Fire and Fauna

Date:  February 16-17, 2013

Report By:  Tommy

Team Members:  Tommy, Chris, Craig, Justin, Josh, Chad

Weather Conditions:  Clear and cool

I stepped off of one of the longest helicopter flights I’d ever been on, on Thursday around 2 pm.  The rest of the day was a blur, from getting off of the rig to my wife picking me up at the airport. I was filled with anticipation for the upcoming weekend trip to the deer camp to celebrate Craig’s birthday.  Friday could not have been any different; the work day dragged on while all I could think about was getting up to camp and hanging out with my best friends.  Josh swung by the house around 5:30 pm to pick me up.  I kissed Brit and Baby Reagan goodbye and loaded the truck.  The long drive to camp was full of Josh and I pumping each other up, preparing ourselves for how much fun this weekend would be.

As soon as we arrived, we hopped out of the truck, greeted Chris and Craig, and each took a draw on the bottle of “Crown Maple” that Chris offered-up.  Craig had the fire raging, and we all had our spots around the campfire discussing the fate of the world and life’s bigger problems (like what color sharks are most attracted too).  We got straight to work spreading corn, sugar, and Hog Wild underneath the feeders that we planned on hunting, all the while keeping a keen eye out for hogs and rabbits.  After an hour or so of driving around the woods, with no luck, we decided to retire to the campfire again.

Inside our “cabin”

Chris and Justin fixin supper

As the night went on, Craig got the fire burning even larger and hotter.  We were all beginning to feel the effects of too much whiskey and wine.  Josh dragged a large piece of plywood out from the side of the bunk-house and set us up a beer-pong table.  Craig dragged another piece of plywood out from the side of the bunk-house and threw it on the fire.  We joked around and played beer-pong through the night and into morning until about 3 am, when Craig tried to play “flaming beer pong” by lighting the ping-pong balls on fire.  With two hours until we were supposed to wake up for the morning hunt we packed it in and called it a night.

Flaming Beer Pong

Tommy and Justin in Deep conversation…

I woke up groggy, and slightly disoriented.  I stumbled outside to relieve myself and heard the rest of the guys stirring around inside the bunk-house.  It was way too late for the morning hunt, we had missed it, so we agreed to go into town and gorge on some jalapeno boudin for breakfast.  As it turns out, we slept in so late that the donut shop was closed and we had to go eat at the local café.  In case you don’t know about the local café, it accounts for one third of the restaurants in town and serves food that can be bought at your local grocery store freezer section.  The nasty, greasy, garbage food from the café is exactly what we needed to get us back on our feet for the day.

We killed some time in the afternoon setting some anthills on fire

Back at the camp we decided to follow the guidance of some wives and friends and get crazy with a “Harlem Shake” video.  We knew that Justin and Tom would be joining us later in the day and thought that this would be the best way to kill some time before their arrival.  While filming one of the videos Justin was incessantly calling us telling us that we needed to head out to the stands, and that critters were stirring all over Trinity.  We were just having way too much fun acting like kids to heed his advice.  After we reviewed the footage and laughed at each other for a good spell, Justin had finally arrived.

We suited-up in camo and talked about who would hunt which stand.  I would be hunting with Justin, and was excited because I had never hunted with Justin before.  We started down the road to the stand in Justin’s truck and realized he needed his jacket, so Justin used his expert driving skills to reverse all the way back to camp and grab a jacket.  Off we went, again, when we realized that we should bring a video camera in case we encounter any action, so Justin put his driving skills to test one more time and reversed back to camp one more time.  No camera was at the camp so we set-off, finally, to go play in the woods.

We parked deep in the pines and began our trek through the muddy trails towards the stand.  Justin and I were being so careless; I forget what we were talking about, but was probably something about how insulated coveralls make the back of your knees sweaty when you walk, pretty insignificant, un-muted, conversation.  Justin was looking back towards me when I froze and smacked his arm.  We were just inside the tree-line, walking towards the pipeline clearing when I spotted a few hogs rooting around the clearing.

We both, instantly, went silent and hunter instincts took over.  Justin laid out his jacket and crouched down.  I got into prone position and trained the rifle on a hog that appeared to be about 60 lbs.  Justin was spotting others and told me that there were about 5 hogs, one of which was massive.  The hog that I had in the crosshairs must’ve been only 20 yards away.  They were very active and moving quickly.  I felt rushed.  Justin was whispering quietly, “take it, take the shot”, so I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger as I exhaled.  I couldn’t believe it, but I had shot just under the belly of that hog.  They ran off into the woods and left the both of us with a bit of a care-free feeling, the feeling that we may have ruined the rest of the hunt.

Justin and I marched over to the stand, climbed in, and got settled.  It was a bit different than usual because we knew we had just made a ruckus taking a shot at that hog.  The best thing about missing that hog was that I was with Justin.  You may remember the post “Redemption is a Dish Best Served Cold” when Justin had missed a shot at a deer they called Thud-Butt and was able to harvest Thud-Butt the next day.  Justin’s experience on his hunt for Thud-Butt was invaluable to me at this time.  As the dust settled in my head, and my nerves calmed down, Justin finally turned this hunt around by saying, “I’m just glad it wasn’t me that missed this time”.  We laughed and joked for the next 3 hours, talking about dream exotic hunts, our travel experiences, and crazy ex-flames (Justin has got some serious crazies after him).  We were being so loud, but having so much fun it didn’t matter.

I think we were just about to call the hunt quits when Justin spotted a group of doe off in the distance to the west.  They must have been over 500 yards away.  The two of us got serious about the hunt.  We shut-up and concentrated our focus on the doe, as if we could bring them closer with our thoughts.  After about 45 minutes, Justin asked if I wanted to sit and wait for them to work their way towards us or if I wanted to try and get closer.  There was no way I could go back to camp after missing that hog, so I told Justin that I wanted to get closer.

Fate is a curious thing, because Justin had just finished telling me that one of his dream hunts would be a “spot & stalk”.  We got out of the stand as quietly as possible and crept out of the brush, onto the edge of the pipeline, to gauge how far we would have to go and what path we would take.  We would have to choose between sneaking down the edge of the pipeline risking being seen, or taking cover in the woods and risk being heard.  We both agreed that we would walk the first 200 yards on the edge of the pipeline and reassess the situation.

Map of the hunting area

In a low crouch, we slowly stepped closer to the doe.  My excitement grew with each step.  When we reached our way-point we took a look at the terrain and saw that the ground cover in the woods was a bit damp, which would soften our noise, and the wind-blown grass would crunch under our steps on the edge of the pipeline.  We cut back into the woods and made our way downhill towards a small creek bed.  We were able to use the soft sand and elevated sides to shield our scent and noise.  Justin and I were closing in on the doe.  We peeked over the creek bank and saw that the doe were about 175 yards away.  I crawled on my belly the rest of the way to the elevated edge of a second, larger, creek.  The doe were about 75 to 100 yards past the second creek.  My heart was pounding so hard that I couldn’t hear my movement.  Every time I stuck my head up to see if the doe had moved I would see a flicker of the white tails.  Justin was hanging back, so as not to double our noise, but in a position where he could see both the doe and me.  I had to cut back to the south and aim northwest so that I could be certain that I wasn’t shooting towards any other stands in the area.  I situated myself on the up-sloping creek bank and trained my rifle on the doe.  She was completely oblivious to my existence.  I looked back one last time at Justin, as if to say “we did it, buddy”, turned back, took a deep breath, and with a slow exhale I squeezed the trigger.

The doe was down!  Before I could take a second look Justin was charging me with one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen.  We performed a high-five/tackle/hug, in jubilation, as Justin was exclaiming that I had dropped her and it was awesome!  I was speechless.  I couldn’t believe that we had actually pulled off a spot & stalk in an area with some of the most skittish whitetail.  Justin called the rest of The Lost Boys and gave them the good news, while we hiked back to the stand to collect our belongings.

Tommy and Justin sporting some big grins

Obligatory shirtless picture

We walked back towards the doe and were met by a caravan of trucks coming from the opposite direction.  After we took a good look at the doe in the dusk light we loaded her up and brought her back to camp for dressing and celebration.  The rest of the night was spent talking about our hunts that evening, drinking, planning a type of prank known as “the long-con”, and sitting around the fire with my best friends in the world.

Happy Birthday Craig!

At the end of the day, it is quite apparent that it wasn’t the fact that we harvested a doe that made the hunt a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  To me, getting to hunt with Justin, using a unique hunting style, and sharing the experience with my best friends that inspire perseverance, allow me to be myself, and build confidence are the things that I will remember.

Categories: camping, deer hunting, Hunting, outdoors, road trip, texas | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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