Aug
17

Memories of Appletree by Randy Rowley

By

Many FCS members and prospects have read a brief history of or heard about the Appletree Ranch hunts…the hunts that gave birth to the Burp & Poot (B & P) Club (the predecessor of The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen) but have asked to hear more.  Therefore, by popular demand, I offer from my memory banks excerpts from my five trips to Appletree.

In October of 1988, on the way to a Great Hills Baptist Church men’s retreat, Lee Tunnell invited the men riding with him to go “goat” hunting.  I enthusiastically told him to count me in.  In approximately December of 1988, six men, including me, two children, and Lee went on a Mouflon and Corsican sheep hunt on the Appletree Ranch.  Lee owned a 40 acre tract but, as a land owner, he, and his guests, was allowed to hunt the entire 1200 acre ranch.  I envisioned walking up to a pasture and leisurely eradicating peacefully grazing wild goats like prairie dogs.  What actually happened is an entirely different story.

Appletree is located within spitting distance of Leakey in Southwest Texas.  It is only about 15 miles from the extremely popular Garner State Park and the Frio River.  The country there is absolutely gorgeous; mountainous with lush green forests, steep ravines and winding clear, cold rivers (Frio is Spanish for cold).  Many Texans believe that this area is the jewel of the state.  This belief is supported by the fact that campers often have to wait up to a year to get a campsite reservation at Garner.

Our caravan arrived at Appletree late on a Friday afternoon.  I was immediately struck by its awesome beauty.  The never ending mountains, hills and live oaks gave me the impression that we had left Texas behind and entered a foreign country.  As we drove down a long dirt road to the ranch we spotted the most incredible sight.  To our left was an average size pond with clear inviting waters.  However it was not the pond that seized our attention, rather it was the two bull elk in the middle of it.  For a group of Texas hunters, most of whom had only seen elk in magazines, it was an impressive sight indeed.  We stopped for pictures and to admire the beauty of God’s creation.  The elk were unimpressed with us and after a minute of staring proceeded to ignore us while we gapped at them.

Shortly thereafter we arrived at the “camp” which turned out to be a two story house complete with pool table and the infamous downstairs toilet (which was required to be used in deference to the main body of hunters upstairs).  To the right of the camp was a fence. The fence was unremarkable, however, what was on it was not.  On it were bleached out skulls of all kinds of horned and antlered game: Whitetail deer from the good ole US of A, Sika deer from Japan, Fallow deer from Germany, Corsican sheep from the Ural Mountains, Mouflon Sheep from the island of Crete and Aoudad Sheep from the Middle East among others decorated the fence.  To say it was impressive was an understatement.  After an inservice by Lee on what could be shot and what was a no-no we proceeded to fulfill the actual purpose of the trip – hunting.

The two most remarkable things that occurred on the first hunt happened on the second day.  After a hearty Friday night meal of chili and IBC root beer, we arose early for the Saturday morning hunt.  We gathered up our gear and grabbed some “gut bombs” from the kitchen.  Eddy Chance and I heated up the left over chili from the night before and had it for breakfast.  This proved to be an almost fatal mistake.

The seven men and two children were tightly packed into Lee’s 2 door Dodge Ramcharger.  The nine hunters, who were in a state of prayer for protection as the Ramcharger began the more than 30 degree assent of Mt. Appletree, were suddenly and unmercifully assaulted by a stream of gas from Eddy.  The assault probably would have killed us all were it not for a quick thinking (and desperate) Terry Vance, who opened up the sun roof. The group showed mercy and did not make Eddy walk up the mountain.  The “P” of the B & P was born.

The “B” was born on our trip back to Austin.  The caravan had stopped for gas and snacks in Leakey.  As we munched, Lee took a big swig from his coke can and let out a potential Guinness Book of World Records burp that some say is still echoing through the mountains near Leakey.

The second trip to Appletree was even more remarkable than the first.  From pigging out at Aunt Julie’s restaurant in San Antonio to our “Mouflon Express” C.B. radios with Mouflon one, Mouflon two and Mouflon three, the hunt started out special and never let up.  Unlike the first hunt, game was killed on this trip.  I shot a Mouflon ram, Lee shot a Corsican ewe, Larry Dowden shot a Javelina, and Randy Slagle shot two Javelinas with one shot!  The B & P bylaws, theme song and inductee initiation were also developed during this hunt.  Although I would make three more trips to Appletree, none were as memorable as this hunt.  The camaraderie that was experienced is something that I will never forget, especially Randy Slagle, Larry Dowden and Robert Galabeas debut singing of the B & P theme song.  Many of the men at this hunt later served and continue to serve as officers of the Club.  Another thing that set it apart was the Bible trivia that we played on the C.B radios on the way back to Austin.

The third trip to Appletree saw many new faces and one old, my brother-in-law Roy Brigman.  Roy and I have always been close but we rarely have had the opportunity to hunt together.  We did a considerable amount of walking as we had the lower valley all to ourselves.  As we were walking down one dry creek bed I discovered a complete skeleton of what appeared to be a young Aoudad sheep.  The bones were scattered everywhere and there were several hoof prints in the soft dirt that looked like Javelina.  Roy and I guessed that the Aoudad met an unfortunate end and then was consumed by a herd of Javelina.  I also met an unfortunate end when Roy talked me in to tasting an acorn.  Roy argued that deer love them like they do corn.  His smooth sales pitch had me salivating for one and before you know it I cracked one out of its shell and bit down.  I have never tasted anything so bitter in my life!  I still have not paid Roy back sufficiently for that little trick.

The fourth trip to Appletree also saw many new faces.  What set it apart was the great Mouflon stampede.  We hunted Friday evening and Saturday morning without much success.  I hunted on a ledge near the top of a mountain that overlooked mountains to the left and right and a valley in between.  I remember being impressed with the sheer amount of territory that I saw and the ideal habitat.  On Saturday afternoon we decided to conduct a drive.  We finished the fruitless drive and began assembling on the dirt road.  As we were waiting for Lee, James Wade, and Paul Wilson to catch up with us, I mentioned to the group of men already assembled that they ought to go see the view of the valley that I hunted over that morning.  As the ledge was just a few yards up the road, I started to lead the men to the spot.

One of the hunters, Pat Wilson, had brought his early teen son, Brandon, along.  Blessed with an inexhaustible supply of energy like most boys, Brandon ran on ahead.  Pat set a quicker pace than the rest of us in an attempt to keep up with his son.  Randy Slagle and I were walking together about 20 feet behind Pat and Brandon.  The next events happened in quick succession.  We heard Brandon shout “look dad, sheep!”  Randy and I started to run to the ledge and then there was a loud KABOOM from Pat’s rifle.  When Randy and I arrived on the ledge we were greeted by the sight of a herd of approximately 15 Mouflon sheep, approximately 150 yards away, running down the mountain as they could go.  Pat squeezed off two more shots at the panicked herd.  I managed to shoot twice and Randy shot once.

The sheep stopped running when they reached the safety of the valley.  We then encircled the valley and decided to send one man, me, down to try to drive the sheep up one mountain or the other.  The plan failed due to the fact that one of the hunters grew impatient and lobbed off a couple of shells down into the valley in the hope of scaring the sheep up the mountain.  The plan probably would have worked if he had not become impatient.  The sheep ran out of the valley exactly where I was planning to position myself.

After reaching the valley I made a search to see if we had downed any sheep.  The search at first did not bear fruit but I didn’t give up.  I climbed back up the mountain and located the spot where the sheep had been standing during Pat’s initial shot.  It was pretty easy to find.  From there I was able to track the exact path that the sheep took in their flight to safety.  No I didn’t follow their tracks, I followed their pellets!  Gobs of sheep pellets were scattered in lines running straight down the mountain.  We literally scared the pellets out of them!

Then as I was looking down in the direction that the sheep took, the sun broke through the clouds and radiated a spot perhaps ten yards square about 100 yards away.  In the center of that spot lay a multicolored Mouflon ram.

We split the meat three ways.  Pat and Randy Slagle drew a card each from a UNO deck to win the right to the horns (Randy drew the high card).  I was not interested in the horns because I had already mounted the ram that I shot during our second trip to Appletree.

The last trip to Appletree was not a hunting trip at all but a working trip.  We installed new ladders in the stands, replacing several that were dangerous, if not suicidal.  We also repaired some of the stands themselves.  Little did we know that this would be the Club’s last trip to Appletree.

This ended the opening chapter of what was to become The Fellowship of Christian Sportsmen.  These trips touched many lives and have proven hard to duplicate.  However, I look at them as the start of what was to become the greatest group of guys that I have ever been associated with.  They should never be forgotten but they also should never be remembered as the best times that the Club has ever seen.  As was demonstrated in our Dove Retreats with 65+ participants, we are capable of drawing far greater numbers than we ever could have handled at Appletree.  Although I cherish the past I believe that the best is yet to be seen.

 

Randy Rowley and sheep

Appletree Gang

Randy and Frank

Categories : Stories

Bible verse of the day

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

Today’s Devotionals and Blogs

Kent Crockett’s blog – www.kentcrockett.blogspot.com

Mark Dillow’s blog – http://noclearline.blogspot.com/