Arkansas Chapter Warrior Hunt 2016
I never would have imagined when I was standing in the yellow footprints at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California that I would one day be selected, years later to be honored by Safari Club International of Arkansas. I was so surprised to receive the phone call and told I was selected for this hunt, when I felt so many other veterans deserved it over me. My mind wondered what this experience would be like since I had read so many outdoor magazines like Outdoor Life and Field & Stream as a lad and one of my hunting heroes was Jack O’Connor. I dreamed about being on those hunts, but realized very few people actually get the chance to experience a hunt like those. The excitement level and thoughts of the hunt began to swirl in my head. What would the hunt be like, would I make a good shot; the pressure would be on me since many Safari Club members and my Marine Corps League members would be waiting to hear the results. I sure didn’t want to disappoint organization, my family or myself.
I started out by cleaning my BAR 30-06 and asked Kyle Shaffer, SCI Chapter Vice President, to help me get it shooting on target. As we worked on sighting it in, it wasn’t as accurate I wanted and we decided I better change rings and scope. Again to the range and the process began again, with much better results. I was really thankful for Kyle’s knowledge and experience.
As the date to leave on the hunt came, Robert Williams, SCI Chapter Board Member, texted me and asked if I would like to fly down with him on Monday before the hunt started on Tuesday. I thought it would be fun to be able to meet Robert and visit with him. I really enjoyed hearing of some of the hunts he had experienced and some of the stories he told me about himself and other members of the Safari Club. I laughed at some of the stories and felt bad about other experiences but knew things sometime happen on hunts which will make them memorable. One of those experiences happened as we came into Lampasas, Texas to meet up with my outfitter/guide Larry Rider (Universal Safaris, out of Houston, Texas) and Kyle, Robert and I were pulled over by a Lampasas police officer for going a little too fast into town. Kyle and Larry were waiting across the bridge and could see someone pulled over with the police car behind and blue light flashing. Kyle asked Larry if he thought the blue lights were for us, and sure enough they were! Thankful we received a warning ticket, as we all laughed about that experience.
Buck-N-Buffalo Ranch was beautiful and the lodge was an awesome place to stay, with bedrooms for each person, located deep in the beautiful hill country of Texas. We also enjoyed some great food with all helping prepare the meals, along with grill master, Kyle cooking on the grill! The next morning we went to the range to check my rifle and made an adjustment to dial it in on the X of the target at 100 yards, the hunt was now on!
My guide Larry told me, we would go after a Corsican ram first, so we all four loaded into a four-person side-by-side and started looking for the sheep. Larry told me they would likely do one of two things, get up and run off, or get up, move away and bunch up together. After a while, as we came up a hill we spotted the rams in a group, they got up and moved away about 40 to 50 yards staying in a group. Kyle had already told me to use the bar on the side-by-side with my hand for a rest, so thinking I wanted a white Texas Dall Sheep, I started looking at them. Kyle and Robert told me the brown colored ram had a real nice curl and was a much better ram. I decided to take their advice and try for the brown one. We had to wait a minute or two until the brown one didn’t have another ram behind him. When he cleared, they told me and I settled in for the shot, I remembered to squeeze the trigger; the round went off and I thought I would see the ram run a little, but I couldn’t understand what had happened. The other rams still stood around and then one ram went over to where my ram had been standing and sniffed around. Robert got in the back of the side-by-side by standing in the back looking over the grass, he told me the ram had dropped in his tracks! I was so relieved to know he was down. We waited until the other sheep moved out and then we moved in to check him out. Oh, my, he was a beautiful ram with heavy horns and long length. I was so thankful I made a killing shot. We all looked him over, admiring him and taking some pictures. What a relief to have an animal to take back with me and to be able to enjoy for years to come.
The next day we drove over the ranch looking for an Axis deer and could see one now and then, but they were really spooky and would run when they saw us. In the afternoon, we thought it would be best to set in a stand and wait until something showed up. Robert chose a box blind and Kyle & I chose an elevated pop-up blind. It was really enjoyable to be in the blind as deer came to the feeder in front of us. A little yearling came out within 15 minutes of being in the blind; next a small buck came in and left. Then a nice 9 point whitetail buck came in and stayed about an hour. As Kyle and I were sitting in the blind, I received a text from Robert saying that an Axis buck was headed my way. We looked, and saw a beautiful, majestic buck coming across the meadow at about 200 yards out. As he was coming, I was getting my rifle pointed out the blind, settling it in with my cheek on the stock, Kyle was ranging him for me, but there was a small tree that he needed to go pass before taking the shot. Kyle told me to let him get by the tree and to put the crosshairs just at the front of the shoulder. As he passed the tree, the deer feeder went off, the buck jumped at the sound in a dead run for the woods. No shot could be taken under those conditions! What a disappointment for us all! I looked at my watch and it was straight up 6:00 o’clock in the afternoon, and I realized that’s hunting!! That evening, I was told that the Axis deer weren’t moving as well as we had hoped and that if I wanted to shoot a Blackbuck antelope, to make my choice. I had seen some Blackbucks and they are beautiful animals too, so whichever presented me with a shot, I thought I had better take it because I only had one day left to hunt.
The next morning as we decided where to go, Kyle and I went to the box blind away from the feeder. It was a beautiful morning, temperature just made you feel great and clouds kept us comfortable in the box blind. As we waited and watched, we spotted a great Blackbuck with two does feeding about 200 yards away. As we waited for them to close the distance as they grazed, the wind picked up going in their direction. The does smelled us and took off headed to the woods with the buck in hot pursuit. Man, he was a good buck. As we sat looking around there were a few deer eating at the feeder, and then a Blackbuck came out of the woods to the feeder. Kyle and I were looking at him though our binoculars, Kyle told me it would be my choice, but that was a great Blackbuck. I couldn’t help but agree with him and told him, I think I will try for him. As I settled in to take the shot, I took a good rest and waited until he turned sideways. Kyle again gave me the range, reminding to take a breath letting out half of it and to squeeze the trigger. I followed his directions and put the crosshairs up the leg to the point of the shoulder, took my breath, and started squeezing the trigger. The round went off; the buck reared up on his back legs, came down and started running. I knew he was hit hard by the way he was running with his front end pointing down. Kyle slapped me on the shoulder and said, “You just got a great Blackbuck!” I was so excited that I didn’t hear the report of the rifle, or feel the recoil of the rifle. I was just so thankful I had made a good shot! We started walking toward the area where the buck was shot as Larry and Robert had heard me shoot and were headed our way. We all got together and started looking for blood on the ground. We saw plenty of blood and Larry went after the side-by-side because he saw enough blood to convince himself we would need it to take the Blackbuck in. We follow the blood trail into the taller grass with one person standing where the last blood was found. As we moved along, Robert spotted the buck and told me he was over here. Wow! There he was, on the ground, a great Blackbuck antelope! As I moved up to get my hands on him, Kyle had a GoPro camera running to film this recovery. I reached over and took ahold of his horns and starting to bend down for Kyle to get a picture, I didn’t see the cactus behind me. As I bent down, I came into contact with the cactus and back up I came! Wow! That hurt; but the damage was already done, that cactus left their quills in my backside! After Kyle, Larry and Robert got through laughing; we took some pictures of this awesome Blackbuck antelope!
I am so thankful to spend my time with some very special men; men who made every effort to see that I received everything I needed to enjoy a great hunt. It is a pleasure to be around men who enjoy hunting, sharing stories of hunting trips and visiting about life.
Again, I am thankful to these men, Safari Club International Arkansas, Buck-N-Buffalo Ranch, ranch owner Mr. Robert McGowen and this great country where we can enjoy supporting wildlife, being able to hunt, and keeping our firearms. I took an oath to defend our United States Constitution and I feel it is still my responsibility to carry freedom forward and defend our rights, especially the 2nd Amendment. I hope I have been able to represent all of our military personnel by enjoying this hunt for them. Thank you SCI-AR for supporting this program by honoring those who serve our country. May God bless our country and Safari Club International across this nation!