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"Buffalo Hunting With Friends At Red Rock Ranch":

by: Joella Bates

I met Milton at the AMO Show in Nashville, Tennessee. Later, I introduced him to my team: Doug Goins and Mark Thompson. I told Milton that Doug built my arrows and Mark tuned my bows. Milton invited us to come hunt with him in Texas and film a television show for Hunting Lease Magazine: The Show. So here we are.

Last year, I had hunted at the Red Rock Ranch in Cotulla, Texas. I hunted Cape Buffalo in Africa. I had to shoot at least 80 pounds of draw weight for the buffalo. I am a 26 inch draw, so it took 82 pounds to produce 80 foot-pounds of kinetic energy with the required 700 grain arrow. Cape Buffalo are thick-skinned heavy-boned and nothing to take chances with. I wanted to test my Ultra II in an actual hunting situation. I did it on a Nilgai hunt. I placed an arrow frontally into the Nilgai bull's heart from 40 yards. Milton talked to J.C. about us hunting there for the television show. Before the day ended, the guys and I made final preparations for the hunt. The Red Rock Ranch is a 1,000 acre high-fenced operation that homes over 35 species of exotics. Drought conditions have persisted in the area since last September. Without adequate native vegetation to support the animals, the Shorts have resorted to an expensive feeding program. It takes over 12,000 pounds of feed per week to keep the animals in good condition.

The guys prepared our equipment. I would shoot the Ultra II at 85 pounds with a Carbon Express 6075 Terminator arrow tipped with the newly introduced Microtech Tomahawk 125 grain broadhead. All three of us had sighted in our bows with Carbon Express arrows and Microtech broadheads. We were very impressed with the incredible accuracy of these combinations. On May 20th, Milton picked us up at the San Antonio Airport. We stopped at the Longhorn Target factory. Darren Brown, the owner, provided us a Pick-a-Spot broadhead target. Mark took time to set up Milton's new Martin bow with a peep sight, Sims' Limb Savers, and a Bodoodle Pro Lite arrow rest. Doug worked on my bow and tuned my arrows and broadheads. He spun each arrow to make certain there was no wobble. One more stop to make for licenses and refreshments and then straight to the ranch. Terri met us and gave us a tour. She had dinner ready except for the steaks. We gorged ourselves and finished with Terri's caramel ice-cream pie.

With chairs pushed back, we discussed the hunt. At dim light, I was ready to sight-in my bow. Surprisingly, I found Milton sitting beside the swimming pool. He had been filming. I measured off 20 yards and I set up the Longhorn target for sighting-in my bow. Within about 30 minutes, Mark and Doug had joined us. We filmed and sighted in the bows despite increasingly windy conditions. We welcomed Terri's call to breakfast. After breakfast, we took a few more shots, this time behind the shed where we were protected from most of the wind. Mark would be the first to hunt. We anxiously loaded into two Jeeps. Within about an hour, the guys had located a good blackbuck. J.C. led the stalk and got Mark into position for a shot. J.C. checked the distance with Mark's Nikon rangefinder and told him the buck was 31 yards. Mark had total confidence in his rangefinder, so he shrugged off the doubt and let the arrow fly. It went under the animal. Just as I zoomed in on the blackbuck, Mark took another shoot. This time, I film the buck rapidly fleeing, stumbling, and going down. We all celebrate the shot and ragged Mark about the miss. J.C. radioed Terri to come take photos.

Terri always photographs the animals in the field with her digital camera, then she prints photos from the hunt and puts them on their web page. Terri brought us pictures. Mark called his wife and friends at work to tell them where they could see the photos. Now it was Doug's turn for his first exotic hunt. J.C. showed Doug a herd of Corsican rams and they decide which ram he would hunt. The rams went into a thicket, down a narrow field road. J.C. and Doug wormed their way through the thicket until Doug was in position for a good shot. Doug came to full draw, and as often happens, another ram stepped in the way. Doug was forced to hold at full draw until the ram slowly cleared, but it was too late. Doug had to let down the bow. But he redrew quickly, this time sending the arrow through both lungs. Doug filmed while J.C. and I stalked into the ticket and moved into position for my shot. I went to full draw and released an arrow low into the heart-lung area. A couple of steps and my ram was down.

From the huge rush of adrenaline that followed my shot, you would have thought that I was new to this game, but I'm not. I have been bowhunting since 1989 and have taken 35 species with a bow. The excitement hasn't gone away. My bowhunting experiences just allow me to control the adrenaline until after the shot is made. I had been on three different Water buffalo hunts: two here last year and mine in Missouri in 1998. Consequently, I have a lot of respect for these animals.

Last year, the alpha female had stood over a shot bull, preventing us from recovering him without a fight. We knew we had to be careful and watch her antics. Fortunately, J.C. located the Water Buffaloes where we could separate the bull from the rest of the herd. The bull was lounging in a water hole in backwaters of the Nueces River. J.C. scattered the animals and the hunt was on. The isolated bull had one thing in mind. He wanted to get back with the herd, but for almost four hours, we prevented that from happening. Our challenge was to stalk with two cameramen and have me put a vital shot on the buffalo.

We needed enough footage to make a good show. Stalk after stalk, we made getting closer and closer. With each successive encounter, the bull became more agitated. After maybe an hour and a half and some really close encounters, we had enough footage for the show. But now the buffalo disappeared into a thicket of mesquite, juahilla, and black brush. Finally, J.C. went back where we had initially found the herd. We spotted the bull. This time his head was down as he sniffed the scent of his companions. We tried to intercept him, but again he disappeared. J.C.'s next plan was to find the herd and get between them and the bull for an ambush. We found the herd minus the bull. J.C. took a radio and went into the bush. We stayed at the Jeeps.

Thirty minutes passed and then out of nowhere, we spotted the bull. Again with his nose to the ground trailing the cows. I jumped from the Jeep with Doug and Milton following. I ran trying to close as much distance on him as possible. Actually, we got too close. We went to the field side of the thicket and waited to ambush him. Instead, he circled back in the thicket, coming back down the same trail he had been on. My heart was in my throat, when I saw him coming back toward us. Thirty yards. Then twenty and still coming our way with his head down. Unfortunately, the brush was so thick that I didn't have an open shot. Milton and Doug were each trying to stay in position to film the event. The bull came quickly. And at less than 10 yards, he caught movement. Fortunately, but unfortunately, he looked up and with no hesitation, whirled and fled from us. Wow! What an experience. To have a buffalo bull so close was exhilarating, but still no shot. How can you be so close, but not have a shot? Well, that is bowhunting.

We went back to the Jeep and recounted the last stalk, waiting for J.C. to return. When he got back, we told him what had happened. J.C. was concerned that the bull was going to keep more and more distance from us. He cautioned me, that if I had another chance, I needed to make sure that I was ready to make it count. So, if you were a buffalo, what would you do now? We knew that instincts would take over. Because of the drought, the animals had become accustom to being fed at a certain place late in the evening. Maybe we needed to go there and hang out. We did. We found animals congregating including some of the buffaloes. We just waited. Finally, the chance came. Out of the thicket, the buffaloes started to funnel, one by one. Bringing up the rear, was the bull we had been looking for. J.C. said, 'This is it.' Doug was running the camera and also reading the rangefinder. I came to full draw. 'Thirty yards,' Doug said. I didn't want to shoot him in the rear, but I didn't want to let him get away again.

And then just as if it were written in a script, the bull turned and started coming back. This time, he was broadside to me. Still at full-draw, I follow the bull with my pin on his vitals. Doug again told me, 'Thirty yards.' The sun was glaring brightly in my face when the shot broke. We watch the arrow appear about five inches behind the leg near the heart. The buffalo with the arrow disappeared into the thicket. We jumped in the Jeep and went to an area where J.C. expected him to go. J.C. took a radio and the gun just in case things turned bad. All went quite.

After what seemed like an eternity, J.C. radioed us that he had found the bull. The celebration began and so did the work. J.C. radioed the house for the tractor and for Terri to bring the camera. Have you ever tried to move a 1600 pound animal? Well, the job had just started. What a day!!! We had all successfully taken exotic animals. We had shared a magnificent day hunting with old and new friends. We had feasted on delicious food. Then, we relived and relived the experience. And to cap it all off, we laid in our nice soft beds and dreamed of hunts completed and hunts yet to come.

I do shooting clinics, speaking engagements, and motivational programs. To book programs reach me at 931-296-3188 or at Doug Goins makes custom arrows. To order your arrows call him at 864-859-0312. To book your hunt at the Red Rock Ranch call 830-676-3303 or on the web at