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.