YMCA Roberts Ranch

The YMCA Roberts Ranch, near Comfort, TX, was donated to the YMCA by Bob Roberts in 1990.  The Y has been letting TYHP go on hunts out there for years.  It took about 2 hours for us to get to the DQ in Comfort, which was where we were meeting up.  There were only about six people this time, I think.  I slurped on a Blizzard while we waited for everyone to show up.

Once everyone was there, we went around to the back of the Dairy Queen and filled up our coolers with ice.  Then, we headed on.  It wasn’t too long of a drive to the entrance of the ranch, but it took equally long to get from there to the shooting range.

I didn’t have to shoot because I had already been on three other TYHP big game hunts and harvested five deer with them, and I had brought a target showing that I could do it.  So I waited while my nine-year-old brother shot, who had finally joined TYHP.  Then, we drove up to a pavilion and set up our tent near it.

It was an absolutely BEAUTIFUL place.  There wasn’t all that much cedar, unlike most of the rest of Texas.  As we drove, almost all we saw was oaks– live oaks, burl oaks, red oaks– and pecans.  There was some cedar, of course, but not very much at all.

When we drove past a small creek, we saw a GIANT rock that must’ve fallen from a cliff up the hill it rested at the base of.  Supposedly, that was where armed forces met before the Battle of the Alamo as a rendezvous point.  After that, they went to support the troops at the Alamo, but got there too late to find the place already in ruins.  At least that’s the story.

The small creek turned into a larger creek, but dried up, leaving a bed of rocks with sycamores growing all around it.  Again, we didn’t see much or any cedar.

It took a while for us to get everything set up.  Then, we went to the pavilion and had chili for dinner.  I also had a couple cookies.

We went over the usual– where to shoot the deer (heart and lung), don’t take head shots unless it’s a hog, etc. etc.  We could shoot whitetail bucks with six points or more, hogs, and– this was the really cool thing– aoudad (a.k.a. Barbary sheep).  The reason this was so cool is because you could very easily find yourself paying $1500 for an aoudad hunt.  This hunt cost $150.

We went to bed a a relatively early time compared to the rest of our hunts.  It took me a while to get to sleep, and boy, was it a long night.

Finally, morning arrived.  I woke up before my dad’s alarm went off and got dressed.  When his alarm went off, I was pretty much up and out.

There were Poptarts and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  I only ate half a cinnamon roll.  My brother and I had to leave early to get to the stand since ours was farther away.

We dropped off my dad and brother first, and then me and my mom got out.  We put our stuff in the stand and settled down.

By the time there was light enough to see the feeder, the wind was blowing hard, it was drizzling, and it was cold.  I mean, it was only about 45 degrees, but with the wind chill and humidity, it felt below freezing, easy.

Then, three bucks came in.  They had given us a bag of corn to spread around, but I had refrained from doing that.  I was shooting off of it instead.  I pushed the rifle forward a little and got on the scope.  Scanning the bucks quickly, I saw that one of them had a significantly larger body than the others, and it looked like it had 8 points.  I was planning on shooting that one, but first I had to make absolutely sure it was 6 points or more, and I wanted to check that it really was better than the others.

But they didn’t like there being that much wind.  They left.

I was disappointed until I saw that one of them had stayed behind.  I checked its antlers.  It looked like six points to me.  I spent a while looking at him, making sure he had six.

When I was finally convinced he wasn’t too small, I flicked the safety off.  I took aim at the spot behind his shoulder.

It was a younger buck than the other two, which is probably why it had stayed behind.  But it didn’t like the wind either.  It didn’t leave, but it wouldn’t sit still either.

It walked around for a long time, feeding here and there, but eventually, it must’ve decided it had had enough of the blasting wind.  It followed the path the other two bucks had taken and went out of sight.

Some people might’ve been really disappointed about this.  I probably would have, too, under different circumstances.

However, I knew that the feeder went off at 7 AM.  It was somewhere around 6:30.  When deer have been eating at a feeder for a while, they get used to the rattling noise of the feeder going off meaning food.  So when they hear that noise, they come in to the feeder.

Sure enough, just a few minutes after the feeder goes off, guess who’s back.  I watched him for a second to make sure he was the same six-point, and then I put my crosshairs on him for the second time.  He just wouldn’t give me broadside.  He walked around for about ten minutes.  The wind was howling.  It blew so hard the blind door opened with a loud BANG, but the buck stayed.  My eyes were streaming from the wind right in my face, like on a roller coaster, but I stayed on the scope as the buck finally turned broadside and I pulled the trigger.

The gun roared, the buck jumped and ran out of sight.  As usual, I was shaking with adrenaline.  But I couldn’t see the buck.  I had no idea what had happened.

So I resolved to wait thirty minutes, which is the minimum amount of time some people say you should wait, before going to look for him.  This way, if I hadn’t made a great shot, it would give the buck time to calm down and bleed out.

The half hour seemed more like a half month, but when the time was up, I didn’t go look for it.  I figured that would ruin my chances at getting anything else.  So I stayed in the blind.

Nothing else came to the feeder except for some cows.  I saw something black moving behind some trees, but that might’ve been a cow too.

At 9:30, I got out of the stand and we went to go look for the deer.

I was relieved when we found the first spot of blood on the ground.  It wasn’t hard to find and it was pretty near where the buck had been when I shot.  I looked around in a circle on the ground and saw the next one.  Another surge of relief.  Now we knew the direction he had gone, and that really was about half the difficulty.  Not really, but once you find that out, the rest of your work is cut out for you.

I started finding blood on these white rocks, lots and lots of it.  I think the rocks were limestone.  If so, thank you God for limestone, because if there hadn’t been those white rocks to highlight the blood, I would’ve had a much harder time finding the buck.  As it was, I saw the buck under a red oak.

He had fallen over while running downhill.  But there he was.  I went up and counted his antlers.  Seven!  There was a small point on one side that I hadn’t been able to see in my scope.  Well, better one extra than one less.

My brother got one too.  Turned out, it was also a seven point, we shot them within about 15 minutes of eachother, and they both weighed exactly the same, give or take a pound.  Wow.

By the time we finished cleaning the deer, it was past lunchtime.  We hurried back to camp, I scarfed down a sandwich, and we left again.

At this stand, there was a pile of attractant near the feeder.  We settled in and waited, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I decided it wouldn’t hurt to close them as long as I stayed awake.

It was after four when I woke up.  There was a buck at the feeder.  Of course, I couldn’t shoot it, because we were only allowed one, but it was just a forkhorn anyway.  So I had no regrets about taking the seven point.

At least, until I saw the next buck.

It was a beautiful ten point.  Okay.  Now I wished that stupid little worthless seven pointer hadn’t even showed up!

Well, no.  It was fine.  But the ten really was a great buck.

After a while, both deer left.  Eventually, a spike showed up.  Then the forkhorn came back, but the ten didn’t show up again.

The next morning, after seeing a total of zero hogs, we got into a new blind.

Pretty soon, guess who shows up?  The ten point!  That buck haunts my dreams, laughing at me and standing broadside at twenty yards, like, YOU CAN’T SHOOT ME, YOU CAN’T SHOOT ME!  HAHAHAHAHA!

Literally, he showed at about twenty yards.  That is just so easy.  That’s a shot I could make without a scope!

Nothing else showed up that morning except for a squirrel and a mouse in our blind.  But we did hear a Sika deer bugling.  Sika are bigger than whitetails, but smaller than elk.  Somewhere inbetween.  Their bugle noise sounds almost exactly like elk, though, which was cool.

After that, we got picked up and went back to camp.  We packed up our stuff and took a group picture.  At one point, I thought I saw a bunch of horses behind some trees, but I wasn’t sure.

Then the horses ran through camp.  There were big ones, small ones, and lots of them.  They just kinda ran through and stood around until a couple people chased them off.

That was it.  In the end, only one other guy got anything.  My brother and I got pretty lucky.

Edited Roberts

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Opening Day Part 2: Limit

So that evening, we went back out at 4 or 4:30.  In about 15 minutes, my dad shot another dove!  That didn’t take long, I thought.  So we had one dove in the bag already.

I can’t explain this, but my brother got three more that evening.  My dad got four or five, and I got NINE MORE BIRDS.  I hit my limit!  You can’t shoot more than fifteen in one day, and I did that.  I had to stop after that.

Dove hunting is getting a little crazy.  We’re doing it a lot and getting a LOT of birds, so I can’t keep up with the stories.  Instead, what I’m going to do is at the end of the season, I’ll make a post that tells how many times we’ve been hunting and how many birds we got total.

Thanks y’all!

Opening Day Part 1: Morning of Mournings

My dad’s boss has a piece of land between Manor and Elgin.  It’s actually about five or ten minutes away from our shooting range, no more than that.  So the first night we got there, we got that piece of land mixed up with another one.  We ended up driving around on the wrong piece of land for a while.  When we figured that out, it stung quite a bit because there were doves, doves, and more doves.  When we drove up to the big pond, tons of doves flew up.  We were ecstatic until we learned we couldn’t hunt there.

Until we called the number on the gate.  Then, we were hooked up to a guy named Dennis, who owned the piece of land with all the doves.  He very kindly said we could hunt on his land.

So, on August 31, yesterday at the time of writing, we packed all our stuff up and went to bed excited.  My dad would be getting to hunt with me, which was rare, and for the first time ever, my 9-year-old brother would be hunting, too.

We got up at 5:15 A.M. on September 1 (today at the time of writing), had a quick breakfast, and left at 6.  Since it was so early, there was no traffic at all, so we got there within 20 minutes.  We walked around the pond and set up a few decoys.  We had four plastic doves that were in the roosting position.  We clipped those onto a fence, then set up our decoy that had battery-powered wings and another that had wind-powered wings.  When the wings turned, they looked exactly like real doves.

There were two other guys on the piece of land.  They were much better shots than we were, and they were dropping a few birds, but there weren’t very many birds at all.  It was a little disappointing, but we stayed there anyways.

Good thing, too!

Eventually, the sun got higher and we couldn’t see because it was right in our faces, so we moved to a slightly different spot.  Then, at about 8:00, the birds really started to come in.   Often, of course, they were way too far out, but we got shots.

Only problem was that we sucked.  We couldn’t hit anything.

Then, another one came in.  I felt confident.  Me and my dad stopped walking and waited.  It flew right over our heads.  Both of us shot, and it went down!

We had to finish it off.  It was a mourning dove, but for one of those, it was pretty big.  All of them were pretty big.

We put the dove in my belt pouch and kept hunting.

That’s when it got insane.  Tons of birds poured in, in ones and twos, yes, but also in big swarms, all coming to the decoys with the spinning wings.  We were constantly shooting.  At one point, in fact, I had used up my ammo and was reloading when there must’ve been 20 or more doves over our heads!  My brother William and my dad both shot, but they didn’t get any.  I couldn’t even shoot.

Then, William and my dad both shot and dropped one– William’s first dove.  He was really excited.  We found it and took it back.

By that time, it just didn’t stop.  William got another one.  We had a really hard time finding it, but we managed in the end.  My dad shot two, but they both dropped in the water.  I put one in the water, too, and it got a little frustrating, so we moved the decoys further away from the water.

I got another one.  My dad got one.  I thought I hit one and my dad went to look.  It turned out I had missed mine, but then we heard him shoot and yell:

“Got another one!”

I got one more.  Then, I shot and missed– or did I?  I wasn’t sure.  My dad said I just clipped its tail feathers, so it was still alive and well.  I wanted to check anyways.  So we went over there, but another one flew over our heads and I got it.  So we went back and picked it up.  Then, we went again to find that other one.  Another one flew over our heads.  I dropped it!  We got it and tried again.  This time, we made it without any distractions, but it wasn’t there.

Later, after we were done, we were heading back to the truck and we saw a dead dove on the ground.  It was missing its tail feathers.  That was the one I had hit!

So the total came out to ten doves– ten doves!  That was, of course, a record for me.  Then we noticed that they were all mourning doves, without a single whitewing in the mix.

That was awesome.  The reason I called this part one is because I’ll be recording dove season down in a day-by-day format.  So this part and the evening session of the same day will be one hunt.

Speaking of the evening session, we’ll be leaving to go do it in about ten minutes.  I’ll put the story up tomorrow or the next day.

…And may you always have meat in the freezer