One step, then another. The wind was right, the herd didn't seem spooked. The young bull buffalo was looking to my right, unaware of my presence. I ranged him to find he was at 18 yards, and I waited for him to turn just a touch to give me a quartering away shot. He turned...
We were at Buffalo Mountain Ranch at the invitation of H.J. Ledbetter, owner of the Ranch, to hunt one of North America's greatest game - the American Bison. Last July, we had arraigned a hunt for Greg Abbas, of A-Way Hunting Products at Buffalo Mountain Ranch, and after watching that hunt we couldn't wait to take a crack at a buffalo.
When H.J. first asked us to come and hunt, I suggested that maybe I would bring my recurve. I am sure I wasn't serious about hunting one of these huge beasts with a recurve, but the idea caught on. Before I knew it, Greg and Fred Abbas were going to film our hunt and one other, a black powder hunt, for a show with the theme of "weapons of the past". I was stuck!
I would be using a 55 lb Samick Spirit II bow, distributed by Aim Archery. My usual broadhead would be a Thunderhead, but I was concerned about getting good penetration and started considering alternatives. After talking to the folks at Coyote Broadheads, I settled on a four bladed cut-on-impact 115 grain tip from Coyote. These broadheads were flying perfectly with my recurve bow, no plaining and hitting just where my target arrows were. .
I was determined that I was going to take my bull at no more than 25 yards. I had seen how tough buffalo were, and I wanted to make sure I would have the maximum kinetic energy available when the arrow struck home. I was also going to hold out for a quartering away shot, to avoid the ribs.
Buffalo Mountain Ranch is located on 4400 acres in western Texas. Once a cattle ranch, the folks at the Ranch have been turning this ranch into a hunting haven. They are managing the deer and turkey herd to increase their numbers and quality, and they have brought back the once native Buffalo.
We were looking for a young bull. There were certainly larger bulls on the ranch, but we were looking for a bull in the 4 to 5 year old range. These bulls were just beginning to mate and would weight about 800 - 900 lbs, and they would be prime eating. This could be a dangerous time to hunt bison. Some of the cows were dropping calves. They were very protective of their young. Some of these cows were also in season, and the bulls were in rut. We witnessed more than one short but awesome bull fight.
As we glassed the herd on Thursday, the day we arrived, Ranch manager, Larry Pitcox, helped us to identify a couple of likely prospects. We didn't hunt on Friday. Fred and Greg filmed the black powder hunt then. We wiled away our time on Friday hunting Rio Grande Turkeys.
Saturday, opened with a steady breeze and temperatures in the low 70's - a great day to hunt. By late morning Rick Worley, the Ranch Hunting Manager, Greg and Fred Abbas and I were on our way.
It took far longer to find the herd than I thought it would. A herd of buffalo is not an insignificant bunch of animals. But the rolling terrain, the mixed cedars and mesquite, and other brush, made finding the herd a bit of a chore. Yet this was what I was hoping for, too. If we caught the herd in the open, there was no way we would get within bow range unnoticed.
We worked our way down wind of the herd and began searching for one of the young bulls we had seen on Thursday. The herd was scattered, near brush and we couldn't find any of the young bulls. We had seen some buffalo on the far side of the herd, and slowly began working our way around those closest to us.
Though we successfully circumvented the herd, as we worked up a little ridge, the herd caught our scent, and began to move away through a little valley. Apparently, the scattered remnants of the herd could hear the rumble of the moving buffalo and began to follow.
From our vantage point of the ridge line, we could see buffalo coming from the brush that we had not seen. One of them was a young bull. A quick conference with Rick and we were running down the hill to try and set up an ambush ahead of where we expected the bull to pass. I spotted a cedar bush that I could use to set up in, but at the last minute I chose to go further to set up under a large oak tree. Wrong move! The bull spotted us and made a long detour around our ambush and continued toward the rest of the herd.
The herd was fully on alert now. It would complicate our stalk. But our luck was holding. When we found the buffalo again, they seemed to have spit up. What we found was a group of buffalo that were mostly bulls. They had congregated at the edge of some heavy cover, and upwind of the cover.
As we gingerly worked our way into the cover from down wind, I could see one of the young bulls we were after on the very edge of the herd and close to the brush we were sneaking through. If he would only stay there!
One step, two steps and then we were there. I was in range, Fred had a good camera angle and I waited for the young bull to turn away. I hoped that I would have to try to punch through the ribs with my little recurve. The bull turned... I drew my bow found my spot and released. The whole herd exploded! My bull ran around some cedar, but I didn't see him come out.
I was a little concerned with my shot. I had placed the arrow exactly where I wanted it, behind the ribs, but it hit a little lower than I wanted. I was concerned that I didn't get both lungs, but was hoping that maybe I nicked the heart. We all stood stock still as the herd scattered, and watched for my bull to follow the rest of the herd. When he didn't come out, we were a bit concerned that he had gotten behind us, and that made us just a little bit nervous.
After a few minutes, we began our search and found the bull piled up less than 50 yards from where he was shot. My arrow had indeed found his heart. What a magnificent creature. Thank you Lord.
Wow! What a rush! I have killed a number of game animals over the years, but never anything this big. Neither had I experienced an adrenaline rush like this one.
If you want to experience a hunt of a lifetime, you gotta try this. Or try one of Buffalo Mountain's Rio Grande Turkey hunts or Whitetail Deer hunts. You won't go wrong with any of them. You can contact Buffalo Mountain Ranch at 303-617-8912, or email them here. Our thanks to H.J. Ledbetter and the whole crew at Buffalo Mountain Ranch, and to Fred and Greg Abbas for filming the hunt.