By Gerardo V. Meneses, Temple, Texas
My family moved to Temple, Texas, last summer after I retired from nearly 27 years in the U.S. Army. Soon thereafter I connected with a fellow explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) veteran, Dave Underwood from Houston. Dave generously runs Killwood Outdoors, and he takes veterans and youth hunting across the U.S. as a way to give back to the community. He invited my son, Hunter, and I to hunt his parcel on the Axis Draw Ranch near Rocksprings, Texas.
We met up with him on Veteran’s Day 2022 after a four-hour drive and Hunter got his first chance not long after we settled into the three-man blind. I joked that one of the rocks I was looking at near one of the feeders started moving, and when we confirmed it was an 8-point whitetail buck, Dave asked Hunter if he wanted to harvest it. Hunter quickly agreed. The buck was at about 270 yards and Hunter didn’t want to push his luck with his Ruger Ranch rifle in .450 Bushmaster, so he grabbed my Tikka T3x Superlite in 6.5mm Creedmoor and found the buck in the scope. Dave started recording a video and 6 seconds later, the rifle cracked, and the buck piled up on the spot. Little did we know that would be the first of several happy “drags.”
Dave had to catch a friend’s son’s playoff football game in Buda, Texas, so he left us in the blind/camp overnight (Dave built an all-in-one 8-by-8-foot blind/cabin like the observation posts he spent plenty of nights in while deployed to Afghanistan) and told us to watch out for pigs. Sure enough, they came out about 8:30 p.m. Hunter took a shot with Dave’s Magpul Hunter in .300 Blackout, but we misjudged the distance and the round impacted harmlessly below the pig’s chin. We checked to make sure, but there was no blood to be found.
We were going to call it a night after scarfing down some venison chili when at about 10 we were surprised to find a sounder (probably the same one) over at the same feeder where Hunter shot the whitetail buck earlier that afternoon. It was too far for the .300 Blackout, so Hunter again grabbed the T3x. I used Dave’s Coyote Reaper high-intensity flashlight, and it literally looked like red daylight even at nearly 300 yards. Well, I held the beam on what looked like the biggest hog and Hunter let fly another 129-grain Hornady SST. We clearly heard the thwap and the shrill squeal of a lethal hit. After a short but intense trailing job we claimed our prize then fell asleep dead tired after skinning and quartering the hog by headlamp.
The night was long and cold with the wind howling until about 4 a.m. and our buddy heaters going full tilt. (Who knew it got below freezing in Texas in early November?) When I peeked out of the blind at 6:10 a.m. there was action at the same feeder. It was just a couple of does at first but then more showed up, and one in the shadows was definitely bigger and darker. I waited and as it got lighter, I made out spike antlers and ... spots. I pulled out the spotting scope, and it turned out to be a young axis buck. Axis have escaped from high-fence ranches across Texas and as non-native species are huntable all year-round. I watched the buck mill around for 15 minutes, weighing whether to shoot or to wait for a bigger one. Finally, I grabbed my Tikka with a 15X Vortex Razor riflescope to give him one more look and, at the last second, as he was walking off to the left ... boom … another buck down!
Hunter was still in his sleeping bag, but that got him up in a hurry. We had a third successful drag back to camp and had the buck quartered and on ice before Dave even made it back. What a trip! Dave said we got a “Texas Trifecta”: a whitetail, an axis and a wild pig all in one hunt!
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