West Texas Big Buck
A number of years ago, I had access to a fine piece of real estate outside of Dell City, Texas. My brother-in-law, “Uncle Joe” managed an isolated 20,000 acre ranch for a close friend who lived in Dallas. Dell City seats about 90 miles East of El Paso right on the Texas/ New Mexico state line. Joe's ranch was just across the New Mexico line. Me and my family spent many a weekend at the ranch. It was a great weekend get-away from the city life. I soon had a good feel for the lay of the land. I was always on the scout. Many a deer, pronghorn and elk roamed the canyons and creeks along the ranch. One particular 4 weekend back in 2000 we went to the ranch for family visiting and hunting. Driving in Thursday evening right after work was our normal routine. I woke early Friday spent the morning scouting. From what the sign I was it was clear that a large buck lived in the area. As the day passed, I never managed to get even a glimpse of the old timer. I had a fairly good idea of the movement pattern of the big buck, and if I was right, the old fellow was going to be a tough egg to crack.
It seemed that the trophy was bedding on the top of a high ridge that ended in a bluff, overlooking a creek drainage. Both sides of the ridge were paralleled by deep creek drainages. Apparently, the big buck spent his day on the ridgeline, while traveling down into the creek bottoms to rut, and feed, at night. A large number of random deer bedded in the drainages, and on the sides of the main ridge, during the day. Any attempt to access the high ridge always resulted in many alerted deer that would run to the summit of the ridge, thus alerting the big buck of impending danger. I was frustrated, and it was clear that my current approach of hunting in the creek bottoms was not working--I needed a new plan.
Saturday was a rainy, windy day, perfect for to doing some snooping, I hiked to the summit of the high ridge, and slowly made my way along the ridgeline. Sure enough, big rubs dotted the crest of the ridge at frequent intervals. With my assumptions confirmed, I became determined to try to find a way to access the ridge top unannounced. Following the ridge to its end, I soon found myself looking down an almost vertical drop of more than 200 feet. As I stared into the creek far below and the tilled field on it's opposite side a plan began to form in my mind. Was it possible? I thought so.
Within an hour, I was back at the top of the bluff, rope in hand. Shinnying down the first 50 feet of the steep slope on my rear-end, I tied my rope to a tree and continued my descent. Barely able to get down the nearly vertical slope, I wondered if I would be able to climb back to the top. Upon reaching the bottom, I quickly started back up, looking for answers. A few minutes later, I once again stood on the summit of the ridge. Yes, I could do it. This might work!
Moving back down the ridgeline about 100 yards I positioned myself in a saddle at the intersection of two large ravines that ran off opposite sides of the main ridgeline. Looking the situation over carefully, a really good feeling came over me. I'd let the spot "rest" for a few days, and then with a north wind to blow my scent off the bluff, I'd be back to tend to some unfinished business.
Six days later, gray-light of a November morning found me at the base of the bluff and I knew this was going to be a riot! Strapping my 7mm Mag to the back of my pack, I started up. A short while later, I quietly peered over the crest of the bluff. The oak ridgeline was barren of deer, which was just what I'd hoped for. Slipping toward my nearby destination, I soon climbed to my perch. Within minutes, I was settled in.
Watching the day spill upon the area, it was good to be alive. Far below me, I hoped that the deer action was slowly moving from the creek bottoms, onto the secondary ridges that terminated at my lofty hide. Not expecting much action for some time, I concentrated on the smells and sounds of the damp woods around me.
At nine, the sound of distant scurrying jerked me to attention. Peering through the trees around me, a distant flash of movement caught my eye. Grabbing my grunt call, I let out a few short sounds. Sudden stillness enveloped the area, quickly followed by a loud crunching of leaves. Catching a flash of antler, I hurriedly grabbed my 7mag. In seconds, a large buck stomped dominantly upon the scene. One look was all it took, I aimed and fired. Moments later, I set back and let the reality of the moment settle in. I'd just center-punched a big buck. Was it the "boss" that I knew roamed the area? Climbing down, I started the trailing job, excitement and wonder flooding through my body. In only a few short minutes, I stood beside a trophy that was all (and more) than I'd hoped for. What a hunt! I could not have been more satisfied.