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- Prostaff Member Dan Braman
Mellon Creek Outfitters enjoyed another 100% successful season this year thanks to our amazing clients. Big bucks, bobcats, and hogs were taken by everyone that booked with us. Some of the highlights are as follows.
Our first client of the season was a man hunting bobcats. During our bobcat hunts we try to have at least two sets of hounds hunting the ranch at the same time. This enables us to cover much more ground and obviously gives our hunters a better chance at getting what they want. Stephen Ball has what I think to be the best set of cat hounds in our part of the world. I’ve been hunting with Stephen for around ten years so naturally when we have a cat hunter in camp I call on Stephen for help. This particular hunt started off with good temperatures in the 50's but high winds. High winds in our part of the world can sometimes make it hard for the hounds to smell but always makes it hard for us to hear our dogs Stephen headed in one direction with his hounds and I went in another with mine. It was about 8:00PM when we started hunting and by mid-night neither of us had started a single bobcat.
Finally, about 1:00AM Stephen called on the radio and said that he started one on the north side. Every few minutes I would call him and see how it was going. The hounds were cold trailing and having a really hard time in the wind. After about a half hour he said that the trail was getting better and to have Chaise start his way with the hunter. He called me on the radio and asked that I get out on the highway because the hounds were headed in that direction. As I slowed down near where he said the hounds were I could hear them. The cat had run within 100 yards of the highway and was getting closer. I started slapping my hand on the outside door panel of my truck in hopes of turning the cat. It worked, and the cat turned parallel with the highway and started heading east. Again, he turned toward me and the door slapping started all over again. This happened three times before he finally turned north and headed up the creek.
After another twenty minutes the hounds treed and drove in the ranch through a gate about 400 yards east of the creek they were treed on. After driving around in an attempt to get as close I could I switched the truck off and listened. I heard Stephen's hound Queenie treeing southwest of me at what sounded like no more then a hundred yards. I grabbed my flashlight and headed in their direction. I walked then I crawled and walked some more. I crossed the same creek twice wondering how this was taking so long. Long story short the wind had played a trick on me and I was 490 yards from my truck and finally under the tree.
Stephen was there along with Chaise Burleson (Manager of Mellon Creek) and they were looking for the cat. Some of the hounds were treeing on one side of the creek and others were treeing on the side I was on. By this time, fellow guides Dustin Mueller and John “Doc” Clifton were there looking as well. The trees in this area are covered with Wild Mustang Grape vines making it near impossible to see. We felt certain the cat was up there but we just couldn't find it. After at least thirty minutes Chaise said,” Here he is.” We had been looking in the tops of the huge Oak and Willow trees and the cat had been sitting on a rotten branch no more then fifteen feet over our head but directly over the water. I still don't know how it took us that long to find something so obvious. Once we found the cat we radioed Jimmy Brown to bring our client as close to the hounds as possible. South Texas is known for thick brush and where this cat ended up was no exception.
Chaise walked out to the closest scendero and used a machete to cut a path for this gentleman to walk in. A half hour later our client was under the tree. In order to get a good shot at the cat our hunter had to stand on the edge of the creek which was pretty steep and wet from hounds walking in and out of the water. Once he was in position and ready to take his shot I grabbed our blanket and stood in the knee deep water to catch the cat when he fell. We use a Navajo saddle blanket to catch these cats when they fall; if we don't the taxidermist would have a rough time closing all the dog tooth holes.
Our hunter made a perfect between the eyes shot and the cat slumped over on the branch. I must have had my mouth open right when this happened because as I stood there holding this blanket open a felt (and tasted) a warm glob of cat blood fall into my mouth. One has no idea how hard it is to spit out cat blood, gag, choke, cough, and keep your eye on a falling cat at the same time but, I managed to pull it off. The cat fell into my blanket and I handed him to Stephen up on the high bank. I climbed out and took the cat from Stephen as everyone congratulated our client. All in all it ended with a very tired but happy hunter.
Probably the most incredible success story for us this year involved a doctor from Chicago. Claude flew into Corpus Christi, Texas on a Monday morning hoping to take a trophy buck, big boar, and a bobcat. Before I get to far involved with this story I have to give a brief history on kickers. Kickers is a buck that three of us guides had seen way back in September. He was a main frame 10 point with two four inch kickers off of each of his G2's. Kickers had heavy horns, good spread, and long main beams. He lived in an area very close to our property line, in fact, we had seen him more times on the neighbors then on us. This buck was predictable and not very wild so we planned on getting him for our first trophy clients. Oct. 5th was the last day we would see kickers for six weeks. He disappeared and no matter what we tried we couldn't find him. After three weeks we stopped hunting for him as we were spending too much time in that part of the ranch. Honestly, we all figured the neighbors had taken him. Now back to Claude. With several other hunters in camp making us busy, Chaise decided to guide Claude. While Jimmy had gone to the airport to pick up Claude I helped Chaise build a brush blind near where we had all seen kickers six weeks before. I asked Chaise if he was hunting kickers or had he seen something else. Chaise said that he was in fact after kickers and he thought he had seen him yesterday evening but couldn't be sure.
While we built the blind I could only think to myself that we were wasting our time building this blind. At around three in the evening Chaise and Claude left the lodge to go sit in the blind. At exactly 4:16PM I received a text message from Chaise with these words on my screen, “ Kickers is down.” Keep in mind that it takes at least twenty minutes to drive near the blind, ten minutes to walk in. Chaise and Claude had been in the blind no more then forty-five minutes when the buck walked out at 80 yards. After pictures they loaded the big buck in the truck and headed toward the lodge. About two miles from where they had been sitting they saw a big boar down a pipeline. A short one hundred yard stalk and they were taking pictures of this hog. Two out of three down in under an hour. That evening, like always, Stephen went one way and I went the other. Stephen wasn't gone an hour when he called on the radio for Chaise to head his way with Claude. Within thirty minutes of that radio call Claude had a big bobcat as well. The following morning he arranged to fly out that evening back to Chicago. One trophy buck, one big boar, and one big bobcat in under 48 hours.
Mellon Creek also had a group of guides come from New York. These guys had never hunted with us before but turned out to be the most fun group of guys we’ve ever had. They all took great management deer and four of them bought another one. Nine deer for five guys in four days. I hope these guys come back every year as they were really good guys and loads of fun. On the last day of their hunt they decided to guide the guides for the doe hunt; no one had ever done that and it turned out to be great.
After a busy season with only allowing for five days off from Oct.2 - Dec. 29th we saw a lot of old friends and met many new ones. This year only one bad apple booked with us and that is good. Usually there are more ill mannered people in camp. The good thing is that Chaise doesn't tolerate these kinds of people and this person will not be allowed to hunt at MCO again. Thanks to all of our clients our success rate is perfect. A 100% success rate is hard to do on 110,000 acres of free range hunting but we pulled it off. I look very forward to doing it again next year.