Editor’s Note: This is a column written by Switzerland County’s David Hewitt. The articles center on all things ‘outdoors’, from hunting and fishing to woodsmanship.
I don’t know who coined the saying, “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade” – but I try to follow that line of thinking.
Over spring break, a group of my hunting friends along with some of our sons packed up and headed South and West to the brush country of Texas for what was supposed to be a week filled with chasing wild hogs and ornery little, toothy critters called javalinas. Like kids on Christmas Eve, everyone in our party was filled with anticipation and looking forward to bowhunting in the warm air after the long winter hiatus.
My crew headed down a day ahead of me due to a meeting I had to attend in Illinois, so the long drive to Texas would be a solitary one for me and that’s when the lemons began to appear.
A cryptic text from my son about the conditions of the bunkhouse on the ranch where we were to be hunting started raising some red flags along with the message “Something’s going on down here, but not sure what’s up” left a sick feeling in my stomach.
A couple hours later, while cruising along in the rental car that looked more like something a clown would be driving at a circus, one of my pals informed me that our outfitter had lost his lease and hunting rights to the ranch we were to stay on. Basically, the guides had told our group, “Here’s your money back, see ya later, sorry.”
After some colorful language and raised voices, my buddy informed the hunting guide that our group had driven over 1,100 miles to hunt and hunt is what we intended to do. A refund was out of the question. I was still hours away from Texas and stewed the rest of my trip down.
I finally rolled into camp the next afternoon, clown car covered in bug guts and South Texas dust, packed tighter than a Jack in the Box. My red, bloodshot eyes looked like an old road map and my normally calm demeanor was frazzled by the bad news my friend and my boy had relayed to me on the trip down.
After much head butting, foot stomping, cussing and pouting, we were directed to another hunting lease, two more hours further West, but allegedly filled with more hogs that our bows could handle.
The crew loaded up and we pointed our caravan towards the Hill Country of West Texas and the small town of Camp West. The scenery was spectacular and even in my sleep-deprived state, I tried to remain optimistic about our chances.
Almost to our new destination, cell phones crashed. We had entered a ‘Verizon twilight zone’. Zero, nada, zilch – no cellular service. We were cut off from the outside, almost off-grid, which under normal circumstances I would have relished, but the fact that our party had been moved from our original location and none of our families, work places or friends had no clue where we were and we were unable to contact them and check in.
Well more lemons.
We made it to our new spot, met up with our new outfitter only to learn that he was expecting two hunters, not a crew of nine. As we chatted about the upcoming hunt, we learned that outfitter number one had pulled a fast one on us and what we had originally paid for with him, was not the same deal with outfitter number two!
More pouting, more cursing and more lemons.
Settled in, still thinking about how many things went wrong so far, the beauty of the hill country took over. Every direction you looked, like a scene from an old western. You half expected to see John Wayne’s ghost riding down the rocky canyons or up the steep bluffs. The warm, dry air felt good after our gloomy winter back home. Everyone unpacked and turned in for the evening, a good nights sleep after 22 hours in a micro car will do wonders as I drifted off.
The next morning found me perched in a stand, pitch-black under a deep purple sky filled with thousands of stars. The kind of morning you can only see out West. No light pollution, no noise, no cars, no planes.
As the sun came up and warmed my back, Rio Grande turkeys gobbled on their roosts before jumping down for their morning walk. Four whitetail does in slick, thin gray coats came into view through the cedars and pinion pines. Delicate and nervous, tiny compared to our deer at home, but they blend right into the rocky environment here.
At 10:30 a.m., the thermometer creeping towards 80 degrees. I hike the mile and a half back to our camp and take in all I can, all the while hoping to sneak up on a wild boar and slip and arrow his way, but no such luck.
The rest of the week played out much the same. I did manage to see a few hogs and watch my son loose an arrow that nearly cut feathers off a big ol’ Rio tom and spend quality time with good friends and see another part of our great country; and the bottom line - I was hunting.
A few days away from my cell phone, a few days removed from the initial bad news of our hunting plans and my perspective had changed from one of lemons to lemonade. No, it wasn’t the spring break or the hunt we had planned, but life is an adventure and this trip certainly had it’s fair share and given the chance to do it over again, you bet I would.
- David Hewitt