Bitty’s Hunting Debut
June 3, 2015
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Bitty’s Hunting Debut

Jake Sanchez and his young son Ethan “Bitty” Sanchez. Ethan “Bitty” Sanchez and I were looking through our binoculars, while Jake and Don Eddie made their stalk on a good size buck. They were trying to cut the distance to 100 yards, crawling through barbed wire fences, high grass and chaparral. Meanwhile I was praying that what happened last year would not repeat itself on this hunt. Our world got very quiet—no sound, no birds. The deer were on the alert, standing, looking, ears perked, and we were looking at a magnificent buck with an “earring” as Bitty called it. This was our second hunting trip to the Rancho El Santa Marta with the now new Sheriff Don Eddie. We arrived in the Rio Grande Valley and made plans to head to his ranch in deep South Texas. This time we were loaded with a third generation hunter, Ethan (Bitty) Chez, the newest addition to the Chez hunting clan. This would be his debut into the mysterious land we call the chaparral. La Tierra de los Muy Grandes, where the big ones lounge around under the mesquite, the white thorn acacia and the lowly nopal (cactus). I picked a nickname for Ethan when he was born. I called him Bitty. He was born a premature and he was so itty-bitty that he actually fit inside his dad’s Houston Firefighter helmet. Now his hunting name would be Bitty Chez Sanchez. Our trip started out on the wrong foot. Don Eddie and Jake could not settle the schedule for a good hunting date, then, we were told a family member occupied the lodge we used last year. Bitty had developed a bad cough but would not hear that he could not go hunting. The daily temperatures hung warm in the 80s and the forecast called for heavy fog. I tried to untangle all the negatives surrounding our trip, and finally, I put two and two together. I asked Jake, “You brought ‘The Witch’ didn’t you?” The Witch is the .270 rifle he inherited from his late mother-in law. Her friends called her Witch as a pet name. Jake missed a very fine buck with that rifle last year and he blamed it on the scope. Rules are rules; you draw blood, you pay, and so it came to pass. He replied, “I did bring The Witch, but I changed the scope and had it zeroed in on the bull’s-eye at 100 yards. I have a coyote and a doe at 125 yards to confirm, she is dead on. “OK, it’s your dineros,” I said. We arrived Friday evening, checked into our room in Edinburg with Bitty still coughing away.  We kept him in lollipops all through the evening. He finally went to sleep. Don Eddie called and said he’d meet us at the ranch at 6:30 in the morning. Sleep did not come easy. Here we were in the beautiful South Texas and we were meeting with too many obstacles. I finally dozed off. Four-thirty came muy pronto. I jumped out of bed and hollered at Bitty, “Hey Chaparro (shorty, small one); time to get your sleepy head up and go hunting.” He jumped out and beat me to the bathroom. I went to the door and found a thick blanket of fog hovering over the place. I could not see 25 yards in any direction. Well, we came to hunt and come bad weather or heavy fog, that’s what we are going to do. We dressed, loaded, and arrived at the ranch at 6:30 a.m. “Not a good sign,” I told Jake. “Nope,” he replied. “It’s 360 miles back to Houston. Let’s see what’s out there.” Bitty joined in the conversation with a hoarse voice. “Is this camp? I can’t see anything.” “Be patient my Chaparro. The fog may burn off by nine o’clock.” Don Eddie arrived and asked, “Who is this third generation trophy hunter?” Bitty shook his hand and replied, “My name is Ethan Sanchez. I am 3 years old and I am here to hunt.” Nowadays kids learn the ways of the Muy Grandes at an early age; there is so much to learn.  The venados are very smart. Don Eddie gave us a “Vamanos” (lets go) and through the fog we drove. Before we opened the first gate we spotted the sire buck of the ranch. He was in the company of two does—his harem. “Look,” said Bitty, “What is that hanging from his horns.” “That, my small one, is an arete.” “What is an arete,” he asked? “An earring.” In South Texas it’s really called a droptine. And that bit of information went into his memory bank. Next question: “And what are those round things with stickers?” “Those are nopales (cactus); don’t touch.” “They look like green porcupines.” He added, “And where are all the pine trees?” “It is the chaparral of South Texas; there are no pine trees.” Jake and Ethan with the author. The deer were on the move. In this weather and fog it was unbelievable. This great buck was, of course, off limits. And still these were signs of an early rut. Eddie spread corn from his tailgate feeder. We left the area and planned to come back for a visit in hopes we could see some bucks if the fog lifted. I was not too keen with hunting in this weather. The fog was thick and this was the 5th of December, not the full rut either. The rut in South Texas was expected around the 20th of December. That was when the big musk smelling Grandes would venture out in search of the does in heat. The bucks go crazy when the rut sets in.   The rut is the best time to be in the brush. That is when the big ones venture to the feeder, not to eat, but to pick up the trail of does in heat. My Welo Mencho taught me that to take a good buck one must watch the doe. The way they act, will tell if there is a buck with them. This was sound advice and worth passing on to this inquisitive young mind. This time Bitty wanted to know why the big buck was chasing the does. I told him that Jake would have to answer that one, and that it has something to do with the birds and the bees. Don Eddie asked Bitty, “What did you tell your class at school? That you were going hunting in South Texas?” He answered, “No. I mooned them before I left.” “Whoa!!!” said Don Eddie. “You did what?” “Yes,” answered Jake. “His teacher told me.” I just laughed and whispered, “That’s my future trophy hunter. Must be something going on with this younger generation, a regular Charlie Brown. “What about his regular learning?” asked Don Eddie. “Oh, there is no problem there. He is smarter than the average bear.”    So on with the hunt, we drove back to the corn piles. The deer came out of the mesquite to munch on the sweet corn. We waited for a while, but no big bucks showed for our offering. There was this one that Eddie called “Skinny.” He had a good rack but in the last three seasons he had not put on any weight. His estimated age was about 4 years. We passed on him for a muy grande. Maybe the weather was just too warm for the big ones to come out. My uncle Chuy Sanchez—my hunting guru—told me we were too early for the big ones. He suggested that we wait till the rut. Well, that is fine and dandy, but with Jake’s and Don Eddie’s schedules we could not make it happen. We had to take what we were offered and rely on our bag of tricks. Maybe we could settle in at one of the corn piles and do the rattle dance that my great grandfather taught me. Yes, it could work, even in this warm weather. We decided on a good spot with heavy brush to do our rattling. I started the rattle dance and Bitty watched in total disbelief. He watched, his eyes glued on my banging of the horns, stomping on the ground, and the raking of the mesquite tree. I saw that he was taking it all in. We pushed into his mind the lessons of los cazadores (hunters). We then watched a good sendero and we saw some bucks come out to investigate the dance. They came to test and visit the does at the corn. Jake saw a very good buck, but Eddie whispered, “No! That’s the one with the arete.” The buck looked into the brush. “Bingo,” I told Jake. “He is looking at another buck.” Then it happened the other buck came straight toward the bigger buck with a challenge on his mind. Wow! I thought we would have a show, and it was fixin’ to happen. The deer started circling each other and doing the stiff legged walk with their ears pinned back. The other bucks drew near to see the face off. The smaller buck was definitely a shooter with good mass, heavy long tines, and good brow tines. Don Eddie gave the thumbs up. He whispered, “That’s a very good one.” In my thoughts, if they locked horns, the smaller of the two, being no match for the bigger buck would probably run into the brush. No sooner had I processed that thought when it happened. They rammed and locked horns for a very short period.  The smaller buck, feeling over matched, ran into the brush. “He’s gone,” whispered Jake. “No, hold on!” I told Jake. “He is not finished. I think he will return.” That’s when the stalk began. Bitty and I watched as Jake and Don Eddie cut the distance to the bucks. I prayed and Bitty glued his eyes to the binoculars. From my position I could not see the buck, but Jake had The Witch pointing at something in the brush. I knew the buck would come back. The aromatic does were too much of a temptation. The challenger wanted to find a way to cut into the bigger buck’s and steal one of his does. He was living on the edge of something big. His next move, either way, was going to cost him. Still in silent prayer, I was startled by The Witch as she sounded with a loud Kapow! Bitty shouted, “Daddy shot!” “Yes, he did,” I told him. Jake walked out into the clearing and looked our way. His eyes were as big as dinner plates and he had an I-don’t-know look on his face. I thought out loud, “Uuuuh! Mano, I think you are in trouble plenty. You are acting like he ran off just like the last one from last year.” I called to Bitty so we could go check it out but he was already 30 yards down the sendero running to his daddy. “Hey wait for Papa.” “Well come on Papa, he said.” We met up with Jake and Don Eddie. He was already looking for the rayones, the skid marks in the sand. “No blood,” He said. I looked at Jake and said, “The Witch rides again, huh?” We looked hard for tell tale blood, then there in the sand we spotted dark red blood. “Look!” yelled Jake. “I did hit him and from the color of the blood it looks like a good hit.” “What was he doing?” I asked. “He was coming back into the fight. He was determined to fight the big one.” “Over here!” called Don Eddie. “I see his antlers.” We all went over and through the grass we saw the antlers above the grass line. He fell into a cactus plant. My reaction was WOW! Jake broke into a giant smile from ear to ear. Jake and Bitty knelt next to the buck. Jake lifted his arms and gave thanks. “Come see Papa!” Bitty yelled at me. “Daddy shot a big venado.” I let out an Apache victory cry that scared the daylights out of Bitty. He was so very excited and he looked from buck to Daddy, his eyes filled with admiration. “Nice, very nice,” Don Eddie repeated.  I had to agree with him and I hugged my son. “Well done Jake; well done. Now we can welcome the Witch back into the elite group with Sofia. But for the South Texas muy grandes you need a heavier caliber, something that will knock them on their butt!” “Yea, on their butt!” yelled Bitty. We won’t have to go look for them. We took several pictures of the kill and loaded the buck unto the truck. We then drove to a concrete water tank to gut and clean the carcass. While Jake and I did the chores, Bitty watched and listened. We talked about the blood ritual in Spanish so Bitty would not catch on. But I noticed that he moved back like he expected something was about to happen. I made a move towards him and he ran around the buck. He went behind the truck, I followed and he ran again. “No! No! I don’t want blood on my face.”  I gave it up for the moment, but kept an eye on him. After a while I asked, “What is that bug on your face? Gotcha!” He never knew that I had anointed him with blood. Bonding with my son and grandson in the mesquite monte is a joy in my life. These memories will give me a treasure worth more than gold. One day, I will take these memories to those happy hunting grounds and keep a watchful eye on these two bandidos as they continue our tradition in the land of El Muy Grande. We gave thanks for a most memorable hunt. It goes without saying that our sincere gratitude goes to Sheriff Don Eddie for making this hunt possible and for having patience with Bitty and letting him drive his truck. At 3 years old, Bitty will be invited into the Cazadores Of The Round Table. My advice to Bitty: keep your face into the wind, the sun at your back, and learn the rattle dance. It works, and it will work for you.

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