Austin teen uses ancestor’s rifle to down first deer

SixTimesACharmMike Cox, longtime Austin journalist and book author, knows about subjects and verbs.  

As a spokesman for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, he writes a lot of press releases. And he also has more than a dozen books to his credit, most of them on Texas history.

But he is not the first writer in his family.

His late grandfather, L.A. Wilke, was an outdoors journalist so respected by his peers that the Texas Outdoor Writers Association named its lifetime achievement award after him.

And through him, Cox, in 1969, received a tool that helped shape countless outdoors experiences — a .308-caliber Remington semiautomatic rifle.

“When I turned 21,” he recalled, “my grandfather summoned me into his home office after supper one night. I don’t remember his exact words, but he told me I was plenty old enough to own my own high-power rifle.”

Wilke handed Cox the same Remington he used to bring down a buffalo on the Means Ranch in the Trans-Pecos.

“Later,” Cox said, “he took the biggest buck of his life with that .308 on the King Ranch. Since Granddad turned over the gun to me, I also have brought down numerous deer with it.

“Of course, I’ve missed a deer or two with it, too.”

And while Cox is not his family’s first writer, he is not the last hunter.

“My daughter Hallie, who turns 18 this month, has been hunting with me since she was a little girl,” he said. “More recently, she did most of the work field-dressing a buck I killed earlier in the just-ended season.”

The grimy chore did not sour the experience.

She told her father, “I wish I could shoot a deer.”

Cox arranged for her to hunt a doe on the Lampasas County lease he shares with fellow outdoor writers Bob Hood and John Gill.

“That’s when it started getting complicated,” Cox said. “On her first outing, despite a little pre-hunt target practice, she missed a cooperative doe with Hood’s loaned .243 not once, not twice, but three times.

“That afternoon, she missed a spike that only gave her one shot.”

The next visit to the lease, Hallie took aim at another doe, but missed again. She admitted to nervousness, but asked for more practice time.

On Dec. 29, father and daughter set up a makeshift range in a dried stock tank. After placing a round 3 inches from the bull’s-eye, Hallie was ready to try again.

They returned to the blind late that afternoon. An hour passed before two doe appeared at the feeder; Hallie aimed at the larger one, but jitters returned.

“Once again, buck fever had set in,” Cox said. “But when Granddad’s .308 went off, that doe crashed faster than the Grecian economy.”

Hallie cleaned most of the deer herself, and donated it to Hunters for the Hungry.

On the way home that night, Hallie asked if one day she would inherit her great grandfather’s Remington.

“Yes, I told her, she’ll get that rifle,” Cox said. “But I need to get a little more use out of it myself first!”