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  • Writer's pictureJeff Rice

A Question of Success - Larry Weishuhn



“Sorry to hear you didn’t take the deer you were after!” said a friend when I responded to his question about hunting whitetails in Alberta, Canada. “Really a shame it was not a successful hunt..particularly after spending that much time, money, and effort not to bring home what you went after!”

 

Not a success? Hmmmm… Indeed, I had hoped to take another Canadian whitetail, one rivaling the Boone & Crockett buck I had taken a couple of years earlier. During the hunt, despite temperatures that were higher than what I had left in Texas, when I had wished for those below zero which causes more movement of mature bucks, I did have a number of deer walk my way including bucks, albeit youngsters. None were more than two years old.

Alberta’s legal shooting hours are from sun-up to sun-down. I hunted all day and got to see and watch interactions between deer, see gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, saw coyotes and luxuriant red fox, and was serenaded by wolves.  During our evenings, over most delicious meals and afterwards, I was entertained by those with whom I shared camp about great stags bested and those that got away.

 

Was my hunt a “success” or a “failure”?  I guess that “Depends upon your perspective, your point of view and how you look at it”, to quote my friend, the late Rod Marburger, one of the finest wildlife biologists to have walked the lands of Texas.  Frankly from my perspective, my hunt indeed had been “successful”.  No way was it a “failure”!

 

Fast forward to a more recent hunt in western Texas.  A friend, originally from Texas and now head of the Genetics Department at the University of Georgia, book author, speaker, fellow outdoor writer, and dedicated hunter/conservationist Dr. Mike Arnold, along with Greg Simons had invited me to accompany him on his hunt for aoudad with Wildlife Systems.  He would be hunting to hopefully take a mature aoudad ram.  In so doing he was also gathering material for his next book about the “culture of hunting”. 

 



 

My intentions were to spend time with Mike and a help ace guide Jackie Murphy look for aoudad.  Alas, I left my Mossberg Patriot Predator 7mm PRC, topped with a Stealth Vision variable scope and loaded with Hornady Outfitter 175-grain CX at home.  I swear the combination whimpered when I walked out of the house without them!

 

Mike had set up his hunt while visiting with Greg Simons at the annual DSC convention in January shortly after I introduced him to Greg.  Before leaving Dallas hunt dates were set.

 

Driving into Marathon I spotted the good professor sitting in a coffee shop. After “Howdies” we had a delicious lunch then headed to the ranch a short distance west of town. There we met and visited with Jackie about ranch rules and what to expect.  “The mature rams are in bachelor herds right now, hopefully somewhere on the ranch.  We should see herds of ewes with little lambs and bachelor herds of young rams.” Turning to me he questioned, “Larry, remember when we hunted aoudad together a few years ago, just west of here we saw over 200 rams in one herd?”  I nodded an affirmative.  Indeed, I did!

 

Jackie continued, “Younger rams are usually the same color as the ewes and do not have very long manes or chaps. Mature rams’ chaps and mane are very long almost down to their hooves.  Too they are often, but not always, darker in color, more reddish or browner than ewes and younger rams.  They also have huge bodies, weighing upwards of 300-pounds and more.  After you see some younger rams, then if we do see a mature ram, you’ll recognize the difference immediately. Mostly we’ll be looking for an older ram.  Such a ram will likely have 30-inch or longer horns which are massive at the base.  Their horns will appear to have a slicker or smoother appearance than those of younger rams.”

 




 

A few minutes later we were driving ranch roads stopping occasionally to glass distant hillsides.  We soon spotted a large herd of ewes and lambs. “Need to look elsewhere.” Jackie commented.  “This time of the year the older rams will not be with the ewes.”   Heading toward another part of the ranch we drove right up to a herd of 34 aoudad rams.  “Look for long chaps and mane!” suggested Jackie.  Unfortunately, all had short chaps and manes and were the same color as ewes. 

 

“Horn-wise…looks like they’re 26 to maybe 28?” I asked.  Over the years I have hunted aoudad numerous times and also “worked” with them as a wildlife biologist. I had measured the horns of several.

 



 

“Yep!” Then shaking his head Jackie said, “Not what we’re looking for!”  That sighting seemed to set the stage for the rest of the hunt. The next several days we drove and walked many miles.  We glassed many aoudads but could not find a mature ram, even though we did see numerous young bachelor herds.  We saw numerous elk both cows and a couple of bulls, several mule deer, and even a few feral hogs. We watched golden eagles soar, spotted many pairs and small coveys of blued or scaled quail, listened to the cooing of amorous whitewing doves and even found found a couple of horned toads. We too stalked a couple of distant rams only to find finally when within rifle range they lacked the maturity Mike was looking for.

 

Breakfast and evening meal we were fit for royalty. We hunted from first light to dark, all the will also telling stories. Those continued from supper until the wee hours of the soon coming morrow.  As is so often the case “it did not take long to spend the night in hunting camp”.

 

Way too soon the hunt was over.  Early morn, Mike prepared to head home without an aoudad.  Yes, he could have shot a younger ram, but that was not why he had come back to Texas.

 

Before leaving for the El Paso airport Mike said, “There are some who would likely say my hunt was a failure, not successful.  They would be wrong!  I spent time in what I have come to believe to be some of the most beautiful and intriguing terrain in all of Texas.  I got to see and watch aoudad, mule deer and elk.  I learned about aoudad, their habits and the lands they now call home as neighbors of desert mule deer and elk. I spent every waking moment visiting with and being around people I now hold dear! Successful hunt? Absolutely without a doubt!”

 

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