, but nothing showed up.
And nothing did for the rest of the evening after we got back in the stand. Not until fifteen minutes before the end of legal shooting light.
Four does came out. I checked through the scope to make sure they were all does and they were. So I waited, but they wouldn’t give me a shot. They moved back into the brush.
My dad thought they were gone, but I wasn’t sure. Nope. They came back out.
Suddenly, a buck bolted across the sendero, ducked under the barbed wire fence, and disappeared in under a second. Then, one of the smaller does followed him. Then another one. The other two does stood waiting for their turn.
My heart was pounding. Once the deer went under the fence, they were completely swallowed by the thick brush. I would have one short chance at this.
I made a small noise. Both the deer in the sendero put their heads up and stared at me. I steadied my breathing as much as I could and pulled the trigger for the third time.
The muzzle exploded with a burst of flame. And this time, I knew I had got it right. The deer reared up completely on its hind legs. Not like the stereotypical pose you see a horse in. This thing went totally vertical. That won’t happen if you miss.
But, to my disappointment, the deer still ran out of sight. My heart sank. I had wanted a drop kill. Now, we were losing the light and we had to find a deer in south Texas brush.
Or not. When we walked up to the spot, that deer was dead not five yards from where I had shot it. It had run just barely out of sight from the stand.  My dad ranged it back to the stand.  It had been a 180 yard shot.
So we drove the truck up to the deer, put it in the back, and brought it back to the skinning station. A couple other guys helped us skin it. We put everything in the cooler, went back to camp, packed up all of that stuff, and set out for home.

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