The Longest Day!
By Michael Middleton
I took one last drag on the straw, trying to filter out any remaining caffeine from the melted ice and what was, many miles back, a Dr. Pepper fountain drink. As I exited I-35 for that final 12 mile stretch to the ranch road, I needed all the supplemental energy I could find in order to keep my eyes open until I made my final arrival at our South Texas ranch. It had been a long, emotional day. A long, emotional week, for that matter. My maternal grandfather was called Home to be with our Lord on Tuesday night after having suffered a sudden stroke only two days prior. The shock of suddenly losing one of the most health conscious individuals I know to a stroke had, earlier in the morning, been replaced by the reality that I would never see my only grandfather again. We paid our last respects at a funeral service that had Bo Pilgrim as a guest speaker. That in itself told me how much of an impact Daddy Gene, the person that I revere as the greatest man Ive ever known, had on an entire community and an entire industry in addition to his own family. Time and again, his closest friends and former coworkers commented on how they never heard Gene Biddle utter a lick of profanity, nor say an unkind word about anybody.
Following the emotionally draining funeral and lunch at the church, my wife, two kids and I made the three hour drive back home, where I had my gear waiting to load into the pickup to make the six and a half hour drive to the ranch for a weekend of hunting. By the time I arrived, it was just after 2:00 am, and all I could do to keep my eyes open as the events of the morning, along with the knowledge that my wife was not happy with me for leaving, was finally taking its toll.
Still, I managed to wake up on Saturday morning in time to slip into
my tripod stand under the cover of darkness to await what I hoped to be the buck of a
lifetime. With the rut just beginning in
South Texas, I hoped to have plenty of action. I
hunted most of the morning, but did not see any bucks despite having four does around my
stand from shortly after daylight. At 9:15, I
finally decided to take the opportunity to get some meat for the freezer and shot a doe. I was also able to capture the shot on video,
which can view at TexasBowhunter.com.
I recovered the doe and went about the chore of skinning and
quartering her to put her on ice. The 172
quart Igloo dwarfed the doe, and I hoped that I would either shoot another deer or a hog
to take up a little additional room. By the
time I finished that job and then tended to some other responsibilities of maintaining the
cabin and the ranch, it was time to shower and head out for the afternoon hunt. I had been uncertain which of my four
prominent stand locations I wanted to hunt. Three
of the areas have feeders, including one that I had set up two weeks earlier, but the
feeders seemed to attract the attention of the hogs more than the deer. Because of this, I decided to hunt an area at
which I had no feeder, but where Ive seen a lot of activity in the past.
As I approached my stand from downwind, I saw that there was already
a group of javelina feeding on the corn that I had strategically scattered earlier in the
morning. I intentionally ran them off before
climbing into my stand. The stand setup I
have at this site is a Strong Built chain on treestand, set in a Mesquite tree that is
about 25 yards off a sendero road. How do you
hang a chain on type stand in a Mesquite tree, you ask?
Well, the platform of the stand is a mere 4 feet off the ground in the trunk of the
tree. It doesnt seem that it would
provide much concealment, but Ive had a number of deer within 5 yards of the tree
that had no clue that I could just about reach out and whack them on the head with my
If you look closely, you can see the Strong Built chain on stand to the left of the
camera tripod. Note also the day pack hanging above.
After settling in, it wasnt long before the javelina came back. Not wanting them to eat all the corn, I was
determined to run them off again. I grunted
loudly a few times with my grunt call, and it did the job. . . for a while. They soon returned again, however, and never gave
the grunt call a second thought, no matter how hard I blew on it! I watched them for a while, and then contemplated
shooting one to capture another shot on video until I decided that I just didnt feel
like messing with cleaning a javelina. I
thought I would try one last strategy in scaring them off.
I removed my rattle bag from my pack and began clashing it together violently. Although a couple of the javelina were only about
10 yards from my tree, they didnt even acknowledge the loud crashing sound of the
fake antlers. Resigned to the fact that my
efforts were futile, I sipped the rattle bag back into my daypack, and got some video
footage of the javelina.
As I was tooling around with my video camera, which was on a 6 foot
camera tripod that extended just about to knee level as I sat on my stand, I stood up and
could see the figure of a deer walking toward me on the sendero road, about 75 yards away. As soon as it cleared the brush, I saw that it
had, what appeared to be, a pretty respectable set of antlers. I reached back down to quickly turn on the video
camera, keeping one eye on the buck as he approached.
Just as I was reaching down, a couple of the javelina scuffled briefly in front of
me, grunting and scraping the brush. At the
sound of this, the buck immediately began running straight toward the javelina, which were
obscured to the buck by the brush. I had no
time to adjust the camera. I quickly
straightened up and leaned in as close to the tree as I could get. When the buck poked his head through the brush, he
was within 6 feet of one of the javelina, who had continued feeding on the corn. The javelina and the buck startled each other, and
the javelina ran a few steps to the left, while the buck ran quickly through the opening
to get by the javelina, which lead him straight toward my tree! He stopped less than 7 yards away. My heart was thumping, as I now realized how
impressive the bucks antlers were! I
made the decision that I wanted to shoot this buck. All
I needed was an opportunity!
The buck began feeding on the corn, while I continued to lean in
toward the tree. I was standing, and my feet
were already in a good position for a shot. My
Hoyt Striker bow was ready, and I had my release aid attached to the string. The javelina slowly walked back to his original
position, which was about 6 yards on the other side of the buck from me. The buck, preoccupied by the javelina, was unaware
of my presence in the tree behind him. He was
standing broadside, but because of a branch from the mesquite, I would either have to wait
for him to take a couple of steps forward, or lean away from the trunk of the tree to get
While I was waiting, I remembered my goal to video the hunt. I glanced down at the camera and saw that I would
have to turn it on, and rotate the tripod head 90 degrees to the right to get to the buck. I took the release aid off the string and slowly
started bending at the knees so I could reach the camera.
The buck looked up, but still didnt see me.
I decided at this point that the buck was just too good to risk spooking him while
trying to turn on the camera. At less than 7
yards, it would be next to impossible to turn the camera on undetected.
As the buck returned to feeding on the corn, I decided that the next time the buck lifted his head to look at the javelina, I would take the opportunity to draw and lean forward for the shot. Moments later, as if scripted, the buck did just that. I slowly leaned away from the tree while simultaneously drawing my bow. My Beman ICS Hunter shaft slid noiselessly across my rest as I came to full draw. Apparently, however, the javelina detected movement and shifted, causing the buck to begin trotting quickly to my left, which now had him directly in front of my stand. I followed him with my sight pin tucked behind his shoulder. I whistled sharply, which caused him to stop. Now quartering at fifteen yards, with the pin settled behind his shoulder, I applied pressure to the trigger on my release. In a split second, I saw the white vanes spinning toward their target. As the Jak Hammer broadhead entered the ribcage, the buck whirled around and ran back into the brush to my right. I knew that it was a good hit, but I could still see the shaft of the arrow protruding out his ribcage as the arrow did not pass through the offside shoulder. I could see blood flowing from the point where the shaft had entered. As I glanced at my watch, I noted that it was 5:18.
My excitement was obvious. This was taken from video immediately after the shot!
I knew that I had to give the buck plenty of time to bed up and die, but I also gave consideration to the fact that I was alone and didnt want to be tracking in the South Texas brush by myself after dark. I decided that I would wait 30 minutes, which would provide me an additional 30 minutes of daylight with which to search. That was the longest 30 minutes I have experienced in quite some time, despite the fact that I could only wait 23 minutes! I climbed (jumped!) out of my stand and quickly found blood. Although there werent large pools of blood, the drops were close enough that the tracking was easy. As I came to a clearing, I looked up to see the antlers protruding from the buffle grass 20 yards away.
|The trophy was mine! I approached the buck with camera running, and quickly took advantage of the remaining daylight to pose the buck for some pictures. What an awesome buck! As I knelt over the buck, I said a prayer of thanksgiving for the opportunity to provide food for my family as well as a trophy for my wall. I realize that in a time when it is so difficult to find a quality place to hunt at an affordable price, I am fortunate to have a place with the potential to produce quality bucks.
|I had already decided, even prior to my evening hunt, that I would return home, as my wife had become really ill. However, before I left, I knew I had to get the buck on ice, so I skinned and quartered him, then placed him in the ice chest to accompany my doe for the ride back home. By the time I left the ranch , it was 9:30 pm. I arrived home at 4:00 am, and by the time I joined my wife in bed, I had been operating for 22 hours on 3 hours of sleep the previous night.
It wasnt until the next afternoon, after taking my wife to the doctor, that I was able to finally score the buck. I must admit that I had originally misjudged him in the field. I assumed that he would probably be right at or just below P&Y standards after deductions. Having spent the entire trip home reviewing the video tape, and running through calculations in my head, I suspected he might be bigger than I had originally figured, but it wasnt until I finally put a tape to him that I confirmed he was an even better trophy than I had thought. With main beam measurements of 22 inches, a spread of 20 5/8 inches, 9 inch G3s, 7 inch G2s and 6 inch brow tines, the buck grossed, by my unofficial calculation, 143 7/8. He netted 136 ½. Truly a trophy by anyones standards!
Click the image to view video of this scene! (1.16 meg)
Equipment and Conditions
Striker Carbonite, 70 lbs, 29"
Arrows: Beman ICS Hunter 340
(417 grain total arrow weight)
Broadhead: Wasp Jak Hammer, 100 grain
Stand: Strong Built Chain On
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