Hunt the Easy Way
by Gene Renfro
Overcoming mishaps and obstacles along the way, one fortunate hunter finally learns taking a big buck cannot only be simple, but enriching.
After hunting the hard way for nearly 50 years, I finally learned how to do it the easy way. This learning process was slow and evolved over time. Before discussing the easy way, let me share with you some of the slings and arrows of hunting the hard way.
I began hunting out of an 8×10 tent with heat from a sheet iron pot-belled stove. The tent usually remained up for the season. More than once, I remember arriving on a Friday afternoon and having to chase the varmints out. When the varmint is a skunk demanding squatter’s rights, Houston, we have a problem.
Have you ever seen a tent with more than one entrance? Neither have I. If a tent had two entrances, it might be possible to open both entrances and gradually coax the skunk out the other. Since this was not possible, I made a quick trip to the local convenience store, bought a bottle of household ammonia, and tossed it into the far reaches of the tent. The skunk left. My hunting partner and I had to spend the next two days sleeping in the car.
On many occasions we encountered torrential rains typical of the fall season in East Texas. I remember on one occasion being marooned by impassible muddy roads requiring several days to dry out sufficiently to permit travel. Our blinds usually consisted of a seat nailed in the crotch of an oak tree. After several hours of sitting, one would expect a severe backache if the seat was not level.
We made steps up the tree to the seat from 2×4s nailed to the tree. All limbs that restricted view were sawed away. Now, just about everyone has heard the old story about the fool that sawed off the limb he was sitting on. I did that. The limb was large and I soon tired of sawing on the safe side so I moved out on the limb to saw a little more with the other hand. I planned to move back on the safe side before sawing was completed. Unfortunately, the limb was hollow and rotten inside and it broke prematurely. I wrestled a bow saw all the way to the ground and still carry the scars to prove it.
Later, I was on another lease at a large ranch northeast of Laredo. We had a group of six hunters and were provided with a small hunting lodge with utilities. Sometime later, when the plumbing stopped up with small bones, we discovered the well was not sealed and the water was contaminated.
Deer hunting in early morning and late in the evening was accomplished by sitting quietly on the brushy hillsides. During midday, hunting reverted to tossing rocks into the draws with a sling to get the deer moving. The ranch owner usually visited with us each evening when we discussed the day’s events. If we saw a large buck, the rancher made a mental note of the fact, and went back to that spot during the week when we were away to kill the buck. We suspected that the rancher day-hunted our lease during the week.
As time progressed, I discovered guided hunts. My first guided hunt was for mule deer on a large ranch in north central Montana near the Missouri breaks. The accommodations were good, but the guides were poorly paid ranch hands. Although we had to wake them up every morning, they were reasonably good guides and we were 100 percent successful. Hunting consisted of driving around in crew cabs and scoping the hills and valleys until deer were found. Then, we would hide the truck and proceed on foot.
I learned to tip the guides, and as a result, I got the largest buck of the group that year and wound up with a picture of my buck in their next brochure. The following year, we repeated the hunt. This hunt was later in the year than the previous hunt, and morning temperatures were about 20 degrees below zero, windy and misty, with horizontal ice forming on the barbed wire fences. Because I had killed the largest buck the previous year, I waited until all the other members had bucks, tipped the guide, and again got the largest buck in the group.
Recently, I discovered high fence hunting. My business partner went on a hunt last year at the Double J Ranch near Cotulla. In May 2009 we contacted David Wilcox with Golden Triangle Ranch Connection, a professional guide organization, to arrange an early hunt at the Double J Ranch. This group contracts with various South Texas ranches to provide hunters. They are thoroughly familiar with each ranch and prior to the hunter’s arrival, scope out the deer herd. They provide a guide for each hunter. It’s important that the guides are independent of the ranches to ensure a pleasant atmosphere during the hunt.
The ranch’s facilities are superb. Lodging is a two-story adobe building built under half of an airplane hangar. This provides covered parking out front. Each hunter had a private room with facilities. This was important to me because being 73 years old and a diabetic on an insulin pump, I get up several times each night. I also arise earlier than most of the other hunters because it’s necessary check glucose levels and occasionally recharge the pump and replace the injection and sensor sites. In my case, the private room prevented disturbing other hunters.
Our chef was none other than your chaplain, Michael Murphy. Now, this guy is a real character. One evening after the hunt, I entered the kitchen/lounge and Father Murphy asked me if I would like an hors d’oeuvre. I replied that I had two hands and wanted one for each hand. Big mistake!
He had these little puppies on a plate on the kitchen counter rather than on the bar. He handed me a jalapeno pepper stuffed with shrimp. It was delicious. Next, he handed me a jalapeno pepper stuffed with dove, which he called a dove-shooter.
As soon as I began eating the dove shooter he called for prayer. This dove-shooter was spiked with all the seeds and web from the other jalapenos. The seeds and white web contain capsaicin—the fire in hot peppers. The heat is measured in Scoville units ranging from 0 for the bell pepper to 20,000 for the cayenne pepper. This dove-shooter was on the upper end of Scoville range. I think he prayed for 30 minutes while I was smoking from the heat. No one else had this problem.
He had rigged this one especially for me and that is why the plate was not on the bar counter for easy access by everyone. The next day when I returned from a morning hunt, Father Murphy asked me if I wanted a sandwich. He said he had ham and chicken pastrami. Before I could reply, he went on a tirade about ham coming from a hog that had no sweat glands and was deemed to be unclean in the Bible. I asked him if this included BBQ ribs and he yelled, “Get behind me, Satan.” I ate the chicken pastrami sandwich. His good humor was incessant.
David Wilcox was my hunting guide. On the first day it rained and game was not moving. On the second day, we hunted from a blind on a hill overlooking a valley and a large pond off water. The blind was situated on top of three tiers of scaffolding and I estimated the height to be about 40 feet above the valley floor.
There was an abundance of deer. The bucks came out in the late afternoon. While some were larger than others, all of them were much larger than anything I had ever seen before. David told me they were all less than 3 ½ years old and were off limits. We watched them for over an hour.
As the sun began to set two monsters came out. The biggest one David called the “deer of a lifetime.” He videotaped these two bucks for quite a while, as we tried to evaluate them. One was quite a bit larger than the other. Finally, in exasperation, he told me to closely look at the biggest buck again, and tell him if I wanted to shoot. I said only one word, “Yes.”
I looked through my scope and didn’t see anything but a fur ball. I had the scope on 14X, so I turned it down to its lowest setting and took sight again. I couldn’t pull the trigger because in my excitement, I hadn’t taken the safety off. So, I remedied this and took sight again while David told me to take it slow and easy. I shot and the buck fell instantly. David jumped up, hit his head on the top of the blind, and slapped my back to congratulate me. All I did was sight and pull the trigger. He had buck fever worse than I did.
David called for the rest of crew to come, load, and haul the deer to the lodge for photographs. Upon reviewing the video, I discovered the time lapse of 3 minutes from the beginning of the tape until the shot. This is an unusual long period of time—so maybe we did not suffer from buck fever after all.
After a close-up viewing, I realized this buck was much larger than I believed when looking at him from the blind. Later, I learned that this was the largest buck that had ever been taken on this ranch. The next morning we took this deer to Los Cazadores in Pearsall to have him scored and entered in the deer contest. He had 24 points and an inside spread of 21 6/8 inches. His gross score was 224 2/8.
At noon the next day, Father Murphy conducted an interesting tour explaining the various South Texas shrubs. He knew each tree or shrub and what use the early Indians had for them. Some had use for underground bulbs, while some had use for leaves or berries. Apparently, he had studied these shrubs for years. His shrub bible was “A Field Guide to Common South Texas Shrubs” published by Texas Parks and Wildlife Press, ISBN: 1-885696-14-0.
Unquestionably, this was the most enjoyable hunt I ever had. The fellowship with the guides and Father Murphy was the highlight. Bagging a monster buck was secondary. However, it will be full-body mounted, with prickly pear cactus in the background and a rattlesnake in the foreground. I’m sure that this will be the best whitetail buck of my long hunting career. My thanks go to Jerry Johnston and his great whitetail trophy management program.