31 December 2009

Hunter's Stand

(This article appeared in The Opp News December 5th 1974.)
Hunter's Stand #2
A. Nimrod (aka R. Elliott)

You know, several years ago before I started this crazy thing of deer hunting, I thought that when a fellow took a stand that he would be placed in a small house where it would be warm and nice until the deer came by. How foolish. Whether you are still hunting, a-sitting on the cold ground or hanging like a monkey some 20 feet up a pine tree, the consequence is the same – you slowly freeze to death. I do believe that this hunting season started out colder than I can recollect a-way down in South Alabama .

That brings me to the first day of hunting. I must confess that it did do as most of the non-hunters and wives would like for it to have done and that is it rained like all get out. Why, men stood around in circles and cried like babies because they couldn’t get out in the woods and load their guns and shoot at some poor half-drowned deer. The dogs were a-barking and a-fighting in the boxes and the men would swear at them and threaten to kill them – at least after the hunt was over. Some men prayed, others cursed and not a few smoked all their cigarettes up and then started on rabbit tobacco. I have never seen a sorrier lot of helpless critters as those men during that rain. Most were so concerned about not hunting for a spell that they did not even know that some people around Opp and other places were about to be blown away by high winds. But, you just don’t notice such things as tornadoes and the like when you have got hunting on your mind, especially the first morning of deer season.

I also made a boast that I was different from the other insane deer hunters in that I was going to kill a deer the first day. Well, would you know, after the rain stopped and we turned that wild bunch of dogs a-loose in the woods that an old ten-point deer was heading my way and some fellow that I was with just couldn’t let me get ahead of him so he killed that old buck with one shot. But, no wonder. That buck was about to step on him and he killed the thing in self-defense. That’s the reason that I didn’t get my buck. Why, that deer had my name - tag stuck on his right ear and the fellow who shot him just did not see it until the creature fell at his feet and died.

My, it is hard to rejoice with them that rejoice, especially when you have to face your starving family with no venison to put on the table. Besides, a man’s pride has to be considered in this matter.

Well, I gave up hunting deer with dogs, at least for two days. I stumbled around in the woods and finally found me a spot at a creek where a 400-pound buck crossed regularly except on days when he is being hunted. Of course, I didn’t know that he knew that I knew that he crossed at the spot. And, that fouled up the whole thing. Now, if I had known that he knew that I would be up a tree a-waiting for him to come by and drink from that creek, I would have saved both of us a great deal of trouble and discomfort by staying in the bed. But, crazy me, I set the alarm clock at an ungodly hour and went to bag me that deer and clean him by the streams of water. However, I picked one of the coldest mornings we have had in years to go walking for miles through the woods carrying a heavy tree stand and pulling the thing through the underbrush. Not only that, I got turned around in the woods and without the aid of my little compass which I keep in my pocket, I came back out about the same place in the soybean field where I had entered the woods. Now, that type of maneuver really takes skill. Not everybody can do that little ole trick, only the ones who have not been blessed with a great deal of mentality. Well, by the time I went back through the woods and crossed the creek (getting my feet wet) and climbing a tree, I was sweating like it was summertime. And, for about thirty minutes I felt warm. But, from then on, I froze. I mean all that sweat under all the ten layers of clothing that I wore turned to ice. I was sitting next to a holly tree and by the time I shook for two hours, there was not a red berry left on the tree. It looked like the ground underneath had the measles. Of course, the deer didn’t come by. You know what I did. I dried my boots out that evening and the next morning you could have found me in the same tree a-freezing to death. Why, I will never know. But, one of these mornings, that 400-pound buck will make a mistake and I will be there a-waiting – frozen, stiff as a board – unable to bend a finger around the trigger.

But, there is hope yet. A story that should make the want ad section of The Field and Stream magazine is the one about the ever falling, stumbling, yarn-spinning editor of the local newspaper who finally shot a deer. Of all the thousands of deer that the man has seen, has shot at with his little bow and arrow set and never hit, he did indeed luck up the other day and bagged himself a deer. You remember what kind of day it was last Saturday. Only ducks and insane deer hunters would be brave enough to weather such a miserable day. Well, as the story goes, between flashing lightning, 80 mile an hour wind gust and torrential rain, this fellow happened to come up on a deer stuck in the mud. The poor creature could not move since all four legs were bogged down in the Blue Springs quicksand. What else could the meandering editor do but put the poor deer out of his misery. He took careful aim with the cannon he was carrying and after shooting 20 times (more or less) the animal gave up the ghost. But, I will say that if a fellow is anxious enough to get out in the kind of weather we had on that day, he deserves to shoot a deer, even if the creature was blind and stuck in the mud.

Thus, there is hope that among the 500,000 deer in our fair state, surely just one will happen to run into the path of a bullet fired from my trusty 30-30.

The Opp News, December 5 1974

12 December 2009

Trees, Tornadoes & Ticks

It was a warm and humid morning in the month of December when I arose at 2:30 a.m. and dressed for my hunting excursion at the T.R. Miller Management Area near Brewton, Alabama. When I went outside the weather felt like it was April instead of December. There was an eating establishment in downtown Opp that stayed opened 24/7 called Joe’s Steakhouse and there it was that I sat down for a full breakfast. When I started driving west on U.S. Highway 84 I could see lightening and because of the rain I had to turn on the windshield wipers. I said to myself that no sane deer hunter would be out on such a day. I learned later that about 800 hunters from all over the state hunted on the management area that stormy day, and I was one of them. When you leave Andalusia headed west on the Brooklyn highway it becomes dark and lonely. I drove within about 6 miles east of Castleberry and turned south into the management area and arrived about 5 a.m. to check in and then I headed to my chosen spot to hunt. I walked 10 or 15 minutes from where I parked through some large pines to a bottom where there were hardwood trees near a small stream of water. Growing beside one another were a pine tree and an oak tree. Being younger back in the 1970s I was much stronger and I was able to place my back against the pine tree and my feet against the oak tree and work my way up to the first big limb where I was going to sit for a spell. At this time I did not even have a tree seat that I could use. Well, I started up the tree but I had not counted on the trees being wet. I tried to climb but each time I would slide down to the ground. I took a rope out of my game bag and tossed it over a limb and tried that method but I failed each time because my feet kept slipping on the wet tree. Finally I gave up and found a fallen tree nearby that its limbs had prevented it from falling flat on the ground but kept the tree elevated so I climbed up as far as I could and sat down. It was then that the bottom fell out. It was the hardest rain I had ever been in while hunting without heading for a shelter. I took my Marlin 30-30 and placed as much of it under my rain suit as possible and endured the storm. What I didn’t realize was that a cold front was racing through the south and was causing severe weather when it would collide with the hot and humid atmosphere. In fact a tornado hit just south of the Alabama line in the panhandle of Florida and one man was killed and friends that was not far from where I was sitting. The rain finally stopped and I could feel the cold weather coming on. The only noise I heard was water dripping off the leaves. I caught movement near the stream of water and it was then that I saw the deer but for a moment I could not tell if it was a buck or a doe and only bucks were legal on the hunt. I started to pull the hammer back on my rifle but I learned quickly that I did not have any strength in my thumb. The reason being I had nearly sprained it when I tried several times to pull my way up the tree using my rope. So I placed the hammer between my thumb and my finger and pulled it back and when I did there was a click and that deer raised its head and looked my way. I saw then it was a six point buck and I shot and the 170 grain bullet knocked that deer down where it stood. I drugged the deer a short distance to the stream of water and I began to field dress it and from time to time I was able to wash the blood off my hands. Now a real problem presented itself to me. I failed to mention that my hunting vehicle was a 1964 Ford Falcon. Just how does one person get a buck deer that is as limber as a dish rag on the back of the trunk is one for a mathematician to figure out. I finally tied off the antlers to the back door handle and lifted his hind legs up and over the trunk and tied his legs to the door handle on the other side of the car and here I went to the Ranger station to be checked out. By the way, did you know the blood from a deer will eat the paint right off of your vehicle? I took the deer to a friend place of business and we began skinning it and cutting up the meat. By early afternoon the temperature must have fallen 30 degrees. I eventually arrived at home sleepy, tired but a happy hunter. I got in the shower and began washing my body and as I did I felt some strange lumps on my back. I called for my wife and she quickly identified the two lumps as being TICKS. Those outfits had gotten off the cold deer carcass and had found their way to my warm body. How repulsive but such is not uncommon for outdoorsmen. We were successful in removing the ticks and I never suffered from those blood sucking creatures. To my surprise I was healed from pneumonia, arthritis, lupus, congestive heart failure and yellow jaundice by the letting of blood as was practiced a few centuries ago. (-: Seriously, the Vet said that the ticks died of blood poisoning.

05 November 2009

The recent news about a woman who hit and killed a 265 pound black bear in Covington County, Alabama with her vehicle has prompted me to write about some wild animals/reptiles that inhabit L.A., that is, lower Alabama where I have done my hunting during the past 30 years. It is not surprising to find black bear in south Alabama. The state of Florida has hunting seasons for these creatures. The bears in the panhandle of Florida probably cannot read the signs that read “You are now entering Alabama ”. That could also be said about alligators. I have seen where those creatures have come out of Pea River in Coffee County and crawled onto the land. Our son Joel and his friend Ronnie used to fish in a pond southeast of Opp and they would always see alligators but to my knowledge they never tried to hook one of them.

But on to my ‘cat tale’, that is my encounters with cougars that roam the swamps and woods of south Alabama. I was speaking in a gospel meeting at the church in Samson and we had an evening meal with a family that lived on the highway that led to Florala. When we left the house our oldest sons wanted to see the community of Hacoda. I told them that it was very small but they wanted to see where it was so I drove to the crossroads. While driving back we saw an animal crossing the road and I thought first of all that it was a bobcat but I noticed that it had a long tail. When we got to where the animal had crossed the road I stopped the car and the boys and I got out of the car and looked in the pasture and sure enough there stood that cat looking at us. It was then that I realized we were looking at a cougar. Needless to say, we got into the car and in a hurry. That ole boy whished its tail and turned and slowly walked away. I learned later that several residents of that rural area had heard the creature scream, especially in late afternoon and evening.

I was hunting in Crenshaw County years later west of the small town of Brantley and along side Double Branch. I arrived mid-afternoon and with rifle in hand I entered some pines on my way to an area where I had seen deer signs. I had not gone far before I saw an animal sitting at the base of a tree. I raised my rifle to look at it through my scope and I as did the cat got up and ran away. It was a cougar that resided in a swamp alongside Double Creek. The Brownlee family members informed me that they often heard the cougar screaming during the evening of the day and at night.

I received permission to hunt on some private land that was much closer to the town of Brantley and even closer to highway 331. My neighbor who lived behind us in Opp told me that a cougar stayed down in a bottom near a beautiful stream of water and that his father had heard the cat scream many times. After I had hunted down the ridge for the greater part of that afternoon I walked up to a small corn field and sat down near it hoping that a buck would come looking for his evening meal. While I sat there and wishing, that cat let out a scream that almost made my hair (at that time the word was plural) stand on end. There I was, a grown man with a Browning BAR 308 caliber rifle in my hands but I truly felt uncomfortable. Although I knew factually that the animal had no interest in me it was soon that I forgot about deer and got up and went home.
HUNTERS READ THIS SIGN: You may walk across my pasture free but the bull charges!

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn’t seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services.

He gasps: “My friend is dead! What can I do?”

The operator says: “Calm down, sir, I can help. First, let’s make sure that he’s dead.”

There is a silence, and then a gunshot is heard.

Back on the phone, the guy says: “Okay, now what?”

29 October 2009

It was my good fortune to be able to hunt on some 450 acres of prime hunting ground owned by my good friend Warren Burt. His land lays on a ridge several miles north of Prattville and just off U.S. Highway 82. When you turn west off of 82 you go up on a ridge and his property was right on top of one of the highest points in Autauga County , Alabama . Most of the land in the middle of his property is used for pasture for his livestock. Near the south end of his property you can look as far as your eyes can see across the Alabama River and into Lowndes County . On either side of the pastures are hardwood hollows that are ideal for hunting turkey and deer. Often during those years I was the only one hunting his land on certain mornings in the early part of the week. There came a time when he began to lease his land for hunting and I chose not to be involved for financial reasons, however, that did not affect our relationship to any degree. During the off season I will go out just to walk around and enjoy the quietness and serenity of this beautiful acreage and to visit with my good friend. On occasions I will carry my camera to take pictures of the trees and wild life.

Well, one day I was driving in my truck through the pasture where Warren had hauled hay in his trailer for his cows to eat. Much to my surprise I saw one cow that was really eager to get ahead of the herd. I thought she was ‘making a hog’ of herself when she decided to get up in the trailer to feast on that delicious hay. I considered her to be rather ‘uppity’ about the whole matter. Those beef cattle reminded me of dairy cows and that reminds me of the morning when I was milking a cow and a tornado came along and blew that cow away and left me ‘holding the bag.’ On another occasion when I was milking a cow a fly flew into its ear and not long after, the fly wound up in the milk bucket. But you have heard that old saying, ‘In one ear and out the udder.’ I am reminded also of a good friend who told me after listening to one of my corny jokes that he was going to do me a favor and not repeat it. That sounds like good advice.A SECOND CHANCE
In the fall of 2000 my friend, Warren, informed me that he had extended his fence down in one hollow and that one morning when he was riding his four wheeler to work he jumped a big buck that came out of a kudzu patch. I asked him to show me where the buck had been bedded down and in which direction he ran. Well you can rest assured that I began to hunt in that hollow. I found where this old boy had worked over a rather large tree with its antlers and I could tell that this fellow was something worth hunting. I found an old ladder stand that had been attached to a tree for several years and I sat in it and I had a panoramic view of the beautiful hollow below me. One afternoon as I was walking toward the stand I jumped the big buck and though I did not see him I will guarantee you that I heard him running. He sounded more like a horse than a deer. For several days I sat in the old stand until late afternoon and then I would move up the ridge and down a dirt road that led to an open field and then I would sit myself in a ladder stand some 14 feet up the side an oak tree. I thought to myself if that deer follows his trail he will come out about seventy yards from where I was sitting. There was a small road where I thought he might exit the woods and that would give me a clear shot at him. Well I sat there waiting and from time to time I would look through my scope to make sure that I could see the crosshairs. I kept hearing some sounds to my right and up the rise in the field so I would watch in that direction for possibly a deer coming my way. As the sun was setting and darkness was slowly but surely falling, I heard that big boy walking. I looked and could faintly see his antlers so then I raised my rifle and looked through the scope and, would you believe it, I couldn’t see the crosshairs. That big buck had been spared another day to live.

In the month of May of the following year 2001, my Cardiologist found a major artery across my heart that was 95 percent blocked so he inserted a stent which I still have with me today. I had some other health problems plus the fact that I lost about 30 pounds too rapidly. The following deer season I was not anxious to be in the woods alone so I did not go hunting during the rest of 2001; however, by January 15, 2002, I was crawling up the walls and just had to get out in the woods with my rifle. I called Warren and he said the fellows had just about quit hunting that late in January so he said for me to come on up that day. I asked Warren if any deer had been killed in the area where the big buck had been traveling and he replied in the negative. That afternoon I went to the same old ladder stand and sat there until late afternoon and then moved slowly back up the ridge and walked down to the ladder stand by the old oak tree and sat there hoping that I would soon see some action. Would you believe that at 5:25 p.m., that big buck walked straight out of the woods some 70 yards from me? He stared my way for the longest and I would not move a muscle until he moved and turned sideways to me. It was then that I fired my Browning 308 caliber rifle and sent a 150 grain bullet a-headed his way. It knocked him down but he ‘crawled’ into the woods so I could no longer see him but I knew he was dead, he just did not know it. I asked myself, what were the chances of my seeing that buck the first and only day I had gone hunting that season? Darkness came and I took my flashlight out, crossed the field and entered the woods and found him very soon because he had not gone far. I called Warren and told him I had killed a deer and here he came on his four wheeler and I showed him the deer and he said immediately, “You’ve killed their big deer” (talking about the men who paid money to hunt on his land). I replied, “Warren, this is my deer. I hunted this boy last year and did not get him.” I honestly believe this was the same deer I failed to kill the year before and now I had shot him within about 10 yards of where I saw him briefly last hunting season. This was a very big bodied deer but I was disappointed in the size of his antlers. It was only a 7-pointer with the end of one tine broken off on the right side. Besides that, it was a weird looking set of antlers. I told my friend that he should feed his deer with the right minerals so the bucks would grow antlers with 10 or 15 points with a 20 inch spread. But I am very happy that this big buck gave me a second chance to shoot at him.

23 October 2009

Hunter's Stand #1

PERSONAL NOTE: The following article is one that I wrote while living in Opp , Alabama during the 1970s. Our oldest son, Tim, who was a senior in high school, was asked by the editor of the Opp News to be the editor of the sports section of the weekly paper. I thought I would help him to fill his section by writing hunting stories under an anonymous name. In south Alabama most deer hunters used dogs during those years but there were a few die hard still hunters who enjoyed the sport.
~ ~ ~ ~
Hunter's Stand #1
Deer Hunting ~ The First Day
By A. Nimrod
You know that the time is drawing near. There are definite signs. Some men become very impatient. Daily they stare at the calendar and count off the days, wishing for time to fly by just bit swifter. They take endless walks in the woods looking for a rub, a scrape, tracks or some kind of evidence that the deer are still around and waiting to be shot at come November. Many a man will spend his money, his wife’s money and what he can borrow from the bank to purchase a truck. No, not an old dull-looking thing but a brand new pick-up with a bright two-tone paint job, fancy hubcaps, am and fm radio and even air-conditioned (after all it does get hot riding those dusty roads a-looking for your dogs.). Of course, the wife will drive the worn out family car to carry the children to school and to drive to work. But, you know, first things must come first. The wife understands that the husband’s ego is more important than her having a nice new car. Now you just think about it. If the deer hunting husband can drive a brand new truck, with a CB radio antenna a-bending in the breeze as he goes driving through town, you know that she will be mighty proud of her husband. Why, he has the envy of all those other fellows – especially the bow hunter and the lonely still hunter. Because, you see, they will stay up night wondering how that lucky fellow can drive a new truck and at the same time not work during the long deer season that runs from November till January. And, you stop and ponder over that thing, and it is a wonder.

Then, there is the introvert deer-slayer who had rather be off by himself, up a tree with his rifle, a-freezing to death than to enjoy the deer tales and lies of dozens of shotgun wielding deer hunters, along with the yelping of hundreds of hounds a-hankering to go jump up a fawn or two. This unusual nut will spend endless hours a-gazing at tracks and all the other signs and planning his maneuvers. He is most confident that he will kill a 20-point deer the very first morning. He will even boast to his buddies of the findings that he has made. Now, you just try to get him to explain where he saw such signs and he will come back with a smart-alec answer like, “between here and the Florida line.”

But this type of hunter will spend his money, his wife’s money and all that he can get from other sources to purchase a precious 30-06 caliber rifle (he thinks that a moose might come walking around). He has out-grown his lowly 30-30. Anyway, it’s not automatic. You need a least 7 shots that can be fired in less than 2 seconds because you never know how big and how fast that crazy buck will be. He will even carry extra rounds of ammunition in his pocket just in case he sees more deer than he can handle in one morning. Not only is a rifle important but also in order to be modern and scientific, he has either purchased or made him a tree stand. Just ask him about this jewel. I really don’t see how the Indians ever killed a deer without one of the mechanical devices. Why he can go up to 100 feet in the air and see into the next county if the Pine tree is tall enough. (Wives, just a note here.) If you are planning to divorce your deer hunting, no account husband, don’t do it. Just buy him a tree stand and he will eventually fall out of a lonesome Pine, break his neck and then you can collect the insurance, which will be more respectable.

But, here it is the night before the morning. If you think that the kids have problems on December 24th a-waiting for Santa, you should live the life of a deer hunter. He’s still got a lot of kid in him. He can’t sleep. He knows that he has got to get up early the next morning but he can’t sleep. Instead of counting sheep, as a normal and sane person would do, he can’t see anything but a herd of deer – all bucks. He goes through his ritualistic, planned program of activities. His gun has been cleaned (he stares at it, loves it and sort of worships it). He has bought 40 rounds of ammunition. Before he retires for the night, he will make sure that he has enough Vienna sausages to last for a couple of months, sardines (that should kill the human scent), pork an’ beans, drinks, etc. He never knows whether or not he might get lost and the food would come in handy for at least a month (which is consumed the first morning). He carefully piles his hunting garments in a stack near the back door. According to the unreliable weather reports, he will choose the clothing that he thinks he will need. After all, a fellow could freeze to death in Covington County (by mid-morning, he has pulled off everything except one pair of pants and his tee shirt).

Then, the ordeal begins. He knows that he must get to bed. Any other night, that would be just fine but not tonight. He knows, his wife knows, his children know that he won’t be able to sleep. He sets the alarm clock for some ungodly hour like 4:00 o’clock and the battle begins. He thinks of deer, he dreams of deer, he curses deer because he can’t sleep. He rolls and tumbles. He sweats. He listens for that crazy alarm clock. He thinks that it is time to get up. He turns the light on and looks at the clock – it is only 11:30. What a slow night of all nights. Every hour on the hour, he wakes up and looks hopefully at the clock but it is not time to get out of bed. But, finally, just before the clock sounds, he wakes up and pushes the stem in and rejoices that it is time to get out of bed.

With great hopes, he sets out today what he has prepared to do for a long time. But, this day he probably will not kill a deer nor will he the next day or the next. But, you can’t tell him that he won’t ever because he believes that eventually his time is coming. And, that is exactly what keeps him going and what drives his wife batty. Explain it, I can’t. You know why? Because I am a victim of this horrible disease. But, the difference between me and the rest of those insane deer hunters is the fact that I am going to kill a buck the first morning.

From the Opp News, October 1974

22 September 2009

Now, my brother Willard could take a leaf and blow on it and make it sound like a turkey hen yelping! He could also take the tubing from aerosol cans and put them together and suck on it and it surely would sound like a hen a-yelping. But I want to relate a true story about a fellow who fooled a gentleman on how to make a sound like a turkey yelping.
It happened in downtown Opp , Alabama way back in the '70's. A local UPS truck driver stopped at the Auto Parts Store and made a delivery. While there he took two STP cans, rubbed them together, and at the same time he yelped with his mouth. The proprietor of the Western Auto Store next door happened to be listening and was greatly impressed. Later a worker in this gentleman’s store looked and saw the owner rubbing two STP cans together to see if he could make the same sound that would imitate a turkey hen yelping. It didn’t. Shortly thereafter this incident made its round among friends and everyone enjoyed a good laugh at Mr. H’s expense.
I was directing a session at the Wiregrass Christian Camp in Chancellor, Alabama many years ago. During the morning chapel service I was making announcements and mentioned that after the evening hike we would enjoy eating watermelons that friends had brought. I mentioned that these watermelons were peculiar in that they had seeds only on one side. I continued talking and soon I saw one of my counselors raise his hand. Now I had hoped that one of the campers would fall for my joke but no, this preacher ~ who was in graduate school at a major university located in the eastern section of the state of Alabama ~ asked, “Brother Elliott, what about those watermelons with seeds on just one side?” Of course I had no recourse but to answer that the seed were only to be found on the inside of the melons.

Later, when the sun had set and we all gathered under the lights near the pavilion, the melons were cut and everyone was enjoying cold watermelons. I had eaten my slice down to the rind and had broken the slice into two pieces and, to have some fun, I began rubbing the outside of the rinds together and in the shadows, where no one could see very well, I began to yelp while rubbing the rinds together. The kids began to laugh and thought I was pretty good at making the sound of a hen yelping. Everyone was enjoying the melons and having fun. About 10 minutes later, this preacher friend and graduate student appeared with two pieces of watermelon rinds in his hands and said to me, “Brother Elliott, show me how you made that sound.” I said to myself, "You are in trouble". (You see this fellow was much bigger than me and a dear friend but I could just see him choking me for fooling him once more.) Well, anyway, I said, "Jimmy, be sure to place the rinds together with some of the lines touching one another and then begin rubbing". He did and I yelped. It was then with lightning speed I wrapped my arms around his waist and arms and quickly said, “Jimmy, I hope you love me.”
These two football players from the Pleasant Home University (I am going to be very careful here and be politically correct so my life will not be in danger ~ you may choose the names of the universities of your choice in telling this joke) went deer hunting and got into their tree stands early one morning. It wasn’t long until along came a couple of football players from Hacoda College. They quietly spoke to one another and the HC football players went deeper into the forest. About 30 minutes later the PHU football players heard a shot back in the woods. Soon they saw the HC ball players dragging a 10 point buck that weighed nearly 200 pounds! The players from the PHU bragged on their kill and made a suggestion to the HC players that it would be easier on them if they would drag the deer by the antlers instead of its hind legs. The HC players thought they would follow that advice. Some 30 minutes later one of the HC players said to the other one, “You know it is easier to drag this deer by the antlers!” The other player replied, “It sure is, but we are getting further from the truck!”

'nuff said.

10 September 2009

Fire at Will

In 1970 my family and I were living in the city of Greenville , Alabama and I was working with the Walnut Street congregation. I became good friends with Max Autrey and asked if I could hunt squirrels on the family plantation that was located in the Butler-Lowndes County area, and that contained some 3,500 acres. The area consisted of beautiful ridges and fertile valleys with a couple of streams of water. It reminded me so much of where I grew up in northwest Georgia except the ridges were not as tall. When I began hunting squirrels I noticed that there were turkey and deer tracks everywhere and I had never hunted either one. So I laid down my father’s old Excel single shot 16 gauge shotgun and bought me a Winchester 12 gauge shotgun. To say that I was a novice would be an understatement of the fact. But I did see the wild game. Some turkeys were black and others were bronze. I saw two varieties of quail and even small herds of deer. I finally killed a wild turkey one morning during the fall season and that lit a flame in my heart. The area at that time was a virtual game preserve. I was in ‘hog heaven’. I would leave before daylight and spend the entire day hunting. The only noise I heard besides the sounds of nature was an airplane that would occasionally pass over the area. I remember that one morning while I sitting at the base of a tree that a squirrel came down and barked at me like it was going to attack me. There were squirrels everywhere with hardwood trees in abundance.

My two oldest sons, Tim and Joel, really wanted me to take them hunting and so one Saturday morning I took them. It was a very cold frosty morning. We parked on a ridge, walked across the valley and crossed a stream of water and it was there on the side of a ridge, where I saw so many squirrels, that I instructed them to sit very still and listen very carefully for these pesky rodents. In the distance and across a beautiful green field that was now white with frost I heard loud noises being made by turkeys. I told the boys that I was going to walk around the bottom of the ridge and try to find out what all the noise was about. I also told them if they had a shot at a squirrel to go ahead and shoot. While I wanted them to have a successful hunt I did not know at that time the full consequences of my instructions to them and how it would affect my hunting. So I left them and began walking slowing around the beautiful frost covered field when in my peripheral vision I caught movement and I thought it was perhaps large birds flying across that field. It was then that I looked and what I saw startled me. It was a large herd of deer running and what a beautiful sight that was to behold. I could not begin to tell how many antlers I saw. It was like a dream come true. I had never seen such a sight before in my life. My heart was racing and the adrenalin was flowing freely. Will they come near enough for me to get a shot? Which one will I shoot? These thoughts flooded my mind. But in an instant, the answer came. It was then that my oldest son shot twice and my dream came to an abrupt end. That herd of deer turned on the afterburners and I saw them no more. Soon after, the boys came and in their hands were two dead squirrels. They said, “Look what we killed.” What could I do but brag on their accomplishment. I did say to them, “you should have seen what I saw”. Of course I had to take a picture of the boys with their very dead squirrels to give credence to their story telling about how on a frosty morn they became great hunters.

29 July 2009

Hunting Humor & Tales

I do have a couple of fish stories that I need to write about in this series. When the boys were at home I used to go fishing with them and enjoyed it very much. However, I haven’t been fishing in years. But there is one fishing trip I now mention because I have never forgotten the experience. The family and I had gone up to visit my parents in Summerville, Georgia. It was before my father died in 1970. We were living in Greenville, Alabama at the time. My brother Willard was the game warden in the northwest corner of Georgia. He loved to fish. So Dad, Willard and I drove down to Cedar Bluff, Alabama which was only about 25 miles from Summerville. We were near Lake Weis but were fishing in back waters off the Coosa River. It was getting late in the afternoon and I had cast a long way from the boat. I was using a reel and rod that my brother had loaned me. Eventually I began to reel in my plug but not very far because I felt the tightness on the line. My brother quietly said, “You’ve hung up on a log.” I kept on trying to reel it in when all of a sudden this large Bass came flying out of the water and I shouted “I’ve caught a fish!” That Bass was pulling like a grown man. I got him closer when here he came again a’flying out of the water. I could readily see he was one big fish. I finally got him up to the boat when all of a sudden he swam around the other side of the boat and 'pop' went the line. This time my brother quietly said, “That line was rotten.” First of all I didn’t have the experience to reel in a fish that big but what really hurt was learning that the line was “rotten”. I could have died. You talk about feeling low, discouraged and down in the dumps, I experienced all those feelings. I couldn’t sleep that night for seeing that big Bass that got away. But there is one that didn’t get away.
Our second son, Joel, is what you call a ‘natural’. The first Christmas that we gave him a Zebco reel and rod he went fishing with his buddy and he catches a nice bass. When he was 14 he was visiting with his grandmother and aunt near Wildwood, Florida. My wife’s uncle Gilbert had mining done on his land for lime rock when the workers hit springs of water. The gaping hole filled up with water and was stocked with bream and bass. The boys and I would go fishing in the pond (that was no telling how deep) and we would usually catch blue gill, bass and bream, and have enough for a nice meal for the family. But this time he was fishing with a great aunt and he had to walk down into the gravel pit to get to edge of the pond. He says that he had a purple worm on the line and had cast it way out and let it sink down deep. All of a sudden something hit that worm and the work began. The ‘old’ pro knew how to deal with that big boy and he got him to the bank, grabbed that large mouth bass and hightailed to the car. He wrapped it in his army jacket and sat in the back seat and closed the door. He didn’t want that trophy to get back into the water. When they got back to the house his grandmother Slaughter asked, “Joel, did you catch any fish?” and it was then that he laid that jacket down on the coffee table and opened it up for her to see. The bass weighed between 10 and 11 pounds. His aunts had that fish mounted for him and it has hung in our home since 1972. That experience nearly ruined the boy because he had hit the top rung of the ladder and he expected to catch a big one every time he went fishing. He quit fishing for several years but in recent time he has become addicted to this hobby once again. But now he releases his catch regardless of the size.
He has a kayak now and goes fishing all over the state of North Carolina where he lives. He is always sending pictures home so all of us can see that he still is a professional in the art of catching fish. (Say, did I ever tell you about the two Eskimos who were fishing in their kayak when the winter storm turned horribly cold and the water froze causing them to be stranded a long way from land. One of them lit a match and set the kayak a fire in order to keep from freezing. However things got worse than ever because the wooden kayak burnt up. The moral of this story is, ‘You can’t heat your kayak and have it too.’)

04 July 2009

During the deer hunting season of 2006-07 I harvested four bucks and one doe. That was not a bad season for an old preacher. I hunted mainly on land belonging to my good friend Bubba Taylor down in the Sardis Community just south of Highland Home in Crenshaw County , Alabama . This here is a tale I like to share with everyone who knows that I am rather addicted to this sport of looking for the elusive Whitetail deer. Well, it goes like this. Me and Bubba were walking across an open field when a buck jumped up from where he was bedded down about 50 yards from us. Since we both had our rifles in our hands we both aimed at the creature and fired about the same time. I want you to know that buck fell dead in its tracks. We walked up to where the deer was laying and we saw that it was a ten point buck and it looked like it would easily weigh at least 180 to 200 pounds. I just knew that I had hit the deer and I really wanted this trophy but I couldn’t say much because I was hunting on Bubba’s property. Well about that time a game warden came walking up and wanted to check our licenses. I informed him quickly that I did not have a license but he could tell by my appearance that I was so old that I didn’t need one and since I was hunting with the land owner I did not even have to have a written permission. (You see, there are some advantages about being ancient.) He said he also heard us shooting and wondered if we had killed anything. It was then that we told him our situation about our shooting at the buck at the same time and that we did not know who killed the deer since we both claimed to have hit the buck. Well he walked over to that poor dead deer and stared at it for a long time, even examining it. He then walked over to us and said “one of you is a preacher.” I asked, “How did you know?” He said, “The bullet from a preacher’s rifle killed the deer.” Now that startled me and I inquired, “Sir, how in the world do you know that?” To my surprise he answered, “Because the bullet from a preacher’s rifle that killed that buck WENT IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER!!”
My good friend RD from Carbon Hill and I went down to hunt deer on some property owned by a nice gentleman who had land just east of the small community of Grady, Alabama. The man informed us in no uncertain terms that he wanted us to kill only does unless it was a large antlered buck. I had sat in this nice shooting house previously and I had harvested a very nice doe so I thought I would permit my friend to have this location from whence he would see some deer eating over the green field. I went in the opposite direction and sat in a tree stand in a wooded area where most likely I would not see any wildlife except for squirrels ~ but eating a bushy tail rodent is not my idea of a delicious meal. Well, anyway it was getting late and the sun was beginning to sink low in the western skies when all of a sudden I heard the blast from my friend’s 270 caliber rifle and I knew old RD had bagged him a nice doe or a record sized buck. I got down from my tree stand and began walking toward the farm house and the green field where my friend was undoubtedly rejoicing with his marksmanship and kill. It was then that I heard a tractor heading my way. Our generous farmer friend thought that I had shot a deer and he was coming to drag my kill with his tractor. I got to thinking about that and I suppose he thought I had killed a buck that perhaps weighed around 200 to 300 pounds. I informed him quickly that it was not I who shot but my friend in the shooting house.

About that time we heard him shoot a second time. I suggested that we wait at the gate instead of going toward the green field. It was then that we heard a third shot. I thought to myself that old RD had wounded a deer and had to track him down to finish the trophy size deer down and finish him off. My, I thought it must be a humongous size buck to take three rounds from his 270 caliber to finish the monster off. It was then that I saw my friend come over the rise of a small hill dragging the deer behind him so the farmer and I started toward him to assist him because we did not want my friend to suffer a strained back or a pulled muscle. I got to him first and I saw what he had killed. It was a very small doe. RD looked at me and with a sad countenance on his face he told me that the deer looked larger at 100 yards and that he shot it and then had to find it and shoot at it again and finally finished the job with another round from his rifle. When the owner saw how small the deer was he said with a loud voice, “Why you have killed Bambi.” Well at least it was a doe. Now do you suppose that I have let my good friend RD forget those words spoken by the owner of the property. No way! Oh, we didn’t have to use the tractor to drag the poor thing out of the green field. It would have almost fit into a game bag.

10 June 2009

Stalking a Tom Turkey Indian Style

I was making music on the ole Lynch Box that should have brought every gobbler within a few yards from where I was sitting early that Monday morning many years ago. I was on Roscoe Massey’s place near the Mount Ida Methodist Church in Crenshaw County, where I had seen several turkeys and had harvested a few of them. But this old bird that kept on answering my yelps and purrs was as stubborn as the day is long. He wouldn’t come cross a fence and he stayed hidden from me because of the underbrush. So I let him be and finally got up and left for home having to eat crow rather than killing a Tom turkey.

A week later an IRS agent would have found me in the same location using every call I knew on the ole box. In the distance I could hear that old bird coming off the roost along with some hens. I just knew it would be the morning when the Tom would come looking for one of his girl friends but no, he just kept gobbling and not taking one step toward me. I started to say that I was mad as a wet hen but you don’t want to be one when it is spring turkey season when the gobblers are on the prowl.
“Well”, I said to myself, “If you don’t want to come to me I will go to you.” I was determined to get this fellow before I left for home. So I crossed the fence and began to slowly take one step at a time. That dab of Cherokee blood was only a drip but I was sneaking so quietly that would have made an Indian Chief proud of me. I even considered becoming an Army Ranger. I was so close that I could hear that gobbler a-drumming and a- gobbling.
Slowly, I got closer and closer to that Tom and all of a sudden I saw a couple of hens nearby and I knew then why he had not paid any attention to my amateurish yelping. At a distance, yet within gunshot range I could see the old boy and he was really putting on a show. The problem was he was only going from point A to point B and then back to point A. I knew also if one of those hens saw my movement that would be it. I thought I was only going to enjoy the floor show amongst the beautiful hardwood trees and nothing more. But having an eagle eye I saw an opening through which that bird was strutting over and over and I thought to myself that is the only chance I have to shoot at him. I kept one eye on the turkey hens and the other one on the movement of Mr. Tom and I raised my shotgun ever so slowly and pointed it toward that opening in the underbrush. It seemed to me that it took me 30 minutes to shoulder that gun and point toward that opening but eventually I did and when that old Tom turkey came strutting by I let him have with a load of number magnum 4s from my Remington 12 gauge.

While the gobbler was not the largest one that I have killed it was a nice size one. It weighed 18 pounds and had a 10 inch beard. I thought it was time that I had a gobbler mounted so I could look at it every day and remind me how those yesteryears were, a wonderful time for a preacher that had one major addiction and that was hunting for wild turkeys. Say, would you like to look at the bird? He is still trying to fly and get away from me but without success.

28 May 2009

While hunting on the tobacco plantation near Quincy , Florida back in the 1970s, I was privileged to see a variety of animal and fowl life and observe some interesting sights. It was also the first time I had ever heard the sound of a 22-250 caliber rifle being fired. I knew there were other hunters in the area around the 80 acres of rye but I did not know exactly how close they were to me. I was sitting up a Black Gum tree about 15 feet off the ground in the afternoon when all of a sudden I heard the strangest sound for a rifle I had ever heard. Later in the evening I met the young man who had shot an eight point minus four points buck. Do you wonder how that could be? Well he saw only one side of the deer’s head and had failed to notice that only half of the antlers were on the deer. I asked him what in the world was the caliber of rifle he was shooting and he told me. Now the reason why this here 22-250 caliber sounded like it did was because the bullet left the barrel over 3000 feet per second. Boy, that is what you call traveling!

While I was up a tree around this rye field I had a drove of turkeys come under me and I watched them for the longest. I also saw twin fawns take milk from their mother. One of the strangest sights I saw was a couple of mature does eating that green stuff for a long time and then they began to ‘horse around’. When they got their stomach full they both stood up on their hind legs and began hitting their front hoofs against the other deer’s front hoofs. That was a sight to behold. I almost started to sing “Patty Cake, Patty Cake, baker’s man…but I thought better of it if I wanted to harvest a deer. But I was tempted.

It was back in the 1970s when I began to hunt wild turkeys. I did not have any place to hunt except public land so I found myself going from Opp over to the Blue Springs Management Area several miles south of Andalusia . I had done some scouting and I had found me a secluded area where there were plenty of turkey signs. I felt real good thinking that I had an ideal place all by myself. Wrong! When daylight came shotguns went off in every direction around me. The one habit I developed while hunting on the management areas was ducking my head. A habit I kept for many years after leaving the public areas and hunting on private property. I hung around for the longest hoping that maybe one crazed gobbler might come my way after being targeted by a dozen other hunters but none showed up.

Finally I went stomping through the forest with a sad countenance on my face. Eventually I came to a chufee (that southern for chufa) patch and there I sat me down on a log and began to use my old Lynch Box to yelp, purr, cluck and even to gobble. In other words I had completely given up on killing a gobbler that spring morning. I continued this music making for several minutes and all of a sudden and much to my surprise, a man popped up out of a hole several yards to my left, and with a shotgun in his hand, he said loudly, “SHHHHHH!” Then just as quickly he disappeared into his hole and I sat there dumbfounded. He had been there all the time awaiting for turkeys to come and feed on them their chufee and I had done messed up everything. I said loud enough for him to hear, ‘Well, you can have it ‘cause I’m leaving’ and I went walking off disgusted because he had interrupted my symphony and serenade to all the turkeys in the Blue Springs Management Area. But that was the first and last time that I ever seen a grown turkey hunter popping up in the likes of a ‘Jack in the Box’.

Question: What’s the difference between a hunter and a fisherman?
Answer: A hunter lies in wait while a fisherman waits and lies.

27 April 2009

It was a cold wintry day when I decided to go deer hunting northwest of the town of Brantley , Alabama , a trip of only about 25 miles from my home in Opp. I did not leave the house until early afternoon. This was my first time to hunt on this particular plot of land. I parked my car not from the person’s house and began to walk slowly down the hill to a creek that flowed through the property. There were plenty of hardwood trees in the area where I was hunting which made the scenery very beautiful. There is something special about the leaves from the trees being on the floor of the forest during the winter months that causes a melancholy feeling to enter one’s mind but there is a certain beautiful about it also.

I was busy looking for deer tracks (they make wonderful soup in case you don’t kill a deer) when all of a sudden there was a strange sound I was hearing like something falling. All of a sudden I noticed that there was an overcast sky and I was surprised because I had not heard anything about rain being in the forecast. Then there it was – snow falling right in front of my eyes. I couldn’t believe it. But it began to fall hard and fast and I was enjoying every minute of it. I stood very still for a lengthy period of time looking for deer, then remembered a peanut field some distance from where I was and decided to walk in that direction to see if I could locate some deer. Before I got too close to the field, which was surrounded by woods, I got down on all fours and crawled quite a way to the edge of the field. What I saw in the snow was indeed a beautiful sight.

There were maybe a dozen wild turkeys feeding, and seemingly enjoying the white stuff that was falling. The turkeys looked so black in the snow. Several gobblers had beards that looked a foot long. Some of the turkeys were flapping their wings. I looked at them for awhile through my rifle scope and wished I could have taken a picture of something rarely seen in south Alabama ~ that being snow, with turkeys to boot.

I looked to my right and down at the other end of the field stood three or four deer but because of the snow I couldn’t make out whether there were any bucks in the small herd. I tried to slip down their way but they caught my movement and slipped away. I sat beside the field until late in the afternoon. The snow was beginning to accumulate on the fallen leaves and trees and I thought I had better leave and go home before it really made it hazardous to drive on the highway. I got back to my car and had to get the snow off the windshield so I could see to drive. I drove as fast as weather would permit back to Brantley and then headed south on U.S. 331 toward the great city of Opp.

Something strange began to occur. The snow stopped falling and the further I drove the less snow I saw, until I got to the point that there was no evidence whatsoever that snow had fallen anywhere in Crenshaw or Covington Counties . When I arrived home and told my beloved wife and children what I had seen and as to why I had gotten home early from deer hunting, there was look of amazement and unbelief in their eyes. I am still pondering the meaning of such expressions that my own family members were saying, like “He has only one oar in the water”; “He is one brick short of a load”; “His elevator doesn’t reach the top floor”; “His front porch light is out” and other such expressions. They even made an appointment for me with a dermatologist to see if my dandruff had gotten worse.

Epitaph On a Grave Marker: “Beneath this grassy mound now rest one Joseph Randolph Greer – who to another hunter looked exactly like a deer!”

Upon reading the previous epitaph, which I found in the Sunday morning comic strip Gasoline Alley, I thought about a friend of mine who worked as a detective in Covington County and lived in Opp. As I recall, his last name was Smith. This gentleman was not always a gentle giant. I suppose he must have weighed nearly 300 pounds. He related to me an incident that occurred while hunting deer in the Barber County management area. He said that he was standing on the side of a ridge and looking down in the deep hollow when all of a sudden a bullet came crashing into a tree next to him. He looked across the hollow and there stood a man with a rifle in his hands. Now, mind you, as required, my friend was wearing a blaze orange vest and it must have been an extra large size one to have fit over his humongous chest. My friend walked down the side of the hollow and then up the other side and he came face to face with the man holding the rifle. (Why the man did not run like blazes is a mystery to me!) Without a word, this giant took a 30-06 rifle from the shooter and wrapped it around a tree and then gave it back to the man and said, “Now you better leave” and leave he did!

Now my friend did not favor a whitetail deer in the least; maybe a buffalo but not a smaller deer. As to why a hunter (?) would mistake a human as a deer when the man was in clear view I cannot understand. I have often pondered what I would have done if I had seen this burly looking fellow who was perhaps foaming out his mouth coming toward me after I had shot at him. My friend, Superman would have appeared to be flying slowly when I passed him in warp speed.

14 April 2009

The Squirrel Nest Restaurant
The rumor is that some poor lost starving deer hunter treed this place and found food and lodging, but I am not sure that this tale is really true. While spending a few days in the Guntersville, Alabama area and preaching nightly at the Grant congregation my wife and I were invited by good friends to have breakfast with them at The Squirrel Nest Restaurant. This ‘out of the way’ eating and lodging place is located about half way between Guntersville and Scottsboro just off of highway 79 which runs along side the beautiful Tennessee River . You take a left off of the main highway when heading north and began to ascend Gunters Mountain . When you are about one-third up the mountain you come to this sign: THE SQUIRREL NEST RESTAURANT. It is then that you turn sharply to the right.All you can see momentarily is the hood of your car and you begin to wonder what is below and ahead of you. Of course you hope that there is road in front of your vehicle. My wife who is from the flat country of central Florida was about to stand up while we were sitting in the back seat of our friend’s automobile so she could prayerfully see a road. The descent was rather steep and then you made a sharp turn to the right and there you were in the parking area of the restaurant. This establishment is well hidden like unto the moonshine stills that one might find in the mountains of north Georgia where I was reared. But it is amazing that so many ‘townies’ invade this mountainous area seeking some delicious vittles.
That Tuesday morning, Martin and Tootie Anderson, Jack and Olivia Andrews, along with my lovely wife Virginia, we sat down to a breakfast that was fit for a king. I purposely mention a king because I don’t believe a delicate queen could have eaten this mountain size breakfast. I ordered the breakfast platter that consisted of tenderloin, eggs, gravy, biscuit and jelly. The coffee was hot and the fellowship was wonderful. The d├ęcor was fitting for the location of the building that was built on the side of the mountain and surrounded by beautiful and tall hardwood trees. I could almost hear a tom turkey gobbling and a-drumming. This was my first time to eat in a squirrel nest but you can bet the next time that I am in that neck of the woods I will make my way upside Gunters Mountain looking for a breakfast that will make you feel glad that you are alive. I gave up squirrel hunting over 35 years ago when I became addicted to deer and turkey hunting but this is one squirrel nest that I will go looking for and I will even pay to eat there.

02 April 2009

It was back in the 1970s that I was in a gospel meeting with the church in Quincy , Florida when I met a gentleman by the name of Denny who was the overseer of The Hav-A-Tampa Tobacco Plantation that consisted of some 1300 acres. Only 80 acres were used for raising tobacco but at a cost of about $4, 000 per acre to prepare and plant the crop. This acreage was surrounded by woods that were just beautiful without any under brush. Denny told me that he would take me out about three o’clock one afternoon to see the deer that would come out of the woods and into the rye that was planted on the 80 acres in the off season. I couldn’t believe the number of deer that came out to feast on the lush green rye. I began holding my right hand over my heart and acting like Red Fox and saying that I was about to have a big one upon seeing so many deer. I told him that there were too many deer and that they would get a disease and die and many other stories to try to get him to invite me to hunt on this Promised Land loaded with deer and turkey. Denny said that he would call me when the Florida deer hunting season opened in the fall and invite me to come down to hunt. To say that I was delighted and excited would be an understatement.

Of course I obtained a copy of the Florida hunting schedule and when deer season came in I expected to hear from my new friend Denny. But I did not hear a word from him so I wrote him a nice letter. The following is similar to the one I wrote:

Deer Denny, I do hope you and your deer family are well. My deer family is enjoying good health at the present time. It was so good to be with the deer brothers and sisters of the Quincy congregation. And it was a joy to make acquaintances with many others who have become deer friends of mine. It is good that my deer brothers here will permit me to be away from the local congregation. I do look forward to being with you and your deer family sometimes in the future. I wish for you a good day. Your deer friend, Raymond

It was not very long before I received a telephone call from Denny. When I answered, all I could hear was laughter. I asked him why he was laughing and he said that he had just received my letter. The reason he gave as to why I had not heard from him was that he had to have an emergency appendectomy. Needless to say, my good and deer friend asked me to come down and hunt on the land flowing with deer and turkey.
When I arrived at this deer infested plantation I found me a nice tree late in the afternoon and climbed up about 15 feet. Sometimes I do get a feeling like I might have monkeys somewhere back in my ancestry. But, anyway, there I sat and hearing deer a-walking in the woods behind me a-heading for the rye field. Does by the dozen came and began to feed. Then I heard a loud noise like a 200-pound deer breaking a limb. I knew that ole 7-point buck was on his way. So, the waiting game was really going by fast this time. Out came a small doe, then a nice spike and then here came the 7 point buck – within one hour of my arrival – and only 100 yards removed from the end of my trusty rifle. So I laid them crosshairs of my scope behind the shoulder of this big buck wearing my nametag and fired off a shot that should have bagged him. But all he did was to bolt and hightail it for the woods. I nearly lost my footing and plunged to the ground below in unbelief.

Why I had that rile sighted in for 150 yards. You could have shot the eye out of a gnat at that distance (well, maybe). That deer had been reserved for me and I had missed my chance of costing the wife some big money for a shoulder mount. Well I waited and while plenty of lady deer came around and snorted at me, not one other buck showed his antlers. Finally with about 30 minutes of daylight left I got down out of the tree and walked through the beautiful virgin timber (with no underbrush) to another field. And standing out there in the open about 100 yards away was a nice 6-point buck. This time I aimed high on the shoulder and hit the deer in the stomach. Then the most frustrating thing happened – my scope fell off with the recoil of the rifle. You talk about feeling unnecessary and all that – I did. I had my rifle in one hand and my scope in the other. Furthermore the deer had not fallen. Well I had this fancy scope mount that you can see your iron sights through but that was of no avail. I put the iron sight right on that deer and shot and he just stood there. I was about to faint. Finally the deer went wobbling down into the woods where he later expired. What had gone wrong?

I discovered later that my mistake (a stupid one) had caused the whole mess. About two weeks ago before I stood my rifle by the tree where I was getting my stand down and I let the heavy tree stand slip and it hit my rifle. I thought it just hit the forearm but I was wrong. The scope had an indenture on the front of it and had been knocked loose and out of commission and the front iron sight had been damaged. Well, I paid for this mistake in a terrible way. Have you ever field dressed a deer that has been gut shot? I mean to tell you there was green stuff everywhere and I don’t mean the kind that you get when you sell tobacco.

I remember seeing a cartoon in a newspaper that pictured a cave man arriving at his home dragging a dinosaur behind him. His wife came to the opening of the cave and looked at him and the dinosaur and said, “You killed it, you clean it”. This reminds me of a verse of scripture found in Proverbs 12:27: “The lazy man does not roast what he took in hunting. But diligence is man’s precious possession.”

10 March 2009

‘Keep Your Powder Dry' Or, It Is So Sad To See a Grown Man Cry
Now I have this here friend who is one of the best deer hunters and is one more marksman. He shoots skeet and has won several contests and probably a couple of million dollars, more or less, in shooting clay pigeons. He owns a 50 caliber black powder rifle that is an accurate shooting gun. Why, even I shot the thing at a target one hundred yards away and nearly hit in the center of the bulls eye. That surprised my friend and me. A few years ago he killed a buck 140 yards removed from where he was standing on an icy winter morning. He even borrowed a range finder from the company where his lovely wife works to find out the exact distance of that excellent shot that brought the deer down. He has killed his share of deer over many years and has the antlers and mounts to prove it. I just wanted to relate all these facts to you to let you know that I am not talking about a novice in this deer hunting story.

I don’t think it wise for me to tell you the name of my friend that I am talking about in this here tale; but, I will say that his sweet wife’s name is the same as the sister of Mary who is mentioned in the gospel of Luke, chapter 10. The company she works for really has a lot of power behind it.

Well, anyway, this friend of mine was in this here shooting house that was located amongst the pines and shooting lanes wherein there was all this green grass for deer to feast upon when here came a nice 8 point buck a-chasing a cute doe. They would run in and out of the pines a-frolicking and my hardy (strong, healthy, brave?) friend decided that he would just shoot that nice buck the next time he came running out in the open. He began to turn to look at the exact spot where he was going to shoot the poor thing when all of a sudden he saw what looked like an elk right here in Autauga County . Why my friend declares that buck was the largest deer he had ever seen in his life and he has seen a-plenty. He said that he could count at least 6 points on one side of the moose’s rack that protruded out for maybe 3 feet from its head. I am telling you this fellow don’t lie. Now he does get excited sometimes and has a tendency to embellish matters somewhat (I like that word embellish, don’t you?).

Just to show you what a compassionate man my friend is, he even permitted the deer to eat his last supper (do you sense a tinge of religion just here?). Why he would not shoot the creature until he raised his head up from eating the green grass of home (I feel a song coming on). He waited twice on that deer to eat its last morsel of grass. The way he tells it you will have tears swelling up in your eyes when you understand his compassion for God’s creatures. Well, he put the cross hairs right behind the humongous buck’s shoulder and squeezed (now this hunter does not pull) the trigger and smoke from his black powder gun blinded his vision.

When the smoke cleared all he saw was that twelve plus point buck a-high tailing it for the pines. My friend said the deer was standing only 50 yards away and that there was no way he could have missed that deer that close. He got down out of the shooting house and began to look for blood, hair or anything that might tell him he had shot that deer in the boiler room (that is an expression deer hunters use meaning the lung/heart area of the deer). But the more he looked and didn’t find any blood the sicker he got. I don’t remember but he said that he got his son-in-law and maybe the Autaugaville Rescue Squad to help him look for his lost deer but to no avail. Now how could this professional hunter who is a marksman miss a deer that maybe (now I say maybe) weighed between 200 – 400 pounds and standing still only fifty yards away? Now that is a mystery.

My friend later realized that when he fired his trusty gun that it did not kick him as hard as usual and that it did not sound as loud as it usually did in times past; so, here is his theory as to why he missed this trophy deer. He explained to me that he had loaded his black powder gun a year ago for deer season and had not fired it. He said that he had the gun in damp, wet weather last year and this year. His theory is that the powder in his gun had gotten wet and when he fired the gun and the powder being damp, the projectile left his gun at a slower speed and did not therefore have enough gitty up and go to reach its target. Now I buy that theory because my friend is as honest as the day is long (according to Daylight Central Standard Time). I just wish I could have been up a nearby tree and watched that ball roll out the end of the barrel and hit the ground about five feet from the shooting house.

When you see him now, he has a blank expression on his face and a stare in his eyes. All that he can see is that gigantic buck bouncing off into the woods. He doesn’t count sheep any more at night but all he sees are these unbelievable large deer jumping over a fence. The last time I talked to my friend he was still ‘sick as a dog’. Now all you nice people need to do as the good book says and that is, “to weep with those that weep.”

A Man For All Seasons
This story will make you proud that you live in our great state. You will also be able to recognize the quality of education our children are receiving in our schools. Why it will make you proud that our children recognize what is really important and that they are not being influenced by the liberal educators. It is said that a teacher of a third grade class in one of southwestern counties in this great state was giving a comprehensive test to her students. Question number eleven asked the students to list the four seasons of the year in order. Now here is the real kicker. Sixty-seven (67%) answered: 1. DOVE SEASON. 2. DEER SEASON. 3. DUCK SEASON. 4. TURKEY SEASON. Ain’t that just wonderful? It is enough to make grown men (especially us real men who are hunters) cry to know how smart these children are. It’s about time we got back to the real basics of education in our schools.

18 February 2009

Bear Creek Swamp Tales #4

The Sun Shining Through Angel Hair~
I didn’t particularly like hunting in the Swamp in late afternoon by myself but my love for hunting often found me up in a ladder stand when darkness fell in that lonely but lovely place. I never felt comfortable after dark walking back to my truck because I just did not know what I might encounter along the way. One afternoon while sitting about 14 feet up and looking west and enjoying the view of the Cypress trees in the Swamp, the sun rays were beaming through the Swamp and shinning through the Spanish Moss hanging from the trees and the scene looked like bright lights beaming through ‘angel hair’. It was one of the most beautiful pictures of nature that I had ever seen. In the quietness and stillness of the Swamp, the Creator of the universe was putting on a floorshow that could not be manufactured by man’s imagination. I thought to myself, where is a camera when you really need one.

Seeing Is Believing~
I must preface this tale by an experience I had several years ago when I first became addicted to turkey hunting. I was living in Greenville at the time. I was in a place of business when a young friend and son of the owner of the store said to me that he could take me to a place where he would guarantee me that I could kill a gobbler if I would pay him five dollars. In my eagerness and ignorance I quickly agreed to his proposal. I then asked him where the place was that I would be certain of killing a gobbler. With a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips he replied, “Bates Turkey Farm.” Yeah, me killing a turkey that was as white as snow. No way.

It was in the fall of the year during deer season when I was hunting in the Swamp and slowing walking up the hill when I heard noise in the hollow to my right. I moved to the side of the road and stood very still. I thought that I might be hearing a buck walking but the noise was too great for one creature to make. I stood still in my camouflage attire and waited patiently as the noise became louder then suddenly I caught movement and lo and behold it was a drove of wild turkeys feeding toward me. That was not unusually to encounter wild turkeys while deer hunting but what I saw was. In a drove of about twelve turkeys, three of them were white. I had heard of albino turkeys being in the area but I had never seen them before now. I had seen black turkeys and I had seen bronze turkeys but never white wild turkeys. And had it been spring turkey season there would have been no way that I would have shot one of those white ones because my friends would have accused me of shooting one of Bates’ tame turkeys.

A ‘Southern Living' Style Dove Shoot~
Now I have shot doves over corn fields, cotton fields and peanut fields, especially while living in southeast Alabama . In fact I had taken my three sons and some friends to shoot doves over a peanut field that was owned by a friend, Mr. Davis. Another group of young men had also obtained permission to shoot doves at the same field. One unwritten but plainly understood law while dove shooting is that you do not shoot at a low flying bird. But on this occasion, the son of our local game warden shot at one that was flying between his group and mine. I saw what he was about to do and I shouted at him but it was too late. Two of the number 8 shots hit me in my left hand as I was shielding my face.

But such never happened at the annual dove shoot near Bear Creek Swamp when James Pearson would invite about 40 shooters to participate in it. My good friend David secured me an invitation to this shoot. We first met at the beautiful home of James and Sybil just north of Autaugaville and James would give us instructions and then the caravan would drive to his property where Bear Creek empties into the Alabama River . The Brown Top Millet field had been bushed hogged and all the shooters would surround it and then we would all wait for the doves to fly over. Sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t. But usually most everyone got shots at the sky and sometimes we would even kill a few birds. When we got our limit or when we got tired, we could go down to the trailer where Sybil had prepared everything from smoked Salmon to various kinds of cheese and ham. I had never been to such a fancy dove shoot in all my life. It was a most enjoyable time each year when strangers and friends mingled together and traded hunting stories. It is memories like these that can be cherished as long as we have minds that still function.

The one thing that would make me sick in my heart was to return the next year to a beautiful hunting area and find that the land had been clear-cut. This is what happened to the area of Bear Creek Swamp where I had enjoyed hunting for several years. The property had been sold to Alabama Power Company and the trees had been cut down with the exception of the trees in the Swamp. When my friend David told me that the land had been ‘scalped’ and that you would not even recognize the place I refused to even go and look. I had rather remember the way it was. As Bob Hope would sing, “Thanks for the Memories”.

06 February 2009

Giving a Fallen Deer a Name

It was back in the 1970s when living in Opp that I finally killed my first big deer with respectable antlers. I decided immediately that I would have a shoulder/head mount of it. Sometime later brother Cleon Lyles from the state of Arkansas was with the Opp church in a gospel meeting. One day while visiting in our home he saw the shoulder mount and he called the deer 'Henry'. Why he decided to call the deer 'Henry' is a mystery to me. But from that time on I have called the deer 'Henry' when visitors in our home see the shoulder/head mount of the deer.

The latest deer I killed this season was a nice 10 point buck. On this blog you can see me holding the antlers while the body of the deer rested on the bed of a small 4 wheel vehicle. The question that I had to deal with was what should I call this deer? I searched my mind for the answer. I considered the movements of the planets. I read the horoscopes. I considered calling the Smithsonian Institute. Perhaps the Pope would not be too busy to help me with this decision. Maybe the president could send money to have research done in dealing with such a decision of great magnitude. Then all of suddenly I found the answer. It was there all the time. At first I had not seen it. Was it providential or was it mere coincidental? Was it a sign from my Cherokee ancestry that gave me the answer to my question, 'What shall I name this deer'? The name appeared before my very eyes. I could not believe how plain the answer was. Beneath the deer you also can see the revelation I received. I shall call the deer 'JOHN'. In fact, this deer came with its own name plate written on the side of the vehicle. I am overwhelmed. I am utterly amazed. The Force must surely be with me.

05 February 2009

Two Times Five Equals Ten!

With the new law in place regarding the number of buck deer you can harvest in the State of Alabama I must say that I did not do so badly this past season which ended the last day of January. On the first day of the season a friend of mine in Luverne, Alabama invited me to go hunting with him and other friends. He placed me in a shooting house at the end of a green field surrounded by thick woods and a swamp. Incidentally, this area is actually located near to the land that I used to hunt on for wild turkeys back in the 1970s when the family and I lived in Opp.

Late on that Saturday afternoon a young buck came under the shooting house and onto the field feeding on that delicious rye grass. It was not long until another young buck came out and they got acquainted and played together while enjoying their feast. It was just before I couldn’t see my crosshairs that a larger buck came out of the woods and began feeding on the grass. I saw immediately that its antlers were much larger so I made a quick decision to shoot him and this I did. It turned out to be a nice 5 point buck. So I started the season out feeling real good. I did feel uncomfortable (for about 30 seconds) that I was the only hunter to shoot a buck in a group of five men, especially since I was the invited guest.

The rest of the season proved unfruitful until the last week when another friend (and I mean a real friend) invited me to hunt on a choice piece of property east of the town of Luverne . It was a cold and windy Thursday morning when I got into the metal ladder stand. I can stand cold weather. I can stand cold wet weather but when you throw in the element of a 5-10 mile an hour wind, I suffer greatly.

I did not see a thing for the longest and finally when I got enough of the cold blast from Alaska , I got down out of the ladder stand and began walking slowing into the wind and up a small road. It was then that I began to jump does (as in deer). Along this road I found several active scrapes. I knew then I was in a promising area on the property. I moved off the road and down into a beautiful hollow. I caught movement of a buck moving slowly up the side of the hollow and I decided to take a shot at the deer when it stopped momentarily. The rifle I use is a Browning A-Bolt Medallion in a 308 caliber. It is an accurate shooting rifle.
{You can ask my good friend Roger Dill and he will verify the fact. A few years ago we were sighting in our rifles at about 100 yards. He has a Weatherby in a 270 caliber. He shot twice with both bullets hitting the same distance above the center of the target with one slightly off to the left. I then shot my rifle and we walked out to the target and much to our surprise my 30 caliber round went through his first round that was about 2 inches high above the bulls eye. My second shot clipped his round that was off to the left. I said to him, “Roger, you and I have been hanging around one another too much.” My third round hit the first hole that was above the bulls eye. The witnesses were Ray McGough, Roger Dill and me. I have that target in my possession today.}

So if I miss a deer it is definitely my fault and not my Browning rifle. I squeezed the trigger as my cross hairs centered the deer and the rest is history. This buck doubled the count of the first 5 point buck that I killed at the beginning of the season. Here are a couple pictures that show how nice this 10 point buck was. Not bad for an old preacher that is approaching his 74th birthday anniversary in the month of May.

25 January 2009

Bear Creek Swamp Tales #3

One wonders what makes a man get out of a warm bed at 4:00 a.m. and head out for the woods in freezing weather to look for deer that are so smart that they can smell a person at 200 yards. I am a man of habit. I have got to have something on my stomach before I hit the woods. So I would stop at the Big Bass store on the way out highway 14 to get me a honey bun and a cup of hot coffee. There is nothing as good as a hot cup of coffee on a frosty morn before you hit the coldness of the hunting woods where most likely you will think that you will freeze half to death up a tree. Leroy Jones was owner of this establishment and was a friend of mine. In fact he loaned me his four wheel drive truck so I could travel down a muddy road to retrieve a deer I had killed at the Swamp. This particular morning when I was sitting in a ladder stand some 14 feet up I could see the swamp about 100 yards down the way. I was sitting there and looking hard for one of those ole swamp bucks when I noticed to my left and south toward the Alabama River that a fog bank was rolling steadily toward me and up the swamp. The sight was something to behold. The fog looked like something straight out of the Science Fiction TV channel as it crept closer and closer toward me. There was not a sound as this mass of fog was coming right toward me. A strange sight it was! Eventually the fog engulfed me on its way northward and up the swamp. I am sure that a 10 point buck came within a few feet of me and I could not see one thing. Was this a planned action by the creatures of the wild to keep hunters from detecting their escape? My mind is still foggy as to whether or not that was the case.

Now I have still got my hearing. One smart friend asked me if I saw that fly a hundred yards away. I told him no but I could hear its wings a-flapping. This particular morning I was up in the stand just before dawn. I did hear the breaking of dawn that day. I had often wondered what it sounded like but no one had ever been able to describe it to me. When deer hunting I watch for every movement whether it is a bird or a squirrel. I also listen to the various sounds as creatures of the bottom on the forest are moving about. One morning along side Double Branch in Crenshaw County I mistook the sound, thinking it was a deer and low and behold it was an Armadillo. Say, do you know what an Armadillo is? It is a possum on the half shell. Well, anyway, that creature almost got a 308 caliber 150 grain bullet a-headed its way. When you hunt near Bear Creek Swamp you are going to hear some more noise in the early morning time. For about 10 minutes I could not have heard a deer walking near me for the noise of the ducks quacking on the water, the birds of every variety chirping their songs, the turkeys talking in the trees and the squirrels barking and a-running around on the dry leaves. I heard about this ole timer saying that the first thing that you will hear when it gets light in the morning will be the fowl kingdom and that I believe. But then I thought to myself. My, I could not have heard such beautiful noise in downtown Prattville that early in the morning. You had to be out in God’s nature to be blessed to hear such beautiful music!!

Only the older folk will recognize that statement coming from a song in the movie ‘SONG OF THE SOUTH’. One morning I had sat in a stand for a long time along side the Swamp but I had not seen any action so I decided to walk further up the ridge to an area that was just beautiful. Lo, and behold, someone had placed a stand a-way up a tree near to where the clouds are found. But I did accept the challenge and I got up in that stand a long way from the earth beneath. I should have gone home instead since I had been in the woods for most of the morning. There I sat a-swaying with the breeze then suddenly A Gold Finch came flying by and began feeding around the briars about 40 feet from me. Then there came two Blue Birds that began flitting around the same bunch of briars. You might not believe me but a few minutes later here came a Cardinal and his Red Bird mate. I couldn’t believe that I was looking at yellow, blue and red birds. I watched those birds for several minutes and if my blood pressure had been high that morning I know it fell way down. A peace came over me with such calm. I was being entertained with God’s creatures and had I not been up half way to the moon, I could have fallen asleep. It was so quiet and I was so relaxed, that is, until I heard a ‘crack’ behind me and then I turned around and there stood a buck. Let me put it this way, I disturbed Walt Disney’s World of the Bird Kingdom when I squeezed the trigger of that slug shooting shotgun. That was the end of my bird watching for the day.

Do you really know what you would get if you drop a piano down a mine shaft? Why that is easy. You would get an A flat minor.

**Photograph courtesy of B. Raymond Elliott**