Jim, Eric, and Derrick travel down to Texas Hill Country for a ram hunt at the Wildlife Ranch, and to tape footage for the Bigbore Airgun Adventure video series. After our last big bore hunting trip in North Texas, Eric Henderson and I had agreed to set up another hunt in the not too distant future. The phone rang a couple weeks later and it was Eric saying that heÂ’d found a new ranch to hunt down in the Texas Hill Country south of Dallas, with several species of exotic ram. It sounded like fun and we set a date to coincide with my next trip to Dallas. Eric told me that there was another hunter that wanted to join us, a sixteen year old named Derrick that post on the yellow forum under the handle of Stealth, and what did I think of him coming along? I said that it was fine by me, so the arrangements were made to hunt as a trio.
Eric picked me up at the hotel on Friday morning and we headed over to the huge bass pro shop to pick up my license and do some window shopping before getting on the road. The cost of a five day exotic game license is $45.00, so I paid my dues and was set to go. Our next stop was to swing by DerrickÂ’s house, meet his folks, get his gear loaded up, and depart for our journey south. The ranch we were going to hunt was about a four hour drive from Dallas, and we were loaded up in EricÂ’s truck for the ride down in no time flat.
The ranch we were hunting is called the Wildlife Ranch in Mason Texas. The name is a bit of a misnomer as the ranch actually consists of about 20 ranches under high and low fence. This was something I was unsure of, having never hunted this type of preserve before. I told Eric in an earlier discussion that I wasnÂ’t going to shoot caged animals, to which he told me that would not be the case and that the ranches were actually quite large. Once I saw the area I was satisfied that this would be a fair hunt, the ranch sections were anywhere from a couple of hundred to over a thousand acres including some very rugged terrain. The game which was available included several exotic varieties such as axis and fallow deer and various types of antelope, but we were here after rams. And again there was a great deal of variety such as; New Zealand mountain sheep, aoudad, mouflon, Moreno, Catalina, Hawaiian Blacks, four horn, Texas Dall, and Corsican, to choose from.
As we neared our destination I was getting a warm fuzzy feeling just rolling into Mason; there were hunting stores, guide services, taxidermy shops, and signs that said welcome hunters everywhere. On arriving at the Wildlife Ranch office on the townÂ’s main street we met the owners/guides Jim and Nancy. Nancy was going to be our guide on the hunt and after sign in took us over to our bunk house to get settled. The bunk house had a bit of character, having been built with cinderblock and fiber board in a style reminiscent of Soweto, and while not luxurious was comfortable enough. The first thing we saw when checking the bathroom was a snake sliding away through a hole in the wall. Nancy said Â“oh, itÂ’s just a rat snakeÂ”, however IÂ’ve always liked reptiles and wouldnÂ’t have really cared what type of snake it was. However the next revelation troubled me deeply Â….. she explained both that the bunkhouse had country plumbing and what that meant. The bunk house was a few miles out of town on ranch property owned by NancyÂ’s family, and before leaving she told us that we could hunt coyote, bobcat, rabbits, and raccoons on the land if we liked. Then she climbed into her truck and headed back to town with the plan to hook up with us at the local meeting place for guides, outfitters, and hunters called Zavalas. I came to know Zavalas quite well by the time we departed, having eaten every breakfast, lunch and dinner there between Friday and Sunday. It was pretty cool, sitting around in cammo eating guacamole enchiladas (almost worth the trip by themselves) and talking about hunting! We came up with a plan of action by the time we wrapped up dinner and headed back to our quarters, the next morning we would meet (at Zavalas of course) for breakfast and drive to the ranch we would be hunting. We would drive and hike the ranch to find the quarry of choice, then either stalk through the scrub oak and hills studded with granite outcroppings to work inside of shooting range, or if we could not find the right trophy look for new hunting grounds.
With plan in place we headed back home again with the idea being to grab the guns, spot lights and call before going out in pursuit of predators. Nancy said that weÂ’d do them a favor by taking out any coyotes, bobcats, or raccoons we could find, and that we should likewise feel free to take any rabbits we happened upon. So loading up EricÂ’s truck we were soon rolling slowly along the dirt ranch roads in search of game. We saw a couple of rabbits; I rolled a large jackrabbit over using the DAQ .22 XL Sporter, hitting with a lung shot, then blowing a second opportunity Â…. Which was my fault and not the guns. We set up and Eric started calling using a rabbit distress while sweeping the area with red filtered lights. After about ten or fifteen minutes he switched over to howling and yelping which brought a far away response pretty quickly. This was repeated a few times without ever getting a yote in to range, so we decided to call it a night (about 1:00 am, so actually a morning) and get some rest before the alarm pulled us from our sleep.