The terrain in and around Knox County, Texas is some of the most diverse I’ve seen, anywhere. Driving down one of the Farm to Market Roads, one will pass huge fields of verdant green winter wheat on either side of the roadway, and then head down a grade into some of the most rugged, beautiful country imaginable. The locals call this pock marked landscape covered in cedars and oaks ‘The Cedar Brake Country’ for obvious reason. The surface of the earth appears to have been shot from below with a huge shotgun loaded with shot varying from the size of a Volkswagen to a battleship. The landscape gives one a sensory overload with vistas of everything from mini-mountains to beautiful valleys with streams of live water.
I recently returned from a hunt in this country as the guest Ranell Walker, whose family owns Ranger Creek Ranch. Situated a little over 2 hours from Ft. Worth, Ranger Creek provides hunters a smorgasbord of big game ranging from Aoudad sheep to monster whitetail bucks. Knox and a few adjoining counties even offer a season for hunting javelina or collared peccary as they are officially named, a species that is usually found much farther to the south and west.
The recent hunt was enjoyed with my son Drew and good friend veteran outdoors writer Bob Hood. There’s something very special about having access to hunt over 20,000 acres of wild country; country so vast that six or eight hunters can be dispersed far enough apart so as not to hear the report of each others rifle.
When our guide, Rick, mentioned that there was a very healthy population of Javelina in the section of ranch we were hunting, I could see Bob Hood’s interest perk! Bob has spent years photographing and hunting Javelina in south Texas and probably knows as much about this toothy little pig of the southwest as anyone alive. Bob brought his crossbow along and for an archer, whether the bow be vertical or horizontal, there is no more exciting animal on the planet to stalk. As Rick pulled his truck up to the area Bob was to hunt, we noted a lone Javelina boar feeding out in an open field. Closer to the stand we spooked a small herd of fifteen or so Javelina. They ran but not with the intensity of critters that had been hunted hard. As we drove away and left Bob to the sights and sounds of the peaceful little hillside he was hunting, my expectations were very high that he would arrow one of the little pigs that had somehow gained a foothold in this pocket of counties in northwest Texas. I was anxious to slow smoke some javelina and finally dispel for myself the information or, misinformation I’ve been told about javelina as table fare.
Drew and I hunted a stand situated on the edge of a cliff overlooking a beautiful creek bottom that hosted a live stream and several small ponds that our guide said held native black bass in abundance. A natural spring flowing from the rock face of a cliff fed the remote creek, keeping the water fresh and sweet. Looking down into the lush little valley, I was confident that mankind for eons had camped and hunted along this watercourse protected by high cliffs on either side. Deeply imbedded into the heavy clay soil were the tracks that indicated the comings and goings of the animals that lived here. The trail leading out of the bottom into a mesquite flat marked the passage of feral hogs, turkey, Javelina mixed with the extremely long, heart shaped indentions obviously made by a very big whitetail buck. As Drew and I climbed into the elevated blind, I had the distinct feeling that this was going to be an exciting afternoon of hunting.
|Drew Clayton with a nice buck he harvested at Ranger Creek Ranch.|
We sat in the comfortable blind, and in whispered conversation, talked about past hunts that we’ve enjoyed together since Drew was big enough to tag along. There is no better place than the outdoors to connect; distractions such as video games and cell phones are replaced with more pleasant diversions of a prairie falcon dive bombing a hapless mouse or the distant squeal of a feral hog coming from somewhere over the next ridge. Drew and I were thoroughly caught up in the sights and sounds around our blind. Sound carried far in the crisp, cool late afternoon air. The valley below served as a huge, well decorated amphitheater and my son and I had the best seats in the house! Just about sundown, a pack of coyotes began their nightly serenade and out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement coming from a trail that led from the creek bottom. The unmistakable, blocky form of a mature whitetail buck eased from the shadows and paused a moment to survey the terrain ahead. Upon closer observation, it was obvious he was the buck Drew had been waiting for. His heavy rack sported what appeared to be 8 points and I judged him to be a 4.5 year old. Drew placed his TC Venture in .270 caliber in the window of the blind and cranked the Alpen variable scope down to 4 power. Then the buck disappeared in the mesquite trees at the base of the cliff. I instructed Drew to keep an eye peeled on a small clearing in the valley to the right of the blind. We had already decided to attempt to harvest the buck and within seconds of the big deer making an appearance in the open, the report of the .270 echoed through the hills. Drew had the biggest buck of his career on the ground. Horns for the wall and venison for the freezer! Does it get any better than this?
|Javelina are abundant in the cedar breaks country of Knox County, Texas. Outdoors writer Bob hood poses with one he harvested using his GhostBlind.|
In route back to the lodge, we picked up a smiling Bob Hood. Bob had harvested a javelina early into his hunt and, like Drew and myself, watched a smorgasbord of game enter and depart his hunting area. Bob gave me a ham from his Javelina and I later learned that most of what I had been told about using Javelina as table fare was myth. The slow smoked ham tasted like a blend of pork and venison and was VERY tasty.
I’m eagerly awaiting my next hunt at Ranger Creek for ducks and geese. Next time, I’m planning to pack my Mathews bow, I’m anxious to put a stalk on one of those tasty javelina!
For more information on hunting Ranger Creek Ranch, go online to www.rangercreekranch.com or call 940-888-2478. To see more pictures of the recent hunt, go to www.ghostblind.com and click ‘Live Hunt Pictures’.
Outdoor Tip of the Week- We’re now well into the fall trophy blue catfish bite and reports are coming in of some big catfish landed. Veteran guide George Rule at Tawakoni suggests fishing with chunks of fresh shad or carp or buffalofish. “Drift fishing this time of year can be extremely effective. I like to use a “Santee Rig” for drift fishing.” Says Rule. “This rig is easy to make, it consists of a basic Carolina rig with a 2-4 foot leader. The big difference is that I use a boot lace filled with eight 00 buckshot instead of the conventional egg sinker. This elongated weight results in fewer hang-ups, which are common to drift fishing. Another plus of the Santee Rig is the small float placed about 6 inches up from the hook that keeps the bait floating up a foot or more from bottom, making it much easier for a catfish grab as the bait drifts by.”