Monthly Archives: November 2016
A Tale of Two Thanksgivings
The Hunter Recounts Two Special Harvests
This story is a follow up of sorts of the prior story The Best of Times, the Worst of Times which remembered two recent hunts in the fall of 2016. Now two special times in the woods on Thanksgiving Day, but separated by about ten years. The first story compared the ups and downs of two different hunting days in one season. This story will compare two hunting days separated by approximately a decade.
The hunter had hunted from about the age of seven to about seventeen, but stopped hunting during college and the first twelve years of married life. Then the hunter’s younger brother lured the elder back into the woods. Now the hunter had a son old enough to hunt also. The hunter was blessed in the first season back in the field to harvest his first deer and do it using archery equipment. The second season the hunter came close to being skunked but in a last day hunt with his grandfather, the hunter scored a second deer. Interestingly enough, both harvests were antler-less deer, but were bucks. The first was a young button buck, the second was a more mature deer, but it had appeared to have scrubbed off his antlers during the growth period. Now on to the third year back hunting for the hunter.
The hunter did not have any success in the first couple of days and was looking forward to hunting on Thanksgiving Day. Thanksgiving Day hunting was typically a big hunting day for the hunter’s family but usually hunting only a half day to make it to the family gatherings to over stuff the bellies. The weather forecast for this Thanksgiving Day was cold and a little wind. Everyone bailed on the hunter who ended up going hunting alone. (A practice the hunter discourages, but recommends to all hunting alone to carry a cell phone and only hunt in areas with a strong cell phone connection.)
The hunter made his way to the stand just before daybreak. This stand required a great deal of walking as the access road was closed due to a logging operation. (This is likely another factor causing the hunter to be alone in the woods.) The hunter had carried in two coats to add to his layering as he cooled down after the walk. The wind was not a major factor in the gully being hunted this morning. Despite the the there only being a light wind, the temperatures were cold enough to cause the hunter to put on the first jacket about 8:30 a.m. By 9:00 a.m. the heavy coat was adorned. This coat had not seen use yet as it had been a gift from the hunter’s in law’s. Before the hunter could zip the heavy coat, movement in the gully caught his eye. An antlered buck was coming right up the gully. After hunting about 10 years as a young person and now in the third year back hunting, this is the first antlered deer the hunter has had in front him while hunting. The hunter raised his Revelation 30-30 that he had purchased from his great uncle Lester more than twenty years prior. As the hunter looked through the old Redfield Tracker 4X (a Christmas present from the hunter’s father), he was able to place the cross hairs directly on the vitals of the broadside buck. Upon squeezing the trigger, the recoil caused the hunter to lose sight of the deer through the scope. As the hunter focuses on the deer, it high-tails it on up the gully before turning hard right and going up a ridge. Initially the hunter fears the worst. It appears he may lose a shirt tail at Thanksgiving dinner. As the deer goes up the ridge it falls right next a log. Being in behind the log, the beast is now difficult to see. There is now a little work to do to get to the fallen animal.
There is a great deal of work to get it to the vehicle, but the hunter won’t be losing his shirttail. At this point, the hunter really has no idea of the rack size or the deer size. The hunter has driven to the woods in a Kia Rio. The hunter decides to call his uncle Mike to hopefully haul (and maybe help drag) the deer. Thankfully, uncle Mike is available to help. Also thankfully, this is a young buck and the small rack makes perfect dragging handles without adding extra weight to the head. By the time the hunter’s uncle is able to get to the hunter, the drag is nearly over. The hunter and his uncle soon discover how good it is that he brought a larger vehicle. This little buck has now stiffened while being dragged. This deer barely fit in the trunk of a Buick LeSabre. It surely wouldn’t have made it into the small Korean car. Except for resting a bit and getting a few pictures prior to loading the deer, this is the last of the memories the hunter can recall from Thanksgiving Day, approximately ten years ago.
Fast forward about ten years to hunting season 2016. The hunter hunts as much as possible with his brother Greg this fall. Greg has had some success and some frustrating hunts. By the opening day afternoon of the general firearms season, the hunter has taken over the spot causing his brother’s frustration. (A doe got away from him first thing this day.) This opening Saturday is cold and the afternoon becomes windy. This is the first opportunity the hunter has to use his new insulated camouflaged coveralls. Even with a cold front moving through, the hunter has only seen squirrels. At least until about 4:00 p.m. when the hunter glances to his left and spots a large bodied deer coming across the a ridge with its nose to the ground. The monster stops behind some trees and the hunter raises his Ruger M77 to look through the Redfield Frontier 4X. The only visible portion the deer is the top of it’s shoulder. The hunter waits waits for the buck to take another step or two to be in the clear. Suddenly, the deer disappears from the scope. The buck now is making its way down a swag that is just deep enough to hide the deer from the hunter’s view. The buck lifts its head for a second allowing the hunter to see the bone moving down the little valley. This large animal stops about thirty yards downhill from the hunter. The deer is very large and the legs are still not visible due to the terrain. As the hunter attempts to pick a lethal spot, the beast makes the hunter and bolts. The hunter attempts a bleat call while trying keep an eye on the deer. It runs up into the thick, makes one blow and continues across the top of the ridge.
The hunter is now quite frustrated. The largest deer the hunter has ever encountered had just come within bow range. The hunter is holding a .308 rifle in his hands and is unable to bring down the critter. The hunter has nearly one hour of light left but is so frustrated, he packs his gear and begins to head to the Jeep. After just a moment, the hunter calms down, comes to his senses and returns to the stand. The hunter stays until dark, seeing only one more squirrel.
The next chance the hunter will get to be in the woods is Thanksgiving Day. Unlike the Thanksgiving from a decade ago, the hunter is joined by his son Jeffrey, his nephew Brandon, and his brother Greg. Before they part ways, time is taken to thank God for the opportunity of time in the woods, ask for protection while in His creation, and to help the hunters to do their best with what is provided them. The young ones decide to share the buddy tree stand on one end of the property, the hunter takes the very frustrating spot at the other end of the the property and Greg gets in the middle. All three stands are occupied well before day light. As the light increases, the hunter notices a stranger coming up a hollow on a neighboring property.
The hunter takes out extra blaze orange and attempts to quietly make himself known to the new hunter in the area. The neighbor turns and goes about half way up a ridge and stops for quite a while before proceeding up and out of view of the hunter. The hunter later learns the neighbor had occupied an old tree stand.
With the intruder out of sight, the hunter can concentrate on spotting deer again. About 7:40 a.m., the hunter hears sounds he hasn’t heard for several years – multiple deer running and some grunting. The last time the hunter had this happen, he was carrying a bow and used the wrong sight pin and overshot. This time the hunter is carrying the highly accurate Ruger. This buck does not come as close as the buck from opening day. The hunter is able to spot the head gear of the grunt producer. The hunter is able to drop the deer in the scope from about seventy yards. The hunter keeps the scope on the deer as it kicks some. The hunter’s phone begins to ring. Unwilling to let the gun down in case the deer gets up, the hunter lets the phone go to voice-mail.
Once the hunter is fifty percent satisfied the animal will no get up again, he checks his phone. The hunter discovers his brother had attempted to call. While keeping one eye on the deer, the hunter returns the call, knowing assistance will be needed to get the carcass out of the triangular hollow. Once the help is summoned, the hunter returns to watching through the scope. As the others move into earshot of the deer and it does not move, the hunter is able to relax a little. The four hunters proceed toward the harvest. As they arrive, the hunter graciously offers to let someone to field dress the buck before the dragging begins. No one accepts this very generous offer. After getting the new coveralls bloodstained, the hunter’s son helps his dad by putting the harness drag rope around the antlers. The son then also assists with the drag. After getting only a portion the steep climb completed, the son puts on the harness. For some reason, the belt portion of the harness has lots of leftover length. The hill being climbed is steep enough that the son is nearly crawling, using hands and feet to ascend the hillside. Now the hunter is now the assistant. Once the steep section is conquered, the son takes off the harness as the nephew has offered to put it on. As the nephew (the biggest of the four hunters) begins to walk, it becomes apparent that he will easily make it to the road. The last leg of the drag is a very steep decent. The son decides to keep the deer from rolling into his cousin. The attempt is futile as the weight of the deer nearly pulls Jeffrey’s six foot four inch, one hundred forty pound frame to the ground. Jeffrey lets go of the hind leg he had grabbed. The carcass just rolls right over small trees and fallen branches. Even lightly rotted stumps are no match for the weight of this creature. The brother has taken the hunter’s gear to the house and is bringing the Jeep to haul the harvest home.
The rest of the work is contacted to Harris Meat Processing in Buchanan, Virginia and Head Hunter’s Taxidermy in Troutville, Virginia. Despite a successful hunt, the hunter has concerns about the harvest that will not be shared here. Anyone wanting to discuss the hunt or the hunter’s concerns may do so in person. We cannot properly live in an electronic only environment. Let’s do a dutch treat dinner or meet for a hike, what ever you like.
THE BEST OF TIMES – THE WORST OF TIMES
A tale of two days in the woods.
The following story tells about two different days of hunting in the woods of Craig County, Virginia. Hopefully the reader will enjoy the stories, but will also come to understand what truly makes a good day of hunting. Many hunters will already be cognizant of a true good day in the woods; but new and non-hunters may learn to what really appreciate in life.
The first day in this story takes place in mid-October 2016, the middle of Virginia’s early archery season. This day begins in a tree stand right at the dawn of a perfect hunting day weather wise. It was clear and cool, but not cold. Nearly no wind all day as it warmed a bit, but it did not get too hot. Even if no wildlife had presented itself, to be comfortable sitting in a tree stand for an entire day with the hunter’s brother brother (Greg) hunting nearby makes for a great day in the woods.
Not too long after settling in the stand, a few squirrels begin to appear. Then, suddenly, a young deer comes down a ridge followed by ten more! Later in the day while the hunter is sitting on a log with Greg, a noise is heard off to the right. After several minutes of waiting without seeing, Greg stays at the log as a circular hike is undertaken to attempt an investigation of the noise. Two large gobblers are viewed running off. Greg hears them, but is unable to spot them. There was also a discovery of an abundance of bear scat and big buck sign in the same area. This is the first observance of bear
sign in the area the brothers hunt. After a lunch break, Greg decides to rest during the afternoon. Just after the tree stand is re-occupied, something is heard behind the hunter and a turkey is spotted. As the bow is raised to draw on the bird, the bow hits a metal hanger Greg had installed to hang his bow when he uses the stand. The noise causes the bird to fly off, followed by five more. Many, many squirrels are seen gathering nuts and chasing each other up, down and around trees. As the sun sets, the hunter reflects on of the events of the day.
If a hunter’s single day involves time with a brother, beautiful weather, eleven deer, two big gobblers, six more turkeys in a different spot, many squirrels, and plenteous bear scat; one could say that hunter had a great day hunting even if there were no harvest. As Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story”. Remember the first young deer? An arrow was launched, but it flew over the little deer. Strangely, it ran back the way it had come from, but only a short distance. A second about face led to the deer returning to exact same spot an arrow had flown over it’s back. In the short time period the deer was out of range, a laser range finder revealed the distance was shorter than previously perceived. The second shot sounded as if it was a complete pass-through, usually a good thing. This arrow held the only blood or fur that would be found. This is a hunter’s nightmare. Injuring an animal is about as bad as it gets. The hunter is frustrated, but knows that if a person hunts long enough, this will happen to all hunters of all skill levels.
This second day is the opening day of the Virginia general firearms season in 2016. This day begins seasonable cool. Cold enough to test out recently acquired insulated coveralls. This time the hunting party grows by adding the hunter’s son (Jeffrey). Jeffrey did not hunt last year or any this year prior to this day. Greg begins shooting prior to 8:00 a.m. Jeffrey walks from one end of the hunting property to the other end to assist Greg in tracking the deer (disrupting the hunter in the middle). Their quest did not end as hoped. Greg is now frustrated with injuring, but not recovering a deer.
Greg had a mid-day errand, so a lunch break is taken. While Greg is away, the stands on each end of the property are re-occupied, leaving the stand in the middle for Greg to use if he wants. (He could reach it without disturbing the other stands.) He decides to stay in the house for a bit to get over his frustration of injuring a deer.
The afternoon hunt is much tougher weather-wise. A cold front brings high winds, sprinkles and a little sleet. The hunter had observed no game at all from the middle stand during the more thing hunt. During the afternoon hunt, no game is observed from the stand Greg had occupied during the morning. At least not until about 4:00 p.m. when a large-bodied, wide-racked buck is spotted heading across a ridge drawing closer to the stand. With a sudden turn, the buck goes down a hollow where only a glimpse of the antlers is observable for just a second. The buck is then only partially visible when it stops, but is only about thirty yards away. This is bow range and the hunter is carrying a old Ruger M77 chambered with in .308 Winchester, topped with a Redfield Tracker 4X that is just as old. The hunter is made by the deer before it presents a clean shot. Any experienced hunter reading this now knows that the deer is now gone. The hunter is now highly frustrated and begins to leave before calming down, coming to his senses and returning to the stand. Finishing out the day the Lord provides is only proper. The only game spotted for the rest of the day is a tiny gray squirrel.
With the tough weather, almost no game presenting itself, and no harvest with a prize buck running off, it would seem it was a bad day hunting. However, the hunter got to spend time with a brother and a son. The hunter realized that having seen only four “wall-hangers” during his hunting career, two of the four were spotted on very windy days. Just the opportunity of seeing a buck that large in the wild is a true blessing in itself.
It is an old saying, but a good one: “A bad day in the woods is better than a good at work!” Which really means, if you can be in the woods hunting, you are truly blessed!
P.S. The next morning the large deer is still haunting the hunter. He went to bed thinking about the deer and awoke thinking about the deer!