Wink, Texas: January 21, 2011

Hunter's Horn, Dec 2011Sometime in the spring of 2010, Bill Voyles of Wink, Texas called me looking for a long lost buddy named Kenneth Alexander he had gone to school with in Wilson, Oklahoma.  After a short telephone visit, I assured him that I wasn’t the Kenneth Alexander he was looking for and had not gone to school there.

Bill told me he had gotten my name from Donnie Clifton of Ranger, Texas. From there the conversation quickly turned to hounds.  The one thing we all three had in common was a pack of coyote dogs.

After establishing the hound bond, Bill invited me out for a visit with lots of coyote running. I visited with Bill a few times by cell phone for the next few months and also asked my brother, Dan, and a friend, Billy Daily if they had any interest in going to Wink, Texas to hunt. Dan said he was game, but Billy surmised that the area was dry, windy and a long way.

Things just didn’t line up well for a trip to Wink until Dan called me in January 2011 and said he was ready and Billy was off work the third week of January. When I called Mr. Voyles about coming, he said the weather would be good that weekend and he had an apartment where we could stay and that all we would need was a sleeping bag and a good pack of hounds.

On Friday morning at seven o’clock, I loaded four hounds and drove the three miles to Dan’s house; picked him up with four of his hounds and headed for Loving, Texas to meet Billy Daily on the first leg of our trip to Wink.

Billy had his new double cab, four-wheel drive, half-ton Ford pickup loaded and waiting when we arrived at his house in Loving at nine o’clock. We loaded our gear in a carry-all on top of the dog box, put our eight dogs in with his two, headed west to intersect I-20 at Abilene. We were soon in deep West Texas and began to notice the wind powered electric turbines and oil wells.

After passing the Midland-Odessa area, I looked up ahead and noticed a sign that read “80 mph.” I was driving at the time and had the cruise control set at 70, but the urge never hit me to speed up to 80. You can go a long way in a short time in West Texas at 70 mph, and that seemed fast enough for me.

At Monahans, we turned north toward Kermit, then west to Wink; this placed us just south of the New Mexico border. Two things were missing from the landscape, trees over head high and visible water.

Maybe Daily was right after all. After we arrived at the Voyles residence and Bill had gotten us settled in the apartment, Jimmy Hill from Kermit and Harley Belk from south of Abilene arrived. Jimmy invited everyone up to Kermit for catfish at six o’clock. After a delicious catfish meal, at
Jimmy’s expense, we all headed back to Wink to load up for a West Texas coyote hunt.

Jimmy couldn’t go hunting that night and Harley only had some young dogs he had brought from Donnie Clifton’s for Bill. After loading our ten dogs from the pen that Bill had provided, we followed Bill and Harley about two miles southeast of town for the cast.

Now everything Mr. Voyles had told me over the phone was just as he stated it would be, up to now. On the way to the hunting ground, Billy, Dan and I discussed the possibility of a coyote race in this arid country.

The wind had laid and Bill had assured us that if the wind laid, a hound could run, but we were skeptical. Bill cast his seven dogs northwest back toward Wink and I wondered about deer and other off game. Where we hunt at home, there is a tremendous amount of deer, wild hogs, coon, rabbits, etc, that a hound has to contend with. Of the ten hounds we brought, seven were solid broke and the other three didn’t give many problems.

Bill’s seven hounds soon jumped and went southwest almost out of hearing. Harley had a GPS collar on some of Bill’s dogs and he said they were a mile and a half and turning back toward us. The pack came to within a half mile of camp and Bill said to cast our dogs.

We cast two or three at a time until they were all loose and the race began to build to an exciting knock-down drag-out deep West Texas coyote race. Our old dogs didn’t act any different in this country than they do at home and were soon telling Mr. Coyote he better change ground if he was to stay healthy. And change country he did, going out of hearing in every direction but always coming back by camp and sometimes making a circle before leaving straightaway in another direction.

The race had been in progress about an hour and a half when the pack came by from the southeast and headed northwest toward Wink. They didn’t go out of hearing this time, but turned right back toward us. One of Bill’s dogs came by camp and hit the coyote ahead. The front four or five dogs were coming hard and when this hound squalled wolf they immediately hushed, not waiting to get to the covered track. Joe Campo, one of our hunting friends, said a hound must pay attention to stay in a coyote race. Well, these hounds were paying attention and when they opened again they were three hundred yards east and right up against Mr. Coyote. Bill’s dog had taken up the slack and the slack adjusters had adapted well.

All five of us were standing at attention listeningto the race as they turned north, then west, then back toward us again. I eased up to Dan and said, “Sam’s looking at him.” He said, “I hear him.” When we got to the catch and had all the hounds loaded except four of ours, Bill said he would go back to camp and recast his and when we got the rest of our head hunters loaded, to come on. We soon got the rest of our pack loaded and when we arrived at camp, Bill and Harley were watering Bill’s dogs. They told us to water ours because only one pond was in the area and our dogs probably had not found it. When we put water in the crate for the dogs, they all tried to drink at once and began to growl and fight over water.

In my years handling dogs, I’ve seen them fight for several reasons, but never over water. Mr. Voyles recast his hounds and we were soon having another race. The temperature had dropped below freezing and smelling wasn’t as good as earlier. After an hour of decent running, the pack got behind the coyote so we drove into them and soon had every hound loaded. Billy, Dan and I went
back to the warm apartment, tired but happy.

Saturday morning broke cold, dry and windy. At breakfast, Bill told us a dry line was coming through about noon and the wind would lay again at night. Billy Daily was ready to start home until he heard the wind might lay or could it have been that his wife, JoAnn, had called and told him she had a house full of grandkids. Either way, he said he was ready to stay another night. Night did come, the wind did lay, we traded Harley for Jimmy Hill, the moon came up and we were ready for another West Texas coyote race.

Bill Voyles cast and jumped a coyote the third time in a row and the race was on. Dan, Billy and I were a little slow in casting our hounds and they hit another coyote on the way to Bill’s and went southwest out of hearing. We listened to Bill and Jimmy’s dog for thirty minutes or so, then drove back to Wink and went south five miles and could barely hear our dogs running hard east of us.
They circled a few times in hearing, then headed east out of hearing.

When we returned to camp, Jimmy and Bill told us both races were over and ours had come back close to camp and caught just southwest about a quarter mile. Bill told us how to get closest to them. We went as far as we could down a dead-end road and stopped.

A dog barked a few times southwest of us.  Dan said that was Jo Jo with hair in his teeth. We heard a few more muffled barks and all was quiet. This was an over-the-hill catch, which I usually don’t count, but when two good West Texas wolf hunters call it a catch, it must be so.

This race didn’t measure up to the first night but that feat would have been hard to accomplish. The trip home Sunday morning was long and uneventful. I learned a lot on this journey about scenting conditions and atmospheric pressure, and when you can and cannot run a coyote. The most important thing I learned is that when you hear a Texan named Bill or Billy talking, you better listen because they always speak the truth.

By Kenneth D. Alexander, 176 Oak Hill Road, Valley View, TX 76272