“‘Rush’ has always been my speed, living life fast is something I like. Good ranches are a way to calm me down.” -Bow Carpenter
A storm is coming. Lightning takes over every corner of the sky on this stage-like flatland. The once-cold beer in that friend’s hand starts to sweat again as the moisture builds in the air. The fire-pit starts a new crackle as a few raindrops land on the blazing wood nearby. The leaves on the trees seem to turn a deeper green, they all know what’s coming.
Bow loves two places the most on Carpenter Day ranch. The first is the front porch of the lodge, one of his beloved contributions to this otherwise unoccupied landscape. The storms are “Damn fine”, rolling in with lighting that often spans the entire skyline. Anyone who loves Texas loves rain, it’s a rare treat and the after-effects are a marvel on the landscape. Sitting under the awnings, perfectly dry, and watching the torrent roll in is special to Bow.
The lodge was a passion project featuring painstakingly recovered New England Barnwood around a bar that was meticulously designed as the focal point of a good time. There’s this feeling of “readiness” in the whole place. Everything is as it should be to make the time you spend there special. The stocked bar, a chef in the kitchen who’s traveled to be there over the weekend, a walk-in cooler stocked with well-dried proteins still on the hoof. As soon as you decide what sounds fun, the fun begins, whether it’s quietly watching a storm, a boisterous game of shuffleboard, or an evening axis hunt.
The second place Bow loves the most is the lake. “I used to be all about the kill,” he said, “But now I enjoy the preparation more.” Here, he awaits his friends or pay-to-hunt guests and muses on what might be missing, or what piece of kit the ranch needs next. A fish bites, distracting him. He pulls the hook out like someone who’s been catching fish for a living, gently tosses the sizeable bass back in, and then keeps pondering.
Bow made his name as a builder, but you would have guessed it anyway by how the huge doors on the lodge open and close so smoothly, and by how the temperature in the casita is just what you wanted. Everything has a place, and everything is purpose-built for two things:
- Having a good time.
Bow pre-books his guest hunts nearly a year in advance and has a following of repeat business that’s so enamored with the place that they schedule just as soon as they leave. His ranch foreman lives onsite in a spacious home, and keeps the feeders filled, the big bucks breeding and the fences mended and free from debris. When Bow shows up, it’s playtime, and most often he’s accompanied by a chef who’s flown in with him for the weekend.
Like most of us, Bow started hunting when he was 5 years old. His dad would take him out exclusively on bird hunts, and the first time he sat freezing in a duck blind, he was hooked. Despite the obligatory complaining of his 5-year-old shivering self, he kept coming back, and under the tutelage of his tiny red-headed grandmother, he took to deer hunting as well. The preparation involved and the increasingly remote destinations still have him hooked, but what he’s seen over his lifetime, is that there is no camaraderie like that of a hunting party. There’s so much to talk about, there is excitement and energy that drives the fellowship, and in this open space, there’s room to chill out too.
On a nice night (which is the majority of nights in Sonora, Texas) you can picture Bow and four other guys chuckling over a mildly-off-kilter joke around the outdoor grilling station. It’s like a little unofficial throneroom on the ranch kingdom, it is where all the best jokes are told and best laughs are had. The ladies, a few feet away on some adirondacks, laugh at the men, and the meter of the evening sets into a cycle of conversation and laughter that often leads the players into a starlit night that doesn’t end until the morning stillness sets in. Sometimes, it’s best just to stay up and start hunting again. But when the whitetail buck you tried all yesterday to find meanders out of the woods, you’ll probably just end up laughing and going to bed anyway.
That’s life on the Carpenter Day Ranch.