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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Laguna Atascosa

This hunt was a TYHP hunt.  TYHP is Texas Youth Hunting Program.  It’s associated with the state and available for youth hunters from ages 9-17.  You simply apply for hunts, and you get picked or you don’t, so its best to apply for nearly every single hunt.  However, you do have a much better chance of getting picked for a hunt when you haven’t been on any TYHP hunts yet.  The fee for hunts is only $150 for one adult and one youth.  Additional people can come along for an extra $50 each because TYHP provides meals which have to be payed for.  I have gone on this hunt, which was nilgai and hogs, as well as a dove hunt and a deer hunt.  This hunt was unsuccessful as far as harvesting game goes, but I had an absolute BLAST.  TYHP is a great place to meet new friends that hunt, and in between hunts, you get to screw around by your tents, or cabin, or wherever you happen to be staying.  On this hunt, we stayed in tents.

Laguna Atascosa is a National Wildlife Refuge.  Generally, this would mean that you can’t legally hunt there, but the hogs and nilgai are both invasive species, so the biologist wanted them off the place.  This was one of the hunts that happens on multiple occasions.  Another group of TYHP kids had gone on this hunt the previous year and harvested hogs, but no nilgai.

For those of you who don’t know, a nilgai is a very large antelope-like animal that is native to India.  It has a reputation for being an extremely tough animal, and many people think you have to have a magnum caliber to go for this.  However, this is not very accurate.  Some of the experienced hunters at our camp said that my .270 Win. would do the job just fine.  People who have a hard time bringing a nilgai down are usually chasing them around in trucks, which raises the animal’s adrenaline level really high, which makes them harder to bring down.  We were simply hunting them from stands.  Another thing that gives nilgai their titanium reputation is that they have a shield of tough material over their shoulder, so you have to shoot the animal behind the shoulder or the bullet won’t do as much damage.  I was using Nosler Partition bullets.

Laguna Atascosa is a truly beautiful place.  I saw some really amazing birds, and an alligator under the bridge we were driving over.  Some of the birds I saw, like the common chachalaca, can only be found in the southernmost part of Texas and in Mexico.  We were only 26 miles from the border on this hunt.  A few of the other kids got pigs; again, nobody got nilgai, and I didn’t even see any big game– but I had a great time.