Hunting Adventure of a Lifetime...Dodging Death

Editors Note...This is the final installment in a two part story of a hunting trip that turns into an unforgettable adventure. Rod Snell of Harlingen and his 70 year old mother Maud have been tracking a wounded nilgai bull thru the brush north of Raymondville for five hours. They shot the bull on their lease and tracked the animal onto refuge property, leaving their rifle behind. They are lost and attempting to find their way back, when Rod spots the bull which has a broken leg. He grabs his hunting knife and decides to pursue the animal.

"As I sprinted thru the brush, I could see I was gaining on the nilgai. Brush was just whizzing past my face and some of it was catching on my shirt and ripping it. My arms are getting all scratched. After a 200 yard chase he stopped, and I found myself face to face with a full grown 700 pound bull."

"He let out a bellow that silenced everything around us. I said okay, I've got to finish this. I have got to cut his throat. I approached him slowly, but when I got within about fifteen feet the bull decided I was too much of a threat. All of a sudden he just tucked his head down and with one lunge he was on top of me. He was coming at me with those horns lowered, and I used both arms to stiff arm his head away form me. He caught my shirt and ripped it right down the center."

Rod and the bull eye one another for a few moments. He realizes that trying to cut the animal's throat is too dangerous. Out of desperation he rears back and throws the knife with all his strength at the bull's neck. "The knife soared thru the air and hit the bull with the butt right in the spot I was aiming. The bull bellowed again and ran another ten yards and stopped to face me. I picked up my knife and threw a second time and once again the butt of the knife hit right where I was aiming."

This time the bull does not move and Rod has to get a stick to move him away so he can retrieve his knife. "The third time I focused as hard as I could and launched my knife with all my energy. Sure enough, the blade went first and the knife struck the bull right in the side of the neck. Again he bellowed and started to bleed heavily."

"I thought I had done it. I thought he would bleed out. Relief just went all thru my body. My legs were queasy, I was really tired and I just sat down. I thought I am just going to sit here and let him bleed out." After 45 minutes the bull still stands watching Rod, and unfortunately the blood stops flowing from his neck wound.

"With my knife in his neck and no other weapon available, I decided I had to get back to camp and get my rifle." In the heat of pursuit, Rod has forgotten that he and his mother are lost.

"I go back to my mom who is waiting on a sendero and all of a sudden the rush of being lost hits me the second time." As they discuss their options, Rod's mom realizes she has her cell phone. She usually doesn't take it hunting, and has completely forgotten she has it with her. "Thank goodness she had Verizon," Rod said. "My cell phone won't get a signal out here."

He first calls his wife and she notifies a friend who heads out to try and find them. He also gets thru to Officer Shane Nalen with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. By now it is nearly 4 p.m., some eight hours since their trek began.

"I climbed a mesquite to try and figure out where we were, but I couldn't see anything familiar. The sun finally peeked thru the clouds and so we headed west. By now, my mom was getting pretty tired, and I was very thirsty."

Fortunately, the phone is adequately charged and Rod is able to stay in contact with Officer Nalen. They agree on an area for Nalen to turn on his siren. When it begins wailing Rod and him mom can barely detect the faint sound in the distance. After an hour of hiking in the direction of the siren, which Nalen turns on every few minutes, they finally reach safety.

"It was pretty obvious they had been thru quite an ordeal," Nalen recalled. "I had an idea where they had walked from and it was several miles in an area of thick mesquite and a lot of cactus. It is real easy to get turned around in that area. You get in the brush and pretty soon you could be going in circles and never know it."

After quenching his thirst, Rod tells Nalen and the officer who accompanies him the entire story. "We returned to the blind on our lease where we shot the bull, and they allowed me to retrieve my rifle."

"At first you are always a little suspicious, but their story checked out, and we decided to help them find the nilgai," Nalen said. Returning to the refuge with Nalen and Rod in the officer's vehicle and Maud following in her son's truck, they drive the overgrown senderos in search of the spot where Rod last encountered the bull.

Eventually, they begin to see the little pieces of Kleenex Maud had stuck in the brush to mark their way. Next, they discover a tumbled down deer blind that looks familiar. Finally, they see a shed antler they left at the intersection of the sendero near the spot they had last seen the nilgai.

With Nalen's permission Rod heads into the dense brush in search of the bull, only this time he has his rifle. "There is no sign of him, but I see the blood where we had our encounter. I go another 75 yards into the brush, and I hear him crashing thru the brush. I think okay, I've caught him twice already, and I know I can catch him a third time."

Rod works his way toward the bull and when he can get a clear shot he shoulders the rifle and drops the nilgai with a single bullet. Turning the massive head, Rod sees the wound his knife made, but its not there. Shane reaches the scene, and after a brief search finds Rod's knife ten yards from the fallen bull. "He was pretty excited to get that knife back," Shane recalled with a laugh. "I did remind him to let us know in future if he ever needs to enter refuge property in search of an animal."

The hunt will undoubtedly become a cherished memory in the rich hunting lore of the Snell family. "This is the number one hunt of all my experiences, even with my dad," Maud said with conviction.

"What a phenomenal experience, and to be with my mom, someone so special tops it off," Rod said. "And thanks to the officers who responded so quickly and were so nice to us."

If Rod had it to do over again, would he have charged off into the brush after the bull with the intention of administering the coup de gra armed with only a knife?

"I thought about that for many days after. What would have happened if one of those horns went thru my gut? Here we were lost out there. I could have died."

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Copyright 2007 Richard Moore