In case you have missed the previous two columns, I had a chance to do one of those special dream hunts. I met up with a lifelong friend who now lives in Texas. He hinted, well maybe it was more like bragged, at the number and quality of big whitetail deer there, and I was going to find out whether it was really true.
I only had two days to spend on the hunt between assignments in which I would be in Houston and St. Louis, so if they were there, I was going to need to choose my prey and be ready.
On the first day’s afternoon hunt, I arrowed a nice eight pointer from 32 yards. After contacting Bobby and Chewy who were hunting for feral hogs on another part of the land, we went over to where the arrow was lying. Blood had coated the arrow shaft and fletching and there was blood spray behind it from the pass through.
A dozen yards away Chewy spotted more blood. I have tracked many a deer with blood trails, all in North Carolina. When tracking blood spots in Texas while in a drought, things were a little more difficult. The vegetation and landscape is completely different in the Texas hills, with more dirt that plants, and the grass was basically brown, brittle cover. Instead of a bright red blood spot, it was more of an orange residue as the ground quickly absorbed any moisture.
Still, with three seasoned hunters, we were able to follow along the trail. The deer made a run up a large hill and then went into a slow walk. We were able to determine the deer settled down twice underneath some of the dried up evergreens dotting the landscape before standing and walking again. As happens with many deer that are bleeding out, he began to search for water.
The Texas drought meant there was only one place to go, a pond that was nearly dried up. Based on the blood loss, he would never make it that far.
We tracked his turn, another spot where he bedded to rest for a few minutes, and then tracked him another twenty yards.
That was it. No more blood. We worked our way into broader and broader circles. Finally the darkness prevailed and we decided to forego a morning hunt and track once more.
The next day even the large patches of blood were nearly invisible where they soaked into the parched ground. We searched in an organized manner then began random searches. All were to no avail.
Bobby and I went back out in the afternoon for one last hunt. We were in a different location that was near the one water source on the land. We figured, if the one I hit the day before was still living, he may at least try and come by this stand.
After a bit the first deer made his way into the area. It was the first spike I had seen in the two days as most of the bucks, even the young ones, were at least six pointers. A doe wandered within ten yards of us. Another buck showed up at the back side of the pond. None were the one from the day before though.
As the day neared an end, the bucks were on the move. At least ten different bucks, all shooters here in the Carolinas, made their way to the open.
While trying to catch photographs of many of them Bobby nudged me. “Look! Hammy is about to show that other buck who is boss!” He whispered it in as excited of a voice as could be told quietly. Hammy was one of the many named bucks that had shown on the cameras, this one getting his name for an abundance of white hair on his hams.
I turned the camera towards the two bucks as they stared each other down. Then my instincts took over. I slipped my shutter control to ‘continuous-high speed’ with my left thumb and proceeded to hold the shutter button down with my right index finger in one motion. The results was over a dozen photos of the two bucks squaring off and locking horns while throwing dust and dirt as their hind legs dug into the dry ground behind them.
I never found my buck, but since then Bobby has informed me he has shown back up on the trail cameras with a wound that slightly missed a fatal mark. I saw more bucks in the two days than I would see in two seasons here. I saw more trophy bucks in two hours than I would see in two decades here.
Bobby Fontanini has put together a tremendous management system fostering a healthy and abundant free range deer population and there is no doubt the record books are going to be logging deer from his land over the years. If you would like to be a part of a hunt of a lifetime, contact Bobby at (512)944-0757 and be sure to check out Diamond W Ranch in Lampasas, Texas on Facebook.