Texas had already been good to me in 2018. After a successful trip arrowing hogs in February and a second outing to harvest my first axis deer in June, I knew the wildlife was not in short supply. But this was my first time pursuing my favorite species in the Lone Star State – whitetails.
My plane touched down in San Antonio on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 9, and I met up with the rest of my hunting crew – hosted by Yamaha – for the week.
We made the 3-hour road trip to camp where Wade Middleton and his team had our sighted-in rifles ready to go for the morning hunt. After a long day of travel, we enjoyed a generous dinner and turned into bed early.
On Saturday morning, I headed out with cameraman Kevin Giesecke for the 20-minute drive to the ranch we would be hunting. Then we hopped into a Yamaha Wolverine X2 to reach our tripod stands.
Just as daylight was beginning to peak through the clouds, a couple hogs entered the opening in front of us and grazed for a few minutes before continuing on.
Then a young buck appeared and slowly milled around the area, feeding for the next couple hours. A group of does and fawns joined the buck halfway through our sit. After all the deer exited the area, we took this opening in the action to return to camp for lunch – where Jessica Nyberg was waiting with the 7-year-old stud she had just shot!
After we scarfed down our midday meal of perfectly prepared wild game, I took my rifle to the range to ensure I was dialed in for the evening sit.
We then returned to the cabin and reviewed trail camera photos from the new spot Wade was sending me – one that was best for afternoon action.
After scoping out the array of studs frequenting this area, we put a mature 9-pointer with a kicker on his left G2 at the top of my hit list.
Kevin and I left for our box blind in the early afternoon, anticipating a slow couple of hours before deer started moving a bit late. But within 5 minutes of settling in, doe after fawn after buck started filtering through – including some of the mature bucks we saw on camera. We held tight, hoping my chosen target would make an appearance.
Soon a 9-pointer entered the scene, and that telltale kicker gave him away as the buck we were after. One hundred or so yards away, his vitals were shielded by tall brush, preventing an ethical shot.
Accustomed to high-pressure hunting in Pennsylvania and seconds-long opportunities at deer, I was visibly anxious to pull the trigger. Kevin reminded me to be patient, as these Texas whitetails faced much less pressure and took their time feeding when relaxed.
As the buck slowly moved in our direction, I raised my rifle. When he entered the clearing directly in front of us, he was facing us head-on. When he turned broadside, another deer filed in behind him. This sequence repeated over and over as my eyes fought the mid-afternoon sun pouring into the blind. Finally the buck presented me with the perfect shot.
He flinched and ran with the other deer behind some tall brush to our left. They cleared the other side into the next opening, but neither Kevin or I thought we saw my buck emerge. Unsure, we played back the shot on the small camera screen, but we weren’t able to pinpoint where I made contact with the brute.
To play it safe, we quietly backed out and rode back to camp to review the footage and get a better look on the big screen. To my relief, it was in fact a lethal shot.
Michael, Kevin and I jumped in the Wolverine X4 to retrieve the buck with less than an hour of daylight remaining.
We stood over the exact spot the buck was standing when I made the shot and searched for blood. Michael began walking in the direction the deer headed after the shot and called for us. I turned to find a white belly peeking through the brush just a few yards away. We were right – he never made it out of that field.
Like many properties in this region, the ranches Wade and his team hunt are on the verge of being overrun with hogs. So with the whitetail portion of my hunt now complete, I took advantage of the opportunity to help put a small dent in the pig population.
As we approached our box blind, Van Holmes and I spooked a few deer nearby. But within minutes of climbing in, whitetails started pouring in on all sides. Then three axis bucks added to the show as we chatted and snacked on candy.
Not long into our hunt, Van spotted two hogs walk out, and I had a sizable boar down within a few seconds.
Wade picked us up, and we stopped to see the buck Randy Hawkins had just shot before heading back to camp to celebrate an all-around successful trip.
Throughout our trip, we put several Yamaha off-road vehicles to the test, including the Wolverine X2 – Yamaha’s latest addition to the side-by-side line.
We hit the field in these side-by-sides for a smooth, quiet ride to our stands, which also allowed for a few more minutes of invaluable shuteye.
I’ve put plenty of miles on my boots and dragged my share of whitetails through tough terrain, so I realized just how convenient it was to reach my treestand without getting sweated and load my buck into the bed of the Wolverine X4 for an easy haul-out.
Available in new Realtree Edge, the 2019 Wolverine X2 features a 600-pound-rated dump bed and 2,000-pound towing capacity – providing more than enough power for your hunting adventures. And Yamaha’s Real World Tech On-Command 4WD System allows for switching between 2WD, limited-slip 4WD and fully locked differential 4WD, so you’re prepared to traverse a variety of backcountry ground.