Most sportsmen and women are deeply rooted to the lands they hunt. Did you ever hunt a ranch and get to know the place really well, then return to hunt the property twenty-two years later? I did just that this past week at Squaw Mountain Ranch, located a few miles north of Jacksboro, TX. The experience left me with a sense of where I was with my writing career and life at the time and where I am today; many changes occur in the course of two decades, both to the land and we that love it. The ranch is now under the stewardship of the Wieser family and when Keith Wieser, in charge of the hunting on the ranch, invited me for an early season bow hunt for one of the ranches big bucks, I loaded the Jeep and headed northwest.
Will Echart guides on the ranch and shares my passion for bow hunting. Will had a couple of mature bucks patterned on an oak covered hillside deep back in the hills and had been monitoring their movements on his trail camera for the past month. He planned to video me harvesting one of the bruisers from my GhostBlind, the innovative new portable ground blind with mirrors on the outside that perfectly reflect the natural camouflage provided by Mother Nature.
The rugged hills and valleys of the ranch were the training ground for my older son, now in his mid thirties and as Will gave me a refresher course of the topography of the ranch, I pointed out landmarks there were indelibly ingrained in my memory banks. “That’s the spot where my oldest son shot his first wild hog, back in ’87”, or “I remember calling up two gobblers for Matt on that hillside and became confused and instructed him to harvest the jake rather than the longbeard, I’m still hearing about that one!”
Many things about the ranch remained the same as I remembered them, with the exception of the deer herd. The Wiesers have introduced monster South Texas genetics into their deer herd, and during my pre-hunt tour of the ranch, I saw a couple of bucks that would make any trophy hunter drool. “We’ve got some bucks that will score well over 200 BC (Boone and Crockett)”, says Will, “we have a group of several hunters here that are hunting them. With any luck, you should see some huge bucks on the meat pole before the conclusion of your hunt.”
Will and I hiked into the area where I was to hunt the first afternoon and a quick review of the trail camera shows the past days game movement. With the full moon, deer had been moving just before dark and during the night. Both the bucks that Will had been patterning had been frequenting the area during the past 24 hours. After a very peaceful but uneventful 3 hours on stand with my Mathews Reezen bow, we hiked out of our hunting area, jumped in the Polaris and headed back to the lodge for dinner and a good nights rest.
As the skinning rack outside the lodge became visible, it became quite obvious that something very exciting had occurred. Hunters with cameras were walking around the back of the Polaris, there was electricity in the air. I’ve been around enough hunting camps to sense when a big buck has been harvested and from all indications, someone had scored big on this afternoon hunt.
Mike Busitti from Big Foot Montana had left the haunts of mule deer and elk for a chance at a big Texas whitetail on Squaw Mountain Ranch and from the big smile on Mike’s face, it appeared he had accomplished his goal. As I glanced in the back of the Polaris backed up to the skinning rack, I saw antlers sticking up, WAY up, over the bed of the ATV.
|Mike Bisutti from Big Foot Montana traveled to hunt Squaw Mountain Ranch near Jacksboro and harvested this 23 point bruiser buck that scored 226 6/8 Gross BC. Photo by Keith Weiser.|
Have you ever been in a hunting camp when a buck scoring 226 BC points was harvested? If you’re like most deer hunters, myself included, probably not. I’ve seen some heavy antlered bucks taken during my 45 years in the deer woods, an harvested a few that I am extremely proud of, but nothing that came even close to the monster buck I was looking at. You’ve heard hunters describe the bases on a particular buck being as wide as coke cans? Well, Busitti’s buck’s antler bases were very close to the diameter of a coke can. Heavy with mass that carried well up into the tines, I was looking at the buck of a lifetime.
The next morning, Will and I headed back to our remote hillside in hopes of harvesting a good buck for the camera but the bucks that were so easily patterned a few days prior had abandoned their habits during the full moon. We later reviewed the images on the game camera and noted they were now feeding at night. On the hike back to the ATV, I was able to photograph a big ten pointer that we jumped from his bed. It appeared to be one of the bucks on the game camera.
|Author jumped this buck from his bed while returning to the lodge. Photo by Luke Clayton|
Back at camp, we again were greeted by hunters with cameras, again looking in the back of a hunting vehicle. ANOTHER monster buck had been harvested, this time by K.B. Ludlow from Las Vegas, Nevada.
With 16 scoreable points, Ludlow’s buck measured 186 6/8 BC! After so many years hunting deer and spending time in countless deer camps from Canada to Mexico, I’ve forgotten the details of many of my hunts from years past but I’m positive I won’t forget this ‘return to Squaw Mountain’. Deer of this size simply are not harvested ANYWHERE with regularity and being present to congratulate these two successful hunters was a highlight of my hunting career.
It was good to get back to my old hunting grounds. I have a return bow hunt planned here next week and hopefully I will get a good buck within bow range. The rugged hills and deep valleys of Squaw Mountain Ranch have long been special to me and it was good to again visit the training grounds of my son.
For more information on hunting at Squaw Mountain Ranch, contact Keith Wieser at 214-769-3151