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Hunt Texas by Bob Hood | TF&G Hunting Editor

Following New Trails

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unting has been in my veins ever since I was old enough to point a BB gun and shoot it, not so accurately at first but accurately later as I improved my skills in handling one. Later came a .22 rifle and even later shotguns and larger caliber rifles. One day recently, I watched a 10-yearold boy entering a timbered pasture not far from my home with a pellet rifle. It was an unusually warm morning for this time of the year and it reminded me of myself easing through my grandfather’s pasture on his dairy north of Comanche when I was a youngster of about the same age hunting with a gun. Past thoughts brought back memories of me walking down a cattle trail on other warm mornings, watching for cottontails and squirrels but also just walking through the pasture to enjoy a day with my .22 Stephens rifle. Sure, I hoped to shoot a rabbit or squirrel which I had all the confidence in the world I could do but it was the journey away from ordinary life that really had inspired me to relish what lay before me those days. After just a few years of hunting by myself with a BB gun and now with a .22, I had established a pattern of following certain well-woven trails made by cattle and those of a few deer. I stopped by the first of three stock tanks on my grandfather’s dairy and didn’t see anything to shoot so I started to continue on down the trail. That’s when I remember stopping and leaning back against an oak tree and thinking about where I was going to go next. It seemed like a simple decision. Just go

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where you have been going before—down the same trails, to the same stock tanks, over to the same oak grove, along the same fence rows and then back up the trails to my grandfather’s house. Somehow on this day, that didn’t seem like the right paths to take. No, I was far from being grownup. After all, I still was what most adults would call a kid, but I was growing up, not so much in worldly matters but in matters related to what I loved more than anything else in the world outside my family and friends—wildlife, hunting and learning as much as possible for the rest of my life about animals, birds, reptiles and all

other creatures put here by God. I walked down one of my usual paths from the stock tank that morning but soon spotted a faint deer trail off to my right near a small draw at a low-water crossing. I call it a “deer trail” because it held more deer tracks than anything else. I didn’t know where the trail would lead me but I turned right and eased my way along it, looking or more tracks of anything from deer, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, quail or any other wildlife that may have been traveling there. The trail took me upwards for about 35 yards before topping out in a beautiful F i s h

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field of sunflowers. Even for a 10-year-old boy not saturated by political philosophies, changing family values and the like at that time, I engulfed myself into what was before me. A cottontail rabbit saw me and scurried into the thick brush behind the field. Three mourning doves rose from the sunflowers and flew far away to my left. Across the sunflower field, a whitetail doe and a fawn had frozen at my approach and stood staring at me for a moment. They then left in a hasty snort into the woods behind them. I didn’t shoot a thing that day, but what heck of a day it had been. The experience prompted me to look for other lesser-known trails to see where they went or came from. As the years have progressed, I have come to realize that many hunters don’t look for unknown or lesser defined trails to follow not just while hunting but in life general. They simply follow the same pronounced trails they have been accustomed with. This past year’s deer hunting season was a disappointment for many hunters because acorn crops were phenomenal in East Texas that curtailed deer activity around corn feeders, drought conditions affected activity elsewhere and wildfires displaced a lot of animals. Pulling yourself away from feeders and other well-traveled areas used by yourself and other hunters is not a detriment to your hunting plans. Don’t plan on always tracking deer movement because they also are tracking you. Finding new trails and following them will lead you to better success afield and a lot more enjoyment pursing what made them.

Email Bob Hood at bhood@fishgame.com

Photo: Ohotnik, Bigstock

2/7/12 10:10 AM

March 2012  

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