“Better Than What I’d Hoped For”
August 14, 2018
Editorial Staff (248 articles)
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“Better Than What I’d Hoped For”

By Jason Shipman with Jackson Craft

For the past couple of years, Jackson Craft from Baytown, Texas, has had a streak of good fortune. He killed his best buck to date in 2016, won a hunt at the Hunters Extravaganza, and then bagged an even bigger buck in 2017.

In 2016, Jackson and some of his friends went to a ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas, for the opening weekend of deer season.

“I remember it was a cold, brisk morning as we rode through the hills and valleys on the ranch,” Jackson said. “We saw a lot of whitetail moving and many nice bucks that were possibilities for harvest. I was thrilled just thinking I might get one!”

Everyone settled into a stand and anxiously waited as deer began to feed nearby.

“We waited, and after about an hour of testing our patience, we decided that the perfect buck was not going to show,” he added.

Evening hunt success

As they went back that evening, Jackson’s mind wrestled with the thought of leaving without the trophy buck that he had envisioned.

“When we finally arrived at the deer stand, I was overcome with nerves, and the excitement of possibly taking the perfect whitetail,” he said.

The hunters quietly waited on that warm November evening for what seemed like forever. In reality it was about 30 minutes before a good buck finally came into sight.

“The moment I saw this buck, I knew he was going home with me,” he said. “I watched him feed for about five minutes until I had the perfect opportunity to take a shot.”

“I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. As I looked up, the buck had fallen in place, and at that moment, I knew I had my buck!”

Good fortune in San Antonio

Up to that point, this was the biggest whitetail Jackson had ever taken. He decided to enter him in last year’s Hunters Extravaganza Annual Deer Competition in Houston.

“The day before the show, I got a call from the taxidermist saying the mount would not be ready in time for the Houston show,” Jackson said.

Not wanting to let this unfortunate turn of events get him down, he decided to enter his buck in the San Antonio show instead. A few weeks later, with the mount finally ready, he made the four-hour trip to San Antonio with his buddy, Logan Pitrucha.

“Upon arriving, I saw many other hunters taking their trophies into the Extravaganza to enter in the competition,” he said.
“I almost did not take my mount in, due to the size difference from some of these other bucks. My friend Logan talked me into entering it anyways after having just made the four-hour drive to make the show.”

This turned out to be great advice from a thoughtful friend. Jackson came in second place in his respective category, and saw all the vendors at the show.
He was also entered for a chance to win a whitetail hunt at the Hogan Wilderness Retreat for participating in the deer contest.

One excellent phone call

Not long after the Extravaganza show, Jackson got a phone call from a San Antonio number.

“Upon answering, I was shocked to find out that I won the hunt at the Hogan Wilderness Retreat. Needless to say, I was ecstatic and ready for the hunt!”
Soon afterward, Jackson was contacted again to finalize preparations for the upcoming hunt, and I would guide for him.

The night before he left for the hunt, Jackson packed his truck excitedly, not knowing that it would freeze that night and snow the next morning.

“As I turned the key in my ignition that snowy December morning, my truck would not start,” Jackson said. The cold weather had taken a toll on his truck batteries, a problem he would have to fix before getting on the road. “When I finally was able to leave, it was already late in the evening and I was a bit disappointed,” he said.

“I knew that I would not make it to the ranch in time for the evening hunt. I was upset, but I did not let it get me down, knowing that I still had two full days of hunting ahead of me.”

Upon arrival, Jackson called me to let everyone know he had arrived. My father, Stan Shipman, and I met Jackson at the gate, and we made our way to the main house.

Jackson then met the ranch owner, Barry Hogan, as well as another hunter who was there for the weekend. Conversation came easy, with plenty of discussion and laughter while everyone waited for dinner.

“At some point during the evening, (everyone) found out this was going to be my ‘last hunt,’ due to my recent engagement and upcoming wedding, scheduled exactly a year away,” Jackson said, laughing. After eating, everyone discussed the game plan for the hunt the next morning.

The hunt begins

Morning came quickly.
“As my alarm went off the next morning at 5 a.m., I was overwhelmed with excitement. I put on my warmest clothes after walking out and finding snow still on the ground from the morning before,” Jackson said.
“We gathered for a quick cup of coffee as we went back over the game plan before heading out for a deer stand known as the ‘Air Strip.’”

Making it to the deer stand just before daybreak, many does and small bucks roamed around.

“With plenty of activity, we quickly decided this would be a good spot to set up,” he said. “After we climbed up the ladder to the box stand, we got settled into our seats and waited for the deer to come out.”
“As we tried to open the windows of the stand, we quickly realized that this plan was not going to be feasible, as the windows were completely frozen shut!” Jackson added.

New plan

Thinking quickly, we made a new plan.
“Time was running short and as the sun began to rise, we grabbed our gear to move to another promising stand nearby,” Jackson said.
“We made it to the new stand just in time as the sun started to peak over the hills.”

“As we quietly eased into the stand, the deer quickly sensed our presence and made their way back into the woods. We did not let this discourage us and we settled into the stand, waiting for the perfect opportunity,” Jackson said.

After about 30 minutes passed, deer began to filter back into the clearing to feed. Several bucks and does were milling about when it happened. Out of nowhere, a great buck appeared, one that had not been with the herd earlier.

In the crosshairs

As we watched the deer feed, I decided this buck was one that Jackson should take.

“The buck was huge, and I could hardly believe it!” Jackson said.

Quietly, Jackson put a shell into his Ruger .25-06 in preparation for the shot.

“As I nervously put the crosshairs directly behind its shoulder, I took a deep breath in and slowly exhaled as I gently squeezed the trigger.”

At the shot, the buck made it a short distance before falling.

“Overcome with excitement, and with a big smile on my face, we made our way out of the stand to get a good look at my buck,” Jackson said.
“He was better than what I had hoped for, and was the biggest whitetail I have ever killed, even beating my TTHA contest winning buck! I thank the Texas Trophy Hunters Association; Jason and Stan Shipman; Barry and Liz Hogan; and all that were involved in making this great opportunity possible.”

Editor’s Note: Jackson entered the buck he shot at the Hogan ranch in this year’s Hunters Extravaganza Annual Deer Competition in Houston. He won first place typical in Modern Arms High Fence category.

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