“That’s him!” whispered Doss as soon as he put the spotting scope on this buck. We were hunting this one specific buck and I did not want to make the mistake of shooting the wrong one! My long time young friend Doss Summers and Guide on this trip knows every shootable and NON shootable buck on this 13,000 acre low fence Ranch in LaSalle County, Texas. This Ranch has only been hunted in the past by family, charity and youth hunts, and Military and Wounded Warriors. This last Summer, Doss had told me that for the first time ever that a very few hunts would be sold. I asked him to put me on the list for a good buck!
The Hixon Ranch is MLD permitted so we could have started hunting in October, but other Ranch commitments and the weather put off this hunt until the weekend before Thanksgiving. We also needed a North wind. I had been watching the weather forecast for weeks and finally it looked like a strong enough front would come through Thursday night, November 21st. I drove the the 5 hour trip on Thursday and we hunted a different location that afternoon. We saw a big Axis buck and a nice young 10 point buck-on the NO Shoot list. Overnight, the wind turned to out of the North; we went to the stand where this buck was most likely to be seen. A long morning and a long afternoon in the blind and this buck was not there today. Again, Saturday morning, we were in the blind at 5:50 AM and we both took a nap. Legal shooting time in Texas is 30 minutes before sunrise, which would be 6:35 AM. I woke Doss up at 6:30 and we looked out.There were 2 small bucks right in front of us. About 6:35, I saw a buck come out on the road about 200 yards in front of us. Not him. I think Doss dozed off again, because at about 6:40 I said “ there is another deer coming in from the right”. As Doss put the spotting scope on him-immediately, he said “That’s him”. I still could barely tell it was a buck with my binoculars. Both these bucks were moving slowly down the road towards us, slowly getting closer. Now 170 yards. Doss suggested I put the binoculars down and get him in the scope. “Can you see him well enough to shoot?”. “Yes”. “Then, you need to be shooting first good opportunity”. Well, first, the little 8 point is in the way; then my buck is facing us; then facing away; then the 8 point is in the way. After 10 minutes of this, he turns broadside. I shoot; he runs off. I was sure he was hit, but I was not sure how well. He runs to the left and within 10 yards is behind trees. We did not see him come out anywhere.
Doss suggests we wait 20 minutes before going to look. For 20 minutes we scanned every inch with binoculars and spotting scope. We could not see any downed deer. We started out about 10 minutes after sunrise; went to where he was standing and no blood and no dead buck in sight. I walked about 40 yards the way I thought he had run and no buck. Now, go back to where he was standing and look for blood; finally, about 2 drops! I take off that way again and no dead buck. Another circle and we are not finding any more blood or a deer. I am getting anxious and just about ready to ask Doss to text Mike, the Ranch Manager, and tell him to bring Charlie, the ranch blood dog. Then about 20 yards away, where we are not looking, I spot an antler tip sticking out above the knee high grass. “There he is”. What a relief! A heart/lung shot and he ran the 40 yards- just at a right angle to the direction we thought he went. All this only took about 10-12 minutes, but it seemed like an hour.
We get our pictures and get this buck off to the cooler.
Hunting a very specific buck is a different kind of challenge. You have to know what he looks like and be able to recognize him on sight.
Now, about the very special rifle I was using- the Joe Clayton Classic; a Ruger No.1A in 280 Ackley Improved with a 25” barrel. I was able to get Ruger to make a 125 rifle run to honor my long time friend and Ruger No.1 mentor- Joe Clayton. They are serially numbered JDC-001 through -125. Joe wrote the book on Ruger No.1 rifles in 1983 and was the first serious collector of these classic rifles.