When I talk about or hear about a survival situations, typically we think about being out in the elements…exposed with little amenities in the middle of a desert or on a glacier trekking over hidden crevasses covered by thick powder like snow and nothing, like food, fuel or shelter. Often we forget about the things that are closer to home especially with children.
Some of you may have seen the thread "A Small Request if at all possible"
in the Outfitters Section
Recently someone changed my perspective on surviving. His name is Spencer Lute, he’s 13 years old and was diagnosed with cancer. This cancer was located near his brain stem and progressed rapidly to wreak havoc on this young man’s life. After meeting him and listening to him talk, you can tell that this young man in particular is very passionate, once he got off the plane, he was raring to get out in the field and start hunting. Honestly, I couldn’t blame him, because I too was just as excited to go with him.
We loaded everything up in my truck and I had asked if anyone was hungry. The general reply was that everyone could eat and one thing that Brandon suggested was eating a genuine Texas Whataburger.
Once we loaded back into the truck, we were off and out of the hustle and bustle of San Antonio’s interior elements and on Highway 10 Westbound to arguably the most beautiful aspects of Texas.
While driving up to the main gate waiting on it to open, we saw several deer like species grazing on vegetation. It was great seeing them in an element that had some familiarity. As we pulled up to the main lodge, there was an admiration for the building and we were met by Circle N A Ranch’s ranch manager, Mark. He promptly introduced himself and his wife and welcomed us to the Circle N A Ranch. After showing us around the main lodge and overlooking all the luxuries of a 4 Star facility, he showed us to our rooms and allowed to get settled in.
After getting everything in place, Mark came to the cabin and explained that they had a shooting range and he would like to make sure that the rifle is sighted in and make sure that Spencer is able to handle the recoil from the rifle.
After setting everything up and putting three rounds downrange, Mark quickly discovered that this guy can shoot. Spencer’s first shot, was dead center of the X ring. His second shot was just a little high, but following up with his third shot in the ten ring.
With more confidence in Spencer’s marksmanship, Mark was now ready to take us out on the property and start hunting for Aoudad. We started driving around and found a small herd of Aoudad and as we set up and prepared to shoot, unfortunately they ran on us, before Spencer was able to engage. Now the sun is setting and darkness is falling on us, we called it a night and started back up to the lodge for dinner.
Our dinner menu was more extravagant than expected. We had asparagus that had a sweet taste to it with onions, twice baked potatoes, and prime rib. It was excellent, then for desert, we were prepared fresh peach pie and ice cream, could have thought there was a way to end a great day, but this was definitely a great start.
Later that night Spencer’s family retired to bed, but Brandon, Andrew, Mark and myself headed to the deer blind that we would hunt of the next morning to double check the cover and asses the area. Below the blind it was a hollow space and I would have been easily discovered. So what we did, was cut some lower cedar saplings and inter-twined them around the blind. After developing concealment, we headed down the hill and went to sleep.
The following morning we were up and five and on our way to the blind. Spencer and his dad entered the blind and settled in and waited for the feeder to go off.
One the ground, I settled in and set up the camera and was startled when the feeder went off because it sounded like a weed-eater starting up. However, the deer began to slowly come in. As I began filming, Spencer located a shooter doe, pulled the rifle up and it bumped the window echoing into the field scaring all the animals off.
Waiting patiently, they promptly came back, but now more cautious, matter of fact the larger doe, stood just off to the side of us, stomping her front hoof on the ground and blowing air through cheeks to see if we would move, unfortunately for her, we did not punk out easily.
Now, Spencer allowed the deer to get into the feeding area in order to asses which one to harvest before he proceeded forward. After looking at each of the deer, he found his target and squeezed the trigger on his rifle, BANG! It was a hit, great shot I exclaimed! Shortly after shooting, I hear “Settle down Spencer, Calm down” and then Spencer comes down the ladder. I looked I at him and told him great job and to hold off for a minute, let’s give her an opportunity to expire and then we will go recover her together.
Unfortunately I’m not sure if this shot was heard around the world or if Spencer’s father had begun texting everyone, but Mark and Brandon were there in no time at all.
Spencer and I looked around for blood but not being to locate any, we walked toward the way she ran. Then we discovered a small piece, now we are on a blood trail and tracking Spencer’s harvest. We waded through thick cedars and other brush for about 45 minutes tracking and paying very close attention to our trail, the dirt the freshly kicked up and over evidence of the chosen path she decided to run. We tracked her into a brush pile of downed cedar and Spencer was ecstatic! After a few photos we loaded her up in the Jeep and headed up to the barn to clean, cape and quarter up.
Now that our work was completed for the morning, we enjoyed a nice light lunch and Spencer was ready to go out again.
We started by driving around looking and glassing for Aoudad, but they were not cooperating. After looking high and low, we discussed setting Spencer down overviewing a draw, while Mark and Brandon hiked around see if they could be persuaded to move down this draw toward us. But that didn’t quite work out as expected, however, Mark was able to locate some on the opposite side of the mountain, we quickly mounted up and headed that way. After evaluating size we discovered the matriarch of the herd and waited patiently for the golden opportunity. This was truly a test of wills, because the young more adolescents of the herd were either blocking the opportunity for a clear target, or behind her, but then prayers were answered, the stars aligned and now a clear opportunity was evident. Not wasting any time, Spencer whispered, she’s not broadside, I explained that is not a problem, Andrew and I both told him, to put his crosshairs on the base of the neck, he then flipped the safety and started to squeeze the trigger. POW! Direct hit, she jumped up, turned around, ran ten feet, then expired.
After the shot, in our excitement, I yelled, Yeah! And Andrew exclaimed great shot! Spencer’s father Steve came running over and scooped him up give him a big bear hug telling him he did it, you did it buddy he said. That was such a great job.
Shortly after shooting Spencer walked up to her and was speechless. Honestly this was the largest ewe that I have ever seen. You could tell that Spencer was excited, because from ear to ear, there was a Texas size smile on his face.
Now, Andrew and I set up in order to showcase Spencer with his trophy for some pictures. Once we completed that, Brandon and I loaded her up and took her up to the camp.
Here’s the deal though. Spencer made a deal with Mark that he had to participate with cleaning this one. It got a little emotional here, Angie Spencer’s mother, saw the animal and started crying tears of joy, she was so excited for him, because this had horns and they were far from small. She knew what this meant to him and also how hard he had been working to harvest something like this all day. Mark starting to cape out the ewe and then began to gut Spencer’s trophy and asked Spencer to come here, he wanted to show him something. Out of nowhere and with bloody fingers, Mark wipes his fingers on Spencer’s face to initiate him into the fraternal aspects of a traditional deer camp, cutting up with one another and giving each other a good ribbing.
Once again darkness was upon us and we headed up to the lodge where dinner was being prepared. Tonight Chef Ryan had prepared a Pork tenderloin, yellow squash, zucchini, and other mixed vegetables, rice and a red pepper soup, once again another amazing plot of delectable goodness prepared in front of us. Poor Spencer was so tired, I though he was going to plant himself right there on the table and pass out. After dinner we had some desert, but this time, it was more than peach pie, there was also a chocolate fudge like pie, I can’t recall what it was exactly, but I’m sure that it is pictured in Webster’s under divinity.
Andrew, explained that he had a place that we could go to in the morning, that was MLD and they still have Whitetail Buck tags and Chital (Axis) Bucks on and we were more than welcome to go over there and try to harvest an animal. Now, we were off to bed for another early morning of hunting in our future.
The next day, we were up and at’em, everything was packed up in the truck, camo was on, and one the road to Boerne. We arrive at Andrew’s get in the blind and now waiting on something to come in. You can set a clock to Andrew’s feeder, that thing went off, I looked at my watch and it was exactly 7:00 AM. Waiting patiently on something to walk in, we were glassing several areas where trails funneled into the feeder and watching all the birds feeding on the corn singing morning songs of joy. Then off to my right just out of the corner of my eye, I see movement. I tell Spencer to look to the right and very carefully prepare to potentially shoot. As I ease out of the way, I see it turn tail and run, I couldn’t quite make it out, but it was definitely a deer of some sort. Spencer explained to me, that he finally saw it, as it was taking off, but couldn’t get the rifle up quick enough to get a shot or even sight picture.
We maintained our position and around nine o’clock Andrew, Angie and Brandon came in. We came out of the deer stand and explained what happen, Andrew suggested walking into this draw area and see if there was anything in the meadow below us. We are walking through and glassing and out of nowhere, I see something. Now, this is embarrassing for me, because there was a small sapling of some kind, but it was bright white and had characteristics of a whitetail buck bedded down in the grass. We investigated this until we realized that I was hoaxed by a tree. But I’m telling you, it looked identical to the split in tines like a white tail would have, but talk about feeling embarrassed for a moment.
Once we realized there wasn’t anything moving around we headed back to the truck to drive the rest of the property. We jumped a little spike and two does, but was not quick enough to get into a shooting position to harvest one of them.
Unfortunately nothing materialized from there and we all loaded up in my pick and headed to San Antonio international airport in order for these guys to catch their plane.
While driving to the taxidermist what I usually do is reflect on the hunt, sometimes this is my highlight reel or the worst time, because missed opportunities plague or haunt me. However this weekend made my year honestly. I always enjoy these first time hunts, especially with our younger generation for several reasons. I think it’s in a true hunter’s nature to push the limits, exploring the unknown and try new things, like a new rifle and caliber, or introducing archery to your arsenal. Things that are tough, uncomfortable, or even emotionally taxing are not easy to overcome without a positive mental attitude.
After all, where would we be without the desire and will to survive that eternal journey that is at the heart and soul of all of us.
Spencer, exhibited what a survivor is, he showed me, that no matter what pitfalls or walls are in your way, they are easy to knock down and jump over with the strong friendship of those closest to you in life. He’s a true SURVIVOR!