February 13, 2015

FIRST HUNT FOR WILDLIFE BIOLOGY GRAD STUDENT

by Craig Nyhus

Courtesy of Lone Star Outdoor News

quail truck

Graduate student Liz Oaster got her first chance to hunt with the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation in South Texas, and took this buck along with a doe and a spike. Photo by Craig Nyhus, Lone Star Outdoor News.


As a graduate wildlife biology student studying Montezuma quail at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Liz Oaster has spent plenty of time with animals, both outside and in the lab.

Growing up in Pennsylvania, her father didn’t hunt after she was born. While a few of her cousins hunted, she was never invited to tag along.

At the University of Wyoming, where she completed her undergraduate degree in wildlife biology, she was interested but never got the chance to hunt.

In a previous story in Lone Star Outdoor News, professors from universities in Texas commented on the increasing number of wildlife biology students who weren’t hunters. Louis Harveson, who directs the Borderlands Research Institute and is a professor at Sul Ross, recommended Liz as a prime candidate.

She was invited by the Lone Star Outdoor News Foundation to participate in her first-ever white-tailed deer hunt, where hopefully she would have the chance to take a buck. She had no idea she would get to harvest three deer.

Arriving with her boyfriend, Daniel Tidwell, also a graduate student at Sul Ross and an experienced hunter, Liz quickly showed she had indeed shot a rifle before, and the time at the range was brief.

That afternoon, in the deer blind with guide Cole Farris and her boyfriend, Liz watched a buck step out. After studying the buck, it was agreed the buck could be taken.

“I was nervous and it took awhile to settle myself down,” Liz said. The shot was pure and after the buck was on the ground, Farris went to get the vehicle. It was then her emotions took over.

“She jumped up and down and squealed about 10 times,” Tidwell said.

The new hunter, not unfamiliar with handling animals or getting her hands dirty, dove right into the gutting and skinning process and the young couple was happy to be able to take some meat for the freezer.

The next evening, though, she had even more excitement.

“We need help with reaching our numbers on does, LSONF’s Craig Nyhus said, “so let’s keep hunting.”

At a different blind, several bucks, including a spike and a fawn, were seen, but no does appeared.

“Let’s take that spike,” Nyhus told her.

It was easier said than done. Other deer were always either in front of or behind the spike, and no shot was presented.

“Something else is coming,” she said. “It’s a doe.”

Change of plans, move to the doe,” her guide whispered.

The doe wouldn’t stand still unless facing the hunter, but finally, the traffic of other deer cleared and she stood broadside.

“Whenever you’re ready.”

The shot was good and the doe moved into the nearby brush. The hunt wasn’t over, as less than 10 minutes later, the spike nervously returned to the sender.

“Let’s go back to the spike.”

The spike stayed behind some brush and later trotted to another open area located behind the blind.

“We need to switch places.”

As quietly as possible, the hunter and guide moved within the blind and the rifle was out the side window, but the movement spooked the spike into the nearby brush.

“He’ll come back, he didn’t see us—he’s looking right into the sun.” The spike returned, but the canvas cloth hanging over the side window of the blind blocked the guide’s view.

“I can’t see anything, but you know what to do. When he turns broadside, take him.”

It didn’t take her long and another shot rang out.

“I got him good,” Liz said. “He darted to the left and then to the right.”

“Good, let’s go find your doe and come back.”

As the new hunter and guide located the two deer and her boyfriend drove up to see what she had accomplished, the new hunter was grinning from ear to ear.

“This is so much fun,” she said.