Mike Shipley grew up in an environment that would appear unusual to most. Both of his parents are deaf — but it didn’t stop him or his father from hunting.
“I’m told my first words were in sign language,” the 20-year-old Texas A&M-Kingsville junior from Austin said. “Both my parents were essentially deaf from birth, although my mom can hear a little with hearing aids, and she speaks well.”
Shipley learned to speak mostly from his grandparents, and he was introduced to hunting by is grandfather and father.
“My grandfather got my uncle and dad into it some — as a kid I would go with my dad when my mom would let me,” he said.
His first recollection of hunting was at age 10, when his father shot a 10-pointer on their property near Junction.
“Then I got more interested and would go with my dad as often as he would take me,” he said.
Success, though, was another story.
“We didn’t know much about hunting,” Shipley said. “And I got buck fever bad — I missed six deer and four hogs in a row.”
He didn’t give up, though. At age 13, he shot his first deer, a 6-pointer, during the youth season. And the following summer, he attended the Outdoor Texas Camp near Columbus.
“It was their first year — it was only a hunting camp then,” he said. “That experience stepped up the interest in hunting for me.”
The next year, he returned as a camper during the fishing week offered by the camp.
When it was time to return home, David Todd, the camp’s founder, offered him a job as a counselor in training. He stayed, and this summer will be his seventh year working at the camps.
“I have watched him grow since he was an 11-year-old,” Todd said. “He was totally enthralled with all of the knowledge to be learned. When I have some kids that aren’t interested, I think of Michael.”
At the camps, Shipley met Jason Sekula, the instructor on deer ecology and management, and wildlife manager at the Shiner Ranch near Pearsall.
“He described his job which involved a lot of hunting,” Shipley said. “He taught about white-tailed deer, and showed sheds of the same deer from ages 2 through 6, and how to track and follow a blood trail.“
Sekula is a graduate of A&M-Kingsville’s Wildlife Management program.
“He told us what a wildlife manager did,” Shipley said. “I didn’t even know that was a job. I knew then what I was going to do after high school.”
Now, Shipley works at the Shiner Ranch when he’s needed and not in school.
“The first year, I didn’t know anything,” he said. “I learned how to fix fences, drive a tractor, how to scout and I got to shoot some spikes.”
Over the next two seasons, Shipley has guided hunters and helped score the deer, helped with deer transports and helped take care of the hunters that came to the ranch.
And he got to bring his father to the Shiner Ranch to shoot a management buck, where Shipley said communication in the blind between the guide and hunter was an advantage.
“It was easy,” he said. “We would just use sign language below the window.”