South Texas Night Hunt
It was going to be my last hunt of the season, a return to South Texas for a quarry that had foiled me on three hunts to date. This animal is not uncommon, it is not overly intelligent or hard to hunt, many people roll out and bag one early in the first attempt, but for some reason the southwestern deserts little porcinoid javalina continued to elude me. Iâ€™d have been surprised and not gotten off a shot, Iâ€™ve had equipment failure, and Iâ€™ve just plain struck out â€¦.. so this time I was determined.
I booked a hunt through Pete Reyes on his property about 80 miles south of San Antonio, with the plan to hunt Javalina with my .308 cnterfire and bring a selection of airguns for coyote, bobcat, raccoons, hogs and whatever small stuff came my way. I would have liked to hunt the javalina with an airgun, but as it is a game animal airguns are expressly forbotten. It is somewhat ironic that I can legally take a 300 lb hog with my .45 airgun, but not a 50 lb peccary. However, Texas is one of the truly hunter friendly states so I wonâ€™t complain! I will leave this part of the story by saying, I am still after my javalina and believe that when I finally bag one it will be one of the most expensive trophies on my wall! But the portion of my hunt I want to tell here relates to a night out with my airguns.
The original plan was to fly in on Friday and get in for an afternoon stand, then on following days hunt morning and afternoon for javalina, then mid day and night for varmint, pest, small game, and a mixed bag of the diverse fauna of this part of Texas, until I had to depart on Monday afternoon. In the end an emergency at work came up and I received an email (curse the Black Berry) on Saturday night telling me I needed to be back for a meeting on Monday morning. So on the spur of the moment I had to book a flight home on Sunday, leaving me only a night hunt on Saturday. So getting back to the lodge after the afternoon hunt, I ate a quick dinner, grabbed my gear, loaded up my guideâ€™s truck, and was off for what had become my last chance to shoot. I was taking along a couple PCP air rifles that Iâ €™d done bench testing on; and decided that I wanted to get a raccoon, possum, bob cat, coyote, fox, ringtail cat, and may be a couple rabbits. The two animals that I really wanted for mounts in my trophy room were the bobcat and the ringtail, two of the prototypical critter species of the South Texas Senderas.
We drove out to a ranch on the river bottoms about 40 minutes west of the lodge, watching the deer gliding across the road and disappear into the heavy brush lining the highway. Pulling up to the ranch road, I jumped out to open the gate, acknowledging two inescapable aspects of ranching; first is that the driver is legally and morally freed from opening the gates themselves, and secondly no two gate latches work in exactly the same way! But after working out the Rubik cube of a locking system and passing the truck through, we were on our way.
A little bit later a bobcat came walking across the road at 35 yards, a slow stroll seemingly only mildly concerned with our presence. I have wanted a chance for a bobcat with an airgun, and have been actively pursuing this goal for a couple years. I had my Big Bore 909 with varmint light sitting in my lap, loaded and ready to go. This was going to be my night, I just had to jump out of the truck and take my shot. Unfortunately, Iâ€™d been leaning out of the window and had unknowingly locked the door. And I frantically tried to figure out how to unlock it while squeaking like a trapped mouse to hold him up, as I watched my bobcat continue to walk by. Just as I got it worked out and tumbled out the door, I saw the cat look my way as he stepped behind a cactus not to appear again. Oh well, what can you say, it will have to wait until next time.
On we drove, through a stand of trees with a canopy that grew over the road creating a living tunnel. Coming around a bend, a pod of three coons went running by and up a tree. I was going for variety more than numbers and let these guys go on their way. The rancher would have preferred that I took them, but it was my hunt and I wanted something else â€¦.. primarily the bobcat Iâ€™d just missed. I decided I was going to hold off until I had a shot at something different.
And I got that chance in about a half hour, lighting up a tree I saw eyes looking down at me. It turned out to be a ringtailed cat, one of the animals Iâ€™d wanted to bag since seeing a mount in a hunting lodge a few years ago. Jumping out of the truck, I sat in the road and braced the gun on my knee to line up the 50 yard shot. The ringtail was sitting in the fork of the tree presenting me with a frontal shot, and squeezing the trigger on the 909 sent the 120 grain bullet right on target. The cat flipped out of the tree and was DOA when I reached his landing spot.
We called it quits and headed on back to the lodge, it was about three in the morning and I was dead tired. The next morning I loaded my gear and made my way to the airport (ironically almost running over a pair of javalina on the way out) for the rescheduled flight home. In the end I didnâ€™t get my javalina, Iâ €™d seen them when I had an airgun, which was not a legal hunting arm for a game animal. I had planned to go back the next morning with my .308 centerfireâ€¦. but then business called. What can you say, Iâ €™d passed on some hogs as well, figuring I could always take one later if I wanted to. At one point Iâ €™d been sitting in a blind surrounded by 19 deer; two does the rest bucks including one massive 10 pointer. I didnâ€™t get my javalina, but I did get some cool small stuff with my airguns and saw a lot of wildlife. If Iâ€™d been able to spend the Sunday and Monday hunting as planned I have no doubt that Iâ €™d have bagged my javalina â€¦. And maybe my bobcat! I had to get back toy the office on short notice, and my four day hunt was cut down to a day and a half. It was cold and it rained, and I didn’t get my Javalina. But I did get in a good night time airgun hunt the evening before I had to leave!
The base camp consists of 8 well appointed cabins, each with 4 beds and a large bathroom. The airguns taken on this trip: Big Bore 909 in .45, Webley Patriot in .25, and the .22 Evanix AR6. Filled using Airhog mini bottle The ringneck cat was a real airgunning trophy for me, granted the big bore .45 was more gun than I needed.
The ring nech laid out with his big cousin, the raccoon was shoot with the AR6. The AR6 with the scope mounted light was a great kit for night hunting.. This gun is dead accurate and was perfect for medium sized game. Note: spotlighting is legal in Texas
We drove the dirt trails spotlighting the trees and densely cactus covered landscape for about an hour seeing nothing but a bobcat speeding across the rutted dirt road, when Joe (the guide) said â €œover there, I see eyesâ€�. The spotlight was plugged into the trucks lighter jack, which tied Joe and the light source to the vehicle. I on the other hand, had a scope mounted varmint light sitting atop my scope with a battery pack hooked on my belt. So jumping out of the truck I hiked through the vegetation till I arrived at a break from which I could see a big coon hightailing it even higher towards a bridge in the canopy that would allow him to cross the riverbed (now dry) forty feet over my head and 35 yards away. The gun I was using was the Evanix AR6 in .22 caliber matched with Beeman Kodiak heavy or the Piledriver boattail pellets. Quickly thumbing back the hammer while following the coon through the scope, I fired a shot hitting the running coon right in the head and dumping her into the dry river bed. Joe and I started down after her, when a branch snagged the wire of my light unplugging me, followed by an expletive from me, and the sound of my unfortunate companion rolling down the side of the hill in pitch blackness. But after a brief moment of fumbling around I got plugged in and found that Joe had somehow come to rest next to the dead raccoon. We carried the animal up to the truck so it could be brought back to camp for skinning.
Not more than fifteen minutes later we spotted another set of eyes very high up in a big oak tree.