Going on your first big-game hunt can be a little daunting, especially for someone who grew up hearing people question how anyone could possibly want to “shoot Bambi.”
Just ask Amanda Covington.
“I was really anxious coming in, because I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Covington said as she reflected on her Southern Outdoor Experience deer hunt. Although she had gone on a turkey shoot previously, she fleetingly wondered whether she’d be able to shoot a deer, a more magnificent animal by most counts.
Covington is the vice president of communications for Vista Outdoor Inc., which owns an array of outdoor sporting gear companies. She and I were the two novices in a group of four people on a trip to a sprawling 20,000-acre ranch near Sonora, Texas, in December.
But it didn’t take her long to put to rest those niggling questions about whether she’d actually be able to pull the trigger.
The dawn broke crisply that Monday, the morning after the first winter storm of the season had walloped much of the Midwest, leaving even south Texas with a dusting of snow.
With about 31 square miles of land at Canyon Ranch, the hosts took each hunter to a site that would give each a good opportunity to net what they were pursuing, whether it be axis deer or whitetail.
As the guide and I drove up to the blind for my morning shoot, the first sign of animal life in the pre-dawn light was a bunch of wild pigs. They smartly scattered upon hearing the Dodge truck’s big engine cut through the frigid air. So we just settled in and began the waiting game.
When we saw the first shadow of what ended up being a 4-point whitetail, it was still too dim and the deer was in the wrong position to take an ethical shot. Besides, my guide promised, “We can do better,” which suited me just fine.
The pigs came back as that buck grazed, and they presented some better shot options. So I sighted in on a sow, squeezed the trigger, listened for (but didn’t hear) the telltale sound of contact – and watched the pig run hither and yon like she was loco. I thought I had missed, but she dropped off in the brush a few seconds later.
The other pigs, who initially shied away at the report of the shot, ventured back in a few minutes, so I lined up another one, dropping it on the spot.
While I contended with the pigs, Covington was setting her sights on an 8-point whitetail. Later that day, she’d hit her deer limit by bagging a doe. So from then on, her only option would be wild hogs—there is no limit on those, as the ranch folks basically consider them a nuisance.
Each hunt has a different set of high points for each participant. Covington and I illustrate that point. While I considered knocking out a few wild pigs to be just a warm-up for the real purpose— getting venison for my freezer—Covington said bagging one of her boars was the highlight of her trip.
Of course, her boar story is worth telling, for the creature tipped the scales at 182 pounds.
“I had no idea when he walked in that he was that big and I loved that he was 105 yards away. I love that I used a .243 (Federal Premium Vital-Shok ammunition in Savage Arms rifles) to take down such a thick-skinned animal,” said Covington, whose more experienced colleagues had urged her to use a .308.
“And then after looking at his cutters, I think he was my favorite.”
Although the boar was the kill that she’ll relish in her recounts of the hunt, that didn’t completely take away from the thrill of getting her first deer, too.
“There is a special place in my heart for the buck, just because he was my first [big-game animal],” she said.
Wild boar are a fun and challenging hunt, but you're doing more than you may know when you take one down. Read here to learn about how this invasive species is wreaking havoc in the U.S.