As the 2011-2012 hunting season came to a close, talk of future anticipated hunts filled the room. Yukon moose hunt, Grizzly, Marco Polo, Alaska fishing, Ibex and Texas Slam. Booking early is a must on all of these hunts, which keeps conversation on the subject matter a daily topic. It’s hard to think of any of the hunts less than a hunt of a lifetime no matter if it’s been accomplished or still on the bucket list making the choice quite difficult. Nonetheless, the decision was made to leave the Marco Polo, Ibex and Grizzly to a future date. After all hunting dates had been set we knew the first of the Texas Slam hunts would be cutting it close to the Yukon Moose hunt. We were scheduled to fly into Houston from Canada and drive the next day to the Texas Panhandle. We were up for it!! Two Texas Slams on two different ranches in one hunting season for David and I had us completely exhilarated and so we began.
The Texas Slam- Three hunts: Pronghorn, Mule Deer and Whitetail! No big deal right? Wrong! Dozens of hunters set out every hunting season for the Texas Slam, few of them accomplish it. This season David and I were two out of the only six slams entered into the Texas Big Game Awards (TBGA). What make this series of hunts quite a challenge for a single hunter are their requirements. All three harvests must be taken in a single hunting season and meet a minimum scoring requirement based on the Boone and Crockett scoring system (B&C). Two years ago the Texas Big Game Awards separated the entries into two categories: high fence and low fence.
Hunt 1 – Pronghorn. The season usually opens towards the end of September and only lasts a short nine days. As some of you know the pronghorn have faced many challenges in Texas over the last few years making them even more difficult to harvest. The minimum scoring requirement to qualify is 70 B&C and is in many peoples opinion one of the absolute toughest of all North American game to field judge. They are only found in a few regions of Texas so you might be traveling to find one. If you’re fortunate enough to successfully kick off your slam with one of these majestic, prehistoric animals you’re a third of the way to your Texas Slam and can now chase the illusive Mule deer.
After arriving into Houston International Airport at 11 pm from our successful Yukon Moose hunt and couple hours of sleep, David and I were northwest bound for our 11-hour drive to El Rancho Quien Sabe in the Texas Pan Handle for our Pronghorn hunt. As previously mentioned the Texas Pronghorn have faced many challenges from predators to disease. These challenges caused us to be relocated to El Rancho Quien Sabe from our previous Pronghorn lease in West Texas. Fortunately we had hunted Mule deer on the ranch so we did have the lay of the land on our side. Day four of our hunt I could officially say I had a shot at the Texas Slam for the very first time. My pronghorn scored 74-3/8.
Hunt 2 – Mule deer. Mid November is the earliest you might start scouting and in Texas you never know what the weather might have in store. Sleet storms and blizzards or 80-90 degree droughts are not uncommon. Another short season is what you are facing with only 14 days to harvest in most regions. If you have ever hunted a Mule Deer you already know how illusive they can be! Laid up sometimes for 8 hours without moving an inch or batting an eye. They are tough to hunt but at the same time one of the most exciting. Harvesting with a minimum score of 145 B&C typical and 160 B&C non-typical will get you two thirds of the way to your Texas Slam!
With Mule deer season being right in the midst of the Thanksgiving holidays and my kid’s schedules playing a vital role as to how much time I had to harvest, my season was cut down to five short days. The LAST five short days of the season in the Texas Pan Handle. After flying into Amarillo on a Monday afternoon, David picked me up and we went straight to work. Scouting a wheat field East of camp on the way in proved to be promising. To late to do any field judging we headed in and made plans for the next morning. Luckily David and our friends were able to arrive a day prior to opening season and had been scouting the entire time. Luck was on my side as the plan worked and to my surprise in less than 24 hours I had a 156-1/8 mule deer down. I couldn’t get back home fast enough to wrap up my slam on our own Back Porch Ranch!
Hunt 3 – Whitetail. The Texas Whitetail, a longtime native legend! With current state managed population practices, the whitetail season can be quite long but typically you could begin hunting around the beginning of October and have until the end of February. Whitetail management has exploded in Texas over the last 10 years and the itch to get in a blind on a cold crisp morning hits hunters hard and early. A little boring at first compared to the previous two hunts’ high racking, trail blazing requirements but all of that diminishes the second the seasons rutting buck trots out of an oak mott or steps into a mesquite flat with his top lip curled up followed by a hard trot and his nose to the ground. Crowned with beauty he is in full rut and not paying a single bit of attention to his hunter who is at this moment experiencing that incredible burst of adrenalin called “BUCK FEVER!” Scoring requirements are a little different on whitetail for the Texas Slam. Depending on the region it could be 125 to 140 B&C for a typical and 145-160 B&C for non-typical. Before you can officially call it a Slam not only a Texas Big Game Awards scorer but also a certified Boone and Crockett scorer must score all harvests.
The last of the trio was the only thing holding me from completing the 14th Texas Slam entry by a female hunter and my first ever slam. A few deer had caught my attention. One in particular, The Ambush Buck we named him, that we had only seen one time and on camera with a not so great angle for field judging. While we had several other hunts going on at the ranch during that time none of the hunters seemed to have seen this deer. On both previous hunts I had been accompanied by some of the states best field judgers. It was still early in the whitetail season however with the rut really getting into full swing one always worries about breakage so I still wanted to try and harvest early. David had to get back to the office that Monday morning before the hunters came in and even though I’m a great field judge two heads are better than one and four eyes are better than two and I knew this time it had to count! In my mind I knew David would be back on Thursday and we would get back to work. Around mid morning our hunters started to gather at the lodge and one of them came to me and said that he had seen a really nice 11-point in the Lower 700. I asked him to describe him to me and when he was done I said, “If everything is correct that your telling me we have a 170 class deer running around in the 700 Tom!” I had certainly never seen the deer he had described on the hoof or on camera and started texting David about it. I knew if I was going to hunt him that afternoon I was going to have to do it on my own. I remember leaving early that afternoon. The anticipation to get in the field hit hard and I was in the blind at 1pm. Two hours and forty –five minutes later the feeder exploded and the field filled with wildlife. Does, smaller bucks, turkey and exotics fed at the feeder and milled around. Then I looked over to the left of the road when my attention was drawn to a beautiful buck walking down the road. My Leicas were immediately drawn to my face! Not the eleven point Tom had described but a most impressive eight point. He was hot on a doe for sure as he strutted towards me down the road with his nose down. I couldn’t help it. The drums began in my chest and my breath seemed to have been taken from me. I had done this a million times but the inevitable had begun. Calculations began, as I knew I was on my own this time. I tried to text David:
“I think it’s the 8 pt. from the ambush”
“I have his main beams at 21 inches”
“Pretty sure his brows are close to 5”
“I’d give his G2s 10”
No response! I could have used the radio and called Randall back at the lodge but the buck was getting closer and I didn’t want to risk spooking him. This went on for what seemed eternity. When I realized my messages were either not reaching David or I was not receiving the responses I knew I had to make a decision. I took all of my measurements and added them up. Again and again I ended up with around 136. I knew if I had even lost 5 inches it would be close. Being in region four my minimum scoring requirement was 130. That afternoon I think I talked more to myself than ever before going back and forth with the what ifs but I knew I probably didn’t have long. I looked once more to see if David had responded and he had not. I made a decision.
“Randall do you have a copy?”
“Yes ma’am, go ahead.”
“He’s down, can you come to the 700?”
“Yes ma’am, I’ll be right there.”
“And Randall…. BRING A CABLE!”
I waited about 10 minutes before getting out of the blind. Once I heard the truck I stepped out and walked over to the buck. Nothing is more exciting than walking up on your harvest and seeing his antlers tower over his head at that angle. Randall, along with the crew at the lodge showed up and I held my hand out. They all knew what I wanted. He placed the cable in my hand. I wrapped it along the outer edge of the left main beam and then placed the cable on the measuring stick Randall had held out for me and nearly started crying when the tape stretched passed the 22!! My whitetail scored 140-4/8! I had completed my Texas Slam and I was so proud to have harvested each one on low fence ranches.
Since the official beginning of the Texas Big Game Awards in 1991/1992, there have been a limited number of Texas Slams entered. Out of the last 22 years, four years had zero slams entered and seven had only one entry per year into the TBGA. The first Texas Slam entered into the TBGA by a female huntress wasn’t until the 2000/2001 hunting season when two ladies harvested their trio for the first time. Out of 95 total harvests in the last 22 years female hunters entered only 14.
I’d say now that you have Texas Slam 101 under your belt, ladies it’s time to get your “P” on!