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”.

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