“So, I realized that sometimes paying the money, relaxing and having a good time in the name of deer hunting isn’t the worst thing you can do, especially when the wife needs some venison validation occasionally. And besides, most of us are just looking for an escape anyway, not a record-book deer ... but of course I’d take one.
“And that’s why my attitude has changed,” I said. “When I get the privilege to hunt West Texas, I follow the ranch rules. And now, being a veteran, I even have a few of my own.
Billy Bob acted like he didn’t hear me.
“Number two: Act like the man who takes the smallest deer, or heaven forbid no deer, is the worst hunter in the history of mankind and rail him mercilessly. It really adds flavor to the Texas deer hunting culture, assuming you are not the nimrod who shot the smallest deer. And three—and most importantly: Bring along friends that aren’t too serious about deer hunting. There is a fourth, but I didn’t include it because most hunters, I think, know it intuitively, and that is: Wear Mossy Oak or some type of camo to camp if you don’t lavish a beating. Trust me on this.”
Just then we pulled up to see several hunters standing around, ogling the downed buck at Pat’s feet. Immediately I noticed the wide 8-point’s rack. Its spread was probably over 22 inches, and its beams were thicker than hatchet handles. I bet it weighed a third more than my deer, a deer that was shrinking rapidly in the West Texas heat, a deer I hoped no one asked me about. (Of course if they did I’d simply defer all questions and queries to Billy Bob. This is standard practice, and comes with the cost of a guided hunt.) Truth is I was proud of my buck, but I couldn’t let my buddies know it lest they withhold the good stands from me the next year.
Certainly Pat would soon claim that he’d shopped around expertly, shrugging off his guide’s insistence to shoot an inferior deer that came to the feeder early; and when this one snuck in he expertly delivered a Texas heart shot just as the giant old buck leapt over the feeder fence going away. I didn’t want to hear it.
Meanwhile Billy Bob was searching for his cordless Sawzall so he could make quick work of the buck, and presumably, make it a little lighter before hefting it into the truck. Like ’em or not, these Texans are sharp.
“Hey Billy Bob,” I said, trying to shift the focus from my buddy’s deer to me. “You should really come up to Virginia and see how we do it up there sometime.”
My guide just looked at me and wrinkled a brow as if he were about to answer a question with a question. But instead he smiled, and, as if he was guided by some unspoken West Texas rule, simply said, “No thanks.”
And I couldn’t blame him.