Matagorda Island (Dec 2018)


Since we had such a wonderful time at Matagorda Island last time, NOT! We decided to see if we could take a standby position on this week’s deer hunt. You know, because the 35 MPH winds, freezing temps, sleet and snow, yes SNOW, were such a delight last time.

We arrived the day before the hunt and began setting up camp. Learning our lessons from last time, we brought stronger tarps to wrap the lean-to with, more ratchet straps to reinforce the tarps, and had sprayed the tent with water repellent.

The weather that first day was outstanding and the boat ride was smooth, if a little foggy. Still, we prepared for the worst. While we were bomb proofing our shelter a few more hunters arrived and set up their camps. They laughed at our tarp covered shelter with our tent snuggled underneath and staked down like we were expecting biblical retribution. They smiled at our ratchet straps crisscrossing the tarps and bungees keeping tension on the un-staked areas. Shaking their heads with bemusement they set out their tents in the open, unpacked their boats and settled in for a beautiful day. Which it was.

But we had painful memories from our previous encounter and heeded the hunt coordinators warnings that “The Island” could be unpredictable and harsh.

After getting everything lashed down and under cover we headed out to enjoy the rest of the beautiful day for ourselves. First we took the boat out to several spots to see if we could entice any late season fish to join us. Alas, we had no bites.

So we returned to the dock and cross tied the boat so it could ride out any rough weather up to and including a small tsunami. We still had some shrimp and a bit of daylight so I dropped a line next to the boat and got bit immediately. Soon we were pulling in small redfish left and right. All were released and a couple came back for more getting caught a second time! Finally, I hooked a nice flounder. After landing it we started catching more small flounder then bigger redfish and finally several small black drum.

Then the wind began picking up and the waves started building. It was time to hunker down and see what “The Island” had in store for us.

We spent the rest of the day and night tucked into our tent while the wind howled around us. Around 1 am the wind peaked at 25 miles an hour but we were well protected from its effects. Others were not so lucky. During the peak of the tempest we were woken by shouts and flashlights strobing across our tent in the dark. Peeking out could see frantic scurrying about as several campers tried to rescue their tent. The high winds had broken a pole and it was collapsing down on them. Another tent had caved in entirely. With some judicious use of rope, tape and colorful language they worked their shelter back into shape, sort of.

The next morning dawned clear and windy. Several more hunters arrived and began setting up camps of their own. Then the Hunt personnel arrived and it was time to get serious. After a small wait and checking in the drawn hunters we received the happy news, there was room for everyone so we got to hunt! WooHoo! I even drew the very same stand I had hunted out of last hunt. I was hoping to get one at least close to where I had been but was overjoyed to get the same one.

After a short hunter orientation we headed back to camp for some lunch and to gather our gear. At about 1:30 the trucks were loaded up to begin the hunt. I soon arrived at my stand and began settling in. Steve and I had radios, another lesson learned from our last hunt, so we were able to keep in touch with each other.

Since I had hunted this stand before I knew where the majority of the deer I had seen last time came from and set up my chair, gun and shooting stick facing that direction. Just as I was finishing setting out the last of my gear I saw movement just outside the blind. I looked over my shoulder and saw a deer browsing about 40 yards away. One quick look made it plain it was a buck! A BIG buck! On this hunt we could take one buck if its antler main beams were outside the ears. That is, if the deer is looking at you, which this one wasn’t, the distance between the tips of the ears should be equal to or smaller than the widest distance between the inside of the main beams. Yeah, it’s complicated but TPWD puts out lots of information on how to best judge this distance and with some practice it’s not so hard.

Now my problems started. The deer was outside of the blind just over my left shoulder. He was close enough that any movement from me would have him headed to the other end of the island at top speed before I could blink. So, without moving my chair or myself, I eased the gun out of the other window and slowly maneuvered it into the window facing the buck. Leaning over the gun I finally got him in my scope. Speaking of scopes, as I watched the buck I realized that mine was now perfectly positioned to smack the crap out of my nose because I was not settled behind the gun as I should be but was instead leaning over the gun. There was nothing to absorb the recoil. Except for my nose. Noses are great for many things but a backstop is not one of them. All of this ran through my mind quickly as I examined the buck. He was walking away from me, oblivious to my presence. He looked to be big enough but to be sure I would need to see him looking at me. So, readying for the shot, I maahed, at him. A maah, is the sound you make to get a deer to look in your direction without startling the deer too badly. Hopefully. It is an un-threatening sound that can make a deer curious and look to see what is up.

The deer kept walking. Crap! One more time. MAAH! This time the deer stops and looks in my direction. Bingo! He was wide enough. With that one glance at his rack I settled on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger.

It was at this point two conflicting emotions took over. First, was the shot good? Where is the deer? Is he going down? One the other hand…holy mother of God! I think I broke my nose. Blinding pain erupted on the bridge of my nose. My eyes were watering and I think my nose is cut in at least five places as blood starts streaming down my face. But where is the deer? The deer was just leaving the clearing and heading into the brush. Through my tear filled vision I could see that he was hit hard and I whooped for joy, and pain as he went down after a few more steps.

Awesome! I had just taken my first fork antlered buck in over a decade and what a buck! He wasn’t huge but was slick and symmetrical. After a few seconds to digest all that had happened I probed my battered nose tenderly and discovered it wasn’t the bloody ruin I had imagined. Nope, aside from a small cut and slight internal bleeding it had fared well.

I radioed Steve that I had just shot a buck. He was a couple of miles away from me in another stand but had heard a shot from my direction. I told him about my nose and we laughed.

Now to go find my buck. While the island seems flat and grassy it is far from it. You can easily lose a deer in the thick salt grass and brush. I paid careful attention to where landmarks where I had seen the buck go down. Even so, it took about five minutes to actually find him. He was gorgeous! His coat was slick and grey, his face had subtle white and black markings and his antlers, all eight points of them, were long and symmetrical. I couldn’t be happier.

After field dressing him I drug him back to the road and returned to my blind to try and seal the deal on a doe. Alas none showed. Steve however had better luck and downed two fat ladies just before last light. So within the first five hours of our hunt we had three deer. Our freezer would once again be full. I hunted the next two days without ever having a good shot at a doe. I was OK with that, many other hunters went without.

The weather wasn’t great but we still had fun and brought home plenty of meat. My sore and battered nose was totally worth it.

260cookie-checkMatagorda Island (Dec 2018)

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