COMPLETING A CLEAN SWEEP
By Paul Morgan, Rosenberg, Texas
May 12, 2008
Last year, my old friend Cory Brewer, who lives in Austin, Texas, found the Covert Ranch website, covertranch.com, and told me to go look at it. I saw the video of the whitetail deer on the ranch and I was blown away. Covert Ranch hunters have repeatedly won categories in every major contest in the state for the past 18 years. I called Cory back and told him that we had to go and we booked the hunt. True enough, this was going to be a so-called “corporate hunt”, but we are just passionate hunters to the core.
On the weekend of January 11-13, 2008, Cory, who is also my boss, and I headed to the Covert Ranch southwest of Cotulla, Texas to hunt South Texas trophy bucks. We arrived late Saturday because of the long hours we work in the Kia car business, so we did not have the chance to hunt until Sunday morning. Since the two of us made all of these plans late in the season, I did not have the opportunity to find the correct ammunition for my personal rifle. So I decided to borrow one of Cory’s deer rifles. I temporarily forgot the lesson I learned from the movie, Ghost in the Darkness, which was, “There can be serious consequences from using a borrowed rifle you’re not familiar with.” I used his Browning .300 WSM with a 170 grain bullet. This rifle had much more kick than my own .270 WSM with 120 grain bullets, but the Covert Ranch requests that its hunters use at least 150 grain bullets, preferably in the larger calibers, and to have their rifles zeroed dead on at 100 yards. I shot Cory’s rifle a few times at a range on the way to the ranch and noticed the recoil was more than I was accustomed to. I shot my last two rounds at a range right on target, so I knew I was ready—as long as I did not focus on the recoil!
Upon arrival at the ranch, we were both greeted with a warm welcoming from our guides and hosts, Doctor Charles Covert, Pattie and Diana. It was late, so we went right to sleep in the inviting and comfortable ranch Guest House to get ready for the next morning’s hunt. Doc took the two of us out to a blind the next morning when it was still dark and the deer started coming in at first light. I have never seen so many deer that size at one time! One of the bucks was really the biggest I had ever seen.
Cory passed on taking the first shot that morning, so it was my turn. When I saw the huge, heavy horned trophy buck I wanted, and Doc gave me the OK, I lined up the rifle. This proved to be a difficult task, because I was sitting between the other two people in the 3-man blind. At an awkward angle, and with a rifle I had only shot 6 times previously, I lined up for the best shot I could. However, the only thoughts going through my head were about the rifle’s hard recoil, and I thought, “If I miss, my hunt is over”. I took the shot. Just my luck, I missed completely. In fact, the rifle slipped when I fired, making my fears a reality. The rifle kicked back and the scope struck me on the nose right between the eyes. I started bleeding profusely in the blind. I was just glad I was wearing several layers of clothing to sop up my own blood. Of course, the buck ran off and I thought my hunt was over.
Luckily for me, shortly thereafter, Doc compassionately made an exception to the rule and let me take another shot at a consolation buck, one that had mysteriously slipped through and would normally have already been removed by the intensive Covert Ranch management program before I got there. At least maybe I wouldn’t go home completely empty handed. He wasn’t near the size of the “Mr. Big” that I had flat missed, but I was overjoyed to have the chance to at least partially redeem myself. I lined up the shot, but I was even more scared about the rifle’s recoil now because I was still bleeding. Also, one thing I completely forgot about Cory’s rifle was that it was sighted in to zero at 200 yards. My own personal rifle is sighted in to zero at 100 yards. So when I shot this deer at about 75 yards, needless to say, the bullet did not hit exactly where I aimed. I thought I hit this deer, but it was not my best shot and the buck ran off due south. Then my hunt was really over.
I thought I heard it drop not too long after the deer ran off, but I think I was the only one to hear it. In my mind, I thought I had killed that buck. We waited for more deer for Cory, but he opted to hunt that afternoon. So the three of us searched the tall grass and thick brush for a long time that morning and finally, but only reluctantly, we gave up. Still bleeding, my hunt was over without either of the bucks I had had the opportunity to take.
Cory went on his afternoon hunt and took a very nice-sized 10-point buck and I got to stay back in the Guest House and watch my team, the Dallas Cowboys, on the big screen TV be beat up by the New York Giants and get kicked out of the playoffs and I was still bleeding. I was not happy. I’ve been hunting with Cory for years. I’ve worked for him since 2002 and I don’t think he has ever seen me as disappointed as I was at that point. But the hospitality, accommodations and gourmet cuisine at the Covert Ranch was great. On Sunday night, Dr. Covert decided to prepare and serve a special “Ritz Carlton” 4-course meal followed by a single barrel Kentucky bourbon and cigar tasting for us to help distract me from my disappointment and brooding. After all, he’s a psychiatrist as well as our hunting guide. Everyone still tried to make it a great experience, but I didn’t even have my 10-point management buck, and the next day, I had to ride all the way back home with Cory bragging about his 10-point trophy buck. And I was still bleeding!
The moral of my story is, don’t ever give up hope. In April, Cory got a call from Doc saying that my buck had been found by John “Dub” Allen, a 78-year-old cowboy at the Covert Ranch, who was riding horseback looking for a stray Braford bull in the pasture were Cory and I had hunted. The buck I shot on January 13, 2008 was recovered on April 19, 2008 and was found about 300 yards south of our blind.
When Dub saw the buck’s skeleton, he roped the intact skull and horns and drug them up onto his saddle. Then his horse started bucking. Dub was able to calm the horse and take the deer head tied to his saddlehorn back to the ranch headquarters, 3 miles away. Dub called Doc to tell him when and where he had found the scattered bones and the intact head of the buck.
Doc called Cory telling him it was found. Cory told Doc that he felt that it would be best to call me, instead of Cory surprising me with the head at a later date. Then, Doc called me and I was speechless! He brought the head back to Houston and offered to bring it to me in Rosenberg or to have me pick it up at his medical office in Houston which I did today.
Now, I finally get to take the buck to a taxidermist in Houston so that my trophy will be displayed and admired by everyone. It might have taken over three months to find, but I finally got it.
I still have a permanent scar on my nose from the scope, but I have learned many valuable hunting lessons. Some are common sense, but when I was facing my coveted 11-point, I guess I just got trigger-happy. First, I learned always to get comfortable beforehand with the rifle you are shooting. Don’t be afraid of it. Second, if you are not comfortable with the shot, don’t take it. Reposition yourself to line up another shot. But the most important lesson for me was to not ever give up on finding your buck. Keep searching. If you think you killed it, try hard to find it. Continued effort and teamwork proved effective, even if it took three months.
It is once again that time of year for Cory and me to plan a hunting trip and it was an easy decision for us to decide to return to the Covert Ranch. This time, I will definitely use my own rifle. I just need to find the right ammunition for it. Doctor Covert has recommended I contact Superior Ammunition for help with my project, perhaps to find a Triple Shock Barnes bullet and load for this year’s hunt. I will be sure to have it sighted in to zero at 100 yards and when I take a shot, I’ll be comfortable and ready. I did not take my buck with me when I left the Covert Ranch, like every other lucky hunter did last year. And after having the opportunity to harvest two different bucks, the first a trophy and the second, a management, I was at least able to finally get my buck three months later. That gave the deer hunters at the ranch a clean sweep for the season. I’ll be gunning for that trophy buck this year, making use of these hunting lessons I’ve learned.
In retrospect, the thing I particularly enjoyed, as a country-turned- city-boy, was hunting on a South Texas working cattle ranch and quarter horse breeding operation. We spent some of our spare time there high racking the ranch, looking at the Braford cattle and walking around the horse paddocks looking at the quarter horses. It was an authentic and enjoyable overall experience.