“It’s time!” said my hunting partner, Blake Barnett, who also serves as the co-host and producer of my television show.
I cast a questioning glance. “Time? Time for what? I’ve pretty well figured out what Ruger guns I’m using this fall and have them sighted in. I’ve got sufficient Hornady ammo to make it through the season and if I don’t I know where I can buy more. Not only that, I have had Travel with Guns book any flights. Got my Drake clothing packed for the first three hunts. Plus, I know exactly what licenses and permits I’m going to need this fall and have gotten most of them already. Now I’m just waiting for those hunts! So what do you mean it’s time?”
“You and I are doing some hunts together again this fall, particularly the two hunts on Sandstone Mountain Ranch here in Texas. Think we should head up toward Llano to get together with Brian and DeAnn and do some pre-season scouting. Think too, we need to take a couple of fishing rods. You know how much water they have on their property. It’s time we did some fishing…”
“Fishing?” I questioned, knowing Blake had years ago fished quite a bit including bass tournaments. Blake nodded an affirmative. “Last time we did anything like that I was hunting grizzly bear in Alaska and you were filming that hunt.” I hesitated, “Remember those big red and dog salmon we caught in that swift-running water right in front of our tent? We released the salmon. I caught and kept several Dolly Varden trout. They were delicious!”
“They were…pan fried over an open fire. They were delicious! But if you think those salmon were big, and I know you and I both caught fish up to about 35 inches. You should have been with me this spring when I headed up to the far northern edge of Saskatchewan to Cree River Lodge. That area has fabulous walleye as well as some of the biggest pike in North America. I caught several well over 40 inches long. You talk about putting up a fight! Next year let’s both try to do hunt spring bear there, and book a couple of extra days to fish.”
“You showed me the photos. I hate to admit it, but I’m jealous! Not only over the big pike, but also the walleye. With them I agree with what my old buddy Jim Zumbo says, “Release fish? Only from hook to a pan with hot butter over an open fire!” To me there is hardly a better eating fish than walleye. Back early in the spring I was hunting black bear in southern Alaska with Keegan McCarthy off of his boat. I got to do some fishing as well as crabbing and shrimping. Not only was that fun, but you talk about good eating! One of the reasons I truly enjoy hunting that part of Alaska is the fishing and seafood.” I hesitated then continued, “I do like how you think. I agree. You shot a near Boone & Crockett black bear on the hunt. And as I recall you said the area too, has a lot of huge color phase bear. Kind of hard to beat big colored bear matched with huge pike and delicious walleye. Maybe we can fill up a camp with some of our friends this coming year. That would be a blast!”
Blake nodded in agreement then said, “When we go to Sandstone Mountain Ranch we need to take a couple of cast iron skillets, some grease, cornmeal, salt and some potatoes and onions. You do like to cook don’t you?”
I smiled, “I also love to eat! Last fall Brian mentioned they too has some huge bream in some of their lakes. Be fun to catch a big bass or two, which we can release, but then catch a few bream, and less than a pound bass and keep those to eat.” Before Blake could respond I continued, “Three years ago for my birthday I got a new fly rod that is still in the package. Think this might be the ideal time to put it together and see if I can catch a few of the near pound bream. Got a feeling they would put up a fight, but then also eat pretty good as well.”
“On our way we’ll run by our storage building and pick up four or five trail cameras, set those out as well. Brian says he already has several out, so we should be able to see a few photos when we get there. Brian also said the bucks on his property with all the late winter and spring rains they had, are really looking good. As you’ll recall I shot a really big typical 12-point. Before doing so, I saw numerous outstanding younger bucks. We got several on camera. One I would love to see this year was a long-tined ten with several non-typical points. Even if he only added an inch on some of tines and main beams he should easily go over 170 gross this year. There were numerous others nearly as big!” said Blake.
“Yeah, I remember seeing that deer on the show. I saw one that looked somewhat like him. This one was about 18-inches wide outside, had ten long points with five kickers. He looked like a four-year old. But the one I really want to see again was an extremely massive slick ten-point. His antlers were kind of yellowish, as opposed to the normal brownish color we saw on other bucks. They must be really dense, so they don’t accept much stain. Saw him a couple of times and got close once. He gave me the slip, pure and simple. He should be an absolute monster this year! There was also a buck we saw at long distance. He looked like a wall of antlers on his head! Would love to see him up close.”
“What rifle you planning on using this year?” asked Blake. “I’m thinking of taking a Ruger FTW Hunter in either .300 Win Mag or 6.5 Creedmoor. And if not one of those I’m thinking of taking the Ruger Number 1 that belonged to my grandfather, one he bought right after it came out years ago. Using Hornady ammo of course!”
“Love the Ruger Number 1 idea. Since we’re doing two hunts, I’m thinking of using my old favorite .44 Mag, Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter revolver on one hunt, shooting Hornady’s 240-gain XTPs. Think that would be fun. For the other hunt I’ll likely use one of the Ruger FTW Hunters I have, not sure yet, which one. On one of my hunts this fall, I’m thinking of using a Ruger 77 in 7×57 which I bought while I still lived in Abilene back in the mid-1970’s., while I worked for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. I used it for many years hunting South Texas whitetails and mule deer in New Mexico. It’s been in the back of my gun safe for a bunch of years now. It loves Hornady’s 139 grain loads. But then too, I bought a .405 Winchester Ruger Number 1 with beautiful wood from Lee Newton, that’s been begging to go on a hunt. You’ll remember I shot two bucks last year on Sandstone with a Ruger Number 1 in .450-400 NE 3”, using Hornady’s 400-grain DGX. Decisions, decisions, decisions! Maybe I’ll take them all back out to the FTW on their SAAM range, shoot them and decide after that. One decision we won’t have to make is where we’ll send those bucks to be mounted, to The Wildlife Gallery.”
“We’ve got one of our hunts set up to coincide with what should be the best time to rattle in bucks. You gonna rattle up a buck for me? Or, you gonna make me rattle in my own?” Questioned Blake.
“I didn’t get you your own set of Rattling Forks simply to look at them! I suspect we’ll both do pretty good. Sandstone has a very narrow buck to doe ratio. Won’t necessarily be easy, but that should increase our chances of having bucks respond. The more bucks that can hear you rattling the greater the chance of one or more coming in to investigate. I’m really looking forward to that hunt. I’ve got three other hunts set up around rattling in bucks this fall. I can’t wait until it’s time!”