Five years ago, my family was blessed with a beautiful hill country ranch for my in-laws to put their cows on and the opportunity to hunt Bow Hunter “Camo Candace”the land as well. We have spent many long hours scouting, working, and hunting this land, putting our heart and soul into a beautiful 540 acres of bountiful oak trees, thick cedar trees, and a few open fields.
The deer that roam this majestic land are extremely timid, alert, and aware. We joke that these are ‘Harvard smart’ deer that require much more work than the deer we have hunted in South Texas. A lot of bad luck, a few bad neighbors, and just unimaginable issues over the years have made hunting out there difficult, but every year we go back and try again. The burning passion of the hunt keeps bringing us back.
As you may or may not know, the biggest buck I have taken with my bow in my 7 years of bowhunting has been a 3 point cull buck and, trust me, it wasn’t for lack of trying! I have wanted to take my first mainframe buck on this land and have passed on other opportunities to go to other ranches. There was just something about this place that holds my heart and taking a buck here would mean the world to me.
On December 27, 2012, I was sitting in one of our ground blinds, deep in the cedar trees, for the 6th day of hunting over Christmas break. All the days had been filled with long sits with very little movement or action. I had seen a few broken off bucks but because I had already taken my 3 pt earlier in the season they were off limits. The county we hunt is a 2 buck county with antler restrictions where one buck must have one un-branched antler and the other buck must have an inside spread greater than 13 inches.
I watched as this beautiful broken off buck came in and then a 4 1/2 year old 6 pt followed behind him. He presented me with a great view of his rack, and I could see he met the 13 inch inside spread requirement; it would be close but his beams were outside of his ears, which is a great measuring tool to meet the antler restrictions. The two danced around and every shot I had on the 6 pt somehow was blocked by the broken off buck moving in front of him. This went on for 20 minutes. The winds were already high and every branch movement or flutter of the leaves spooked them. I knew this was going to be difficult. After about ten different shot opportunities were ruined by wind or another buck, my daylight started fading fast. I usually try to film my hunts so I can review it and determine my recovery wait time, but as our bad luck was that day, when I turned on the camera and pressed record, it took a picture instead. What the heck? Well, it was decision time. Try to mess with the camera or focus on the shot! No brainer! Take the shot!
My buck had moved out of the view of my ground blind window and forced me to lean forward to take the shot but I drew back, aimed, used and released. I watched it hit, pass through, and watched this buck kick his back legs up in the air like a bucking bronco and trot off. As the daylight faded, an extremely heavy fog was rolling in which led to an annoying drizzle. I couldn’t review my shot on video because of the aforementioned issue with the camera but knew I hit him well. I waited about 35 minutes, my husband came and met me at my blind and we were off on the blood trail.
We trailed the blood for about 50 yards, ducking under heavy brush, cactus, and I even got a nice cut across my eye from running into the low lying branches. Unfortunately, our blood trail was being washed away by the rain that had started falling and the high winds were blowing leaves all around. Although Texas isn’t known for extreme cold, the problem is, when it does get cold, it’s also usually wet too. Our chances were getting slim and we were getting rained out, we decided not to push him and come back in the morning when we could see better and further into the brush
The next morning the fog lifted late and as we walked back to the area to search I found my buck near one of our wire gaps.
Unfortunately, the coyotes had found him too and had their way with him… Immediately, my heart broke knowing I was not going to be able to harvest the meat. It was truly bittersweet that we found my first mainframe bow buck but so disappointing at the circumstances. He did have a 14 inch spread, I tagged him and we retained the head and antlers for a European mount and took a few pictures.
I know that this is part of hunting and bow hunting but it still broke my heart that after 5 years at this ranch, I finally got my buck. But, as our luck would have it, it didn’t play out the way I would have wanted it to, but then again, very few hunting adventures do. It’s the unpredictability that keeps hunting exciting and makes it so addicting.
This is the perfect example of how weather, the characteristics of the land, and predators can affect your hunt. Nature can be brutal at times, but I am still proud of the shot I made and my buck with my bow. Now I know what my offseason goal will be and that’s to do some predator control!