Texas is more than just a state or place on a map. It is larger than that, and the memories I have of hunting there 20 years ago will forever be etched in my mind. I was young and clueless to the world, but one thing was for sure the deer were everywhere and the bucks had racks.
My dad let me take a week off of school to join him on a hunt for opening rifle season in 1994 and that still is hallow ground. It was not about the shooting big deer or seeing a new place. The fact I spent time with my father and both of us enjoyed our time with each other made the trip special. For the next two seasons, I was able to travel to Big Lake, Texas with dad and hunt whitetail deer; this changed me forever. Since those days, we have traveled to many other states and Canada to hunt whitetail deer, Mule deer, and Elk.
Our hunting trips created a bond and every year we spend a few days hunting together. In 1997, I left for Parris Island to become a Marine, following in my fathers footsteps, with a picture of him in his dress blues.
There is just one piece of history that year that never happened. I was supposed to go on an exotic deer hunt in Texas for the first week of September. That never happened because I would leave in July to become a Marine. That void haunted me then and again now twenty years later. Having never made that trip, which was on my bucket list, my life would seem incomplete. This next part is a small fuel to what keeps that fire burning and Texas my favorite place to hunt.
It was a cool Georgia December morning and the teacher was going on about who only knows what. My mind had already checked out at this point with only a few hours to go until me and my dad jumped on a plane to head west. Our journey would take us to Big Lake, Texas, and that meant two flights and nearly 8 hours total time to get from Atlanta to Midland.
Back to reality, the teacher in a biology class called my name and I was clueless as to what was being talked about. So I look around and say sorry. To my dismay, he filled me in real quick on why I need to pay attention. Soon enough the bell rang and as I got to the next class my name was called for check out. Waiting for our flight was like being seven years old and waiting on Christmas. I was too excited to stop and enjoy the moment and could not stop looking at a clock or watch.
Once we flew into Dallas, we had a four-hour layover so dinner was on the menu and both dad and I were too excited to really focus. We talked about the year before and the amount of deer we saw. This only complicated matters worse because before we knew it we were at the gate with nearly two more hours to go. Once we boarded and took off, I had a window seat and noticed something different. Because a good part of Texas is so flat, you can really see from the air, and after we got airborne over Dallas there were Christmas lights as far as the eye could see. This was a sight equal to the beauty of sunsets on Hawaii, or the sun coming up on the Rockies. The sight was truly amazing, red and green everywhere.
When we finally got to Midland and got our stuff, the guide met us and took us to his ranch and we had a nice Tex-Mex dinner. He started with a report of deer and what areas and were we should go in the morning. With that in mind, I went to our bunkhouse, got in bed and was talking to dad only to be surprised when he said, get up. I was lost as to where I was, this is a different look, different smell. As he laughed it finally hit me were hunting in Texas and that meant no school. My biology for the day would be watching the rut and deer behavior and that is true biology.
I went to the stand and shortly after sunrise, I made out the ghosts of the mesquite running around. A doe would try and walk to the feeder or down a trail only to be chased by a buck. The action was nonstop and quick which made me a little nervous because the bucks never really slowed down long enough to get a good look. The morning grew to a close and the evening hunt was nearly the same. Dad and I talked about the daily events and all that happened. Little did I know that a trophy from the following day would forever remain mounted on my wall. The following afternoon found me in the stand with rutting action and deer everywhere again. Then I saw the biggest deer I had ever seen while hunting. He was here, then there, back to the left side of the stand only to disappear to the right side.
Finally he stopped and I got the 270 Weatherby Mag up and the leupold settled on the shoulder, then moved it back to behind the shoulder, moving quickly because I knew he was about to run BOOM. He bolted and ran a little bit, BOOM. Again, he runs about forty yards, BOOM. This time he stayed down, and my nerves started to get to me, buck fever set in on the backside of this moment. I got down and went to see the deer that had me rattled. It was the most perfect 8 point I had ever seen and still to this date. All three shots were within an inch of each other, taking both lungs and the heart. Why he never truly stopped or dropped is beyond me.
However, this hunt was more than the 8 point, it was one of the last two trips dad and I took together, just the two of us, before my departure. Dad and me make a trip several times a year just the two of us, whether it is hunting locally, fishing down the street, or visiting other states.
In 2010 I went to Afghanistan for 9 months and had a major knee injury that has limited my mobility. Three surgeries later, not too much luck repairing it, he has to help when I go to stands or even a ground blind. I am more of a bow hunter now because of this and the challenge it brings me. I dream of the day I will see the sun come up over the mesquite and the deer moving everywhere. With my own son being 8 now, I look forward to the time when me and him will have that father-son bond, the bond that goes beyond a normal father-child tie, but the one that goes much deeper when a child realizes he is stepping into manhood and the dad realizes he has done the right job.