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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Doves

I am very disappointed with myself as it looks like I completely forgot to tell you how last dove season went. In the end, I bagged 42 doves. That was a huge achievement for me. This season, however, all I have to show for a few days’ hard work is 13 birds. It could be worse, but it’s not what I expected. 

Here are all the dove pictures I have from this season and the last season: 

That big fat one is a pigeon. I had never got one of those before.

These are obviously not all of my doves, but it’s all the pictures I have.  

The Coyote Hunt

One Saturday, my dad and I grabbed all the gear we had accumulated over the past year or two and threw it in the truck to go hunting. We were both wearing camouflage shirts and pants, sprayed with nasty chemicals to keep off nasty bugs such as ticks and chiggers. We drove for about an hour to one of the ranches we were allowed to hunt on. It was a small place with dense brush and lots of water. It was a bit flooded, and there was mud everywhere. 

We found pig tracks without having to look too hard. They seemed to be relatively fresh, possibly from the last night or the day before. By the looks of the land, however, we would probably not have any luck on this land without powerful lights in the dark. The brush was just too thick.

 
We had to wade through ankle-deep water to get back to the truck once we realized we were wasting our time. We were not particularly comfortable, our socks and shoes being filled with water, but it wasn’t so bad. 

Since there was plenty of time left until nightfall, we headed to the other ranch we had access to. We had been on this one a few times before, and had seen pigs on it once. It was significantly larger, and had lots and lots of open areas, instead of just thick brush. 

It did have some areas of thick growth, though, and this is where we thought the pigs might be hanging out, since it was so early. We decided to walk through there with our guns, ready for a shot. 

We found a cow or two and three deer, but no pigs. We came back out into the open at about 8 p.m.

 
We were on the edge of the big open field we had seen pigs in a month before, and suddenly my dad said, “Whoa, there’s pigs behind you!”

There were indeed about 10 pigs behind me in the field. They were too far for a shot, though, and there was a fence between us and them. I was a little frustrated that we couldn’t reach them, but we just waited to see where they were going so we had something to go off of next time. 

We watched them hurry and disappear into the thick brushline. It was a little disappointing, but now we knew where they liked to be. 

We decided to walk over to the small river and see if they might be drinking from there. To do this, we skirted the edge of the field, went through the gate in the fence, and went around the other side of the field. 

On our way, however, we looked behind us at the same field and saw two deer running across it. We waited for a minute, and out of the trees came two coyotes. 

We ran back, but they were in no mood to mess around and kept up the same steady, fast pace across the field. They were gone. 

That’s when we saw another coyote in another field across the river. This one was sitting still. We started over there slowly, trying not to scare it off, but this was not a particularly smart coyote. It gave us lots of room to move without having to be too careful. 

We reached a low-hanging live oak tree and put the gun on a branch. I looked through the scope and tried to get steady, but it wasn’t a good position and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the shot. 

I looked over my shoulder and saw, in the other field, that the hogs had come back out. There was no chance for us to get a shot, though. They were about 300 yards away, we didn’t have a good rest, and the ground between us and then was completely open, giving us no cover. We would just have to let them go and get them another time. 

I gave my attention back to the coyote. It was moving around a little, going a little farther away and then coming back a bit closer. We had time. 

I decided to move forward to the river, as this was still a bit of a long shot. However, the ground dipped down by the river, so I tried climbing a tree. In the end, the coyote moved out of sight from my position, and I got bites from some ants on the tree. 

I climbed down and started going back to the live oak when suddenly, I could see the coyote again! I had thought he was gone, but there he stood, even closer than before. I threw myself down in the grass and got my gun on him. Since it was a coyote, I didn’t take anything for granted and assumed it would be moving on very quickly after seeing us, as the dogs usually do. I took the shot very quickly. 

The scope slammed into my nose, and the coyote was gone. I looked at my dad hopefully, and he said:

“Down. It’s dead.”

He wasn’t quite right, as the coyote got back up a few times and tried to run, but it died after a moment or two. I was really relieved that it was actually dead, and excited because we’d taken something off the land. It was also my first coyote. 

Then came the hardest part. 

It was very nearly dark, and that coyote was across a swollen river. We drove to a crossing, but even that was flooded too much to cross in the truck, as the air in the tires might float it downstream. 

I tried walking across and almost fell over, but I made it in the end. Then we walked several hundred yards over to where we thought it was. 

We didn’t see it, so we started to walk back and forth in a line. When we finished a line, we would move forward and do it again until we had systematically covered a square. However, that proved unnecessary as my dad found the coyote on the first scan. 

Then began the  torturous, dark walk back to the truck. It wasn’t that long, but it seemed like miles uphill when I was dragging a dead coyote. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but it certainly seemed so when I had to drag it on the ground through mud and tall grass. 

My arms were aching terribly by the time we reached the river crossing. I had to walk across the water with the dog, which was not easy, but I finally made it. 

It was a long night for us, but it was well worth it. 

I realized then that I was almost as excited about seeing hogs as I was about shooting the coyote. I thought about why and decided it was because we couldn’t eat the coyote. It would just have to go in the trash. I felt much more satisfaction with any one of my eight deer because, I think, we kept the meat. We got something out of it, and there was the slight feeling of self-reliance in a world where we rely on other people for everything. I didn’t realize that mattered so  much to me until I killed the coyote. Now I’m just even more excited for deer season to start again.