Editor’s Note: Tony Smotherman, the host of Travelin’ Hunter™ TV show, which will begin airing the end of June on the Sportsman Channel on Sunday nights at 9:30 pm, is a CVA pro and a veteran TV personality.
Back in the fall I was hunting in the northern panhandle of Texas near a town called Plaska at the Plaska Lodge with Oren Don Molloy, the creator of Mass XL, an all natural feed supplement for deer. Oren Don harvests Mass XL from the tree that the Indians named the “Wonder Tree”. He dehydrates the fruit from this tree and grinds it up and sells it as a all natural, 39% protein supplemental feed for whitetails. On this hunt, I was using a .50 caliber CVA Accura MR (Mountain Rifle) and a Bushnell DOA 250 Trophy XLT scope. The Plaska Lodge sits just across the Oklahoma border in Panhandle of Texas which is not the normal area that most hunters think of when they think of great deer hunting in Texas mostly due to the really dry and arid climate. And I must agree, looking at the land, you wouldn’t consider that it would be good whitetail country, but for some reason, the Man Upstairs decided to load this area that runs along the Red River with big whitetails. You and I both know that it takes a good food source and water to grow big whitetails and this area has both, fruit from the “Wonder Tree”, now available to the whole country in the form of Mass XL and the water from the Red River completes the package.
Oren Don, like many lodge owners, relies heavily on his trail cameras to locate big deer in the early season. When I arrived at the lodge, Molloy said, “Here are a half-dozen trail-camera pictures of bucks that have the right age structure to be harvested. If you see any one of them, you have the green light to drop the hammer”. I am a sucker for trail camera pics and I noticed right away that the deer in the pictures were much bigger and had much larger headgear than the deer I’d seen in south Texas. They looked a lot more like Oklahoma and Kansas bucks I had hunted in years past.
This week I was hunting was around the first week of November and the temperature was between 90 and 95 degrees during the heat of the day. In the mornings, the temperatures were 75 to 80 degrees which was not real conducive to daylight movement even if the rut was starting to kick off. Our hunts for the day with those high temps ended up being more like the first hour of daylight and the last 30 minutes before dark…to say it was slow was an understatement and I will admit I was a bit worried that I might be toting a Texas tag back to Tennessee with me.
On the evening of day three, my cameraman, Russell Knight, and I were on the way back to the lodge, and we caught a glimpse of a big 10 pointer pushing a doe and new right off that it was one of the big deer that we had seen trail cam pics of. Pumped was an understatement, so we went back to that same area to hunt that buck before daylight the next morning. We were hoping the doe he was chasing had not led him out of the area over night, and we new we’d probably only have one hour at first light to try and get this deal done before he found a shady place to bed down for the rest of the day. In making plans, we had decided to go to a big sand hill that overlooked the Red River basin. As we were walking thru a thick cactus flat in the dark to get to our observation point, I suggested to Russell that we stop and video the full moon going-down just before the sun came-up. I knew that piece of video would make a good opening segment for Travelin’ Hunter™. However, Oren Don said, “Tony, we don’t have time to get that shot. We have to reach the top of that hill before daylight so that we can see if anything is still on it’s feet. I don’t mean to rush you. I know we are trying to do a TV show, but we only have 2 days left fill your tag. I really feel like we need to get to the top of that sand hill now.”
After thinking about what Oren Don said for a whole .3 seconds, I agreed and we hustled-up to the top of the sand hill. Once on top, I grab my Bushnell Legend binos and started glassing the area in the predawn light just as Russell whispered, “Tony, I hear a deer walking.” My cameraman had bionic hearing due to the ear phones he was wearing and could hear everything the camera was hearing. “Tony”, he said, “I don’t know where this movement is coming from, but I can hear a deer walking.” Although we had legal shooting light, the area we were looking at was still fairly dark. Staring as hard as I could for what seemed like ten minutes, I finally caught movement to my left and I quickly realized the deer I was looking at was the big 10 we’d seen the previous evening. He was 60-yards away and walking parallel with us. We had walked through the his cactus bedding area to get to this sand hill where we were set-up. The buck was coming from the Red River basin, where he had been feeding, watering, and chasing senioritas during the night and was headed directly for the bedding area we’d just walked thru. Russell was trying desperately to focused on the buck, while I was attempting to get my scope turned back to a lesser power, get my Accura MR broke open, primed, closed, cocked, and pointed in the right direction. In less than 5 seconds, while shaking like a leaf on a tree, I got everything dialed-in and was ready to take the off hand shot. I was loaded with 110 grains of Blackhorn 209 powder and a 300-grain PowerBelt AeroLite Bullet that I knew could do the job easily at 60 yards, but at this point in the game I was the weak link. Being somewhat rattled, I looked through the scope and saw that big Texas buck was within two steps of disappearing into the cactus bedding area. Adding even more pressure to my already intense situation, I had to shoot quickly. When the rifle came to my shoulder, I almost shot instinctively. I didn’t hesitate!
I spend so much time on the rifle range shooting this rifle that it’s almost an extension of my body. I shoot thousands of rounds through my CVA muzzleloader each year. So, when I bring the rifle to my shoulder, my eyes automatically focus on the crosshairs, and the spot I want to shoot…..instantly. My shooting routine is to shoulder the gun and shoot the deer because we both know that in a hunting situation we don’t always have time to get adjusted, and as soon as my CVA rifle touched my shoulder, I squeezed the trigger. The buck flipped over and rolled down to the bottom of the hill like he just got hit by a train. After we all came back down to earth, Oren Don said, “I can’t believe you just made that shot without using shooting sticks or some type of rest.” I said, “bro, I made that shot because I’ve practiced it hundreds or possibly thousands of times and practice makes perfect my friend!” It’s just like a baseball player who steps into the batter’s box and doesn’t have to think to hit a baseball traveling at 90 miles plus miles per hour….just hit it.
See this whole episode come to life on Travelin’ Hunter™ on the Sportsman Channel this summer on Sunday nights. For more information on the gun I was shooting take a look at www.cva.com. To look into Mass XL you can go to www.massxl.com. If you get a chance look me up on Facebook at www.facebook.com/travelinhunter or on Twitter @travelinhunter.
By Tony Smotherman, avid blackpowder hunter and TV host.