By Dr. Johnnie Rosenauer
Dec. 12, 2012 was a BIG DAY for at least three reasons. According to Corban, my 14-year-old history buff son, it was the “Day of the End of the World” based upon the Mayan calendar. If true, that would have to be considered a pretty big day and I guess this article would not be of any use! But I was reminded of and comforted by the good book’s words, which said, “No man knows the time of The End.”
Additionally, it was a big day for our family because it was my wife Danell’s last day of work prior to retirement from public schools. At least for me, it was a big day because it was the first time to go hunting after a pretty strong norther had blown through South Central Texas during the 2012-13 deer season. I recalled the great anticipation of leaving home as a teenager in Pearsall and going to Marble Falls to visit the old Burnham Brothers sporting goods store. I remembered their advice to “follow the cold north wind south” and was excited to do so that morning.
The thermometer on my F-150 4x4 showed 19 degrees on my carport in Spring Branch as I fired it up. Waiting for the engine to warm up just a bit before heading south, I reflected that my old truck and I are a good bit alike in some ways. Both of us have lots of miles traveled with a good many dents and scrapes. Neither of us is as pretty, nor as powerful as some years back, but still we’re lumbering along with dependability.
I stopped by and picked up my hunting partner of 40 years, John Pursch, in Bulverde along the way and we headed for Frio County. The wind was starting to slow as we settled into a couple of good blinds just under a 1/2-mile apart. It was crystal clear and one of those kind of mornings that made me glad to be alive and in the woods. It hardly ever fails to strike me as the sunrise comes forth, how blessed my life has been to spend 50-plus years hunting South Texas.
As daylight approached, I saw a middle-aged buck walk out toward my feeder. I had seen him two or three times already this season and had rattled him up about a week earlier just before dark. He had charged in hard, looking for the fight. He was a solid eight-point with a just beginning G4 on one side, about a 16-inch inside spread, and dark, heavy antlers that pitched forward. I thought to myself, “Just hang around here for 2 or 3 more years and we will see what you become.” The buck ate a while and headed back into the thick brush, not ever appearing to know he was being intently watched.
John texted me and said he had a younger buck hanging around his area. After a while, he texted that an older buck had wandered by, and was heading my way. He said the deer was mature with tall white tines. The deer had stopped to freshen a scrape about 30 yards away from his blind. We have only killed one mature buck on our family place since I took over the management of it in 1976, so watching a buck walk by was old hat for both John and myself.
After about 20 minutes or so I saw some tines moving my way through the brush. The buck appeared about 180 yards away down a long, wide sendero. It was clear he was mature or post mature and I quickly got my scope on him for a better look.
The buck was heading straight toward me and I wanted to see him sideways, so used a grunt call to see if he would stop. Better than that, he stooped and turned sideways. I could tell this guy was plenty mature. I took a bead on him and touched off a shot. At the report, the old guy simply walked back into the brush. That was NOT what I was expecting. Having killed several deer and hogs with my gun, a Model 70 Featherweight in 7mm-08, and using 140-grain bullets, I fully figured he would simply crater where he stood!
A quick mental review went through my mind. Little wind, standing broadside shot, not too far. I was deliberate and not rushed. There was a sandbag on the windowsill for a sold rest. Then I saw my error. The sling swivel had been the point of contact on the bag and not the gunstock. Upset at myself for failing to notice such a detail, I was brought back to the “here and now” when the deer returned to the sendero, now at about 160 yards. This time there was no error on my part and the bullet struck him squarely in that rut-swollen neck.
Upon review of the buck, his teeth indicated to me, and it was later confirmed, that he was 7 years old. He began the fall with 10 nice points with a 19.5-inch inside spread, but was now down to, at best, 7.5 points. He was clearly taking the breeding season seriously and had the scars to prove it.
Clearly, the good Lord took pity on me that day and wanted me to have this deer. One surprise was that in spite of being very “fresh smelling” with heavily stained hocks, the old warrior was still quite fat. I guess he started his rutting late. Obviously, based upon his broken up headgear, he had not been “on the sidelines” for a week or better, but was fully participating in the breeding activities and all that brought with it.
Yep, 12-21-12 was a sure enough Big Day for me. I sure do hope there are a few more such days in my life out there in the South Texas brush.