Category Archives: Guns & Hunting

Enjoy exciting hunting stories told by SCI members and read about the latest guns and gear they’re using in the bush.

The Allure of African Specialized Game – Part IV

Editor’s Note: In the fourth and final segment, we pick up the 14-day Central African Republic safari on day 11. The author has already taken one Lord Derby eland but he’s still holding a pre-paid tag for a second one.

Day 11: In Search of a Giant Continue reading The Allure of African Specialized Game – Part IV

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Red Stag Stalking In Sutherland

For the hard-core and uncompromising stalkers willing to travel the extra mile, the county of Sutherland, in the far reaches of the Scottish Highlands, is a must and certainly won’t disappoint. This hidden gem, described as the real jewel in the crown of the Highlands is an escape away from it all to beautiful rolling glens, superb salmon rivers, large open spaces and massive blanket bogs holding substantial carbon deposits.

As a stalker passionate about my sport, I’m always willing to put in the extra effort to experience something truly unique, off-the-beaten-track, with sustainability in mind, so in mid-July this year I set off on a mammoth five-hours journey north, from my home in the Scottish Borders. Two hours into the drive, I was passing through classic red deer country in Perthshire, synonymous with the Highlands, yet had another three hours’ drive ahead of me to reach my destination, Dunrobin estate.

Situated 50 miles north of Inverness and the Black Isle, you know you’ve reached the right place when you have the watchful eyes of the 1st Duke of Sutherland looking down on you from the top of Ben Bhraggie. To your right, peering amongst the trees, the picturesque Dunrobin Castle, the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, which dates to the 1300s, sitting on the edge of the North Sea.

Set in Flow Country, it’s described as one of the world’s last wild places, a vast expanse of 400,000 hectares of blanket bog, forming a mottled pattern of peat and pools, where you’ll find amazing plants, rare birds and be inspired by the peace and space.

Arriving at my destination, I was welcomed by Robbie Rowantree, land manager and headstalker on Gordonbush and hunting guide on the neighbouring estates of Dunrobin, Dalreavoch and Ben Armine, partners of West Highland Hunting. Robbie a highly-experienced guide and secretary of the East Sutherland Deer Management Group, is very passionate about deer management and has worked on the estates for the past 29 years. Joined by Megan Rowland, assistant land manager and keen deer stalker, together they’re responsible for the habitat management and deer population across the estate.

Robbie and Megan are heavily involved in biodiversity work on the estate, they explained that managing deer numbers is only one part of an intricate plan, made up by a mixture of art and science. They currently follow the best practice guides and work hand-in-hand with Scottish Natural Heritage, a government-funded body which looks after Scotland’s nature and landscapes. Following set practices, Robbie and Megan use GPS to locate sites across their estates, which they examine for trampling, browsing, exposed peat and erosion. Land managers and stalkers carrying out these checks means we can effectively manage and monitor impacts for the future to protect our environment.

After introductions, we set off to check the zero of my rifle on Gordonbush. Owned by the Tyser family, they bought the land from Sutherland estates in 1921 and at that time employed 66 members of staff. Certainly to own such a highland sporting estate like this would have required deep pockets.

In the early Victorian and Edwardian times, estates like these in Scotland were purchased for recreation purposes, as a place to bring your friends and family for hunting and fishing and often cost more money to run than they made. In their heyday, Sutherland estates would have had around 60,000 employees on their books, all run by a quill pen, they brought a lot of jobs and investment to these remote places.

In 1979 to generate income, the Tyser family started letting the sport on Gordonbush. Nowadays there are up to four stalkers working on the estate and fishing ghillies are brought in when required.

Driving into the estate we passed over the Brora, a river Robbie described as one of the best for salmon fishing in Scotland. It’s said when conditions are good there’s some serious fun to be had – especially in the spring. Their best week last year produced 70 salmon to six rods.

Along the way we spotted a lot of deer. The four estates are part of the East Sutherland Deer Management group, a collective of local estates in east Sutherland. In the 250,000 hectares, there is said to be around 15,000 deer, which equates to approximately 14/15 deer per square kilometre. Over the next few years for sustainability, the stag cull on the estates will need to be approximately 200-300, with hope in the future that this figure will drop to 140 stags per year.

When managing deer it’s important to look at habitat and assess the levels of damage and impacts to see whether or not it’s sustainable. As we were driving, Robbie singled out one particular deer. Visibly you could see it wasn’t in great shape, quite lean, old and with a poor coat. He described how it’s important to remove deer like these to build a strong herd for the future.

Exploring further into the estate we passed Struan Lodge on the northern shore of Loch Brora, a luxury eight-bedroom fishing lodge with impressive eco credentials. It was built using locally sourced timbers and features geo-thermal heating and solar panels. On the loch we spied a rare black throated diver.

In the distance we could see two wind farms. Robbie described how, in all the time he’s worked on the estate, their biggest development has been their drive towards renewables and better impact management. For instance, the two windfarms funded projects to remove non-native timber plantations and re-plant native Scots pine and birch.

Following the river, we soon arrived at Dalreavoch lodge, a late-Victorian sporting lodge and old haunt of Dukes and Earls, set in forested hillside. The lodge accommodates twelve guests and is a very popular stay for guests trying to bag a Macnab. Roughly twelve parties come annually to this lodge on the Macnab quest. A fascinating read within the lodge is an old game book dating back to 1922, which originally cost just £12.

We stopped to zero the rifle in the heart of Gordonbush estate. In the distance we could see the evening light bouncing off Ben Armine lodge, set on heather-clad hills. The walls of the sitting room in Ben Armine are covered with historical graffiti, recording triumphs with rod and gun, where prominent historical characters such as Churchill and Wellington stayed. Using my Rigby Highland Stalker rifle, it was commented that this would be the first time a Rigby returned to the estate for almost 100 years.

After three shots lying on the heather, a puff of smoke indicated that my .308 Rigby Highland Stalker, topped with Leica Magnus 1.5-10×42 riflescope, was indeed zeroed, striking a rock at 200 yards and settling any pre-hunt nerves.

Ahead of the morning’s stalk, Robbie explained that fieldcraft is extremely important for hunting in Sutherland, where there’s not always a lot of cover. A good standard of fitness is required but as always, your guide will assess fitness and experience prior to the stalk.

I woke the following morning to the dawn chorus at 4:15 am. Driving into Golspie Glen on Dunrobin we spotted all three deer species residing on the estate – red, roe and the elusive sika. After a wind check and glass of the hillside using my new Leica Geovid 10×42 HD-B 2017 edition binoculars, we planned our stalk and just before we set off I loaded some .308 Hornady American Whitetail 150-grain cartridges under the bolt, indicating I was ready to go.

We spotted a group of stags grazing on the other side of the glen, basking in the morning sunshine. Stalking down a line of trees, we followed tracks to an exposed heather hillside. To obscure our position, we dropped to our hands and knees and sneaked to a vantage point before commando crawling the final few yards, from where we would take our shot. I was very glad I was wearing my Swazi Tahr XP anorak. It kept me warm and dry and didn’t make a sound as I crawled across the heather.

Following close behind Robbie, I used his outline to conceal mine. Robbie slowly moved the rifle and slipped into a rest. Once in position, I was signalled to move forward, slowing creeping up to the rifle, eyes already fixed firmly on the target. My heart was beating fast and I could see three stags in front of me, downhill at 200 yards. Calmly, Robbie whispered instructions, his dulcet tones helped settle my nerves. With my eyes fixed firmly on the scope and Robbie eagerly watching through his binoculars, the stag turned and presented itself. I lined up my crosshairs and took the shot, reloading and ready to take another if required.

Shortly after hearing the shot, Megan, who was waiting patiently, joined us for the retrieve. The stag had a switch head and was perfect for the cull plan, ahead of the rut. Together Megan and I dragged the stag to a point where it could be collected and readied for the larder. On average, the stags on the estate weigh 15/16 (210 to 224 pounds) stone, much more than the Scottish average of 13(182 pounds).

I felt a sheer sense of pride in bringing the Rigby Highland Stalker back to its birthplace in the Highlands and using it for the purpose it is designed for. I had a lot of respect for the beast we removed to meet the estate’s habitat management plan, which I knew would provide some excellent venison.–Liz Brodie

Why You Should Try Crossbow Hunting

Using a modern crossbow can open up a new world of hunting                    opportunity.

I was introduced to the world of modern crossbow hunting back in 2006 when my friend Rick Bednar, owner of TenPoint Crossbows, invited me on an Ohio whitetail hunt. What you have to understand is that Rick was not an “elitist” crossbow guy. In fact, in college Rick was three-time NCAA archery champion and qualified for the 1976 U.S. Olympic archery team (which boycotted the games for political reasons, so Rick never had a chance to compete at that level.) He was and is a very serious archer and bowhunter. Given his background, I figured if there was something to this crossbow stuff a hardcore archer like Bednar would show me.

Before we went hunting Rick taught me the ropes on how modern crossbows work and how to safely operate and shoot them (it’s not rocket science.) But what really got my attention was when Rick brought in a buck that first evening that gross-scored 174 SCI points. My, my, my, I thought, maybe there is something to this crossbow thing after all.

As the years have gone by, I’ve stayed a serious bowhunter who used compound bows almost exclusively. Part of it was my job, but part of it was a bit of snobbery, too. As long as I could hunt with my compounds successfully, I thought, why use a crossbow? And part of it was the fact that most states did not allow crossbows to be used during regular archery-only hunting seasons. Why handicap myself, I also thought, and hunt with a crossbow during a gun season?

In the 2020s, that has all changed. The crossbow segment is the fastest-growing portion of the bowhunting industry. “Hunting with crossbows has grown in popularity primarily because it offers hunting opportunities to a larger group of sportsmen,” said my friend Brady Arview, VP of Brand, Hunt, for Plano Synergy, parent company of SCI supporter Barnett Crossbows. “Initial growth was attributed to the use of crossbows by gun hunters to be able to extend their seasons into archery season, even if they are not proficient with, or have a physical problem that will not let them draw and shoot, a compound bow. Second, it allows more women and kids to hunt during the archery season. Third, it allows more hunters to hunt in urban areas that consist of smaller tracts of land that are easier to obtain than larger leased properties.”

The Crossbow Advantage

Besides the fact that they are really fun to both shoot and hunt with, there are three big reasons to consider crossbow hunting. First, it takes much less set-up and practice to consistently shoot a crossbow accurately than traditional or compound bows. With compounds, you have to have the bow fitted to you, select the proper arrow length and spine, set up the sight just right and spend a lot of time tuning it until the arrows fly perfectly. Then, you have to spend at least a day – and often several days – just getting it sighted-in. And then comes the practice time. To be proficient with a modern compound bow takes a tremendous time commitment. In the months leading up to bow seasons, I shoot a few arrows out of my compounds virtually every day just to get my shooting muscles in shape and my shooting form up to snuff. Also, with compounds there always seems to be something that needs to be tweaked to keep it working perfectly.

The best modern hunting crossbows come ready to go right out of the box, or with minimal set-up. The scope sight – yes, they are affixed with an optic, generally a low-power multi-stadia variable scope – that has been pre-sighted-in to match the included arrows, arrow point weight and arrow speed. Sure, you have to check the zero and occasionally make a small adjustment but compared to what it takes to get a compound bow ready to rock, it’s night and day.

Second, for a family of bowhunters, compound and traditional bows are fitted exactly to the individual. That means every hunter needs his or her own bow, arrows and accessories – something that can get very pricey very fast. But with very few exceptions, every family member can shoot the same crossbow. That means on family hunts, you can often switch who shoots and who observes with the same crossbow and accessories. It’s far less expensive and there is less stuff to pack. Together with another couple, my wife Cheryl and I took advantage of this this past spring when we went turkey hunting in Kansas. We had two crossbows between us and hunting in pairs we simply switched off between shooter and observer with the same crossbow. It worked out nicely.

Third and perhaps most importantly, crossbow hunting is now legal for all hunters during archery-only seasons in 29 states, primarily in southern and Midwestern whitetail country but also out West in Wyoming. They’re also legal in most other states with caveats (legal during gun seasons or for those who physically cannot draw and shoot a compound or traditional bow, for example.) Only one state, Oregon, for some strange reason, allows no crossbow hunting at any time. They’re also legal in many places outside the U.S. I know of several hunters who have taken game up to and including Cape buffalo in Africa with a crossbow.

Many archery-only seasons in the U.S. occur during breeding seasons, leaving out the firearms hunters. This is, of course, when the trophy-class bucks and bulls are most vulnerable. Want to take advantage of them without the time commitment required to be a proficient compound bow hunter? Pick up a crossbow and go hunting. I saw this firsthand on a bow hunt for elk in Wyoming in 2019, where I shot a bull with my compound and watched two other Midwesterners take bulls with their crossbows. Those two would never have had the opportunity unless they were able to hunt with their horizontal bows. This, to me, is a very big reason for dyed-in-the-wool firearms hunters to look at the crossbow.

Lastly, when cocked the crossbow hunter does not have to draw and hold the bowstring at full draw like you do with a compound bow. This is a huge advantage. The crossbow’s forearm can also be rested on shooting sticks, the windowsill of a shooting house, or locked into the body or shot from the prone position the same way you would a rifle, making it a much more accurate weapon. And make no mistake – crossbows are so accurate that when practicing, you don’t want to shoot at the same target spot at most reasonable distances or you will hit and wreck the previous arrow. For example, with two of my crossbows, shooting either off a bench or prone, I can routinely place my arrow inside coffee cup lid at 100 yards – and well inside an inch at under 50 yards.

Crossbows Are Not Firearms

Though they look and are fired more like a rifle than a vertical bow, there the similarity ends. Crossbows may have an optic sight, crisp trigger and safety, but their projectiles perform like what they are – short, heavy arrows fired at a relatively slow speed. For example, one of 2020’s hottest new crossbows, the Barnett Hyperflight EVO 420, sends its 22-inch-long arrow off at 420 feet per second (fps.) That’s a fast arrow from any crossbow. The arcing trajectory means that at a distance of 50 yards, if you misjudge the range by a mere +/- 3 yards, you’ll shoot over or under a whitetail deer’s chest. Also, even a light breeze will push the arrow measurably sideways. Taken together, that means that long-range hunting – and here we mean shooting at anything past 60 yards, if that – is iffy for even the most accomplished shooter. It’s also imperative that crossbow hunters, like other bowhunters, use a laser rangefinder so they know the exact distance to the target.

Like with compound bows, a crossbow’s bowstring must be routinely maintained. Frequently waxing the string and checking for nicks is important. Also important is lubricating the rail, that flat surface over which the bowstring races at the shot. It’s a high friction area that will quickly destroy the string if you don’t use a slick lube every 5 to 10 shots.

Cocking the string is done in one of two ways. First, you first place the bow vertically with the bow’s front end on the ground, secure it with your foot, then draw the string back. The most common method is to use a rope cocker, in which you use your shoulder muscles to physically draw the string back until it’s “cocked and locked.” However, some high-end crossbows employ a built-in cranking device that allows you to easily draw the string by cranking a handle. This is easy and consistent.

Crossbow Disadvantages

I have found that there are three disadvantages to hunting with a crossbow compared to using a compound bow. Essentially, a crossbow is a single-shot weapon. The amount of time, noise and movement involved in cocking the string and loading another arrow makes a rapid second shot all but impossible. A crossbow is also heavy, bulky and unwieldy. Packing one in mountain country, maneuvering one for a shot that’s not right in front of you while sitting in a tree stand, or shooting accurately without some sort of rest are a pain in the petunias. There’s just no such thing as a quick shot. I did spend a lot of time in 2019 practice shooting from a tree stand to see what was possible, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I could lock my position well enough without using a shooting stick to be able to shoot very accurately out to 50 yards or so. And while a few newer crossbows have a de-cocking feature that allows you to let the string down without firing the bow (TenPoint’s ACUslide Cocking and Decocking System, Stryker Crossbow’s Decocking Feature, and Mission Crossbow’s Benchmark Fire Control technology are three examples), most require that, at the end of the day, to de-cock the bow you have to replace your broadhead-tipped arrow with one with a field point attached, then shoot it either into the ground or a target back at camp or your vehicle.

Finally, top-end modern crossbows are not inexpensive. The best packages, which include a scope sight, cocking device and a handful of arrows, can cost a little north of two grand. Of course there are many more inexpensive models to choose from, too; you can purchase a really good package for half that. When considering cost, I try and remember this – a top-end crossbow will last decades; the only thing you’ll probably have to replace is the bowstring and buy some more arrows.

Crossbow hunting can open up a new world of opportunity not just for older and disabled sportsmen, but for dyed-in-the-wool firearms hunters, too. They’re also a lot of fun to play with on the range and seem to draw the attention of  nonhunters and shooters. That just might be one more way to begin to pique their interest about the world of hunting. There’s no down side to any of that!–Bob Robb

Magic!!!

“Gotcha!” I thought to myself, as the giant forked-horn buck I’d been trying to outwit for for a week now walked calmly behind the huge boulder in front of me.  The buck with an inordinately large 2×2 rack would reappear in a few seconds, broadside at 10 yards, and my first bow-killed big game animal would be mine.  It was a slam dunk, and knowing that, I confidently drew my Pro-Line “Typhoon” compound.  Standing at full draw, I remember thinking that this bowhunting thing was going to be a snap, and though only a forked horn, he was really quite a good buck for a Southern California coastal deer.  Oh, what a silly young man I was, because there, early in my first archery season, I was about to get hit with a big dose of the “Magic.”

When the buck disappeared behind the rock, I whispered to my buddy (ten feet behind me and to my left) not to move.  Being perfectly concealed, and anchored for release, I was already hoping the buck didn’t run too far down into the canyon he’d just come from, so the pack job wouldn’t be too brutal in the August heat.  Just then the tall, dark, deeply forked antlers came into view, followed by his head, then neck, then…then…then he was staring bug-eyed in my direction with his shoulder and chest still hidden behind the rock!  Well, not exactly in my direction, but more over my shoulder in my hunting partner’s direction.

There we stood, facing each other in a surreal standoff for what seemed a very long time (probably about three seconds) then he was bounding off across the hillside, very much alive and un-arrowed.  I was still drawn, absolutely unable to comprehend what had just happened?  Letting down, I turned to find my friend at full draw, still tracking the buck that was now 75-yards out and rapidly leaving our hunting zone.  Incredulously, to say the least, I asked him angrily what the hell he was doing?  He sheepishly explained that he’d been drawing to get a “back-up” shot when the deer had appeared and busted him.  I was speechless!!!

That was almost 40-years ago now, and in the ensuing four decades I’ve had far more of those experiences than I care to think about.  I call them “Magic Moments,” and as crazy as this might sound for a grown man to put in print, I’m being quite literal when I call them “Magic.”  I truly believe that the big ones, the real trophy class animals many of us love to pursue, have a special magic that often keeps them out of our freezers and off our walls.  I’m sure all of you have your own tales of woe, but the following are a few of my own award-winning “Magic Moments”…

In 1992, the last year I hunted with a wheelbow, I was fortunate enough to draw an Idaho bighorn sheep tag.  I spent 27 days backpacking solo in some brutally rugged country, but didn’t see my first ram until the 11th day.  When I finally spotted that first group of six rams, I was elated not only to have finally found the object of my quest, but to have found six of what I considered “shooters” at the time, with the smallest over 150.  It was the larger one that had my attention from the instant I saw him, however, and though I was no sheep expert, I was sure he was nicely over 180!

The sheep were bedded on the knife edge of a ridge, and within an hour and a half I was within 30 yards, concealed in the trees, but still had no shot due to some vegetation.  I nocked an arrow and figured I’d wait for the big ram to move and give me a clear shot.  I waited for what seemed like ten eternities (maybe two hours) then finally decided to try and make something happen.  My patience wore thin quickly back in those days!

I figured I could slowly sneak at an angle uphill to my left for about 10 yards and have a nice shot downhill to my right, and the big ram would be the closest from that vantage point.  It would be steep and risky, but I thought I was up to the task, so I quivered my arrow, took off my boots and took three noiseless steps upward.  I hadn’t had my eyes off the rams for more than 20 seconds. When I glanced over to see them all on their feet and walking, in all directions, right at me!  The lead ram was, of course, the giant and he was already through the bushes that had prevented an earlier shot. I was pinned.

Not only had I quivered my arrow, but the sheep were now approaching from my right, exactly the wrong direction for a right-handed shooter.  By the time I could get very slowly turned and get an arrow on the string, the monster of a ram had jumped up on a VW-size boulder and was staring intently at the strange looking bush I hoped I was imitating from a mere 12 yards.  It must have seemed odd to him that even though there was virtually no wind, the bush was about to shake off all of its leaves!

If I’d been shooting a stickbow, as I have from that next season to the present, I’d simply have drawn and shot him dead in one fluid motion.  The compound bow in my hands that day, however, required a little more time to complete the launch sequence, so there we stood, staring at each other, he into my blue eyes and I into his yellow ones.  This standoff lasted for probably three full minutes, during which time he never looked away or moved a muscle, while the other five rams stood in a line just below the big rock.  Suddenly, I felt a very slight breeze on the back of my sweat-soaked neck, and I knew it was now or never, so I began to draw.

In a fraction of a second the ram bolted off the boulder and amazingly landed squarely on top of the first sheep below him, with both of them going down in a tangle!  They recovered instantly, though, and all six rams disappeared downhill into the trees in a flash, leaving only the dust-filled air and the sounds of their hasty retreat behind.

Still shaking, I placed my arrow back in the quiver, laid my bow down, sat down and proceeded to cry like a baby.  The physical and mental exhaustion of eleven days spent humping the steep mountains alone finally took their toll, compounded by the chance of a lifetime at a huge bighorn ram evaporating before me.  Dang, if I’d just worked my original plan and stayed put for another two minutes, I’d have had him cold!  What caused those rams to choose that exact moment to move?  Magic!

On an elk hunt in New Mexico’s famous Gila National Forest I had chased a 370-class bull for well over two hours, engaged in a non-stop bugling/raking battle, when the huge 6×6 finally had enough.  He stashed his cows and came back arrogantly to take me on!  I crouched, arrow nocked, Habu recurve at the ready, and when he began to clear the last juniper, I drew.

The lower tip of my bow brushed a jawbreaker-sized pebble that rolled a few inches downhill.  That ever-so-slight noise was enough, though, and it was over in an instant as he left the scene like a rocket.  The distance had been a whopping 8 yards!  Magic!

Also in NM, I had stalked in my sock feet to within 25 yards of an unsuspecting 190-inch mulie buck.  All I had to do was take another three steps on large flat rocks to clear the low rimrock, and he was mine.  Yeah, right!  In that moment I heard a faint noise from behind me, and so did the buck.  He whipped his head around and began to stare right over my head in the direction of the noise.  Again, I was pinned!  The noise quickly grew into the very recognizable sound of a 4-wheeler coming in our direction, and the buck was now on full alert.

Sixty seconds later, I helplessly watched as the oblivious elk hunter passed just 20 yards below the 4×4 that had crouched down in the tall grass, only to explode in the opposite direction once the noisy machine had passed.  Why had that happened at just the moment I was within seconds of success?  Magic!

In Sonora several years back, I had crept quietly to a distance of just 20 yards from a GIANT 10×13 muley that I knew would easily top 230 points.  He was bedded in a cholla cactus patch and was asleep.  Let me repeat that…HE WAS ASLEEP!!!  It just doesn’t get any better!  After a 45-minute stalk, my predetermined launching pad was just four feet to my front right, and it was going to be a cinch to get there undetected, giving me a clear shot with my Habu longbow to the enormous buck’s chest.

Another distant noise caught my ear. This time it turned out to be five does and a little forked-horn buck.  They were running from heaven knows what, and of course came straight to the bedded monster like they were on a string!  I had needed that additional four feet to get a shot with him bedded but could have taken a shot from where I was when he stood up. But the new arrivals milled around the big deer, blocking any chance for a shot once he got to his feet.  Then they all proceeded to run happily off into the sunset (literally), never knowing I was there, only to leave me standing quite alone in the Mexican desert.  You’ve got to be kidding me?  Magic!

Though I unfortunately have a much longer list of similar stories, the Gold Medal winner comes from an elk hunt in Nevada, where I was one of three lucky non-residents to draw archery bull elk tags for the 2001 season.  As I knew I’d never draw that tag again, I was really intent on taking one of the huge bulls Nevada is known for.  Early one morning I’d located an absolutely monstrous bull on the top of a huge mesa probably three miles long by a mile wide.  It was covered with fairly open juniper and pinion, so I knew I was going to have to call him to me, as a stalk just wasn’t in the cards.

The good news was that for some unknown reason, right in the middle of the rut, this GIANT bull was alone!  I figured he was about 700 yards distant, but in that flat country, with cold crisp September air, I was sure he would be able to hear my bugle.  I ripped a shrill, but short blast with my mouth diaphragm and grunt tube to get his attention, and he responded immediately.  A couple of minutes later I sounded off again, again he fired back and he was coming!

Maybe ten minutes later, having bugled and cow-called a few more times, the bull was practically in my lap.  He’d stopped on the far side of a juniper at less than 20 yards and was tearing it to shreds.  I was standing in a perfect position behind two junipers that came together at the bottom, forming a “V” through which I had an unobstructed shot, regardless which side the maddened bull came around the tree he was destroying.

I knew that I all I had to do was make a soft cow call and the game would be over.  Checkmate!  It was at that moment that I once again (this is getting old!) heard something in the distance, and the bull abruptly stopped raking.  I could make out the shape of his head and neck through the thick branches and could see he was looking over his back in the direction of the noise that was getting louder and more distinct.  It wasn’t mechanical, though, like the earlier mentioned 4-wheeler, but I couldn’t yet figure out what it was?

In a few seconds I began to recognize the sound of hoof beats, and it was coming from a single animal.  Was another bull charging in to join the fun?  This could get really interesting really quickly, I thought, and I got ready to shoot.  You’re not going to believe what happened next, because that was 18 years ago. I was there and still don’t believe what happened!  Out of nowhere, and at a dead gallop, came a stunning black stallion, as wild as the bull I was hunting, and with three square miles on top of that mesa in which to run, where do you think he ended up?  Yep, you guessed it, he ran squarely between the huge bull and me, stopped and whinnied, spooking him instantly.  And that, as they say, was that.  In the blink of an eye I was once again standing alone in a wild place, having had a closer than close encounter with the trophy of a lifetime, only to be foiled by what?  A foul wind?  An inadvertently snapped twig?  Bad luck?  Misaligned stars?  You may say yes to one, or all of the above, but I’ll argue it was something more.  Something more supernatural.  I’ll argue to my dying day that the big ones are MAGIC!!! –Lew Webb