Hunting camp pranks are legendary, but some are inadvertent. Such was the deer guidprank — the “heart attack” prank — I accidentally pulled on a pair of Texas deer hunting guides several years ago.
The hunt was one of those manufacturer-sponsored trips designed to get products in the hands of writers in the hopes they will crow about them. Given the low and slow pay schedules in the outdoor publishing industry in those days, this was usually a highly successful ploy. Few writers could afford the time to indulge a 5-day trip without generating at least some copy to pay the bills.
This particular hunt was sponsored by Winchester to renew interest in their famous and formerly popular lever-action rifles. I grew up watching 1950s and 60s Westerns and took my first two deer with a Winchester M94, so this was right up my alley.
The new rifle, of course, wasn’t quite the 1960s model. The external hammer was no longer deemed sufficient for safety. An additional tang safety switch had been added. So had a total of 7 pounds trigger pull. We won’t even go into the extensive trigger creep except to say that Winchester has since alleviated it. Today’s M94s are much better made, although the superfluous tang safety remains. Lawyers.
The hunt itself was held on one of those rare Texas properties that hasn’t been high fenced and managed to minimize those disquieting feelings of unexplored wilderness. You could set off across miles and miles of miles and miles on this ranch, and I did. Against orders. And that contributed to the subsequent deer guide heart attack incident.
Like most Texas hunting operations, this one had plenty of feeders and box blinds in which hunters could sit until the 8 AM and 4 PM feeders went off, signaling all deer, javelinas, turkeys, raccoons and assorted songbirds to “come and get it!” Being the obstreperous romantic I am, I had no desire to confine myself to a box and shoot a deer trained to come when called. Blinds and bait are a great way to watch wildlife and put meat on the pole, but they don’t make me feel as if I’m contributing anything to the hunt. So…
My guide dropped me off at my blind after lunch. He instructed me to shoot any 4×4 or better buck I wanted, then wait patiently in the blind for him to return and recover it at dark. As soon as he left, I left. Bad boy. Opened the door, shrug into my pack, grabbed that slim, easy carrying M94 30-30 and took it for a test drive for what it was designed to be — an easy carrying, fast handling hunting rifle.
Well, long story short, that little rifle and I roamed the Pecos River country like John Wayne lite, dreaming of cowboys and Comanches, bison and pronghorns, coyotes and whitetails. The two of us danced around a skunk, stalked a few small bucks, slipped close to several does and fawns, glimpsed a big buck at distance, and regained an appreciation for the reach of a scoped 270. At dusk we worked our way back up the canyons and draws toward our blind. Figured I’d better be sitting in it when my guide returned. Well, I didn’t quite make it…
As I was easing up the draw near the blind, I spied an antlered candidate on which to test the 30-30. He was no west Texas trophy, but more than large enough for the freezer and for testing the rifle and cartridge. As he walked toward the feeder, I stalked. When I had a standing broadside shot at about 100 yards, I concentrated extra hard on that extra hard trigger pull. The little Winchester bucked, and o did the buck. And then it dashed off as lung/heart shot deer often do. And then I heard a truck coming. Perfect. The guide and I could search for the mortally wounded buck together.But first I had to get back in that blind undetected. As I ran for it, I heard the truck stop, a door slam. A scream…
“You ‘Bout scared me half to death,” my guide said when he pulled up to the box from which I appeared to be emerging after a long, boring day’s wait.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You shot a buck, right?”
“Yeah. How’d you know? Did you hear me shoot?”
“No. I saw it lying right beside the trail, so I figured you’d shot it and dragged it out for me. I get out and just as I reach down to grab a leg, it kicked and gasped its last gasp! Sweet Jesus, it ’bout gave me a heart attack! You don’t expect a dead buck to do that!”
As hunting camp “pranks” go, this deer guide heart attack was unplanned and rather ordinary, but you take what comes and roll with it.
I’m sure you’ve had some crazy things happen on your hunts. If you want to share a story of your own, write us via the Comment section. I’ll pick my favorite and, with your permission, publish it some day as a guest blog.
Author Ron Spomer has been on both ends of deer camp pranks.