I feel like I need to start this post by saying that even though I’ve worked in the hunting industry over the course of 10 years, for some pretty prominent companies, I’ve never had the opportunity to hunt outside the state of Oregon. I’ve never hunted out of a box blind. I’ve never hunted with a guide. I’ve never hunted on a ranch that officially manages wildlife population. I’ve never heard the word corn used as a verb. This hunting trip was full of firsts for me.
And I was fascinated by the whole experience.
We got to the ranch on Friday afternoon with barely enough time to change out of our office clothes and into camo before heading to the stand. Derrick was with me step by step, walking me through the ways of hunting in South Texas. It was hot, but the animals were moving. There was a bobcat walking down the sendero about 700 yards out, beautiful birds I’ve never seen before, and deer. So many deer! I’m pretty sure I saw more deer that one night than I’d seen my entire life of hunting combined. Hunting aside, I was so excited to just be watching the wildlife around me.
Not long before we were about to call it a night, I saw a huge buck walk out from the brush toward the feeder. It was so big I may or may not have let a bad word roll off my tongue. I couldn’t help it. It was a completely involuntary reaction. Derrick knew the buck we were after but refused to tell me anything about him. We watched him for a bit, and then he told me we were just going to continue to watch him. He was too young.
My jaw dropped. It was literally the biggest deer I had ever seen with my own eyes. I couldn’t imagine him not being “a shooter.” Derrick assured me he was not the one we were after.
After the sun set, we headed back to the house for dinner.
Saturday morning, I was up before my alarm and down in the kitchen making a pot coffee. They make fun of me for how much coffee I drink … maybe it’s an Oregon thing. We hopped in the truck and headed out to the stand.
The fog was so dense over the sendero I felt like I was back at home. But not much was happening.
After an hour or so in the stand the deer finally started moving. Off to our right there were two doe working their way down the sendero. Out in front of us, nothing but fog. Off to our left there were two more doe and a small buck. [Let me pause here to make note that the “small” buck was bigger than anything I’d ever shot back in Oregon.]
Only having experienced spot and stalk hunting, sitting in a blind was so foreign to me. At one point, I turned to Derrick and asked, “do you even get buck fever hunting like this?”
“Oooooh yea,” he responded, “just wait.”
I’ll be honest … I was skeptical.
We continued to glass and chat when I saw another buck come out of the brush to our left. I casually mentioned it to Derrick who proceeded to spend a long time studying him through the spotting scope before drawing in a sharp breath.
“I don’t want you to freak out, but I’m pretty sure that’s the one we’re after.” He counted points again, then sent a text to the ranch manager. I continued to watch him through the binos, my heart beating faster and faster with every passing moment.
After exchanging a few texts, Derrick looked and smiled. This one is the one. My first shot at a whitetail. That buck fever Derrick assured me would happen? Happened. It happened big time.
I slowly moved the rifle to the window. With the rifle ready, I watched the buck through the Leupold Mark 4 scope. The doe started browsing behind the buck and so we waited. All of my senses were heightened. Every noise we made in the stand seemed amplified. Could he smell my coffee? I was sure we’d be blown. In reality we probably only had to wait 5 minutes as the deer moved about the sendero, but it felt like an eternity.
As soon as the doe cleared out behind him I flipped off the safety of the 28 Nosler. Squeezing the Huber trigger, I sent the Hornady 175-grain bullet straight toward the buck. Thwak!
The buck ran off the sendero into the brush and Derrick slapped my shoulder, “great shot!” We waited a few minutes before heading down to recover him.
We found the buck about 10 yards off the sendero. As I walked up toward him my heart was racing again. I did it. I’d harvested my first whitetail. And it was a bruiser. 251 pounds of bruiser. This whole hunt was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, but it was more than I could have imagined.