Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hunting the White Tail Deer in Central Texas


Last week, I decided to pay a tribute to my late Uncle Russell Tinsley by going on a deer hunt in his neck of the woods, Mason County, Texas. For you  who did have the privilege of knowing him or of him, he was a sports writer and specialized in hunting and fishing. You can find his books for sale in the used book market, but they are no longer in print. Anyway, I have one of his guns and decided to continue his legacy in some way through his gun; figured this would be an appropriate "hats off" to my well known uncle.


Weeks earlier I bought ammunition for the gun, so I thought. I was told the gun is a 30-06, so I bought cartridges for it. On arrival to a friend's ranch in Mason County, I realized that I had not checked the gun for caliber. My friend found it on the barrel of the gun. Whoa!  It is a Winchester 244! It was too late in the day to go to town, so my friend loaned me his gun, a 270.


I figured it would be better to kill a deer for meat than wait to kill it with my uncle's gun. So my friend loaded his gun and he put a shell in the chamber, showed me how to operate the safety and that was that. (I thought).  Before I set out on the hunt, he told me to load a shell in the chamber, but I saw him put one into the chamber. My friend stayed in the hunting cabin, while I waited in a blind with his gun.


Time passed. A typical day in the woods - birds chirping and flying about. About 8 beautiful male Cardinals in excellent color were between me and the corn feeder. There were Doves, Quail, a Raccoon, and many other birds to entertain me. No deer! After three hours, dark began to set in and the sun set. It was still within the legal time but it became more difficult to see around and under the feeder. I saw something move and pointed the gun at it. Sure enough, two does were grazing next to the feeder and were slowly approaching it. I looked through the brush and knew my opportunity was coming. I had the cross hairs on the leading animal, waiting for the best shot. It came. I was going to have food in my freezer. I slowly took the gun off of safety, put the cross hairs on a quick kill. My heart started pounding as I realized that I was about to end a life. I don't take any  joy in this. Slowly I pressed down on the trigger.


The animals were calm and eating the corn under the automatic feeder which had spread some corn about an hour earlier. CLICK! What? Click? Oh no! The shell did not fire. Then it hit me.  My buddy had emptied the chamber on me for safety purposes. Panicking as the deer looked around for that clicking noise, I pumped a cartridge into the chamber and started to aim. Swish! They were gone. Both leaped forward into a full run disappearing into the brush.  It was too late now. Time to head back to the cabin. Oh well, we have three more days to get one of them.

We went to town the next day and nobody had heard of a 244 caliber. Mind you, Mason town is considered the be the capital of deer hunting in Texas.  So there I was without anything to shoot in my uncle's gun. One store keeper looked the gun up in the internet. Thank goodness! Six mm cartridges are interchangeable. I bought a box of them and went to test the gun. Yep. it worked and the scope was right on, exactly like my uncle had last set it years ago. That was great and fitting for what I was doing.

As it turned out, that was the only opportunity that either of us had to shoot a deer. So for the next three days, we went hunting and saw no deer. That first evening was misty and cold, perfect for the animals to be looking for food early, but the weather turned warmer the next day and the deer were not moving about.  I got a glimpse of a deer crossing through the brush one evening and also saw what I thought were two or three deer feeding under a feeder another day before any daylight exposed them.  But no deer between sunrise and sunset.


The monotony was broken only by the animals and me fussing at myself for not checking the firing chamber for a bullet. There was a beautiful Red Fox that came by one day about 10am.

In the mornings, I was the only hunter and walked to the blind about and hour before I could legally hunt. The night was pitch black and I was edgy about recent sightings of Cougars. I went out that first morning and heard the thumps of hoofs hitting the ground. - obviously deer on the run. But there was nothing to be seen. I did find the deer blind in the dark, but it was not easy.


One evening I might have missed any deer coming by. This sunset simply mesmerized me. That was at a different blind. True Central Texas beauty - what anyone can expect when they spend some time outdoors, about 5 hours from The Woodlands.

I love that country, where the heart and soul of my family remain.

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