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Dads and Aoudads
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 • Posted November 9, 2011

There are probably few law enforcement officers who actually fit the stereotype – sitting around eating doughnuts, drinking coffee, and doing nothing much else. Most of them usually work pretty hard, and stay busy most of the time. But none work harder than game wardens, especially around the beginning of the general deer season in Texas. Eighteen-hour days are the norm.So when Daniel White, who runs the Pam and Dan Ranch north of Brackettville, Texas, told me the local game warden would be there to guide Leret and me on Leret’s opening day hunt, I was a little surprised. I figured a game warden would have too much to do that day to spend time taking a kid hunting.And I was right. Dayton Isaacs had been busier than a one-armed paper hanger for a couple of weeks, and had been up for nineteen hours the day before, checking hunting camps and answering calls. But he still showed up about 6:30 to take us hunting.I think Dayton helps with the guiding at Pam and Dan Ranch because he believes in Daniel’s goals for the property. Daniel White is all about helping kids experience the joy of hunting and the outdoors, and making sure their time at his ranch is fun, exciting, and informative. If every ranch manager held Daniel’s views, the future of hunting would be assured.Dayton is a father himself, and shares Daniel’s attitude toward hunting as an excellent way for kids to connect with the world they live in. When he showed up on Saturday morning he was pulling an Operation Game Thief trailer behind his pickup, full of mounts and antlers and skins of animals killed illegally in Texas. He brought that trailer just to give the kids at the ranch a chance to see the trophies, as there were four boys there from California with their dads.Leret and I loaded up with Dayton in one of the ranch’s hunting pickups and headed out. We drove about 100 yards back to the main ranch gate, down the highway about half a mile, and back into the ranch through another gate. As we started down the highway in the dark we heard something bang around in the back of the pickup. Dayton said, “Sounded like something fell out.”After we got through the second gate I mentioned that I thought there had been something large in the back of the pickup, and Dayton said it was probably an extra chair. When we got to our blind we found two chairs in it, and Dayton said, “Yeah, that was our third chair.” We picked it up on our way back an hour or so later. It sat in the road undisturbed during our hunt.Which is how I ended up squatting on the floor in the corner of the blind, while Leret and Dayton sat in the chairs that were probably cold and hard and painful. They looked pretty good to me.There was a feeder maybe 75 yards from the blind, and Dayton had poured a sack of corn out in a long line in front of it, so when it started to get light enough to see we could pick out some does and small bucks taking advantage of the extra rations. The drought has been tough on wildlife all over Texas, and deer are almost to the point of breaking into feed stores at night to get something to eat.And then Dayton said, “Here come some aoudad from the right.” Before we left the house Daniel had told us Leret could shoot an aoudad if we saw one, but I discouraged him, since we’re out of deer meat at home. Plus I didn’t expect to see a sure enough trophy aoudad, and I didn’t want him to shoot a small one.I could see shapes in the semi-darkness, but couldn’t tell much about them, so we waited a while for more light. I took my Alpen binoculars away from Leret and watched the aoudad for a few minutes, and the Dayton said, “One of them is pretty big. No, two of them are big.” There were about six of them in all, and when I finally got a good look I told Leret he’d better shoot one of them. I was thinking an opportunity like this might not come along again.When Leret finally got his gun up and aimed, the ram he wanted to shoot was turned wrong, so we had to wait another ten minutes or so for a good shot. Something spooked the animals, and I was afraid they would run off, but Leret’s ram finally turned and gave him a shot. Dayton was saying, “Shoot him. Shoot him now.” He was worried they would bolt, too.Leret finally squeezed the trigger on the Remington model 700 .243 that my dad bought when I was six, and everything started running. I was afraid he’d missed, but Dayton said it was a good shot, and sure enough, the ram fell over after only about 40 yards. And I was finally able to get up off the floor and straighten my legs, with an audible pop from each knee.Leret’s aoudad is indeed a trophy, with 27½” horns, and an impressive beard and chaps. He killed his first deer when he was eight, and I haven’t seen him so happy about a hunt since then, but when we got to his aoudad he had one of those grins where the corners of his mouth met in the back of his head. It was definitely a Kodak moment.Want to make your son or daughter that happy? Give Daniel a call. And ask for Dayton. He’s a great guide. Just make sure you’re all licensed up.And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to tie down the chair in the back of the pickup . . .Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never shot an aoudad. Yet. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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