Earlier this year I applied for several different public hunts offered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. I was fortunate enough to get selected for one of the hunts, which took place at the Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area near Lindale, Texas this past weekend. This particular WMA is approximately 5,700 acres of bottomland hardwood habitat that is home to good populations of squirrels, waterfowl, deer, turkey, and especially wild hogs. I have always been a little leery about hunting on public land, but this hunt was very well organized and structured in a manner that provided safe hunting conditions.
I was scheduled to arrive at the Hunter Check Station for the pre-hunt orientation at 10:00 AM on Saturday. When I arrived, I was directed to sign in and make my selection for the compartment that I wished to hunt. TPWD had aerial photo maps showing the area broken down into about 23 compartments ranging in size, but none less than 100 acres. I selected Compartment #8 as my primary choice, based on several factors. I knew this compartment would not receive any other traffic other than myself due to its location in relation to the river and the associated access trails. Also, it was one of the larger compartments and I wanted to distance myself from any nearby hunters. And finally, I had a conversation with another hunter who hunts that area regularly and he mentioned that a good buck was taken out of that compartment last year and he would have chosen it, if it weren't for the fact that he had his 7 year old daughter with him, and he didn't want her to have to make the long walk to that compartment.
About 11:30 they released us to hunt, so I headed straight for my compartment. I parked at the designated parking area and spent about 15 or 20 minutes getting all of my gear ready. One thing I forgot to throw in my backpack was a bottle of water - I guess I was so excited to hunt that I forgot all about it. Well, after hiking in over a mile with a 30-pound climbing stand on my back, a 15-pound backpack, and a gun I was really needing a drink. So I did some quick scouting and picked out a good tree about 30 yards from a fresh rub. I sat in the stand for about a half hour just to rest and then I headed back to the truck for some water and to mark my trail to find my way back out after dark. I ended up not seeing anything that first day other than a doe and a hog, both of which I spooked on my first trip in. I was thankful that I had remembered to take my Garmin GPS with me and had saved a few locations. It helped me get back to the truck that first night because my trail marking apparently was not up to par.
I decided to leave my stand at the base of the tree so as not to have to haul it in and out each day. I hunted that same spot on Sunday morning and still had not seen anything by about 9:30. So I got down and did a little more scouting. The wildlife biologist had mentioned a slough in my compartment that would be a good place to set up. I finally found the slough, as well as a couple fresh rubs, so I moved my stand to this location, which proved to be a good choice. Sunday evening, shortly after 5:00, I saw a 9-point walk by my stand at about 15 yards, but I didn't feel comfortable that he would meet the antler restrictions, so I had to pass on him. He was a very neat looking buck, with an extra main beam on his left antler (very similar to the one my cousin has pictures of from my last post), but he only looked like a 2 1/2 year old. His outside antler spread was about even with the ears, and the goal of the antler restrictions is to allow bucks like this to mature, so I made the decision to let him walk. A few minutes later I saw two hogs, but decided not to shoot because I didn't want to scare off any deer in the area (and I didn't feel like dragging a hog a mile and a half). Earlier that evening I had a coyote chase a cottontail on a dead sprint right under my stand. I thought that was pretty neat to see - he was about 8 feet behind this rabbit and they were running as fast as they both could. He didn't catch up with it and I saw him stop and turn around. Then he walked right back under my stand going the other way.
On Monday morning I got a glimpse of a doe (at least I think it was a doe) off in the brush for just a short moment. I also saw another young buck, a 4-point, about 100 yards away. The hunt came to an end at Noon on Monday without me even firing a shot. But I had a really good time and will put in for this hunt again. There were a total of 5 or 6 does and 3 bucks harvested by other hunters that weekend. The bucks were a respectable 8-point with a 15-inch spread, a questionable 8-point with a 13-inch spread, and an illegal buck with an 11-inch spread. I forgot to take my camera with me but I was able to take a few pictures with my phone. Here's one of me in the stand. The 9-point came from the direction I am looking.
While I was there, I stayed at the Days Inn in Lindale, which has possibly been seen on the television program "COPS" (I was well-armed to say the least) and needs to be seen on one of those interior decorating shows on HGTV. I'm no expert on this, but a navy blue and pink rose print comforter doesn't look that great with pastel lime green walls. However, I was able to get some rest and catch a football game in the evenings.