On March 19, 2019, I was honored to have the opportunity to meet up with Ryan Longer of Longer’s Outdoors and James Bray of Lone Oak Adventures Guided Hunts. My brother in the outdoors and fellow Western Hunter’s Journal and Wheel Chair Outdoors team member Eddie Martin was also joining me on this trip.
We met on Calaveras Lake in Texas to fish for Redfish for the first time. I managed to catch my first Redfish ever within minutes of being on the boat. I ended up landing two more, after a day full of fish trying to fight over the lure. Thankfully, I had my RaptoRazor Badlands Manō Fillet set to prep my fish for arguably the best way to eat them, fillet and grilled with skin side on the hot grate.
After our day of fishing, we went to dinner with Ryan, then retired for some much needed sleep at the hotel in Junction, Texas which served as our base camp. We had driven from central California, which required being up all night driving. Well-rested, we were excited for the rest of my trip as we met up with Derek Woods, also with Longers Outdoors, and Keith Johns of Johns-Exotics, LLC in Roosevelt, Texas. Fortunately, this would end up being the axis hunt of a lifetime where I harvested my first axis buck. It was an incredible place filled with spectacular animals of many species from all over the world including some I had never heard of.
We took a tour of the ranch during the warmest part of the day, and although Keith said that there was not many animals moving, I was still in awe at the number of animals I was seeing. It wasn’t until the evening hunt that I finally understood what he meant as the Texas hill country came alive with animals of all sizes. From baby ibex all the way to breathtaking fallow, mouflon, audad, and even a random watusi.
We sat and watched countless animals running around happily, grazing, and even sparring playfully when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw what I had been waiting for, a gorgeous axis buck. I spent what felt like an eternity looking at my target through the scope waiting for the perfect moment to take my shot. I was thankful for my SRB Field Rests product to keep my arms and shoulders from getting fatigue and keeping me steady. Finally, the moment came, and with the crack of my rifle the buck fell never having heard the shot.
We celebrated and talked for a while as the deer was dressed out to be taken to the meat locker and taxidermist. Caping was effortless with the RaptoRazor Aluminum Big Game Skinner and Manō blade combo. The skillful handling of the quality of these blades made it easy to properly cape without mishaps of unwanted holes or leaving excess meat on the cape. At the end of the day, we retired to the hotel for much needed rest since we had one more full day left of our trip.
The next morning we met with Derek and Ryan again, this time in Mountain Home, Texas at the Priour Ranch. We went for a drive touring the enormous ranch admiring more species I had only heard about in books until we finally encountered a group of Texas Dall and Black Hawaiian rams, which were more skittish than I realized. We played what felt like cat and mouse dancing across the grass, cactus and rocks that made up the rolling hillside. After doing the timeless dance of predator and prey, the rams matching us step for step we managed to work in to rifle range and after one perfect, strategically placed shot at 185 yards off of my SRB Field Rest, my ram was down.
I instantly thought of everything that came into play to make this dream come true. Every component was vital to making it a success. Starting with the rifle in my hands that belonged to my late stepdad, my friendship with Eddie who made the trip with me making it possible for me to go farther than I ever could without help due to me being in a wheelchair, the amazing generosity of the people who invited me to come halfway across the country to fish and hunt with them, and last but certainly not least all of the companies that have supported me like Trac Fab track wheelchairs giving me the ability to quite literally push my way through all the physical and mental barriers I might encounter, SRB Field Rests making it so that I can stay on the scope of my rifle while waiting countless minutes for the perfect ethical shot, and finally, to RaptoRazor making it so that no matter the outdoor activity I find myself doing, there is a blade for me to make short work of my harvests so that nothing goes to waste.
Born with spina bifida resulted in me being paralyzed from my knees down and most of my childhood was spent dealing with repeated hospitalizations and surgeries; a total of fifty-one surgeries to date. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be doing things like going hunting and fishing all across the United States. Seeing species I’ve never heard of and meeting people I have been a fan of since my childhood. This has been an incredible opportunity. I will be forever grateful for the generosity, love, and support of everyone who made this trip a success. It was amazing and I can tell you this much, I will be making the trip back to Texas every year as long as I am blessed to be alive.
I learned many things from this trip, but the biggest lesson I learned is that with the support of good people, the companies they represent, and the desire to chase your dreams the only thing that can stop you is YOU. Remember to always enjoy the small things and reach for the stars. You have one life to live, so make it count.