Sombrerito Ranch, Trophy Bucks of the South Texas Golden Triangle
Nearly 25 years ago I departed the South Texas Brush Country for the first time in a Continental Airlines jet bound for Florida. It was mid-December of 1987. My first hunting adventure in the Golden Triangle of South Texas had ended yielding a massive ancient 8-point management buck that was likely nine plus years old. At that time there was no doubt that this buck was my best and favorite trophy in all my years of hunting whitetails. Little did I know that the conclusion of this 1987 management buck hunt, where bucks often die of old age, was not the grand finale of a lifelong hunting dream. Quite the opposite, this hunt marked the splendid beginning of a hunting dream from which I have yet to awaken. My 1987 introduction to brush country hunting has led to scores of excellent trophies from around the world, countless cherished memories, and most importantly many precious friendships that still thrive today. It was on this hunt that I first met my good friend and hunting partner David Morris at the guesthouse on the famed Piloncillo Ranch.
During my December 1987 hunt I became aware of Mr. Bill Carter’s well managed Sombrerito Ranch in Webb County. David Morris featured “Stickers”, a world class non-typical 240 plus B&C mega-buck that roamed the thorny thickets of Sombrerito Ranch in a fall edition of Texas Sportsman magazine. I stared at Stickers in living color photos as he posed illuminated by the warm glow of the setting Texas sun. I alternately glanced out the window of the Boeing 727 at the brush country below as the big bird climbed. Nearly 25 years later, on January 13th, 2012, I would finally enter the gates of Sombrerito Ranch for a late season trophy buck hunt.
I met Tecomate cameraman Chris Anderson at the Sombrerito Ranch entrance just North of Laredo Texas around noon on Friday 13th. We rolled into ranch headquarters minutes later to meet our host for this special hunt, Sombrerito Ranch owner Mr. Bill Carter, and his staff. Bill`s rustic South Texas headquarters on his vast 12,000 acre ranch made it easy to feel at home with comfortable guest cabins, great home cooking, and satellite TV in the main lodge to catch a bit of NFL Tebow action on Sunday afternoon. We stowed our gear in Bill`s western cedar guest lodge, ate a Tex-Mex lunch, and then headed out to check my Sako A7 Tecomate .270 WSM at Bill’s rifle range. Two terrific young hunters joined me in camp for this extraordinary hunting opportunity. West Virginian Tanner Talbott and Justin Dworazcyk from Houston Texas, both accomplished young riflemen and hunters at ages 12 and 14 respectively, also fired a few test rounds at the range. With everyone on target we eagerly headed into the brush with our guides to see what might materialize during the last few hours of daylight.
Chris and I then met veteran Sombrerito Ranch guide Jerry TKac. Jerry would be our guide for the next four days at Sombrerito. There are countless so called “deer guides” in the immense Tecomate Whitetail Nation. Some qualify themselves merely by possession of a driver’s license and pickup truck. Jerry TKac is not one of those guides. Jerry TKac is a top shelf professional whitetail authority that knows the deer he hunts and the terrain on which he hunts them. Jerry is a pleasure to hunt with and he’s a gentleman to boot. Our strategy for this late season post-rut adventure was simple. We would frequent areas where known trophy bucks had been spotted recently by Jerry in hopes of harvesting a buck of a lifetime.
During the weeks preceding our arrival at Mr. Carter’s 12,000-acre whitetail haven Jerry had encountered at least three great mature trophy bucks that all qualified as great trophies - a large framed mid 160`s 8-pointer with split G-2`s, a massive 170 class typical 11-pointer, and a tall tined heavy framed 180” class 10-pointer that “had it all”, including a 7” drop-kicker off of his 12” right G2. We would be as mobile as necessary over the next few days while hunting these specific bucks. We planned to stay on the move, pausing from time to time as deer movement dictated and attempt to locate any one of these three giant bucks during their post rut crepuscular feeding pattern. And in the South Texas Brush Country during January there is the possibility of encountering some late season rut activity that could introduce a surprise wild card buck into the equation at any time. Part of the mystique of the Golden Triangle is that you never know what might emerge from the brush at any moment.
Our first afternoon out on the dense thorny range of Sombrerito Ranch was a good one but it was considered slow by Sombrerito standards. We observed some great deer, one very good 10-pointer, a massive 9-pointer, and a few does and young bucks just after sundown, but no shooters. Lack of the usual Sombrerito late afternoon buck activity was not completely unexpected. Jerry had explained that we could expect the best deer movement during morning hours and up until noon. It was all right with me that the first evening ended without firing a shot. After waiting 25 years to experience Sombrerito Ranch I did not want this hunt to end quickly. There was much yet to be experienced at Sombrerito.
Our next day afield began before daylight on Saturday January 14th. We were in position and waiting for shooting light in the pre-dawn stillness. Stars shined bright in clear Texas sky and the temperature was pleasant, mid 40`s at daylight. We began to see deer feeding and crossing the long open sendero before us. After an hour of watching several middle aged and small bucks along with a few timid rut-weary does, Jerry decided that we should relocate to another known feeding area approximately a half mile west. That’s where good things would begin happening.
The first mature buck of the morning sauntered onto the wide sendero and fed contently up wind as we watched on and filmed. This remarkable old 7-pointer was not the trophy we would take but let me tell you, he was a stud. Next the big 8-pointer that was on our short list showed up. This buck was hard to resist but somehow I held off. The giant 8-pointer displayed long beams, split G2`s, and at least a 22” inside spread, maybe wider. Minutes later, with the big 8-pointer still in range, the tall tined heavy 10-pointer with the impressive long kicker on his right G2 arrived on the scene. There was no way for me to wait any longer. The 180” B&C class monster 10-pointer was a buck of a lifetime! I automatically began shifting into position for a shot without hesitation.
Once my .270 WSM rifle was on the Bog Pod and Chris had gotten some good footage of this impressive brush country monarch, it was time to close the deal. But as luck would have it the big 10 hastily wandered back into the brush from which he had emerged, as did the big 8-pointer and the other deer that had gathered on the sendero to feed. We were puzzled, not sure what had caused this abrupt interruption of the calm South Texas morning. I was only seconds away from pulling the trigger. Jerry insisted on staying put for the time being. His decision proved to be the proper course of action. Only minutes later one nice buck eased back out of the brush as if compelled by the same curiosity that had rendered us clueless as to why all the deer suddenly took off. The buck was alert, and behind him followed the big kicker 10-pointer, our shooter.
Both bucks now in the sendero were watchful and in plain view within 100 yards. Our big 10 drop-kicker buck tested the air cautiously as he quartered toward us from right to left, head up and staring in our general direction. Only one small mesquite limb obscured my view of the buck’s vitals with crosshairs superimposed through my Leupold scope. The buck turned slightly. My crosshairs and the point of the buck’s left shoulder now cleared the mesquite limb. There was nothing but 100 yards of daylight between my Winchester Supreme 140 gr Accubond and our Sombrerito trophy. I managed a smooth trigger squeeze and the buck of a lifetime fell to the ground.
We phoned Mr. Carter back at ranch headquarters with the good news and the celebration began. Bill drove out to enjoy the taking of a Sombrerito trophy whitetail worthy of sincere admiration of all present. The only slight damper on the mood that bright South Texas morning was that the buck snapped off his 7” long kicker when he collapsed and fell hard on his right side after my shot. The kicker rested in the sendero next to the buck’s enormous rack. A dab of Gorilla Glue that we found in Jerry’s vehicle had us back in business for photos.
Next, to top off this incredibly successful long weekend hunt at Sombrerito Ranch, young Texas hunter Justin Dworaczyk, who hunted with close family friend Jim Longtin of Houston, would pursue and cleanly take the big 7-pointer that Jerry and I gawked at Saturday morning. Justin’s buck won the Best 7 Point Division of the famed 2012 Muy Grande Deer Contest in Freer, Texas. Undoubtedly this was Justin`s best whitetail of his young hunting career.
Then we all watched on with excitement, the rest of Saturday through Monday morning, as Tanner Talbott of West Virginia enthusiastically rolled back into camp time after time with his dad, Brian Talbott, and some great trophies in tow. Tanner was on a role! He took two javelinas, a great management buck, and finally a coyote that he specifically targeted at last shooting light on Sunday evening after we all watched Tim Tebow in the NFL play-offs.
Sunday night was spent enjoying a cool South Texas breeze and the mesquite fire pit outside our cabins. We all congratulated young trophy hunters Justin and Tanner on their incredible Sombrerito Ranch success. We thanked Mr. Bill Carter for his gracious South Texas hospitality, and for his thirty-three years of outstanding stewardship of the tremendous whitetail range and herd at Sombrerito Ranch. Then Monday morning three very happy hunters departed Sombrerito Ranch, with great trophies and splendid memories of whitetail dreams fulfilled, thankful for the abundant blessings we had all received in the Golden Triangle of South Texas.
Posted by David Shashy