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.