Every year during the month of February since 1995, I head for Texas to hunt wild things on the Rio Bonito Ranch. A lot of Yankees I talk too poo-poo the Lone Star State and its hunting by making statements like “I ain’t going to Texas to hunt them tame animals that someone ties to a tree. I hunt wild animals up here in the north woods like a real man.”
I will not share with you what I think when I hear this kind of brilliance falling out of someone’s mouth. I will tell you only that I immediately know that those particular people have never set foot in Texas as they obviously have no idea what they are so expertly expounding upon.
The Rio Bonito Ranch (which I have been told means “Beautiful River, but believe from personal experience to mean “Rock Pile”) is 26 square miles of rugged, rocky wasteland densely covered with oak and cedar trees, along with a vast assortment of plants and bushes all with a highly developed system of thorns and stickers. The Rio is not a high-fence ranch, but instead draws the animals into its loving embrace by providing thick cover, a rugged landscape, and sustainable amounts of water and food for them to comfortably exist.
The Rio is teaming with plentiful herds of Sika, Axis, Fallow and whitetail deer. It has the largest herd of free-ranging Aoudads in North America and copious flocks of Rio Grand turkeys. All this plus an endless population of wild hogs that come in all sizes and colors (I really like the green ones) which pop everywhere at any time inhabit the hunter’s paradise called the Rio Bonito Ranch.
The end result is that hunting the Rio is an adventure that you will not soon forget; furthermore, it’s a hunter’s destination that demands the presence of a camera to capture all of the unique and wonderful sights and scenes that will be new to the first time hunters at the ranch. Even those of us that are seasoned veterans of Rio Bonito action, would not be caught without our cameras for fear of missing the many new Kodak (or Sony) moments, that happen on every visit there.
The 2011 visit to the Rio Bonito was unlike any other we have ever experienced there due to the unique weather we experienced. Freezing temperatures, gusty winds and even snow drove the bowhunters away from the open tripod stands into the welcomed protection of the shooting blinds. That meant hanging up our bows and borrowing rifles to use, but we improvised and overcame the rigors of the weather and got the job done. Even in the shooting shacks, we were unable to keep our feet from freezing, but we put up with the discomfort to complete our mission of pursing the wild things of the Rio.
For ACF Member, Randy Archer a lifelong bowhunter, it was the very first time he had ever hunted with a rifle, but he adapted like a pro. I hadn’t hunted with a rifle since my Mom and Dad sold the farm back in 1991. It had been a full 20 years since I had fired a gun and at first, I felt a little apprehensive about doing so. But then I took comfort from the mission statement of the ACF about being dedicated to the promotion and preservation of ALL forms of hunting with ALL weapons and relaxed. By the time the hunt was over, I had taken four animals with the rifle and one with the bow; and not only had an outstanding hunt, but I am also looking forward to my next rifle hunt when the circumstances dictate.
And now, I realized the full impact of my words when I sincerely tell people that it doesn’t matter what you hunt with just as long as you hunt. Even I can fall victim to tunnel vision and this was a wonderful wake up call to keep my mind open and not think that the only option I have is the crossbow. There a lot of options out there besides the bow…don’t be afraid to give them a try. You are going to like what you experience I suspect. Watch for more posts on our Rio Bonito hunt in the next couple of weeks.