South West Deer Hunt chronicles....

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Sparkitoff

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Day 1 -
After a 3-hour drive I arrive to the location and discover the Weather Man is totally wrong - again - as if anyone is surprised. Instead of the 58 degrees predicted, that got the numbers backwards. It is 85 degrees. A light flannel shirt and brown duct jeans will do for this afternoons attire. I pour 80-grains of Goex FFFg down the flintlock barrel. This is followed by a pillow tick strip and .530 ball, strip cut at muzzle and seated. This is not my usual flintlock, this is a "back-up" that is filling in while my primary rifle gets some custom work done to it. This rifle has been 100% reliable and very accurate at the range. I hike the mile into the hunting area which is a woodlot surrounded by cattle farms. The landowner has provided pretty good descriptions of what the deer should do.
I crawl under some blow down debris and find the shooting lane that was described. It is 4PM. Just prior to priming a stick a wire with a horn handle gently into the touch hole. I always feel the powder just a tad and have confidence the rifle will have instant ignition. Like I said, this has been the case at the range without exception. Hmmmm. I don't feel any powder. I know I poured it in there and knocked on the opposite side from the lockplate. Oh well, cant fool with it now, we will see. There are deer way over in a wheat field, but nothing that inspires me to move. There is movement to the right, and a forkhorn buck strolls past at around 60-yards. He crossed the opening in the woods and jumps a 5-strand barbed wire fence. Now 5:40PM, there are just a few more minutes of shooting time left. I feel my pants sticking to my leg as I shift to wipe the sweat from my forehead. Hello: movement on the right again. Whoa, nice buck. Tall tines, outside the ears, at least 8 points. Up comes the rangefinder and it says: 78-yards. The rifle sights move to the chest and are rock steady on the sticks. I pull the hammer and set the trigger. This is going to be a chip shot. Clack. Darn it, no boom. Not meant to be this evening. I hike out in the darkness with high hopes for tomorrow. There is a light breeze now and I smell the distinct odor of alfalfa, now I know where I'm heading tomorrow....
 

Sparkitoff

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Day 2 AM -
Did I tell you that 5AM and I do not get along well? After a quick rinse I am dressed and out the door, coffee-less and semi-conscious. Well soup...no really the fog is thick as pea soup (I think that's how the saying goes). I cannot see past my boot tips. On the truck bed under flashlight, I get powder in the touch hole until I get the familiar "feel" with my poker. Frizzen stall on and away I go. The flashlight is useless and actually makes it worse. At least the temperature is a milder 63 degrees. The hike in is long because it is slow going to find my way. A little off schedule, I am set up at 6AM even though there is zero visibility. Tick tock, tick tock. 7AM and it is light but no visibility due to fog. I know I'm in the right spot because I smell the alfalfa. I wonder if deer can see through fog. I know their night vision is good but the fog must have the same effect on the deer. I dropped something on my left side but I don't know what. I can't see. I am fishing around and although I turn to look I can't see anyway. When I look up there is a big deer just about in my lap. Maybe 15 feet from me. Wide outside the ears, tall tines, 5 on each side. We look at each other as the rifle comes up and the flint moves to the "fire"position". Just as I lose eye contact with Mr. Buck to find my sights he takes two steps left and is completely invisible. I still hear him taking step by step but I only see a dark blob for two step and then he may as well be invisible. I carefully put the frizzen stall on, move the frizzen forward and lower the flint to half-cock before re-setting the frizzen. I check my watch, thank goodness for lumen. 720AM. I check again...8AM. And again 830AM. Still cannot see. Finally the fog lifts as the temperature increases and the sun rises. It is not until 920AM that I can see, and only about 50 yards....
 

Sparkitoff

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Day 2 PM -
I head to the landowners ranch (his "ranch" is a separate property from his homestead). There I go to the "gravel pit", set out a target and fire the rifle. First, there is a slight but noticeable delay in firing. Second, the sound if funny and both the sound and recoil seem weak. Last, the impact is 5-inches low. Okee Dokee, I have no idea what is going on or why. This rifle has never done this before but hey, that's Murphy having his way. I reload and leave the frizzen open and the stall in place and put it in a case. A quick nap is in order and that yields about 2-hours of needed rest. Some hunters at the ranch have been successful on axis deer and hogs. This part of the southern Hill Country has a lot of free-range critters with Axis Deer being most prolific (other than hog) but includes Aoudad, Blackbuck and others. The temperature is supposed to experience a significant drop, like to below freezing sometime soon. It is obvious that it is on its way because a cold wind has started. A conversation with the owner provides advice on a barbed wire fenceline and a ridge that the deer use to access this property from the southern neighbors. I choose to utilize some camo and plan to get up against a tree or in a tree near the junction described by the landowner. The walk is a lot longer than the previous location and takes nearly an hour to get there. I'm still ahead of schedule as I find a perfect climbing tree. About 10-feet up I hook up the safety strap. When I try to prime, the powder blows out of the pan. I make a wind block with my hat and get the right amount of prime in the pan. The wind is loud and the temperature is dropping like a round-ball at 200 yards. My clip-on thermometer said 66 when I started hiking and now says 53 degrees. Its only 4PM. The wind is whipping and I am suffering from motion sickness from the tree swaying (and the Mexican food lunch might not be helping). I check my watch and the thermometer because I am shivering now. 5PM and 44 degrees. I see a deer but it is well over 200-yards away and appears to be a doe. What time is it? 540PM. I'm done. Freezing and a long walk back. I meet the owner and we head to dinner. This hunt was supposed to be over but he says "I don't care if you stay until Friday if you want". The landowner is a long time close friend, but I don't want to overstay my welcome or abuse the offer. He says he has seen four different sized spikes and a buck with one horn while driving at night. He suggests I should try the morning with the forecast temperature of just 28 degrees and to take one of the spikes or one horn if a "trophy" doesn't present itself. Now I have to deal with 5AM and 28 degrees. You know I don't get along well with 5AM, well 28 degrees and I are not real close friends either....
 

Brokennock

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Good story so far. I don't get along well with 5am or 28 degrees either. Unfortunately here, if I've slept, (or rolled around not sleeping) until even as late as 4am here, I've slept too late to get to any of my good spots before legal light.
 

Sparkitoff

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Day 3 AM-
It must be nice to be a Weatherman . You can get paid for being wrong day after day. This 5AM showed only 23 degrees. 5 degrees might not seem like much, unless you are a surveyor or explorer. The my friend the owner is up with me this morning because he is going to check fences and move cattle. His idea is to keep cell phones on "vibrate" to let me know if he sees deer in any particular area along his route. This idea could be illegal in some places, however we are not both hunting and the owner is merely going to let me know if deer are in a particular pasture so I can relocate and try to get close on my own. We drive to get a hot coffee real quick. Enroute, we travel a county road that makes a double "S" curve. At the first bend the headlights illuminate eyes and the one-horned buck I previously spotted is identified. At the next curve there is a short spike with around 3" points sticking out of his head. He is attempting to get three does to move the way he prefers. The landowner says "Shooter" and I chuckle. As the road straightens out we see 3 does. At the end we make a right and there is a fresh roadkill spike on the right shoulder. The coffee goes down and a restroom stop is taken. On the way back we count 8 deer. Only one had decent antlers but we did not get close enough to evaluate him. I am dropped off at the head of a trail. The walk in is uneventful except for the varying hot and cold I feel from wearing too many layers and the cold wind finding a way through the unzippered tops and down the neck. The grass is a lot more crunchy today. I get to my spot and get settled. There is about 10 more minutes to daylight. I want to prime the rifle but I cannot find my priming flask. Funny, I mis-placed it last time I was here too. I have a remedy for that but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. Upon enough light to see I empty my essentials bag. Nada. I go through every pocket. Nope. I look again. Not here. Hmmmm. Oh well, I pop open the spare load tube and prime with some FFFg from there. I get myself to where my clothing is making a seal around me and keeping the heat in. Everything zippered up, hat on, neck wrap, gloves. I even have battery powered heater socks on that I now activate. It is actually quite peaceful and toasty warm now. The only thing that lets me know the cold is here is the steamy breath when I exhale. 735AM deer move into the patch in front of me. Five does and two bucks are on the far end of the patch where the rangefinder says 154 yards. Neither of these bucks are interesting to me as they are both 8-pointer with antlers inside the ears. I have two buck tags and two doe tags (I used one buck tag in archery season) but I am saving the doe tags for late season spike and doe only and muzzleloader season either sex. On my right a deer jumps the barbed wire to my side and prances across the field. 835AM the bucks and does leave the opening and all is quiet. Those deer are on the opposite side of a little bank from me. They went the way I need to go back, so I still-hunt my way back along the bank instead of the direct route back. At 9AM I see deer. I'm ready...bring it on. No, same bucks and does as earlier, I finally caught up with them. My phone shakes. I look at the message. Owner says "just a few does here and there, seen anything". I text back, "deer out but nothing to shoot". He says, "I am going to town, see you tonight" and I reply "OK". Back to the still-hunt, I get within 60 yards of the little deer and wait. They eventually wander off into the thicker "woods". I finish the course out to the homestead house and wipe the prime out of my pan, insert the frizzen stall and case the rifle. That's a wrap for this morning. It is 10AM and substantially warmer already. In fact the temperature has doubled to 48 degrees. This evening has to be my last chance. I have appointments and other agenda items pending back home....
 

Sparkitoff

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Day 3 Afternoon prep -
Driving back from the ranch there are several deer out in open meadows. That is encouraging. Among the large black spots there are occasional brown specs, the size and color differentiating the cows from the deer at a distance. On the last turn to the driveway of the homestead property the phone rings. My friend says someone in town asked him for a deer if he gets any "extra". They want the meat. He tells me to shoot whatever one I can get and we can give it away. The consolation is that he extends a return hunt whenever I want. I politely decline for now. I tell him I will give meat to them from a big buck. And coming back may not be an option. Tomorrow afternoon (like the song says) "I'm leaving on a jet plane …" I do know when I will be back again, but there will only be 6 -days of buck deer season in this County. I have two offices for two purposes back home, and both secretary's are on stand-by to cancel pending matters tomorrow morning if I am not successful tonight. If this afternoon does not yield a deer, I will have but 1.5 hours to put in tomorrow morning before I have to drive 3-hours, pack, go to the post office and head to the airport by early evening. I still can't find my priming flask. I know it is here somewhere. Ugh. I can always prime from the powder left in the reload tube. I have another rifle with me that is percussion but I don't think I am resorting to that yet. Let's see, 57-degrees right now so no need for the heated socks and eskimo suit. Ok, I have to put this pad down and get out there....to be continued this evening.....
 

Sparkitoff

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Day 3 PM -
I had not planned on being here for 4-days so I had to mooch laundry room privileges from my host. The deer are here but the circumstances have not been exactly what I am waiting for. My one good opportunity thus far did not come to fruition due to a flash in the pan. This evening I load at the gate because I am going to still-hunt all the way in to a sitting spot. I still can't find my priming flask with the 4F powder, so I use the 3F from the reload tube. Of course, that means there is no reload left. I guess I could load whatever powder there is for a finishing shot if needed but not to prepare for a fresh shot. Just before I head off my host send a text that says "Knock down whatever you see, good luck". Well, tonight I am not knocking down any deer, it has to be the right one. I put my little earplugs in and start off. Within just a few yards I realize I am hearing a strange noise. I think its my clothes or my bag at first but I cant figure out the source. A few more step, same noise. The earplugs are actually making the sound distorted so I remove them and start to walk again. Wow, its the grass …. it is frozen! This grass is not used to being this cold so it stiffens up pretty quick. Now I have the challenge of getting where I want to go while trying to remain quiet. This might take longer than I thought. Here comes a cat down the trail. No, wait its a pig. Well, what the heck is it? 10-yards, 5- yards..."Hello!" It's a racoon, and a really big one at that. He must need glasses because he got within 10 feet of me before he did an about face and started to run. Here we go again, crunch...crunch. Another racoon? No, this time it is an armadillo literally walking right next to me down the trail. I smell something rotten. Looking around, I see some fur and a black blob. I think a coyote had a meal here in the recent past. 2:30PM is now about an hour and a half in the rear-view mirror and the temperature is already starting to drop.4:25PM I am at my sitting spot. Immediately I see a head bobbing on the other side of a barbed wire fence and obviously at a lower elevation since all I see is a head. I know for sure its a deer but I can't make out antlers. I pull the rangefinder and take a reading. That deer is right at 200-yards, so not in my realm anyway. Movement on the right. There's a lone hen turkey about 70-yards out. Let's check with the rangefinder....74 yards....not a bad guestimate. 5:30PM and here comes three deer. The first two are does but the last one is bigger and hanging back. The 6X magnification of the rangefinder helps make out the antlers of this buck. Looks like 8-points but he's small. 94 yards and closing. I put the rifle up on the sticks because he is really tempting me. Rangefinder says "68". This is a chip shot if all goes well but I just don't want this deer. I'd rather shoot the one-horned buck or a really big spike. This one might grow up to be a trophy while the others have questionable potential. I could shoot a doe, but they are a lot harder to pull out of the woods without the handles on top. I settle the sights behind his front leg an say to myself "bang". 5:40PM and light is fading. The three deer leave the field. It is really quiet until I hear the train whistle in the distance. I just realized I did not put my earplugs back in. No matter this evening, there will be no noise from my thunder stick. I open the frizzen and blow the powder out. This is a slow, kind of defeated feeling, departure. I stop and text the offices. Postpone tomorrow's affairs until after Jan 3rd. I am going to try one last time in the morning but I must be driving, literally in motion no later than 9AM to get my other obligations accomplished. That leave about 1 to 1.5 hours of morning hunting. Maybe the 20 whatever degrees will work in my favor. I'm going to go back to the alfalfa patch.....See you tomorrow.
 

Sparkitoff

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Day 4 AM-
It is 5:25AM and 28 degrees (22 with wind-chill). I am on borrowed time as I should have left yesterday. I have to be walking out at 8AM and not a second later in order to meet the remainder of my obligations today and get on a plane tonight. I pull the flintlock from the case under the flashlight glow. Huh? I become concerned that there is some moisture on the barrel between the tang and the rear sight and on the top of the lockplate. I wipe it with a shirt sleeve and presume it is from the change of temperature. I prime the pan from my reload tube and start to head out. On a whim, I turn back and grab the other rifle too. I can carry the caplock in its case slung over my shoulder while carrying the flintlock ready to use. This might be smart since I no longer have a reload and I have some concern about the moisture situation. It doesn't seem like there is any wind, probably another mis-prediction by the Weatherman. Easing along the trail I slow down because it is still pretty dark. I'm closing in on my sitting spot when I make out what seems to be a deer. It moves and my suspicion is confirmed, its a deer. This deer comes within 20-yards of me as I am slow-hunting along. It is a little forkhorn buck that does not capture my interest. Right at 7AM there is plenty light to see and I am settled into my sitting spot, looking out over the alfalfa. Come on, deer. I take the percussion rifle from the case and carefully load it with 80 grains of Triple 7, a .530 PRB with pillow ticking. The load and components are the same as the flintlock with the exception of the type of powder. This caplock just likes Triple 7 as it will shoot 5 or 6 consecutive shots without swabbing into the same tight group and easily holds its accuracy at 100-yards. I go to set the percussion cap and realize I only have one. My little cap holder has space for 5. Where did the other 4 go? I have a hunch my sons used this strip loader at the range the other day and did not fill it up again before putting back in its tube where I keep it in the pouch. I know I purposely filled it the day before I left for this hunt, but they also went to the range that day and returned before I departed. Oh well, I at least have two good shots if all goes right. Three little does come out on the alfalfa and tend to circle in one spot about 150-yards out. Two more deer join them. As one lifts its head I think I see antlers. Checking with the rangefinder I see that the two latest deer to come for breakfast are indeed bucks. Both 8-points but neither what I am looking for. It's 7:30 … gotta make this happen! 7:45AM there is a deer on the fenceline. He comes under the barbed wire. That tells me two things, its a doe or small buck and it is not in a rush. A decent buck would have jumped over as the gap underneath is surprisingly small and you wouldn't think any deer could get under it. 7:50AM my friend sends a text. "Get one"? it says. I text back "No". He then writes, "Hurry up, you have to go, seen any". I text "a few far away and one little buck just came under the wire but it gone, looks like a big spike". He text "should have shot him for Trevino" (his friend in town looking for deer meat). I text "Nah". Then he says "Come back for a big one, you will have two weeks or more when you get back". I look at the time on the phone. 8:00AM. I have to leave. I get up to go.....
 

Sparkitoff

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… I blow the powder out of the flintlock, install the frizzen cover and lower the flint. I stand and pick up the caplock to "un-cap" it and case it. I look back. Whoa, here comes a deer. Getting closer, closer. Ah, its a big spike. I pick up my gear quietly but now I slide the flintlock into the case. I stand back up. Looking around I notice the little buck. Hmmmm….what does the rangefinder say? 91 yards. Wait he's broadside now. Trevino would like this buck. The rifle in my hands is my youngest son's and it has never taken game yet. He was hoping I would "break it in" or "baptize" it as they say. 91 yards, broadside? I can make that shot. I do it at the range all the time, right? I have been practicing on life-sized antelope and deer targets (although they are advertised as such they're more like half-sized). Ok, I have to go, like now. Hammer back, sights steady right behind the front leg, set trigger. Boom! "Wow, light trigger when its set" is the thought that pops into my mind. I can't see through the smoke cloud but the thought is interrupted by a deer running to my right about 100-yards out. I watch and watch. Suddenly there is a white swoosh across the landscape that is gone in an instant. Did I get that deer? I look through the rangefinder for a landmark and range reference. Whatever I saw was last seen at 244 yards from me. I go right to that spot instead of where the deer was. I can always go back, but the deer in 244 yards in the direction I need to go anyway. As I get near the landmark I do look for blood but there is none. A little further down the trail I see an antler sticking up. Well, well, I did get it. Wow and a perfect shot too. Right behind the shoulder and an exit directly opposite the size of a golf ball. Trevino got his deer....I will be back for mine. I text my friend the landowner. He says "drive your truck out there to save time". Whew, cool deal. I leave all my gear and guns right there and walk back fast. I'm back with the truck by 8:35AM. A few picture with the cell phone, a tag, a quick field dressing and into the truck he goes. I change into street clothes right there and head to the ranch. I fill out a "WRD" to leave with the deer so someone else can take possession of it and I hang it and leave it for Trevino to pick up. My friend is in town and I call him. He says "don't wait for me, you gotta go, see you in two weeks". Sounds good to me! This hunt is not over yet. I made it to the office by 12:06PM, perfect timing. Good hurry, need to pack for the fishing trip....

TREVINO'S DEER
 
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