Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Father & Son Texas Predator Hunts
Nick and Alex Hayes, a father and son team from the soggy “Garden State”, headed south this past July to dry out in the Lone Star State! This was to be their very first hunt together and what better place than south west Texas chasing nighttime predators and varmints! The first night of the hunt was spent driving around safari style while running a “Light Force” spotlight. The brilliant light penetrated the night revealing a number of yellow eyes lurking in the darkness. With guns blazing, the duo quickly racked up a respectable body count of; raccoons, porcupines, skunks, jackrabbits and ringtail cats. The second day was spent at a local Gun Club where Nick & Alex tried their hand at several rounds of skeet followed by sporting clays. After a couple hundred shots it was time for another night of fun. This time they wanted to focus on predator calling. With that the “Fox Pro” electric caller was fired up, letting lose a barrage of appetizing calls sure to make any carnivore drool. It didn’t take long for several hungry grey foxes to come streaking in with reckless abandon. Both Nick and Alex demonstrated their shooting prowess time and time again as their guns belched tongues of orange flame at the would be predators. Their guide, veteran predator hunter Jim Roche was truly impressed with how quick these two northerners caught on with this fast paced nighttime action! Practice indeed pays off!

Dennis Duke, (CA) had one goal in mind, to spend quality time with his son whom he had not seen in a year. Nick, who now lives in Texas, had but one goal also, to go hunting with his dad. After a few back and forth phone calls the pair decided on a “father and son” predator hunt! Dates were booked around September’s “New Moon” to help insure a chance for a bobcat. The first night they flung shot after shot from their short barreled .223’s at several fox, raccoon, ringtail cat, and a smelly number of skunks. The second night guide Ryan McDonald called in a nice Texas bobcat at the very first set. The big cat hung up at 50 yds. The hunters decided to stretch the barrel of the .12ga but the cat managed to escape unscathed. The next set produced a grey fox that dropped to Dennis’ AR-15. The following “call” produced a “grey” for Nick. The load of #2’s from the Benelli .12 ga smoked the fox at 25 yds. “Set up” after set up resulted in either a fox or raccoon running in to investigate the tantalizing call. Some “rested in piece” on the parched Texas soil and some didn’t. About midnight the team set up to call near an old squeaky windmill. After a few minutes a pair of yellow eyes was spotted sneaking in from one side. Ryan lit up the night with the blinding spotlight as Nick cut loose with the Benelli. When the mushroom like cloud of dust settled, there lay one beautiful bobcat!

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011
New Mexico Antelpe Hunt
Despite the continuing drought conditions throughout much of New Mexico, our 2011 Sept antelope hunters did very well, maybe even a tad better than last year’s hunters. We were a bit concerned whether the Sept 10th opener would coincide with any rutting activity which provides hunters & guides an extra edge. Not to worry, we saw a number of bucks chasing does! Our 16 Magnum Hunters harvested 16 mature antelope bucks with a couple pushing 80+/- inches. We conducted our hunts on four large ranches near Roswell, Vaughn, Corona and Ft Sumner, NM. Several bucks surpassed the magic 15" benchmark with a couple over 16". While size isn’t everything, it sure helps raise smiles in a hunting camp.
As with most hunts, there are many stories that could be told. We could talk about A.J.’s 450 yd one shot kill, or Mark’s 12 shot buck, or Corey’s 3 minute antelope hunt, but the story that must be shared is about a man who lost his mother only 3 days before he was to show up in NM.
John Thoman (VA) called to say that he would be unable to attend the antelope hunt and that he was not asking for a refund. When asked if there was anyone he could swap his hunt with, he said not on such short notice. We mentioned that we hosted a “Youth Hunter Education Weekend” 2 days before at our Lodge in Eldorado, TX and would he be interested in donating his hunt to a youth who might not otherwise have an opportunity like this. Without hesitation he replied “yes”!
We contacted a divorced mother of 2 whose 11 yr old son, Cameron, had successfully passed our hunter ed. course. Cameron and his mother spent their first day hunting with professional guide Donnie Mathis. Also in the truck was antelope hunter Randy Sagstetter of Houston, TX. About mid morning a nice pronghorn buck was spotted some 300 yards away. It was quickly determined to be more within Randy’s rifle range. The buck dropped at the shot confirming the decision. High Five’s were exchanged amongst the team and Cameron was up to bat! The first day ended with a beautiful New Mexico sunset but without Cameron firing a shot.
Back at camp, exciting stories were being shared by the 6 successful hunters along with words of encouragement for Cameron and A.J. Long (TX), the only hunters yet to fill their tags. Andrew Hofstetter, a big smiling 10 yr old from IN, who harvested a nice 15” buck earlier that day, asked if he could accompany Cameron on the next day’s hunt. As it so often turns out in our camps, hunters meet and soon become friends. These two boys represented the youngest antelope hunters we have ever had.
The next morning, Cameron’s team headed north on the 40,000 acre ranch, and A.J.’s team headed south. About an hour into the hunt Cameron drew a bead on a nice antelope buck, busy tending a small group of doe. The 325 yd “air ball” missed the buck, sending him and his does fleeing across the prairie. Guide, Jim Roche, continued to glass the retreating antelope as they eventually slowed to a walk then bedded up near a small group of junipers. Seizing the opportunity, they made their way across the open plain trying to keep the junipers between them and the now bedded antelope. Jim and Cameron belly crawled to the closest juniper tree. Slowly leaning out past the tree's fragrant bows, Jim laser ranged the bedded buck at 228 yds. It was now or never for Cameron!
Jim extended the legs of the Harris bipod on his 12 lb custom sniper rifle while Cameron snuggled up to it’s McMillan A-5 adjustable stock. Twisting the scopes magnification ring up to 25X on the Leupold Mark IV, brought the buck seemingly into Cameron’s face. A couple clicks of the elevation turret and Cameron had the green light to chamber the .300 Win Mag. Cameron offered up a quick prayer asking the Lord to help him with his marksmanship then slipped “off” the safety. Jim barked then howled like a sick coyote. After two or three long howls the bedded buck stood up to face the would be carnivore. Cameron felt confident and squeezed the trigger, sending the 180 gr “Barnes Tipped Triple Shock” bullet through the buck’s heart. Before ejecting the spent round, Cameron praised God for answering his prayer! Mother and son were elated, as was everyone in camp. Later that day A.J. bagged his buck, bringing the camp's success rate to 100%!
Cameron sent a thank you note with photos to John Thoman for making his hunt possible. At such a sad time in John’s life, a selfless act of kindness brought great joy to many. The Lord does indeed bless those who bless others. In John’s case, maybe it was the Lord calming the waters amidst the storm.

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