Buffalo with Mathews DXT
The Last Frontier
By Trey Rigby
As the four tires burned westward down highway 380, my mind raced with thoughts of eagerness and planning over the last 12 months. The day had finally arrived. After a full year I was headed toward a place that the Lord himself created with zero help from man, where the land was open and the wind was only bent by the occasional stand of oaks. I had been dreaming of the day that I could spot and stalk the true king of the plains, the American Bison, or more commonly known as the Buffalo.
Over a century ago, North Texas was nearly all prairie land with few trees and even less dense cover suitable for native big game. Texas was a ranging playground for these majestic animals. At that time, the buffalo ranged from Northwest Canada to Northern Mexico, and eastward to the Appalachian Mountains. The estimated population at the peak of their reign on the plains of North America was upwards of 50 to 100 million or more. Toward the late 1800s they nearly became extinct due to over hunting, dwindling their numbers to less than 2000. Today weâve helped recover much of that lost population, allowing hunters to once again pursue the largest North American big game land animal.
As the sun began setting on December 5th, I entered the ranch, focused on my mission. My destination was Sweetwater Creek Bowhunting Ranch in Wise County. This is a bowhunterâs paradise, offering approximately 10,000 acres of wild open fields, deep cuts and creeks, thick brush and oak thickets, and rolling hills. We would be hunting a 2500- acre pasture designated for the herd of roughly 150 buffalo. The plan was to spot and stalk a buffalo bull, armed only with a stick and string. The simple thought of taking down a thousand- pound, horned beast with a single shot from my Mathews DXT, stopped my heart. After settling into the lodge, shooting a few practice rounds on the range, and enjoying a warm meal, I rested my head in anticipation of the day to follow.
I awoke to the sounds of other hunters milling around the lodge halls, drinking coffee, and preparing for their morning hunts. Some would harvest mature Axis bucks, some would pursue trophy whitetails or hogs, while others would focus on the gorgeous Fallow or Red Deer the ranch had to offer. I then heard the familiar voice of Jim Bob Little, a friend of mine and the ranch manager who would be seeing the hunters to their stands. I only wondered when my opportunity would come as I wished the fellow bow-toting hunters good luck while watching the tail lights slowly vanish over the hill. Upon his return to the lodge, I visited with Jim Bob, his two sons, Michael and Matthew, and Michaelâs wife Tasha, for a couple of hours as we watched daylight fill up the dark fields. After a short breakfast, I heard the words from Matthewâs mouthâ¦ âAre you ready to go kill a buffalo?â My knees buckled. The time had finally come. As I changed into my windproof fleece and rain gear and gathered my bow and quiver, I felt as if I was dreaming. Today would be my destiny, good or bad, a revelation would be made.
The air was damp with a cold mist floating sideways from the north, and a steady 10 mph wind was biting my face as I climbed into Matthewâs ranch truck. The truck bounced along toward the south as we scoped from side to side in attempt to locate the herd grazing in the fields. After only 15 minutes, we spotted a portion of the feeding herd holding about 50 buffalo bulls and cows. We circled around the shaggy beasts attempting to get a closer look at the more mature bulls and after a few minutes of sorting through our potential opportunities, we decided to try and locate the rest of the herd. This would prove to be a very tough task as we drove around for well over an hour. As we glassed and poked along in the truck, a certain bull kept popping into my head from the first herd we found. He was an absolute mammoth compared to the rest of his cohorts, and his horns were clearly well used and larger than the others. He also seemed a bit more solitary, not grouping up with the rest of the animals as much as the smaller bulls and cows. He was strong and clearly a confident leader of that particular bunch. As we combed the landscape with no other luck in locating the other herds, I made the call. âLetâs get back to that other herd to get a better look at that bull, I said to Matthew.â I felt as I was being drawn back to our starting point by some inexplicable power. We were off, confident the herd couldnât have traveled far from where we left them.
As we circled around the herd for a second time, my heart began to pound as I felt the thump of my pulse in my ears. With all the research I had done in the past year, I found two common threads when reading about bowhunting buffalo. First, they do attack humans, and these wild prehistoric game animals are very accustomed to ruling their territory. Second, instinctually the cows surround the more mature bulls for protection, making it difficult to position yourself for a shot, especially within bow range. As I pondered, Matthew explained the plan of attack. We would quietly stalk up as close as we could while positioning ourselves for a shot. Matthew was armed behind me with a .444 Marlin in case the wounded bull would charge or attack us. This was comforting news.
We slowly exited the truck, leaving the doors open to avoid noise. As we moved slowly toward the monarch, I nocked the Easton Full Metal Jacket to the string of my Mathews DXT. Matthew paused after our stalk, and the herd began to notice our intrusion. The bison I had dreamt about was in front of me, and his solitary nature became my opportunity. He stood away from the rest of the herd and as he turned his massive head away from us watching the rest of his fellow buffalo walk away from us, I drew back, settled the pin, and released the G5 Striker toward his vitals. As the razor sharp broadhead soared toward him I knew the shot would be perfect as it landed directly behind his left shoulder completely passing through both lungs and landing on the prairie floor below. The trophy bull ran only 40 yards before slowly falling to the earth, and like thatâ¦ it was finished. All the detailed day dreams, all the hours on the internet, all the conversations with Jim Bob about the upcoming experience, all my preparation had paid off. It is written in Psalm 118:24, âThis is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.â Well, brothers and sisters I have reason to rejoice! Successfully harvesting Americaâs largest big game animal, a trophy buffalo, on foot, with a bow? Life doesnât get much better, unless you throw in all that prized freezer meat and a beautiful shoulder mount! We approached the lodge, and Matthew uttered words Iâll never forget. I had wondered why the stalk and process seemed somewhat simple compared to a whitetail or mule deer stalk. Matthew replied, âYou can see why they were nearly extinct. They just arenât scared of anything.â And with that, I realized how tough these animals are. They truly are âking of the plains.â
After many pictures and congratulations, Matthew and Michael had the enormous animal skinned and quartered within an hour. After dropping the cape and head off with the talented and always friendly Angelo Puma with Puma Taxidermy in Weatherford, I scrambled back to catch dinner at the lodge. I broke through the door just in time for oven- roasted venison steaks with gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, and salad. As I listened to my fellow hunters talk about their adventures that day, my mind wandered off to what I experienced in the last 24 hours. Iâve spent my lifetime chasing deer, doves, hogs, javelina, rattlesnakes, turkeys, jackrabbits, and pretty much any other wild mammal in the field, along with my best hunting partner. My dad had experienced nearly every part of my hunting career with me until that day, and as he chased rut-crazed bucks in Uvalde County that week, I only wished he could have shared in my blessings. A huge thank you goes out to Jim Bob and the fine staff at Sweetwater Creek. What a magical place!
Yes, sometimes this hunting that we cherish so much can be as tough and cold as a long lost love. Then again, it can offer some of lifeâs greatest rewards. There is something captivating about being a part of our nature. I love being outdoors with beautiful, tough animals that are beating the odds and battling elements. Our Texas land is as rough as it is blessed, as stated in Isaiah 44:3, âFor I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.â Witnessing what may be the last frontier of our wild Texas brings joy to my heart. We have such a privilege to come together as hunters to harvest, protect, and preserve our wildlife, and like the mighty buffalo we will continue to survive for generations.
âI was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free, and there was
nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were
no enclosures, and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there,
and not within walls. I know every stream and every wood between the
Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted and lived over that country.
I lived like my fathers before me, and like them, I lived happily.â
– Ten Bears, Comanche
â¢ A mature buffalo can reach up to 6 ft. tall at the hump
â¢ A mature bull can weigh more than 2000 pounds
â¢ Buffalo are not true buffaloes like African buffalo, but are actually American Bison
â¢ Both male and female buffalo have horns
â¢ Buffalo meat has less fat and cholesterol than chicken, less calories than turkey, and 30% more protein than beef
â¢ Buffalo can run 35 miles per hour for several miles at a time
â¢ Indian tribes used every part of the buffalo; the hide, bones, intestines, blood hair, tail, hooves, teeth, meat, and even dung.
â¢ The largest land animal in North America is the American Bison.