“Do I have to whisper?” I asked.
With his eye never leaving the camera he had pointed at me Bryant replied, “Well, yeah, you should. Tony likes it that way.”
“My wife laughs at those guys in hunting videos who whisper all the time.” I said as I attached the microphone to my Mossy Oak camo. “Maybe I just won’t say anything.”
Now Bryant was laughing at me.
It was near 90 degrees and I was in an elevated box blind along the beautiful South Llano River near Junction, Texas. I was hot and anxious to see my first, free-ranging axis stag but more than anything else, I was missing Montana.
This time last year I was spring black bear hunting west of the Judith River in Montana with my friend Johnny Two Fingers. And just last week I watched my third child come into this world. Due to uncanny circumstances that occurred on the night of her birth, she was named “Montana”.
With sweat dripping off the end of my nose and a video camera crammed in my face (Hunting for TV is not the glamorous, Brad Pitt experience you might think.) I was not only missing the grand vistas and cool air of the Rocky Mountains, I was missing my new born daughter. Don’t get me wrong, Texas is beautiful in the spring and so was the 700 Springs Ranch. I had luxurious accommodations and the food was fabulous. However, my mind was drifting many miles from the Texas hill country.
I raised my binoculars and started scanning the landscape for movement thinking this would make me look professional and give me some time to pull it all together. It wasn’t long until I saw several axis doe and a couple young stags milling around the edge of some live oaks.
Now, I was focused.
Mann used a Sisk custom .257 Roberts loaded with Barnes 115 grain Triple Shock bullets. The bullet in this photo was recovered from his axis.
We watched the deer feed for several moments and soon the young stags alerted and looked into the brush. That’s when he stepped out; strolling into the opening like he was auditioning for a Hartford commercial. I told Bryant, “There’s the one we want!” Yeah, I was whispering…But it was a forceful whisper.
“I’m on him.” Bryant calmly replied. “Don’t shoot until I give the word.”
I picked up my rifle and readied myself. Adrenalin on the inside was as plentiful as the sweat on the outside and the anxiety was mounting with every tick of my wrist watch and heartbeat. I could plainly hear both. With my eye glued to the scope I waited for my camera man to scream, uh, whisper “action”. Then for no apparent reason all the deer spooked.
I got lucky; the stag lagged behind and cleared himself of the other deer. The range was 176 yards and I was tracking him in the scope. When he was only a few yards from the tree line I heard the whisper I had been waiting for “Shoot!”
Bryant wasn’t making this easy. In mere seconds the stag I would be swallowed up by a sea of foliage like a storm cloud engulfs a high Montana mountain. I placed the reticle of the on the leading edge of his shoulder and my hunt and the whispering, was over.
That night after dinner I called home. “How are you?” My wife asked.
“I’m fine, how’s the baby?”
“Everything’s fine here. How’s Texas? How’s the hunting?”
“I got Montana a beautiful axis blanket.” I paused, then added, “I miss you all.”
“The boys are fine, I’m fine and the baby is OK.” Then Drema laughed, “You didn’t miss the deer though, did ya?
“Nope, didn’t miss the deer.” I replied.
“I knew you wouldn’t miss that.” Drema said, and I could hear her smiling through the phone.
Though axis deer can be found behind fences in Texas, many, like this one the author took on the 700 Springs Ranch, are free ranging. Axis do not follow the same antler cycle as whitetail deer and hard antlered stags can be hunted year round.
700 Springs Ranch; www.pflugerranches.com; 325-234-2000
Barnes Bullets; www.barnesbullets.com; 800-574-9200
Sisk Rifles; www.siskguns.com; 936-258-4984