“They running yet?” I questioned on a phone call.
A snicker followed by a laugh was the response I got from Chris Treiber – the person in charge of the hunts at Sandstone Mountain Ranch near Llano, Texas – when he heard my question, knowing I was querying about the whitetail rut.
“I know you’ve been in Africa for several weeks where it’s been cool and the kudu rut has been going on,” Treiber said. “We’re still months away from when (the) whitetails will start responding to rattling horns! Getting a little anxious aren’t you!”
“Yeah, I know, but I’m dreaming about hunting on Sandstone again this year,” I explained while reaching for a set of Rattling Forks next to my chair. “Just went through a bunch of photos from the bucks Blake and I took last December; those started me yearning for hunting whitetails. I’m working on a couple of magazine articles, one which is about our hunting on the ranch.”
As we talked about what he was seeing in terms of antler development, I tickled the Rattling Forks together. In doing so, I looked at the full body mount The Wildlife Gallery had done for me of the Boone and Crockett Coues deer I had taken a few years earlier in Sonora, Mexico. That mount now lives on our fireplace hearth in our family room. I thought I saw a glint in the mount’s eye as I softly played with the Rattling Forks (www.rattlingforks.com).
“Got your calendar handy?” Treiber asked. “Let’s schedule two hunts for you and Blake this year for your Trailing the Hunter’s Moon show. We want to schedule one hunt in October and one in late November.
“In October we’ll hunt for a big-racked buck … want us to do that before the rut changes the bucks’ regular patterns,” he added. “As you know, once the rut starts, there’s no way of knowing for certain where bucks will be. And, during the early October hunt, the bass should be biting really good; I know both of you like to fish, and we have some fantastic bass fishing on Sandstone.”
I was nodding in agreement even though I knew Chris could not see me doing so as he continued his planning speech.
“Then in late November, the bucks should really be coming to rattling horns,” he said. “We’ve got a very close buck-to-doe ratio as you saw last year. We also have a high percentage of mature bucks in the herd.”
Again, I was nodding in agreement.
During our 2015 hunt on Sandstone Mountain Ranch, both Blake and I had taken really good bucks. Blake shot his first typical 12-point and best Texas whitetail to date. The buck gross-scored 168 and some change.
Me? I shot a really old typical-10 with split back tines that I have often described as the handsomest whitetail rack I have ever taken. The rack missed scoring 160 by one and a half inches. Harvested another very nice short-tine, heavy 10-point with a long flyer coming off of one of his back tines.
I took both bucks with my Ruger Number 1 chambered in .450-400 3-inch Nitro Express, using Hornady 400-grain ammo. Blake used his Ruger American Ranch Rifle chambered in .308 Winchester shooting Hornady American Whitetail ammo.
Some may think a 400-grain Hornady DGX shot from a .450-400 is a bit of an over-kill, but I like shooting a wide variety of calibers and rounds, including those others might consider to be a bit big.
I had used the same Ruger Number 1 and same ammo on a hippo on the Zambezi Strip of Namibia, as well as on plains game and a variety of other animals. It’s certainly not a long-range caliber, but to me, hunting equates to getting as close as possible before taking a shot. I dearly love using the big calibers, regardless of where I hunt.
Have you ever taken a white-tailed deer with an elephant gun?
“What are you planning on hunting with this fall?” Treiber queried. “Gonna bring another cape buffalo gun?”
“Not really certain yet, but I’ll likely try to take one deer with one of my Ruger handguns,” I explained with a smile. “Likely it will be my favorite old Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter shooting Hornady 240-grain XTP; that handgun loves that ammo. Even I can shoot less than a 2 ½-inch, 6-shot group at 100 yards from a solid rest.
“And for the other hunt, I’ll likely bring a rifle,” I continued. “I’ve got a Model 77 Ruger in 7×57. I bought it shortly after the Model 77 was introduced back in the late 1970s. It loves Hornady’s 139-grain loads.
“(I) bought the rifle because of several articles I had read by our late, mutual friend, John Wootters. Think it might be fun to bring that Ruger from the far back of my gun safe to the forefront. I’ll put a new scope on it and then sight it in with the same Hornady ammo I used back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. May also bring a new Ruger FTW Hunter in .375 Ruger I dearly love shooting and hunting with it. It’s the rifle I’m taking to Sweden for Roe deer and Reindeer in Norway.
“And, oh yeah, I recently bought a Ruger Number 1 in .405 Winchester from Lee Newton. It loves Hornady’s 300-grain soft-point ammo. From a nostalgic perspective, that would be a fun rifle to hunt with.”
“Decisions, decisions, decisions,” came Treiber’s response. “The 7×57 sounds interesting, but then so does the .405 Winchester.”
“I’ll visit with the guys at Ruger and also at Hornady to see if they have something they’d really like me to use,” I responded.
“About the time I got back from Africa, I started emailing again with Steven Ray. Steven is the one who came up with Rattling Forks. He’s asked me to join him on a hunt out west of San Angelo, right after our hunt on Sandstone, during the first week of December. Should be interesting. I will have just tuned up my Rattling Forks with you.”
I’m sure Treiber heard me messing with my Rattling Forks in the background as we talked, “Sounds like you’re fine tuning your Rattling Forks now!”
I smiled, then smiled even wider when my wife walked in the room where I was seated, put her hands on her hips, stood there, then rolled her eyes, turned and walked away. I knew in our nearly 50 years of marriage she’s come to expect such things of me.
“Can’t start too early, or in my instance, it’s simply staying tuned up,” I explained.
“Looks like we’re going to hold the 2nd Annual Rattling Forks/Dallas Safari Club Rattling Contest at the January 2017 convention. If you know anyone who might be interested in entering, tell them to start trying to get in touch with me. I think we’re going to limit it to the first 15 who enter. Last year we had some really good and experienced contestants.”
“Will do,” Treiber confirmed. “If you and Blake get a chance, holler and we’ll do some pre-season scouting. Our bucks are looking really good. I’ve seen several that are easily going to be in the 150s, 160s and even bigger. We’re just starting to put out trail cameras. If you do, don’t forget to bring your fly rod and spinning rig. Our lakes are full and fishing has been nothing short of almost tiring, because of catching so many.”
A few moments later we said our good-byes.
I picked up my Rattling Forks and started meshing them together. Almost immediately, once again, my wife walked into the room, which proved Rattling Forks attract something good looking every time you mesh them together.