Nicole and Bryan Wieger
January 18th will always be a day to remember, because that’s when a young lady named Nicole Wieger shot her first buck ever at Jim and Mickey Epps’ Coyote Run Ranch in South Central Texas. Nicole is a beautiful 18-year-old girl from Massachusetts who has been battling fibromyalgia with severe head pains, along with 11 brain surgeries this past year. We learned about Nicole through The Children’s Refuge, a Christian non-profit organization engaged in providing children with a quality outdoor adventure experience, presenting the Gospel to them, and ultimately winning souls. With the generosity of former NFL player Matt Light and Todd Branson of The Children’s Refuge, we planned for the trip.
When Nicole and her father Bryan flew into Bush International Airport, our son Jason Epps and friend Marc Snell picked them up and began the drive to the ranch. Nicole’s father mentioned she had never shot a deer, but goes with him every year in Maine “because she likes the outdoors and wanted to shoot a deer.” By the time they got to the ranch, Nicole was so excited that all she could do was walk around with a big smile on her face.
The following morning, bright and early, Jason took Nicole and Bryan to the “hotel stand” (so named because of its size and comfort). As the morning hunt progressed, several nice deer were seen, but nothing in the “trophy magnitude.” The conditions were right as the wind was light, the visibility was good and deer were starting to move. Just before 8:30 a.m. a beautiful 15-point trophy buck came out of the brush. The anticipation of the hunt and the potential trophy was beginning to bubble over. Unable to contain her excitement and control her nerves, Nicole eagerly shot, but clearly missed. After looking for any signs of a hit and reviewing the events together, Jason, Bryan, and Nicole took some valuable lessons and information back to the house to discuss over breakfast.
After breakfast they decided to head to the shooting range to let Nicole shoot a few more rounds though her .243. The more Nicole handled the rifle, the more confident she became, especially since she was hitting the bull's eye. Always smiling, she whooped and laughed and said she was ready to go get her big daddy buck.
Early that afternoon, her father told us more about her health issues and mentioned that Nicole was able to attend because she had made it through the last doctor’s visit and he agreed that she could come to Texas and hunt her deer. Nicole was first scheduled to hunt the weekend before Thanksgiving, but it was postponed due to medical problems. Between Thanksgiving and the January hunt, Nicole would end up having two more brain surgeries. Fortunately, she was now cleared and the hunt would continue.
In the afternoon Jason took Nicole and Bryan to a different deer stand, appropriately named “The Cemetery.” It was at the Cemetery stand where her prayers were answered. This incredible young lady was about to experience Texas Trophy deer hunting.
As the evening wore on, they saw a large bobcat working along the brush line and checking the field for something to pounce. For a lengthy time they enjoy watching him. A little while later a mature coyote came out of the brush. There were a few doe grazing in the field and one yearling buck.
The coyote made his way into the field and he and the yearling buck conducted a stare down contest with the coyote winning the battle. The buck leaped for cover and was gone in the blink of an eye. Nicole was beside herself knowing that she just seen both a bobcat and coyote in the same afternoon. Nicole had the time of her life seeing animals she had only heard about.
Out of brush suddenly stepped three nice trophy bucks at about 175 yards. Working on their own time frame, they casually fed along the brush line and field. At times it appeared as if they were joined at the neck with a whole mass of antlers. The hard part would be getting Nicole on the right deer, with the right shot before it got too dark.
After her excitement and frustrations of the morning, and then the afternoon’s excitement, this emotional rolling coaster began to take its toll as the evening fast approached. As the light faded, her dreams became reality. One bruiser buck took a turn and headed in her direction. Nicole slowly raised the rifle and released the safety and waited like an old experienced hunter.
The big buck walked briskly along the brush line and Jason whispered to Nicole to be patient. When the buck got closer, he would stop him with a whistle. When the deer was about 135 yards out, Jason whistled and the deer stopped broadside to them. Nicole squeezed off a round.
The buck broke for the brush and ran about 50 yards before falling. She had taken him with one shot though the heart. With shouts of joy and tears flowing freely, Nicole was absolutely in her glory. With prayers of thanks and many high-fives, they went to see the deer.
What a fine deer it was. He scored 171 3/8 B&C, had 11 points with one brow tine broken, and weighed 186 pounds. When they brought the deer back to the ranch for photos, they put Nicole through the "blood on your face" tradition. She loved it.
This young lady had such a wonderful experience in her three short days with us, and left us with as many happy memories as she took back home. Being here in Texas for her first deer and being pain free made it a day to remember for us all. I will miss her smile.