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

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