Hunting has been one of my favorite activities since I was old enough to shoot a gun. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle can be a young hunter’s paradise. Upon the wide open vastness of the Texas Panhandle, a young kid can hunt an array of varmints anywhere, at any time. He or she only needs to make sure that they are not shooting in the direction of a home or grazing livestock. Since there are more cattle in the Panhandle than homes and people combined, choosing a proper hunting ground is imperative.
I had a Stevens single shot .410 and an old Remington .22 caliber rifle. I remember moving up to a Remington Model 870 12 gauge and a Remington .243 high-powered rifle when I was well into my teens. I still have all of those weapons, and I love them more than any girlfriend I ever had…well except one and you know who you are darling. I went on a few deer hunts and eventually learned that I do not enjoy hunting deer. I must admit that I am a bird hunter through and through. Once I moved down to San Antonio, I realized that cultural divides certainly exist when it comes to hunting deer.
Years ago, I was horse back with a college mate in Southeast Colorado. The wind chill was in the teens. We rode about half a day across the prairie and dropped into a network of small canyons. We eventually found a small herd of mule deer. There were several doe, two spikes, and one 12 point buck. I was shivering from the cold and my heart was racing as I dismounted slowly and hid behind a large juniper. I knelt down and took aim through the scope of my Remington .243 deer rifle. I had buck fever something fierce. When I squeezed the trigger and the weapon fired with a roar, all I could hear were the patter of hooves running away. It was clear to me that I had missed. We camped out in the bottom of the canyon that night. We gathered some rocks and wood to build ourselves a campfire. We only took water, coffee, canned beans and sausage links for our meals. To this day, I have never experienced the cold bite of winter like I did during that hunt. The following morning after dawn broke, my buddy bagged an 8 point mule buck not far from where we had camped. He was not a trophy kill by any stretch of the imagination.
Now the work began. We had two knives between us to field dress this critter. It soon occurred to me that neither of us had planned this event out very well. Our knives were too dull and field dressing turned into a painful and bitter cold experience. We got it done though. It was the hardest “hunting work” that I have ever done. Ultimately, it broke me of deer hunting. I quickly realized that Bambi never did a damn thing to upset me, so I figured I would stick with the winged creatures.
Not long after that experience, I moved south to San Antonio. I made many new friends and several of them fancy themselves as deer hunters. I began to hear about something called “a hunting lease” for the first time in my life. We Panhandle boys all had our own land to hunt on. So that begged the question within me; who let’s these city boys come to their ranch and hunt? One of them asked me to go with him to his hunting lease and I accepted simply out of curiosity. Deer season was opening in just a few weeks so it was important to get his equipment out to the lease. When I arrived at his house, I saw this well-lifted, F-350 pickup with huge mud tires hitched up to a 16 foot flatbed trailer. The pickup was painted camouflage! The trailer had a deer blind on it with an ATV parked closely behind it. I peered into the bed of the pickup and discovered more items. There was a satellite dish back there and it was sitting on top of a few sacks of something called “deer corn”. I found the TV and other equipment that went with satellite dish when I threw my duffel bag into the backseat. I sensed that my horizons were about to broadened. Questions so far: What in the heck is deer corn? Why would a person need satellite TV while hunting?
The deer lease was a small 50 acre tract of Texas Hill Country. Junipers, mesquite, and rock were the most common landscape features. There were two older camper trailers with flat tires on the property. One was used as a sleeping quarters and the other for a kitchen and supplies storage. I soon figured out that the satellite dish and TV were not destined for the camper trailers. They were installed in the deer blind! The blind was placed a few hundred yards from camp. We took the bags of “deer corn” and dumped them into an elevated automatic feeder which sat about a hundred yards in front of the deer blind. I quickly realized that deer corn is…just corn. “This feeder brings in our deer”, my friend said. “It is on a timer and every day at the same time, it goes off and spreads deer corn everywhere around it.” At this point, I found myself fairly educated on the proper set up of South Texas deer lease. I concluded that this activity should not be called hunting.
If one will research the federal waterfowl hunting regulations, he or she will find that this practice of consistently feeding hunted game is referred to as “baiting” and therefore is illegal in the world of ducks and geese. In the defense of my South Texas friends: I did learn that baiting deer is a legal practice and is described as “hunting” among most South Texans. So I am the odd man out. I see my old friend now and then and he always gloats about how great his last deer hunt was and how high the buck scored.
Pump the brakes and slow down there feller. Please keep your deer lease stories to yourself when you are in the presence of someone who has actually been on real deer hunt. You feed the deer in the same place every day at the same time and then you set up a blind to shoot them when they come there to eat. You have satellite TV in your deer blind, and own a pick-up that is worth almost as much as the 50 acres that you lease. You purchase “deer corn” for 10 fold the price of what it is actually worth. If you were a farm boy like me, you would know how to buy local grain at an elevator instead. A one-ton pick-up (even one that is camouflaged) has ample hauling capacity for 500 pounds of corn. Grab a shovel and some burlap sacks to scoop your way to a healthier lifestyle and save yourself some money. Maybe then you can upgrade from your old camper into a larger and nicer mobile home. – RW