Texas Deer Hunting

Glancing down the sendero it’s void of life aside from the lone javelina that’s been milling around since dawn. I text my buddy to find out if he’s seeing any deer but there’s no reply. “Figures,” I grumble, “Probably covered up in them,” Tucking my phone into my jacket pocket I look up and am instantly shaken. Without warning and as if confronted by a grizzly bear a wave of anxiety rushes through me as the hulking mass of a giant whitetail buck appears in the clearing. Its tall thick chocolate tines and white throat patch contrasted against the green mesquite looked like a magazine cover come to life. Quickly I lifted my rifle to the shooting rest but to my disbelief, I couldn’t keep the scope’s crosshairs from bouncing off its frame. Gripping the stock as if the gun were trying to squirm from my hands I’m overcome with pure adrenaline. Without proper breath, grip, or any semblance of control I wrestled the jittery crosshairs over its shoulder like a bull rider hanging on for eight seconds then quickly jerked the trigger. Boom! The .300 Win Mag roared but only an echo carries the wind as the deer scurries away unscathed. With a deep exhale I plead with god offering a barter but it’s too late. I just blew my chance at the biggest buck I’ve ever seen in my life. And worst of all there’s a video to prove it.

Every hunter wants a happy ending right? At least that’s what motivates most of us when we plan hunting trips. Each year thousands of folks like myself residing in major cities across the country board planes, rental cars and trucks-with-trailers in an annual pilgrimage to Texas to hunt the country’s most popular game animal. Rarely considering the potential of a negative outcome. And why would we? Motivated by images of bucks with chandelier like antlers plastered across millions of television screens, websites, magazines and social media feeds we succumb to our natural instincts after an eleven month suburban slumber to be reborn again into our primal selves. The reality however is that these hunts although exciting are in actuality a high stakes gamble with even higher pressure to execute once a substantial portion of hard earned income is at stake. Up the ante with even bigger bucks with even higher price tags and suddenly you’re quarterbacking in the Super Bowl of whitetail hunting. And just like any given Sunday there’s winners and there’s losers and the biggest disappoint of all is the factual reality that we will all lose at some point or another.

Like myself a lot of folks who travel to Texas to hunt each year reside in highly urbanized areas of the country, worlds away from any semblance of quality whitetail habitat. We don’t have brush guards mounted over our truck grills, wear snake boots to work or have coyotes to confront with an open carry sidearm. But we love to hunt. And although criticized by most chest beating do it yourselfers and keyboard warriors for not scouting and spending days or even weeks in the woods to find a trophy on our own simply because we pay guides and ranches to assist us, the truth is we envy those who live in these incredible parts of the country where greenery and cactus meld with giant whitetail deer far from the paved urban jungles of major cities we call home.

Truthfully most of my friends (middle aged power company employees like myself) spend the majority of our lives spent commuting hours each way to and from jobs through rush hour traffic, picking up kids from school, sports practice, weekend games and most of the time our duty to our line of work in the form of 24 hour on call through all hours of the night. In other words we work year round to keep the power on during everything from hurricanes, tornados and floods while others get to play Jim Shockey in the woods. By December we use the last week of our vacation time, dust off our rifles and head to the local gun range for an afternoon or two. The next week is met with a solid day of airline travel to either Houston or Dallas, rush through 45 minute layovers before switching planes then arriving in some small regional airport somewhere in Texas before embarking on a one to two hour drive via rental car before finally reaching our respective ranches. We happily place an enormous amount of pressure on ourselves over the next four days slapping down anywhere from $3000 to $5000 dollars to a hunting ranch and the local economy that doesn’t include tips, taxidermy or meat processing with one goal of hoping we come home safe with a nice buck while having a good time. Success for these hunts are determined in the mere seconds before the shot is fired – boiled down into a single moment of truth. And sometimes the outcome is met with cheers and hugs, and sometimes a tidal wave of anxiety and apprehension. But that’s what keeps regular guys like us coming back year after year – win or lose. Big buck or no buck at all.