Texas Ice In 2023

Posted by Kevin Estela on Feb 14th 2023

I received an invitation to hunt axis deer and aoudad sheep in Texas at the end of last year. The trip was on my bucket list for a while and when the opportunity presented itself to cross it off in January/February 2023, I couldn’t resist. A friend from high school relocated to Texas over 2 decades ago and he sold me on the idea of flying down, utilizing his friend’s ranch, seeing what San Antonio had to offer and accomplishing the entire trip in just a few days. After seeing the trail cam footage of what my friend’s friend had on his property, I booked the flight and assumed the trip was going to be a lock. Cheap airfare, no guide fees, and weather that was supposed to be temperate. As I found out, there is no such thing as a guarantee in hunting (we all know the saying that if it were a guarantee it would be called killing) and that is especially true of the weather. While I am used to the cold (having grown up in New England and having spent the past 2 years living in Utah), I can say the same is not true of Texans. I was blown away at the response to the cold and how it had an effect on the state.

Winter’s Coming

Our first full day of hunting was slated for January 31. I flew in the day before and was underwhelmed by the gray skies and light precipitation. From the moment I landed to the time I left, I was told I brought the cold weather. The reality was, North Carolina where I flew in from was actually warmer. On that dreadful Tuesday morning, I woke up early like I usually do to make my coffee and prep for the day. As I stared out the window at the iced over branches in the backyard, I questioned if I had enough cold-weather clothing. My morning routine was interrupted by my friend’s son who came downstairs thinking I was his mother. My presence surprised him as he tiptoed with half-awake eyes through the kitchen and his presence made me aware school was canceled and he was staying home . In the Northeast, school would be delayed for something like the precipitation outside. Texans, as I was told, aren’t used to this type of freeze and it was disruptive to school, business, and travel. Truth be told, the temps dropped to 28 degrees and there was some freezing rain which is dangerous and especially so if you aren’t accustomed to it. That is all it took that morning to change plans and trigger localized chaos.

Cold and Ice

The weather had an effect on the roads and that was ice. The last weather event to cause an issue in San Antonio was “Snowvid 2021” when a freak snow storm blanketed the area. There wasn’t snow this time but drivers managed to have difficulty safely driving over a surface they aren’t used to. The roads aren’t treated the same way they are in snowier areas of the country and instead of specialized liquid pretreatments, simple sand and dirt substrate is used. That first morning when temperatures dropped, I received all the updates on closed roads, accidents, and car troubles from my hunting buddy and all of his network on social media. Compounding the issue of ice on the roads was the ice on trees. Much like the ice storms that cripple the northeast where I’m from, the ice on the trees in Texas caused them to fall on the roads and fall on power lines. Additionally, the trees in this area, many purchased in the fall by homeowners for yard beautification, aren’t the type to survive the cold. This left many Texans out in the metaphorical cold as insurance companies typically won’t cover their loss. At the risk of sounding like your parents, I never recall having school canceled for cold and a little bit of ice. It was in Texas for 2 days in a row as the cold just lingered in place.

Power Outages

As expected, the cold in Texas caused icing over. That icing over caused power outages as trees fell on top of power lines. I wasn’t in the dark where my hunting buddy and his family lived but we saw reports from CPS Energy that 40,000 residents were without power. Having recently experienced an extended power outage in North Carolina, I knew there was a real threat to the vulnerable populations that were susceptible to being in the cold and dark. Over the course of the 48 hours I watched the weather reports and outage map, I noticed the numbers rose as the thickness of the ice on the trees outside increased. Many Texans in this area have military backgrounds and others live a hearty lifestyle given the rugged terrain and recreation available. Some in my friend’s circle still had preparations from the last cold-weather event but despite this, there was a rush on supplies at the store as is common when society gasps a collective, “oh shit”.

Game Over

I flew to Texas for a deer hunt and held out hope the weather would turn for the better. We monitored what the temperatures were in San Antonio and knew that in Concan, TX by the Frio River, the temperatures would be more “frio”. We knew the falling rain would cause flooding and impassable roads leading to the hunting property and worst of all, the black buck and axis deer would die off in great numbers. The last time the temps dropped, the stench from rotting animals filled the air only a couple days after the freeze and heavy machinery was used on some properties to bury the big game in massive pits. Some sportsmen in the area speculated that the game that survived the freeze from two years ago were now the heartier stock that inhabited the ranches but good genes or not, the young game animals were likely to perish this time around. We didn’t drop any animals on this hunting trip. Mother nature took the liberty of doing that in a very cruel way.

Just as quickly as the ice came, it was gone and back to 70 degree weather. At this point, I really do believe I brought the cold weather with me. Some people don’t prepare for cold-weather survival thinking they have mild winters but this is proof cold can happen anywhere and anytime. It is best to learn from experience and expect the unexpected. As for my hunting trip, my trip wasn’t a total loss. I was able to hang out with an old friend and a few new ones and see parts of the city I would likely not have seen if I was out on the land. I’ll be back again as there is unfinished business here. Hopefully next time the weather cooperates.