Not very long ago while giving a presentation in a northeastern state, I opened the floor to questions. A person about half way into the crowd asked, “What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?”
I knew he was talking about hunting situations, but to be frank the scariest thing I had done, at least recently, was to drive from my hotel room to the where I had to give my talk. Traffic was horrible. I didn’t really know where I was going. And, I somehow drove into a part of that city where I wasn’t welcome. Hard stares from those standing on the street corners told me they either really liked my brown western hat and wanted it for their own, or, they really didn’t like the guy wearing it! Neither was all that good! To say I was a bit spooked would have been an understatement. I made certain my windows were rolled up and my doors locked. I finally managed to drive back into horrible traffic and made it to the venue where I was supposed to deliver my speech….
Yes sir! The scariest thing I had done in a very long time.
My description of the event brought smiles and giggles from those in attendance. But I also knew that wasn’t the answer the crowd really wanted. They wanted to hear how I have survived charges from enraged buffalos, lions, and grizzlies, or escaped the fangs of an African mamba.
In many ways I am a perfectionist, at least when it come to taxidermy!
I spent a lot of years as a research wildlife biologist! Part of my duties included taking apart or dissect more animals of varied species and subspecies, frankly than most well-traveled and serious hunters ever get to see in their lifetime. No brag just facts! This gave me the opportunity to study the anatomy of many different animals, to look closely at bone structure and muscles. I also got to study facial features of a lot of different animals up close, not only after they were dead, but also when they were alive, so I could see expressions! Those many years of doing a lot of different research on big game species, too, served me well as a hunter. Partly because of this I have always loved taxidermy, especially good taxidermy!
On my office wall is the mount of the first whitetail, a small spike taken with my maternal grandfather’s single-shot 12 gauge shotgun. That mount is hung in a place of honor. And, I’ve often tickled at the comments I get about the mount. It’s simply a neck mount ad was obviously done quite a few years ago by a local taxidermist, in the Zimmerscheidt/Frelsburg Community where I grew up, just off the Texas Gulf Coast in the gravel hills of Colorado County. Quite frankly it looked back when as it does now, very much like a mouse with spike antlers. Regardless… it’s still very dear to me!
“Come over here and look at this, Papo!” blurted my grandson, Jake Johnson. I turned to see what had gotten his attention. He was pointing at a rub on a 12 inch live oak tree. I walked over and inspected it carefully, including looking at the ground just below the rub. Before getting too excited I wanted to be sure the rub had not been made by a red stag or elk, both which occasionally wander through southwest Texas. I could see obvious whitetail tracks. Hmmm..
I closely inspected the the surface of the rub. I could see where tine tips had dug deeply into the surface of the tree trunk. The rub was appearing like it had been made by a whitetail. I also liked the fact the tree had been rubbed on before, quite likely the same buck had rubbed there the year before.
I noticed a bush just beyond the rub and could see where the antler tips had scarred those limbs. This gave me an idea of his tine length and also his spread. Based on what I could see I guessed the buck had tines 10 to 12 inches long, and was likely 20 to 22 inches wide inside.