So were you able to leave the carcass behind? Or was this kill somewhere else?
This was on the drawn rifle hunt at the Laguna Atascosa last December. I got the four quarters, backstraps, tenderloins, chuck roasts (neck meat - don't leave that behind, it makes awesome stew/chili), other cuts of meat, and the head out. The gut pile, skeleton, and most of the hide were left behind. The biologist was able to get samples needed from the head and skin left on two of the quarters.Background on events of my hunt:
My focus was nilgai, but would take any opportunity presented at deer or hogs. Took external frame backpack and bike for getting in further and faster and meat out if successful. Cold, wet weather in upper 40s to low 50s thru Saturday morning, then mid 60s Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
Arrived Wednesday before the hunt and setup camp at Adolph park North of the refuge. Did orientation Thursday morning and scouted rest of day until sundown. *Mistake 1: spent too much time in non-prime areas and only scouted a small portion of areas I was interested in checking out.
Got up late Friday morning and biked in to first area. *Mistake 2: woke up late, cost me a prime hunting location. *Mistake 3: tried to bike off trail, wet weather turned ground into mud that caked tires and brakes and rendered bike unridable costing valuable hunting time by having to walk bike back to road and clear mud off. Finally arrived at desired hunt location to find other hunters' bikes there. Respectfully backed out and hunted area scouted the day before. Spooked several hogs and a nice dark, heavy antlered buck, but could not get a clean shot at any as they retreated into thick thornbrush. Left at sundown and talked to other hunters before leaving the refuge. Spoke to two guys who had three nilgai on the ground and got some good info on how to find and get a shot at one.
Side note: I feel these guys cheated the system because they were able to use an atv (with game cart attached) in area 5 due to "medical reasons". One of them supposedly had surgery to his foot or ankle and was still recovering; he was a local (and probably very familiar with the refuge and the ability to scout prior to any hunts starting, etc). Their tactic involved a lot of walking through thick brush and work that he would not have been able to do if he actually had mobility issues. Not only that, but he (the guy who was supposedly still recovering surgery) went in alone after dark to get their third nilgai loaded up and back out to the road while his partner waited at the truck with the two other nilgai on the ground. No way he could have done it alone with a busted ankle. The nilgai were gutted, but whole and not quartered out meaning the guy had to load several hundred pounds of dead weight on a game cart by himself, and had done it twice (for the 2nd and 3rd nilgai). All the evidence tells me his foot and ankle were more than capable and he/they didn't need the atv. Anyway, back to my hunt...
Saturday, got up early and went to a new area. Got in the spot I wanted to sit and realized I forgot my hunter orange at the car (*Mistake 4). Blew out the area going to get it and got back shortly after sunup. Sat two hours without seeing or hearing anything and decided to still hunt, making a large loop back to my stashed gear and have lunch before moving to a new area. Found some good sign along the way and decided to hunt the area that evening. It's now about noon and along the road a few hundred yards from completing the loop and getting my gear, I noticed two deer just off the road. I stepped aside to put gear down and get shooting stick out as they were about 150-200 yards out and I wasn't comfortable making the shot offhand with a fixed 4x scope, out of breath, exited, etc. As I start to step out and take aim, I hear a vehicle coming up behind me where I had just come from a few minutes earlier. I look up for the deer who are long gone and behind me comes a big quad cab Dodge. I stifled my frustration and found out it was a couple volunteers helping a pair of hunters get a nilgai bull out to their truck. Come to find out it was the hunters who's bikes were parked where I had initially wanted to hunt Friday morning. They had killed their second bull and had seen approximately 24 nilgai between Friday and Saturday afternoon and were gracious enough to tell me exactly where they had seen them.
Not sure if the animals would stick around after all that pressure, I decided to give it a shot and was in the area they described at about 2:20. By this time I'm doubting I'll see anything and I've just wasted two hours, but figure I might as well give it a try since I was there now. I'm trying to stalk through the thick thorn brush and it's impossible to be quiet. Stuff is scratching and grabbing my clothes, crunching under my feet and I'm thinking there's no way an animal would stick around with all the noise I'm making. All of a sudden, mid-step, I get the sense or urge to look up. About 15-20 yards in front of me is the young bull laying down. His back was to me with his butt facing to my left and his head up and turned trying to look back at me to see what/where I was.
I slowly pull my rifle up, don't feel good about a neck shot with the movement and small window I have to shoot so decide to shoot his spine at the base of the neck figuring it would be an instant kill or bullet/bone would fragment into the vitals and quickly kill him. I fire and he slumps down immediately; I looked down to reload and look back up to see him trying to get up. About the second or third time he brought his head up I quickly put the scope on the center of his neck and fire and he drops again. I reload again while keeping eyes on him, but I see his hind legs and tail twitching and know he's dead. When I approached him I realized that my first shot was not where I wanted because I didn't account for the close distance, angle, and I probably also pulled the shot low. It hit 10-12 inches back and paralyzed him. My second shot was perfect, center of the neck and a third of the way down from the base of the head. Everything from seeing him to second kill shot happened in about 10 seconds, with the time between the first and second shot being about 5 seconds. It's crazy how quick the mind can work and time seemed to stand still from the time I realized there was an animal, analyzed the situation, took aim, fired, reloaded, reanalyzed, fired again. Almost like the movie Wanted, how those assassins could think and act so fast it was as if everything else slowed down.
It's now 3:00 and just 40 minutes after arriving to the area. I called family with the good news and then the volunteers to let them know I had an animal down and was alone. I told them I would call later before dark if I thought I might need help or not. I had planned to do the gutless quarter method, but changed plans because the weather had warmed up (*Mistake 5: should have stuck to gutless method). I was worried about spoilage and thought I could get the warm blood and entrails out quickly to speed the cooling process. Being alone and lacking the proper tools (*Mistake 6: only had one sharp knife that quickly dulled and no sharpener), I couldn't do the job safely and had to revert back to the gutless method. It was about 6 pm by the time I got the first half done (skin off topside, 2 quarters, backstrap, tenderloin, and chuck) and I was flat out exhausted from everything leading up to this point.
When I went to flip the animal over I couldn't. It's head was bent back (*Mistake 7: didn't lay head and neck straight out) and it made it too difficult to roll over with the level of exhaustion I was experiencing. I called the volunteers for help and gave them directions. I decided to use the time waiting for them to take a break as well as make my way to the road to meet them, thinking they'd only be 30 minutes or so. They finally showed up after 7:30, an hour and a half after calling them. When they arrived they had game carts to help haul out the meat, but no knives or anything else so I had to basically hack the other side up with my dull knife in a rush to get it done as fast as possible and ruining the cape which I had wanted to save and tan. They hauled loads of meat as I finished the quartering. On the last load and on our way out, I started noticing meat on the ground in the trail out. Turns out they did a poor job of loading the carts and meat bounced out as they walked it to the truck. Now I have a bunch of dirty, hacked up meat. After cleaning as much as I could and removing what I couldn't, I ended up with about 110 lbs of quality boneless meat.
It was now 1 am and all the work was finished with the meat cleaned and on ice. By the time I got back to Adolph park, I was locked out and sat outside the gate trying to get some sleep until they opened them back up at 6 am. Got to camp, made coffee, and started breaking camp knowing I had a long trip back to San Antonio ahead of me. I was also lucky that the biologist was able to come out and spray the nilgai head so I didn't have to spend another day waiting for it to freeze for 24 hrs. Thankfully back at home and we had a major cold front come through so I was able to trim and debone the meat over the next 3-4 days without worrying about spoilage. Learned quite a bit and hope to do it again, but do a better job as well as get the skin out and tanned. I also did the skull euro style and it came out awesome, especially doing for the first time ever. I have pictures on my phone, but don't know how to post them.
Sorry for such a long post, hope it is helpful. I had a lot of people doubting I would get a nilgai and even with all my mistakes, a lot of luck, help from others, and perseverance paid off. Can't wait to get another chance. I'm gonna pick up bow hunting again to get a better chance at drawing for the archery hunts.