Tough Hunts by Larry Weishuhn
by Larry Weishuhn
I was tempted to laugh out loud when one of the hunters I had met while stopped for fuel at a convenience store on my way to western Texas for whitetail hunt said, “I’m sure when you’re on a guided hunt, the outfitter and his guides, have a big buck staked out for you, know exactly where he is and what time he comes out, where all you have to do is shoot. Do you really call that hunting?” Rather than guffawing at something so far from fact, I decided to explain some of the facts of the life of someone who does outdoor television shows.
I had just spent five days on a guided hunt on an extremely good ranch. The property was huge, low-fenced, had only sparingly been hunted the past few years, and then only for does and management bucks. My guide was an extremely knowledgeable and experienced deer hunter who intimately knew the ranch, and, he thought its deer.
My goal hunting whitetails or for that matter other animals filming a TV show is to take a mature male. Do not get me wrong I love and appreciate large antlers and horns, but my primary goal is to take a male that has served his biological function and taking him has no ill-effect on the population.
I had personally paid for my hunt. My efforts to take a mature buck were filmed by Jeremiah Bennett, ace cameraman for Safari Classics’ “Trijicon’s World of Sports Afield”. Jeremiah, beyond being a fabulous cameraman is also an unbelievably talented artist, an accomplished hunter who has hunted and filmed big game hunts throughout the world, and someone I call a trusted friend. And, he’s a pretty darn good deer hunter himself.
Each morning we arrived in the area we intended to hunt well before first light, whether we hunted from an established deer blind, natural ground blinds, or where we intended to rattle. We hunted each day until noon, drove back to the headquarters for a quick lunch, then immediately headed back to hunting. We hunted each evening till we ran out of filming and legal shooting light. We walked miles and spent many hours looking for a mature buck.
A couple of mornings we rattled. I was able to entice into the open twelve bucks at least one of us could see. Nine responded one morning and three the next. Eight of the bucks came charging in as one would hope they would do. The only possibly mature buck I rattled in was one that hung back in the brush. I could see he had an impressive rack, but little else. They responded to rattling horns only those two mornings.
Morning and evening, sitting and watching feed and water areas, we saw very few deer. The few bucks we did see were youngsters, the biggest a ten-point we declared “immature”. We saw very few bucks and does during the hunt. Couple of weeks before my arrival, hunters had seen a lot of mature bucks and lots of deer. During our hunt I tried things that in the past had helped me take a mature buck, but not this time.
I left the property without firing a shot other than upon my arrival making certain my Remington Model 700 in .300 Rem Ultra Mag, topped with a Trijicon AccuPoint scope and shooting Hornady’s 220-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter was still sighted-in. It was and as mentioned that was the only shot I fired.
I am not complaining. I had a fabulous time, with great people in camp. We parted as friends. The camp’s food was fabulous! The evening conversations around the campfire were stimulating and fun. But the hunt was far from what the questioner thought it was.
Just prior to that hunt, I hunted my home place. It has been owned our family since the mid-1800’s. The property is small, so deer stands are the only practical way to hunt it.
I arrived at my stand, in the middle of a dense thicket, well before a hint of pink in the east. I sat until almost lunch time, then walked to the pre-designated place where I was to meet my daughter and son-in-law for a camp lunch. Over bacon and eggs, followed by a bowl of “hunter’s stew”, we relived the morning’s hunt. It did not take me long to tell my morning’s story. I had not seen anything larger than a robin, other than four crows. My daughter and son-in-law fared better and had each seen a small buck and a couple of does.
Meal and lunchtime discussion completed, we headed back to our stands. After dark we met before heading home. My son-in-law had seen a nice buck in thick cover and a couple of does. My daughter had seen an almost legal buck and three does. Again, the biggest thing I saw were seven crows.
The following day was nearly a repeat of our first day, other than the bucks my daughter and her husband saw were not quite as big as the day before. Me? Thankfully I had again seen seven crows…
If as I was accused of, where someone does everything and all I have to do is show up and shoot a buck, I guess I was on the wrong hunts!
Does not taking an animal on these and numerous similar hunts I have been on mean they were “bad” hunts? Heavens no!
I dearly love “the hunt”, not knowing the outcome of those I go on. I greatly appreciate the people I meet, and, the experiences I have have while hunting.
Frankly, I tend to shy away from trail cameras, and if I do have a trail camera set up, I normally do not look at those photos until the hunt or the season is over.
Recently while on a desert mule deer hunt I was offered the opportunity to look at trail camera photos to determine what areas I wanted to hunt. I did not do so. I like being surprised. My statement was, “If you have a buck you definitely do not want me to shoot, for whatever reason, then please show me that one, and only that one.”
Tough hunts make me appreciate successful ones in terms of taking an animal. And frankly too, I do not on occasion mind an “easy one”, but one hunted fairly! All that said, I dearly love the hunt and the animals I hunt. Maybe one of these days when I can no longer “get around” I might consider going on a hunt where “all I have to do is pull the trigger”…but really thinking about it, I can tell you that is not going to happen!