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The 2003 Hunting Season

The 2003 hunting season will once again start with predator hunting.  We're going to really give it a serious try this year, with attempts for fox, bobcat, and coyote.

I'm hoping that in March we'll get another chance to go for pheasant and quail at Cedar Tree Plantation, where we had a fantastic day of hunting last season.  If we don't make it in March, then maybe we'll get there this fall.

Then in April will come the turkey season, one of my favorite kinds of hunting.  I'm really hoping that both Ted and I score big on the turkeys this year.   I haven't taken one since 1996.  I feel like my calling has really improved, and I am ready to get out there and give the gobblers a try.

In September, we'll again bring in the dove season with our traditional hunt in the Uwharries before finishing out the year with the deer season.  I think this year we're going to back down on the number of deer we kill in an effort to reduce the decline in the amount of deer that we've been seeing these past few years.



2003 Game Record
Animal Seen Killed
Whitetail Buck 7 2
Whitetail Doe 12 0
Turkey (Gobbler/Jake) 0 0
Turkey (Hen) 0 -
Wild Boar 0 0
Coyote 1 1
Fox 0 0
Bobcat 2 0
Squirrel - 0
Dove - 0
Crows - 0
Ducks / Geese 0 0
Notes: Clicking on any picture will show you a full size image of that picture.
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January 1, 2004    

I always seem to have a hard time finding the words to write to capture the feeling of the end of the hunting season.  I often suffer post-season depression, a time marked by periods of moping around the house on weekends not knowing what to do with myself.  I usually have this grand idea that I will write something to encompass those feelings; something to share what it's like to face the next nine months without the possibility of going deer hunting.

Yeah, we've got a wild boar hunt scheduled in a couple of weeks.  I'm going duck hunting on Saturday.  Turkey season isn't really that far away, and we can shoot coyotes all year round. 

But it's just not the same.

This year I believe I'll just think back on some of the hunts, the good times, the missed shots, the heartbreaks, the successes.  One of my favorite things this year was that Ted and I cooked most of our lunches there at Arnold's shop rather than going to a restaurant in town.  We had some fantastic meals, ranging from Ted's chili and extravagant salads to my specialties: blackened ribeye steaks and barbecued pork ribs.  We cooked some good hamburgers a few times, and I even made up a batch of my country fried venison steaks one afternoon. 

I got to go deer hunting on twenty eight different days this year.  That's not bad... almost an entire month spent hunting deer.  I only saw nineteen deer this year, but seven of them were bucks.  That's a great improvement over previous years.   I'm not sure how many deer were taken on club lands this year, but I bet it would be no more than eight.  In the past we've taken more than twice that number.  I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that our land has been clear cut and there aren't any hardwoods left to hunt.

This year I think I'll go down to the lease more often and put out some corn to "hold" the deer and turkeys on the property.  I think I'll try to get a dove field planted sometime in August so that we'll have something to shoot on Labor Day.  More fertilizer is a must if we want anything to grow in our fields, and if I find out for sure that we will get our lease again next year, I'll have a truck come in with a load of lime for us. 

Maybe I'll get down there and look for arrowheads one day this summer.  Or take Micki and have a picnic beside Arnold's pond.  Or maybe I'll just go down there and look around on a cold winter's day when the sky is overcast and threatening snow.  I'd like that.  I might call my buddy Mark up and see if he wants to go ride four wheelers one afternoon.  If I need a day to myself, I may just pack up and spend the afternoon in a cool spot in the woods reading a good book.

Whatever comes, I'll be thinking back on the deer season and looking forward to the next one.


December 31, 2003    
This is the last day that I will get to hunt this season.  It's always so hard to watch the season end, so I decided to give it all I've got today and spend the entire day in the woods.

It was 24 degrees this morning when I left home and headed down to our lease.  I bundled up in my new Polartec fleece inner-wear, then topped it off with a fleece sweatshirt, my heaviest insulated overalls, and my big hunting jacket.  Not wanting to bother with my ATV this morning, I drove straight to Doug's house, signed in, then took the Jeep over to the power lines.  I stayed in Arnold's tower until 11:30am, but saw nothing.

By the time I got out of the tower it had warmed up a good deal, so I decided to swap the Jeep for the four wheeler, then go give the predators a try.  I drove over to Arnold's house to make the swap, then spent a few minutes chatting with Arnold.  He suggested that I take his shotgun and go down to the pond and try to pop a merganser or a wood duck.  I thought this was a great idea, so I grabbed the Mossberg and some steel shot shells and headed down to the water.

I parked my ATV a good ways away from the pond, not wanting to scare any waterfowl that might be down there.  Easing my way down the road, I paused often to look through the trees at the water to see if I could make out any ducks.  I saw nothing until I got to the top of the hill that looks down over the pond.  Then I noticed something black in the far corner of the pond.  Examining it with my binoculars, I was sure that it was a merganser.  I saw the right colors and the right bill shape, and I began to shake with excitement as I thought how good he would look mounted on the wall in my office.

I spent several minutes debating how to make a stalk.  He was on the same side of the pond that I was on, and there was no cover between me and the dam.  If I could make it to the dam, I would then be ok, since the tall grass would hide the rest of my stalk.  Seeing no other choice, I got down flat on my stomach and began to belly crawl down the hill, stopping every few feet to make sure the duck hadn't spooked.

As I got closer to the water, I saw movement off to my left, at the headwaters of the pond.  Using my binoculars, I saw that it was five large Canada geese.  I debated switching directions and moving over to take one of them, but then I decided that I would rather have a merganser mount than a goose.  Having made my choice, I moved on.  As I approached the place where the merganser was, I slowly rose and got ready to shoot as soon as the bird lifted off of the water.  He never spooked.  I stepped loudly into the brush at the edge of the water, trying to startle him into flight.  Then I saw that my merganser was nothing but the stump of an old log floating quietly in the water.

Blast, I thought.  An awesome stalk on a real wood duck: a stump.  Shaking my head in laughter, I started back around the pond to where the geese were.  As I got close they came alert, then finally flew.  Rather than take the shot, I merely watched as they took to the sky and flew away.

I spent the next three hours sitting in the canebrakes hoping that some wood ducks might come in, or maybe even a teal, if I was lucky.  Nothing came, and finally I heard Ted's four wheeler drive past the pond on the other side of the woods.  I headed back to my ATV and then on to Arnold's shop where I switched out the shotgun for my rifle.    I drove back up on to the lease and met up with Ted.

We decided to do a couple of predator calls.  We tried 30 minutes of rodent squeals at two different locations, but had no luck with that, so we finally headed to our evening deer stands.  I chose the power lines once again, while Ted went over to the wheat field at Stand #2.  Neither of us saw a thing as our season came to an end.


December 23, 2003    
As the season winds down, I had hoped that I would get in the woods at least another five or six times before it closed.  It looks like I'll get about half of that in.  It hasn't been a bad season overall, but I'd still love to pick up two more deer before it's over with.  It could still happen... two years ago I scored a double on does on the 29th of December. 

Today I hunted back out on the power lines in the climbing stand.  It seemed like such a well set-up hunt... the wind was perfect, I entered the woods quietly after having parked the four wheeler a good distance away... but it just didn't work out.  Although I sat in my stand for several hours, nothing came out into the field.

Looks like I'll have one more day in the woods, and then we'll have to wrap the year up.


December 22, 2003    
First thing this morning, I headed down to the Leeds Rifle Range in the Sumter National Forest to check out my rifle.  My first shot was about an inch and a half to the right.  I fired again and was about a quarter inch left of dead center.  The third shot, with the barrel getting hot, was high left. 

I thought for a few minutes, and decided that it might be time to clean my rifle.  Generally, I clean it at the end of the season, sight it in, then never touch it again until the end of the next season.  I began to wonder if I cleaned it last year after the deer season, and it occurred to me that I had gotten busy on some things and may not have made time to do it.  Thinking that, I went ahead and gave it a good cleaning, then fired again.

You can pretty much always throw away the first shot with a clean barrel.  Mine was high right, and I discarded it and moved on to the next target.  After letting the barrel cool for ten minutes, I fired at the fresh target and was almost dead on the bull's-eye.  Another ten minute break for the rifle to cool, then a second shot was right next to the first.  The rifle's fine. 

I decided to give Stand #2 a try, the wheat field in the middle of a stand of pines.  I saw nothing, but got in some good reading and just enjoyed the time to relax and think about things.  Doug hunted on the power lines, and he didn't shoot, so I don't believe he saw anything either.  I think I'll try the power lines again myself tomorrow...


December 19, 2003 Billy and an Afternoon Deer Hunt  
I didn't realize it until now, but it was the day after my last hunt that I lost my brother-in-law Billy in a tragic murder.  He had just taken a job as a taxi driver, and he was on a late call on his first day of work when he was ambushed and killed.  It's been a really rough time for us, and I am only now able to return to the woods for the first time since his death.

Billy was a couple of years older than me, and although we didn't get as much time together as I would have liked, I do have memories of some great times that we had.  Billy liked to play Scrabble with me, my wife, and their mother.  I remember the last game we played... it was just a couple of weeks ago, on Thanksgiving.  I remember giving a couple of pointers to Billy, showing him that making two words at a time on a triple was about the highest scoring thing you could do.   Although he never won, I was always rooting for him.

Billy, we'll miss you.

I decided to hunt the power lines today.  The power lines is a strip of property that runs the entire length of our lease, as well as crossing Arnold's land.  The section that I wanted to hunt is about a 500 yard stretch that has a wheat field in the exact center of it.  There are two ways that you can hunt this.  You can get in Arnold's tower, which gives you about a 300 yard shot to the field, but keeps you well out of the area where deer might catch wind of you. 

Or, you can hunt a climbing stand at the far end of the strip, which gives you about a 250 yard shot to the field, but puts you somewhat in the path of traveling deer. 

I've hunted the climber many times, so I decided to go to the tower this time.  I got in the stand at about 2:30 or so, then settled in with a book while I waited for evening. 

As the sky began to darken, I saw a small black spot run into the field.  Hmmm, I thought, that looks awful small.  Must be a fox or something.  I used my binoculars and was surprised to see that it was a young doe.  I got my rifle into position, then watched a large buck run into the field chasing the doe.  She immediately bolted, running full speed into the woods along the side of the field.  The buck stood still, giving me a good shot opportunity, although it was about 300 yards away.  I fired, then watched to see if the deer would fall.  He stood still, so I cranked in another round and fired again.

The buck started, then moved to the edge of the woods.  Sure I had missed again, I took more careful aim and fired a third time.  The buck jumped another yard into the woods, then stopped again.  I had time to get my box of shells out of my backpack, reload, aim, and fire a fourth time.  This time I heard the bullet smack against him, and I was sure I had him. 

I waited a few minutes, then climbed down and got on my ATV.  To get to the deer, I would have to go the long way around, since a deep creek separates the tower from the rest of the power lines.  Driving around, I quickly found blood where the deer entered the woods.

I tracked it as far as I could, but the blood quickly stopped.  Ugh... may not have him him very hard.  I went back and got ahold of Arnold and Doug, and though we looked a good while, we found nothing.  I went back the next morning and still found no sign of the buck.  Man, I hate it when this happens.  I found where my first two shots struck the ground, but nothing else. 

Before I hunt again, I need to head down to the range and make sure my rifle is shooting right.  Guess I'll do that on Monday morning...


December 9, 2003    
Ted was back in action today, and we met up at Arnold's house at about 5:45 this morning.  Having seen the big set of tracks on Walker Road, I decided to hunt in Stand #10.  It was really cold this morning, so I took along my Mr. Heater Portable Buddy, a little indoor-safe propane heater that my wife got my for our anniversary.  The heater kept me nice and toasty all morning as I sat and watched the empty road. 

Ted hunted up on the power lines, but saw nothing.  After we met up, we did a quick loop around the property.  We saw that the deer had been active in several places, so there's still the possibility that we'll tag a couple more before the season ends.

In the afternoon, I decided to hunt up in the wheat field at Stand #2, while Ted hunted nearby in the cutover at Stand #3.  I climbed high in my tree, then sat quietly to await the coming of the deer.  About 15 minutes before dark, I totally blew it.  I heard a deer walking in the woods behind me, exactly like the spike that I shot earlier this year.  As I turned to get a look at the deer, the vinyl seat of my treestand let out a loud squeeeek, alerting the deer to my presence.  It took off running before I got to see it.  Nothing else came into the field.

Ted saw nothing in #3, but as he walked out of the woods he saw a deer feeding down on the power lines.  He tried to point it out to me as I emerged from the woods, but it was too dark for a shot, so we both were forced to pass the deer up.


December 6, 2003    
Ted wasn't able to make it today, and knowing that I would have to work all night tonight, I decided to sleep in this morning and just do an afternoon hunt back out on the power lines.  This time if a deer came out, I decided that I would shoot it.  I've got two friends at work who need venison, and time is starting to run out. 

As I drove my four wheeler along Walker Road heading to our lease, I decided to check around the box blind, Stand #10, to see if anything was crossing.  I found a set of big tracks in the road about 50 yards past the stand... a fairly decent deer has been crossing here!  Not a monster by any means, but definitely a heavy animal.  Wouldn't you know it, as I was examining the tracks that the deer had made, I somehow managed to roll my ATV tire across every single mark that this deer had made, obliterating them all.  A pity, really; now no one but me will realize that a big deer is working this area.  I don't know how I could have made a blunder like that, but oh well, if I remember, I'll mention it to the other guys when I see them.  Maybe in January.

I went back to the stand and quietly made my way up the tree, but didn't see anything at all today.  With only a couple more weeks to go in the season, I really hope I start seeing some more deer soon!


December 2, 2003    
Our coldest morning yet.  I got to the lease about 15 minutes later than I planned, and was glad to find Ted still waiting for me.  We hit the woods, me choosing to hunt in Stand #5 where I shot the buck a few weeks ago, and Ted hunting down near the creek bottom.   Although I stayed in the stand until 10:30, I didn't see anything, although I definitely heard a deer bleat over behind me on the power lines.  Ted also saw nothing.  Where are our deer?

In the evening, I was torn between hunting our best field, Stand #2, and the power lines.  I decided to give the power lines a shot, and Ted went over to #2.  About 15 minutes before dark, a doe walked out into the field about 200 yards down from me and began to feed.  I watched her until dark, but decided not to shoot. 

My reasons for not shooting were varied.  This is a great spot to hunt, and I'd like to let the deer get a little bit of confidence in it before we start blasting away at them.  Also, the doe was alone, and without other deer around her it was hard to judge her size at that distance.  I think I'll hit that stand again next time and maybe take the shot if more than one deer emerges.

Ted saw a bunch of turkeys over at Stand #2, but no deer.


November 22, 2003    
I liked my previous setup on the road to Arnold's ridge so well that I decided to give it another shot, this time for a morning hunt.  Once again I borrowed Ted's popup blind and made my way quietly through the woods to where I wanted to set it up.  Once I found my spot I set the blind up, then walked about a hundred yards further on down the road.  When I got as far as I could from the blind, I poured some doe scent on a rag and then began to drag it back up towards my stand, hoping to make a trail for a buck to follow.

By the time I got situated, I was really pleased with this setup and was sure that I would see a deer.  At about 9:30 or so, I saw movement in the woods down toward where I hard started making the scent trail.  I raised my rifle, then snorted in disgust as a big black dog appeared and began to sniff at the doe urine.  A spotted white dog came in behind the first one, and they began to follow the trail up toward my stand.  I tried to wave the dogs off, but they couldn't see me in the blind.  I finally managed to scare them off by sticking my hands out the window of the blind and flapping them at the dogs, but I knew my hunt was over for the morning.

Ted had been hunting down in the box blind on Walker Road and reported that he also had seen nothing.

I really like the stand that we call the "pallet blind", but the food plot that I planted just didn't take.  I decided to hunt it anyway, but nothing showed up.  I think next year I'll try to work this field really good with fertilizer and lime and try to get something growing in there. 

Ted hunted back behind me in Stand #13, looking out over our cutover, but he saw nothing.


November 18, 2003    
Knowing that there is a big buck somewhere in our area, I decided to get into the woods today and give that a try.  I went back up on to Arnold's hardwood ridge.  I stayed in the stand as long as I could, but saw nothing all morning.  On the way into the woods, I did spook a deer that was near where I parked my ATV, which is probably what messed me up for the day.  Next time I go in there I'm going to walk the whole way and keep it as quiet as possible.

After I got down from my stand, I scouted around the area a little bit.  I found a small homemade bench under an oak tree that I was unaware of, and not far behind it I saw a really big rub.  Yep, there has been a buck moving around in this area for sure.

For the afternoon hunt, I decided to go back to the ridge, but this time I took Ted's popup blind and walked in.  I set a few scent bombs out in front of my stand hoping to attract a buck, then set the blind up looking down the path.  Although I had what I felt was a great setup, nothing was moving tonight.  Ted, hunting on the lease, also saw nothing.


November 15, 2003 The Rut  
The rut is on.  It's a bit later than usual this year, but it's finally here.  I chose Stand #5 again today, although it hasn't been very productive for seeing deer for quite some time.  I got in the stand just as the sun was peeking over the horizon.  As the morning brightened, I saw that all of my wheat that was growing around the stand had died over the course of the week.   Seeing that, I considered moving quietly to another stand, but decided that I was comfortable and would stick it out.

Having seen nothing most of the morning, I took a short snooze as time wore on.  I woke from it with the sun on my face, warming me nicely.  My watch was broken, but the sun was moving high above the trees, and I figured it was about 9:30.  I was really feeling fine in the stand, and decided that I would stick it out for another couple of hours.

After about a half hour, I noticed movement in the brush about 150 yards away.   Just branches moving in the wind, I thought to myself.  No, wait!  That's antlers!  As I watched, a big deer came into view.  Buck!  Without time for more thought, I raised my rifle and centered the crosshairs.  I saw that I had the scope's magnification selector set to 3, the lowest setting, and was about to change it when the buck looked right at me. 

I squeezed the trigger.

The buck jumped into a sprint, heading down the road, away from me as fast as he could go.  As he disappeared behind a brush pile, I jacked another shell into the chamber and pushed the rifle ahead of the brush, anticipating where the deer would emerge.  He appeared exactly as expected, and, moving with him, I fired again.  He continued his run, through some more brush, and across one of our food plots.  I had a brief second to notice that his tail was down as he was running, a possible sign of a hit.

I started to shake.  Wait 30 minutes on this guy?  No way.  I had to know if I hit him or not.  I lowered my backpack to the ground, climbed down from the stand, got my trail marking tape out and stashed my pack in a brush pile.  I reloaded my rifle, then walked down the road to where the buck first appeared.  I found his tracks immediately.  Big ones.  This was a hefty deer for our area.   Looking carefully around, my spirits sank when I found no blood.  How could I be so stupid?  Why didn't I take the single second to crank the scope up to 9 power for such a long shot?

I followed the tracks down the road to where I took the second shot.  I found a big scuff mark where the deer had turned and crossed into the food plot, but still no blood.  Moving through the brush pile into the wheat field, I continued on the trail.  In the field it took me a couple of minutes to find his tracks, but I finally saw where he had entered the woods.  Still no blood.  

I looked carefully at the tracks on the edge of the field.  What were those dark spots?  I put my finger into the deep tracks, and it came up red.  Blood!  I moved to the wood line, now seeing blood a bit more frequently.  As I approached the thick woods, I heard something moving down in the gully below me.  Stopping in my tracks, I tied a piece of marking tape to the tall grass, then quietly made my way back to the four wheeler.  Time to go get some help, I thought.

As I drove back to Arnold's house, the shakes began to hit me.  By the time I was standing on his front porch, I could barely speak.  "Can you help me," I asked as he answered my knock on the door.  "Of course, " Arnold said.  "Have you shot a deer?"  

"Yeah, I think he's a big one.  I saw antlers, and you should see his tracks."

"Did you find blood," Arnold asked?   I replied that indeed I had.   "We'll get that deer then," he said.

While Arnold changed clothes, I walked back to the shop and took my cold weather gear off.  I knew we would be in for some hard work, and the day was getting warmer.  I changed into a t-shirt and sweat pants, then loaded my gear in the Mule.   "Do you want us to take Lady?" Arnold asked as he walked up the driveway.

I considered.  "No, we better not.  The deer may still be alive, and the last thing we need is for the dog to push him." 

I was somewhat nervous about finding the deer, deathly afraid that he had gotten away, and it was a long ride back to where I had left the marking tape.  Arnold's assertion that we would find him did lighten my spirits a bit, but not enough to stop me from offering a prayer to ask that we retrieve this buck.

We soon found my marking tape, and got back on the trail.  Walking downhill into the gulley, the blood got brighter and more frequent.  As we moved apart, each trying to find where the deer had run, I heard a noise below me.  A flash of brown.  Antlers.  "He's up!" I shouted, then raised my rifle and took a wild shot at him.  No way I could have hit him.  We should have brought a shotgun.

As the deer ran off, we walked down and found the spot where he had been laying.  He was about 30 yards down from the field, and there was a good patch of blood where he had rested.  "Ok," Arnold said.  "Let's give him an hour or so.  We'll go back to the house and eat, then come back."

An hour.  An HOUR.  Man, how can I wait an HOUR.  I'm shaking now, imagine how it will be in an hour.  But I knew he was right, so we loaded up the Mule and drove back to his cabin to get some lunch and watch a little bit of the Outdoor Channel.  While we were waiting, Arnold called Doug to ask him to come help.

At 12:30 Doug and his son Clint showed up on their four wheelers.  Arnold and I piled into the Mule, and we headed back into the woods.  We picked the blood trail up, then began walking, Clint and I spread out in the lead, with Arnold and Doug taking the dregs, staying on the trail.  About 200 yards along the way, Clint hollered at me, "There he is, he may be headed your way."  I ran up the hill, trying to get a glimpse of the deer.  Although I could hear him running, I never saw him at all.

I walked down to where Clint had jumped him, and we found a good bit of blood there on the ground.  The smell of the buck was fierce, he was obviously rutting.  When Arnold and Doug caught up with us, we decided to wait another 15 minutes before pushing on, hoping that this last burst of life from the buck would help him expire quickly.

We sat quietly, talking of this and that, and I was feeling good about the deer.  I was sure that we would get him now.  When the required time had passed, we spread out again, Doug and I taking the lead this time.  "Don't look for blood," they said to me.  "Keep your rifle ready and watch for the deer; we'll stay on the trail."

"Yep," I said, "good plan."   Although it was hard not to try to follow the blood trail, I soon found that I didn't need to.  I was on an obvious deer trail at the bottom of a valley, and with the buck tired and wounded, he could either go straight or go uphill to his left or right.  Straight it had to be.  We pressed onward, and suddenly I saw the buck laying on the ground 30 yards in front of me.  "Doug, I see him!" I shouted.  I had hoped that the deer was dead by now, but as he tried to stand, I put him down for good with another shot.


After such a long story for the morning hunt, I actually don't have much to say about my afternoon hunt.  I went to the pallet blind, but saw nothing.


November 8, 2003 Now this is November  
Cold, wet, and overcast... just the way I like it.   I have really been wanting to get in the woods for awhile.  This food plot hunting is fun, but sometimes it seems that a lot of hunting has been reduced to that.  What ever happened to getting into the hardwoods?  For us, our lease is mostly pine, half of which has been clear-cut.   To really get into the woods, I decided to hunt on Arnold's land, at a place we simply call "the ridge".  It was here that I killed my first deer back in 1991, and to this spot I have returned every year.  I've since passed up many deer from this stand, and have yet to take another one here.

I drove to the top of the hill, then parked and began my walk down to the stand.  As soon as I had taken 3 steps, I heard two deer run off; they must have been standing right on the edge of the road.  I wasn't using my flashlight to find my way, so I never saw a thing.  I saw nothing on the stand, either. 

On the way out of the woods, near where I had jumped the deer this morning, I found two rubs and a big scrape.  The rubs were on small trees, indicating that it probably wasn't a monster buck that made them, but it's always fun to find buck sign like this.

When Ted and I met up, he hadn't seen anything either, having hunted on the top of the power lines.

During lunch we took a short drive over to the bottom of the power lines, where we checked out an old county road that runs through Arnold's property.  We found a good many deer crossings there, and we chose a place where we could deploy Ted's popup blind later on this year.

For the afternoon hunt, the rain began shortly before we entered the woods.  I chose the pallet blind out in the middle of the lease, while Ted hunted in #3 where I killed the coyote earlier in the week.  The most exciting thing for me this afternoon was watching a bobcat come in.  He crossed the road ten feet in front of me, then stopped and sat still.

I got on my radio.  "Ted... you there?  Is bobcat season open?   I have one right in front of me!"   Ted told me that it didn't open for another couple of weeks, so reluctantly I made the decision not to shoot.   I got a couple of pictures of him, but most of them came out blurry; I had the camera on the wrong setting.  It really was something to see him though.  He looked really big, maybe even three feet long.  I hope to get a shot at him later this year!


November 6, 2003 All day hunt  
I found my climbing stand just where I left it last night; locked to the tree all safe and sound.  I got up into it at about 6:15, a little bit later than normal, but right about when I wanted to be there.  As I was sitting in the stand waiting for a deer to come by, I heard something walking quickly through the woods behind me.  Fox, I thought.  This is what I've been waiting for. 

As the footsteps approached, I got ready to shoot.  I've been after a fox for years, and was hoping that this would be my chance.  The animal emerged right behind me, and to my surprise it wasn't a fox after all.  As it passed under my stand, I snapped the safety off my rifle, let it get about ten yards out, then fired.  The coyote dropped in it's tracks, never even flinching.

This is the second time I've seen a coyote on our lease, though I have heard them often.  These animals are not native to South Carolina, and are a major problem for game birds such as turkeys and quail.  I won't hesitate to shoot every one of them that I see on our lease.  After shooting this one, I left him lay on the ground, choosing to remain in my stand in the hopes that a deer would come by later.  The coyote was the only thing I saw.


For the evening hunt, I chose the tower out on Arnold's power lines.  The power company smoothed the hills on the lines out recently, and the seed that they planted is beginning to emerge, in what I hope will soon be a deer magnet.  Nothing showed up tonight, but as the deer finish eating the acorns and start moving into the food plots, I think we'll start seeing them out here.


November 5, 2003 Afternoon Hunt at Stand #3  
I pretty much had my heart set on hunting Stand #2 this afternoon.  This is a climbing stand that looks over a wheat field in a seldom-traveled part of our lease.  I decided to do things a little differently this afternoon.  Normally, I park my ATV about 100 yards from the stand, but today I decided to park it out on the power lines and walk all the way in. 

At first I was regretting the decision to walk in.  The forecast mentioned rain, and not wanting to get soaked I went ahead and wore my rain pants into the woods.  As hot of an afternoon as it was, I was drenched in sweat by the time I reached the stand and climbed the tree.  At one point I had almost convinced myself to turn back and just go hunt in the tower blind, or somewhere else where the deer couldn't smell me.  In the end, I decided to stick it out.

I got in the tree pretty early; around 2:30, and settled in with a book.  I figured nothing would happen until the sun went behind the trees, so I was prepared for a good long wait. 

As the shadows lengthened across the field, I began to hear movements in the woods behind me, away from the field.  Squirrels, for sure, I thought, returning to my book.  Once the entire field was in shadow, I put the book away, got comfortable, and sat as still as possible.  Almost immediately, I heard something else walking in the woods, something bigger than a squirrel.  It sounded like it was actually kicking things out of its way as it walked.  Ok, that's either a deer or a person. 

The sound was behind me to my right; the worst possible place for a shot.  I twisted as far right as I could, trying to get a glimpse of it.  Nothing.  I shifted all the way back around to the left; much better.  I can get a shot from here.  A flash of brown, and I saw that it was a deer.  I started to raise my rifle when I heard a squeaking sound, lowered it quickly, stopping the noise.  I looked down.  Binoculars.  The rubber coating on them was rubbing against the synthetic stock of my rifle.  My heart was pounding now.  I shoved the binoculars to the side and brought the rifle back up. 

The deer was in the crosshairs for a second, but it wasn't a safe shot.  Wait just another minute; he's headed toward the road.  He stopped behind a tangle of brush, giving me time to get into good shooting position should he come out into the open.  I aimed the rifle at the place I needed to be, and in seconds he was there.  He wasn't going to stop moving, and my shot was clear.  I fired.  After the shot I quickly lowered the rifle so I could see where he went.  He jumped, and I knew he was hit.

The deer turned in a semi-circle, stumbled, then ran.  I only heard his footsteps for a second.  I looked at the little pocket watch that I carry with me.  5:00pm.  I'll give it until 5:15, then get down and look for blood.  5:03pm.  I couldn't wait any longer.  No sounds around me, and I was sure he was hit hard.  I got down, gathered my gear, and walked over to where he had been.  Immediately I found a huge amount of bright red blood.  That deer is dead, I thought.  It was a simple trail to follow, and in moments I found him laying 15 yards from where he was when I shot. 


November 3, 2003 Morning Hunt  
My long awaited week off from work has finally arrived, and I am hitting the woods as hard as I possibly can this week.  Due to obligations in town tonight, I was only able to hunt in the morning today.  As I arrived at Doug's house to check in, I saw that I had the lease to myself today.  Having seen many deer tracks on Walker Road on Saturday, I decided to spend the first part of the morning hunting in the box blind, Stand #10, that watches a good long stretch of the road. 

Having seen nothing by 9:00am or so, I decided to head up onto the main lease, so I drove my ATV up to the power lines, parked, and began a goodly hike down to the pallet blind.  On the way, I saw that the new wheat patch at Stand #3 was looking fantastic, so I decided that later on this week I'll have to hit that stand pretty hard. 

To get to the pallet blind, you have to go up a hill, then wind your way halfway back down the other side.  It sits part way down the hill, looking over a small food plot.  As I approached the top of the hill, I heard a deer moving around in the woods quite close to me.  I tried grunting several times at him, but he never showed. 

I saw nothing from the blind, but did choose to try a little bit of rattling.  When nothing responded, it came time to head back to town, and as I was leaving the blind I think I heard a deer blow, just once, from down near the food plot.  I may not have waited long enough after rattling..


November 1, 2003 My Health is Better in November  
November!  The greatest month of all for hunters.  I'm hoping that the rut will kick in this week, since I'll be hunting seven out of the next eight days.  I really need to take a deer this week.  I looked back at my journal of deer that I have taken, and for the last few years, most of them have been in December.  Five came in that month, with two each in September, October, and November.  That gives me hope that if nothing happens now, there is still another month to go, but I'm getting a little nervous about not having taken anything so far.  Sometimes I think I'm just a little bit too selective when it comes to which deer I decide to take.

For the morning hunt, I went back to "my" ladder stand... funny how when you hunt a stand often it becomes "yours".  I remember Ted's first year on the lease, when he took four deer from the same stand (and another deer close by).  That stand became known as "Ted's blind".  Though the ladder that I am hunting belongs to Ted, I somehow have gained ownership of it's location simply due to the fact that I hunt there so frequently.  I saw nothing, as expected.  Ted hunted at the top of the power lines in his popup blind, and he also saw nothing.

As I've stated before, we're cooking our lunches in the camp this year rather than going out to eat.   It's saving time, money, and calories.  Plus we get the benefit of eating some of the things that we tell each other we like to cook... Ted's chili, my pork ribs...  Today it was my ribs, which I've been telling Ted about for some time.  The recipe is available on the recipes link from the Wingshooters.net main page.  Go there.  Now.  Read.  Cook.  Eat.  Between us I think we ate about 8 or 10 ribs... and man, were they good.

"We eat good around here!"

For the afternoon hunt, I chose the new box blind, while Ted went down to the bottom field.  I waited until it was almost pure dark outside, but saw nothing.  Ted was skunked as well.


October 28, 2003 The Men get Separated from the Boys  
In his book The Old Man and the Boy, Robert Ruark tells of a day on which the men got separated from the boys.  It was a cold, wet, rainy day, and only the most dedicated hunters were out in it.  Fortunately for us, the weather forecast for today was nothing like that.  Indeed, we were told to look for a high in the low to mid 70's. 

Knowing this, I packed light today, opting to leave my rain gear at home and save room in the truck.  No heavy jacket needed... left that behind too.  It was pleasantly warm when Ted and I met up on this first hunt after daylight savings time ended.  I told Ted that I was going to #3, and he decided to hunt in #5, the ladder stand where I have spent many mornings this year.

As the morning progressed, I watched the sky above me go to a dark grey color, and I felt the chill as the temperature dropped.  When the first misty rain began to fall, I looked to the southwest, hoping to see blue skies behind this rain shower... surely this was a fluke and wouldn't last.  The temperature continued to drop, and I began to wonder what I would do when the first snowflake fell. 

The light rain persisted all morning, and I was starting to get a bit wet when it came time to get out of the stand.  "Surely," I said to Ted, "this will pass pretty quickly.  I mean, it can't rain all day.  Can it?" 

It did.  All morning.  All afternoon.  All evening.  The weatherman really missed it today.  As we sat there glumly eating our lunch, I thought about all of my expensive rain gear, and how lucky I was to be able to afford it.  I thought about how nice it must look right now, hanging there in my closet back at home, dry as can be, ready to be taken out and worn.  I thought of how stupid I am not to bring it with me every time we go hunting, regardless of what the weather forecast looks like.

It was so wet this afternoon that as the time to get back in the woods approached I looked at Ted and said, "Hambone, there ain't no way I'm going to drive my ATV out into that mess.  We'll be soaked by the time we get to our stands.  I think I'll drive the Jeep out onto the lease instead.  Want a ride?"   Ted agreed that this was a good idea, so when we headed back out, I dropped him off at Stand #10 on Walker Road, shifted into low lock, and drove out onto the mud flats of the lease's cutover. 

I've owned a few four wheel drive vehicles over the years.  Supertruck, my first, a Toyota 4x4 pickup, was built to take it.  With a lift kit and 33" mud tires, there weren't many places it couldn't go.  It has set the standard for what I expect from my vehicles.  In the mid 90's, it came time to get a new truck, and I opted for a Ford Explorer, or Exploder, as I like to call it.  Man, what a piece of junk.  It got stuck in the sand at Cape Hatteras the first time I took it out.  Later, on another Cape Hatteras trip, the four wheel drive unit broke when I was trying to get out of a sand hole.  The transmission went out so many times that I couldn't wait to get rid of it. 

I'm currently driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee with bald tires, and this thing has yet to let me down.  From the soft sands of the Outer Banks to the gumbo red clay of South Carolina, this truck will go.  I made it to the top of the lease with no problems at all, driving through mud so soft that I could barely walk in it without falling down.  

I drove most of the way to our pallet blind, which looks out over a small, newly planted field out in the middle of our cutover.  I was able to stay dry in the blind, but unfortunately, saw no deer.  Ted also saw nothing down in his blind.


October 21, 2003 Rifle Deer Hunt  
While looking around the lease on the 18th, I happened to notice a lot of tracks in the road in front of Stand #10.  One set was quite big, which made me decide to give the box blind another try.  I got in the stand pretty early, and while it was still dark out I heard what could only be a deer crossing the road.  A few minutes later, I heard another, further down.  It was way too dark to see, and unfortunately, those were the only deer around me all morning.  Ted hunted up the lease road a hundred yards away, and he also saw nothing.

One of the things that has been nice this year is that we're bringing lunch with us rather than going into town to eat.  Today I brought along a little charcoal grill and some hamburger meat, while Ted brought the fixin's.  The burgers that we grilled had to be some of the best that I have ever eaten, and I look forward to doing this again.

In the afternoon, I chose Stand #2, that beautiful wheat field that we refer to as the "little loading dock".  I saw nothing, but later found that Doug was hunting just past me, and that could have accounted for the deer staying away from my field, since last time they came from the area that he was hunting in today.  Just before dark, I heard Ted shoot, just over from me on the power lines.  He took his second doe of the year, and his first from his new popup blind.


October 18, 2003 Hunting Alone  
I had originally thought that I was oncall at work this weekend, so Ted had arranged his schedule such that he would not be hunting today, thinking that I wouldn't be able to.  Unfortunately, the pager schedule got changed around, and I ended up hunting by myself today.  I spent the morning in my usual location, Stand #5, again thinking that something would show up.  I was wrong.  Well, not totally wrong; the turkeys had roosted right across from where I was hunting, and I watched thirteen of them fly down and mess around with my little strip of wheat.

The two fields that we planted back in August had done nothing, so I decided to go plow them up and replant them.  I borrowed Arnold's Massey tractor and harrow and went to work.  I spent a good bit of time in each field, really working hard to get them turned over and scraped clean of logging debris.  I was quite pleased with the end result.  I also decided to plant a little strip along the road header up where Stand #3 is.  The deer are moving through there quite frequently, and I thought that a little bit of wheat and oats might make them pause for a critical moment or two.

I decided that Stand #3 looked so good that I wanted to hunt it.  Probably a mistake, since I had spent a good bit of time working there just a few hours earlier, but the view is fantastic, and I couldn't resist.  I saw nothing, but that won't stop me from going back there the next chance I get.


October 14, 2003 Misty  
Another hard rain made the morning hunt just as miserable as it was on Saturday.   Ted and I met up by chance on the road on the way down, a rare occurrence.  We used our radios to debate where we would hunt, both of us talking about getting in one of our boxes so that we could stay dry.  In the end, Ted said the heck with it, he was going to get in a tree.  I obviously couldn't take the sissy way out by getting in a box while Ted sat in the rain, so I too got up in one of our ladder stands.  I used my tree umbrella to keep mostly dry, though by the end of the hunt the rain was coming in sideways and I couldn't avoid getting soaked.

After the hunt, we ran a few errands in town, mostly looking for me some new rain gear.  When we returned to Arnold's, there was a note from Michelle, Ted's wife, telling him that she was sick and needed him to come home. 

For my afternoon hunt, I decided to give Stand #2 a try, where our food plot is starting to look beautiful.  As darkness approached, I noticed movement at the far end of the field, so I checked it out in my binoculars.  It was a deer, but from the looks of it it wasn't a big one.  Not being able to accurately judge the deer in the dim light, I decided to pass.

When I arrived back down at Arnold's house, he was waiting at the shop with bad news.  His Cocker Spaniel, Misty, had been having serious health problems these last few weeks, and it was time to put her to sleep.  Misty was a great dog.  In the early days, Arnold, his brother Gerald (who is now my father-in-law), myself, and another guy named Frank used to hunt on Arnold's property.  Arnold used to bring Misty, then a puppy, along, and she used to love spending the night with us all in the small trailer that was on the property.

She would lay down on the chest of one of us, sleep awhile, then walk over and lay on someone else.  As long as she had one of us to sleep beside, she was happy.  And I mind well the day that I shot my first deer.  The story is told elsewhere on this website of how after searching in vain for the deer for some time, I went back to the camp and got Arnold, and he brought Misty along to help find the blood trail.  Misty found the deer quite quickly, and even gave a little bark to let us know where it was.  And then there was the way that if Arnold was napping on the couch, Misty would lay quietly on his chest, guarding him.  If you took a step in his direction, she would growl at you to let you know to keep your distance.  Man, that was a great dog, and she will be missed by many of us.


October 11, 2003 Opening Day of Rifle Season  
A hard rain made this a miserable morning to be in the woods.  To stay dry, Ted and I both hunted right back where we were on the morning of the 7th, with me in the box on Walker Road and Ted hunting his box up on the lease.  Neither of us saw anything.  I got out of my stand at about 10:00am and drove my four wheeler up to the top of the lease to meet up with Ted.  

There was no sign of him where we had talked about meeting, so I headed on down the power lines toward his box.  When I was a couple of hundred yards away from his stand, I parked my ATV and did a little bit of still hunting, just walking around in the rain hoping to jump something.  There were no deer to be found.  Ted finally noticed me, waved, and headed over my way.

When we met up, he told me that he had seen a hunter climb a power pole on the adjacent lease, and the hunter was looking right down into our best wheat field.  We drove down in our four wheelers and made a big to-do about looking at him through our binoculars, letting him know that we were there.  He waved and pointed off to the side, acting like he wasn't watching our field at all.   At least now he knows we're on to him.

The rain had let up by afternoon, so I decided to get back in the ladder on the secondary lease road where I had seen the three bucks a couple of weeks ago.  Ted was hunting in his old standby, #3, just up the road from me.  Neither of us saw a thing.


October 7, 2003 Final Muzzleloader Hunt  
On the final day that we would hunt with our muzzleloaders, I decided to give Stand #10 a try.  That's our box blind out on Walker Road, where years ago you were guaranteed to see a deer.  Although I stayed in the stand until 10:00am, nothing crossed the road at all. 

While I was waiting for Ted to come out of his box blind up on the main lease, I decided to walk out into Walker Road and see if anything was happening back behind me.  Almost as soon as I stepped out, I saw a doe cross the road a little over a hundred yards away.  Knowing that a fence would prevent her from going anywhere, I got down into shooting position and waited for her to cross back.  She soon reappeared, heading away from me up the road.  "Hey!" I yelled, but she didn't flinch.  I finally made a "Waahhhhh" sound to imitate a loud grunt, and she stopped dead in her tracks, turned, and presented me with a perfect broadside shot opportunity.  As I switched off my safety and squeezed the trigger she saw me, turned again, and jumped into the woods. 

I couldn't tell if I had hit her or not, so I ran over to my ATV, loaded up, and drove up to where she had been standing.  I found her tracks, but no sign of a hit.  I was still looking when Ted drove up, unaware that I had taken a shot.  As I told him about it, I glanced down and said "What's that?"   It was my bullet, mushroomed and flattened, laying in a groove in the road.  We inspected it carefully, found a bit of meat on it, and decided that it was a hit.  Looking further, we found a couple of small bone fragments.  This immediately put a knot in my stomach.  Bone fragments generally mean a leg hit. 

We searched the woods for over an hour, finding only one small drop of blood 30 yards from where we found the bullet.  There was no sign of the deer.  This is always the hardest part of hunting, and you never get used to it.  You have to learn from it and do better next time.

For the afternoon, I hunted in Ted's new popup tent blind, overlooking a new growth of wheat and beans.  Ted was hunting back in his box blind, just 50 yards up the road from me.  As darkness approached, Ted radioed me to say that there might be a small button buck headed my way.  I watched, knowing I would not shoot such a small deer.  It never appeared, and as night began I heard a deer to my right blow hard, winding me. 


October 4, 2003 Muzzleloader Hunt  
After debating endlessly with myself for hours about where to hunt this morning, I went back to the same stand that I've spent most mornings this year, the ladder stand on the lease's secondary road.  It paid off this morning for the first time, as I saw three does cross the road about 175 yards down from me at about 9:00am.   The shot was a bit long for my muzzleloader, so I didn't attempt it, but it was great just seeing the deer.

Shortly after that, I looked to my left and saw another doe standing in the thicket not 20 yards away.  I decided that she was a shooter, so I got in position for the shot.  Unfortunately, she moved behind some trees, and though I was able to see her through the brush for several more minutes, she never presented me a good, safe shot.  As she moved out of view, I glanced into the thicket again and saw a spike buck standing where the doe had been.  I put the crosshairs on him several times, but knew that I would not shoot such a young buck.

While watching him, I kept seeing a flicker of movement off to the right; something raising up and down with some regularity.  I tried to find the movement in my binoculars several times, but at first I failed to zero in on it.  What in the world is that,  I thought.  It looked like a turkey's head bobbing up and down, but I couldn't be sure.  Finally I managed to get a glimpse of it through my binoculars, and saw that it was the antler on another buck.  It didn't have much mass, and it could have either been another spike or a small forkhorn; I couldn't be sure.  Whatever it was, it also wasn't a shooter.  As I watched, something startled the first spike, and he jumped back towards the woods about 10 feet.  Standing there for 30 seconds or so, he looked around carefully, trying to determine what it was that had spooked him.  He finally bolted back into the woods, taking the other buck with him.   As they ran, I got a brief glimpse of a third buck that had been there, this one possibly a decent deer.  I saw the well-developed tips of his antlers, but didn't have time enough to determine his full size. 

Seeing seven deer from the stand this morning put me into a really good frame of mind about the state of deer on our lease.  I really feel like we're loaded with them, and having seen four bucks now with the season only a few weeks old makes me believe that our doe-to-buck ratio has greatly improved.  I'm optimistic about the possibility of one of us taking a good buck this year.

Ted hunted down at Stand #7, the ladder overlooking the bottom field, and though he saw no deer, he did see several turkeys.  I also feel really good about our turkey population, and am looking forward to the season next April.

Over the lunch break, we ate some venison chili that Ted had prepared for us, then went over to Elgin to get some chain to try to tighten up the stand that I had been hunting in.  We got that fixed, then headed back to Arnold's for a nap.

In the evening, I hunted in Stand #2, a wheat field up at the top of our lease, while Ted took his popup blind over to Stand #4, another wheat field in the middle of the power lines. 

Sometimes you do everything right and it still doesn't come together.  I parked my four wheeler a good ways away from my stand, shutting off the engine and coasting as far as I could to keep things as quiet as possible.  I was as silent as ever on my approach to the stand, and also climbed the tree without even scaring off the doves that were feeding in the field.  The wind was perfect, right in my face, and the new crop of wheat and beans was looking beautiful.  The doves would serve as an early warning for me; I knew they would fly the moment a deer appeared.  I sat quietly, watching for the sign of the doves. 

When they finally did fly, my heart started pounding, and I got in position for a quick shot if a deer came into the field.  I sat there, waiting.  Nothing happened.  I waited more, and still nothing happened.  There is one corner of the field that is not visible from the stand, and if a deer was in the field already, it was probably right where I couldn't see it.  As I watched, I heard a deer blow a ways off behind me, back where I had parked.  I bet he saw my ATV and took off running.  I waited more, but still saw nothing.

When it was finally too dark to see, I started to come down, and another deer blew from off to my left.  He had probably been standing there on the edge of the woods the whole time, never quite daring to emerge.

Meeting up with Ted, he told me that he had seen two does down in his field, and had heard a buck sniffing off in the thicket.  Although there were no deer taken today, seeing 9 deer between us is not bad, so we'll count this day up as a victory.


October 1, 2003 Muzzleloader Opening Day  
October arrived today, bringing with it cooler weather and the opening of the muzzleloader deer season.  It was just over 40° when I began my long drive down to the lease, and I was sure these lower temperatures would push the deer into moving a little more than usual this morning.  I decided to hunt in that same new ladder stand.  I've got great confidence in this stand, but today I saw nothing from it.  Our wheat and oats are starting to sprout, but the turkeys have really scratched up a lot of the seed.  The doves are after it too, as I saw about fifty of them walking up and down the road trying to get to the good stuff. 

At about 9:30am I heard the long echoing rumble of Ted's .50 CVA muzzleloader, and I got my radio out from my backpack and waited to hear from him.  He radioed me to see if I was copying, but I didn't hear anything else from him.  I figured one of us was having radio problems, so I decided to go on down and see what he got.  As I was leaving, I saw Doug headed that way on his four wheeler.  I soon caught up with him, and we all walked down and looked at Ted's deer.  It was his second muzzleloader deer, and his 14th overall.   A nice doe weighing in at around 90 pounds.

After taking Ted's deer to the processor, we went back to Arnold's house to rest and get ready for the afternoon hunt.  On the way back to the house, we saw 5 does standing in a little gravel road.  The clock in Ted's truck showed 11:30am, which means that we may have gotten out of the woods a bit early.  It's quite possible that the deer are active during the day right now.  Looks like we'll need to stay in our stands until at least noon on Saturday!

For the afternoon hunt, I originally planned to hunt up at Stand #2, one of our new wheat and bean fields, but we ended up sweating a little bit while helping Arnold cover his pool, so we decided to get in some of our box blinds instead so that the deer wouldn't get wind of us as easily.  

On the way into the woods, we jumped about 13 hen turkeys on Walker Road, then 5 move on the way up our main lease road.  Looks like this is a day for turkeys, if nothing else!

I headed for Stand #17, the new box overlooking a small clover plot, while Ted decided to hunt in the pallet box over at Stand #16.  As I sat in the box, occasionally reading a page or two from a novel, mostly just enjoying the cool breeze blowing through the windows, I heard a quiet whine off to my left.  That, I thought, sounds like a turkey.  I looked out the small window, and sure enough, there was hen turkey standing not two feet away.  I managed to get several great pictures of her before she got scared and ran off.  There were four other hens with her.   Not long after that, I saw no less than ten gobblers come into the field and begin to feed.  I also got a few pictures of them before they walked out of range.


Just before dark, I watched a good sized spike buck come into the field.  Not wanting to shoot a spike, I contented myself with watching him through my binoculars.  He fed for a few minutes, then headed over to where we have a block of Deer Cane hidden.  


September 25, 2003 Bowhunting  

Today I had the lease to myself, as no one but me took to the woods.  I hunted again in the new ladder stand overlooking the secondary lease road, but this time I didn't see anything.  I stayed in the stand as long as I could, but they just weren't moving through that area this morning. 
After hunting, I headed back to the house, hoping to catch up with Doug to see if he wanted to do something about getting our food plots planted.  I found him and he was willing, so we plowed our three main fields, then planted them with a mixture of oats, wheat, rye, soybeans, and clover.  I used my new Agri-Fab spreader for the first time, pulling it behind my four wheeler, and it did a fantastic job of getting the seed sowed. 

While planting the sides of one of our roads, I noticed a certain place where there were a great many deer tracks.  They were coming out of the woods, then walking in the road for a good ways before heading back into a thicket.  I decided to set up a climbing stand overlooking that area for my evening hunt.  I had a great view, but saw nothing all evening.


September 23, 2003 Afternoon Bowhunt  
This was originally going to be an all day hunt, but I ended up going to bed a bit later than planned, and decided that getting up at 4:00am would have been a little too hard to do.  I went on down to the lease at around 8:30, taking my tow-behind spreader with me in the hopes of getting our food plots planted.  Our fields, however, had been drenched the previous night by three inches of rain, so they were just too muddy to mess with.  I ended up spending most of the afternoon sitting around reading while I waited for it to get late enough to get into the woods for my afternoon hunt.

I entered the woods at about 4:30pm, choosing to hunt in our new ladder stand overlooking some clover plots (which haven't started to come up yet).   I got into the stand and got settled, then started looking around, admiring the view.  To my surprise, I noticed a doe standing in the road about 50 yards below me.  I got my binoculars out and saw that there was another doe standing with her.  As I watched, they ran off together.  It was surprising to see two deer so early in the afternoon, and unfortunately, they were the only two that I saw.

Leaving the woods at dark, I use my new Surefire flashlight to make my back to the four wheeler.  Surprisingly, the little light is much brighter than even my big Maglight.  With it, I easily find my way back and strap my equipment to the rack on the ATV.  The last glow of the sunset peaks over the top of the power line right of way as I ease my bike into gear.  Wanting to get back home to my wife, I decide to cut through Arnold's back gate rather than follow the trail back down the main road.  This saves me a mile and a half of travel, and as I approach his shop I see his dog Lady waiting to greet me.  She runs around to the back of my four wheeler, hoping that there is a deer there that she can smell.  "What kind of hunter are you?" she laughs, as she sees that the rack is empty.  "Just wait till next time," I respond, smiling as I scratch her head. 


September 19, 2003 Afternoon Bowhunt  
I had to sign on to work pretty early this morning, which also meant that I would end my work day earlier than usual, so it was only natural to spend the afternoon on a bowhunt.  This early season archery hunting can be pretty tough.  The temperature was 90° this afternoon when I left the house.  That meant that it would be stiflingly hot up in the cutovers of the lease, but at least it was a chance to go hunting.

When I got to Arnold's house, he was smiling broadly, so I knew something was up.  I soon found out, as he told me about the hunt he had had the day before on his own lease.  While hunting a food plot, he had seen seven bucks at one time, four of which were eight pointers.  He took the biggest of the lot, and is shown below holding his antlers.

I stopped by Doug's house on the way into the woods to talk about getting something planted in our big fields so that we would be ready for rifle season.  We made tentative plans to do some planting on Tuesday of next week, after my scheduled morning bowhunt.

After that, I headed up into the lease, wondering where in the world to hunt.  I checked one of the small fields that we had planted a few weeks ago, and nothing was coming up yet.  Seeing lots of tracks in the field, I decided to hole up in some of the large growth hedge that was around the edges of the field.  I made myself a little blind where I would have a decent shot at anything in the fields, then sat back and began my long wait.  To my left, two hundred or more yards away, I had a clear view of a large ridge, and I just knew that sooner or later I would see deer on it.  I was right; about a half hour before dark I got a quick look at two fawns as they sprinted across the opening.  Nothing came into my field.

On the way out, while making the 2 mile four-wheeler ride back to camp, I jumped another deer out on the dirt Walker Road.  A yearling, she jumped in and out of my way several times before crashing away into the underbrush. 


September 15, 2003 Opening Day of Bow Season  
4:00am comes mighty early when you got to bed at 11:00pm the night before.  My truck was already packed, so all I had to do was shower, dress, and get on the road, which I did in short order.  Yesterday afternoon I drove down to the lease and hung one of my climbing stands on a tree so that I wouldn't have to deal with it this morning.  I chose to hunt down by the creek on our small, 30+ acre tract. 

I sat in silence, waiting, watching for a deer to appear.  None did.  At one point I heard one blow at me as he came from downwind, so all hopes of seeing that one were lost.  I heard another deer blowing about 300 yards away a little bit later.  Aside from that, the only excitement I had this morning was when a bobcat briefly appeared about 40 yards from my stand. 

In the afternoon, I hunted on Arnold's ridge, where I shot my first deer so many years ago.  I always get at least one bow hunt in this stand, and I usually see a deer from it, but this year... nothing.  Ted also saw nothing all day, nor did Doug. 

A slow start to the season.


September 14, 2003 Final Preparations  
Tomorrow is it... opening day.  And once again, I'm not ready.  Again I've barely had time to pause and think about the coming season.  My backpack contains a mixture of last year's deer and predator gear.  My hunting clothes haven't been aired out, and my new snake boots haven't been broken in. 

The only thing I've had time to do to get ready is to spend about an hour each day for the last week practicing with my bow.  I can say that I'm pleased on that front... I'm hitting the target right where I want to out to 30 yards. 

At about 10:30pm tonight I finally sat down and went through my backpack, removing bullets, rut scents, and the like.  I added in all of my bowhunting gear and changed the batteries in three of my four flashlights with the sound of Eddie Reasoner singing the Buckmasters theme in the background. 

There's an interesting story behind that Eddie Reasoner song.  I've always loved the theme to the Buckmasters TV show.  It sums up the essence of deer hunting, and for many years I wanted to get a copy of it on CD.  One day I did a search on the internet for any information about that song, and I found a brief reference to the songwriter on an obscure message forum.  In fact, the songwriter himself was the one who had posted on this forum.  I got his email address from there and sent him a note to see if the song was available on CD. 

To my surprise, he replied and said that it actually was available, along with several of his other outdoor TV show theme songs.  He gave me a phone number to call to order it.  A few days later I called the number, asked the man who answered if this was where I could order the Eddie Reasoner CD, and to my even further surprise he said "Yes, this is Eddie."  I told him how much I enjoyed that song, ordered my CD, and have since played it every year just prior to the opening day.


September 10, 2003 Sighting in the Muzzleloader  

For various reasons, we didn't get my muzzleloader sighted in last week, so today it was time for a quick trip back to Leeds to do just that.  Results to come...


September 3, 2003 Sighting in the rifles... ...and some brief work at the lease
The annual trip down to the Leeds Rifle Range in the Sumter Nation Forest.  Ted and I head down here every year before deer season to sight in the rifles.  My 7mm mag was dead on for windage, but was shooting about 1 inch low at 100 yards.  It took about four shots to put it right on the bullseye.

Ted had recently free-floated the barrel of his 7-mag, so we had to basically start from scratch on that one.  It took us a while, but we got it set up the way he wanted it.  We also worked on his muzzleloader until that was grouping very nicely.  We've switched from 180-grain sabot bullets to 245 grain powerbelts.  These seem to be much more accurate with 100 grains of powder than the old bullets, so I think we'll be really pleased with them.


September 1, 2003 Opening Day of Dove Season  
Ted had to work today, so for the first time in many seasons, we ended up not being able to hunt opening day together.  Instead of going to public land as we normally would, I decided to hunt over a couple of the fields on our lease.   Our deer food plots haven't started coming up yet, and it turned out that the doves had nothing to eat on our land, and I only got off a quick shot at one that happened to pass over me.  He was out of range anyway, but I tried...

I think next summer we'll take one of our deer plots and plant it for dove sometime in late summer, then we'll hunt it hard on the dove season opener.  After that we can plow it under and replant it for deer.


August 26, 2003 Brief Work at the Lease  

For the last couple of days I have felt like we might not have gotten our food plots seeded as well as I would have liked, so after work today I took a couple of hours and went back down to the lease.  I put some more seed mix in each of the three food plots that we made on Saturday, and now I think they'll be perfect.


August 23, 2003 Work Day at Briarpatch  

Today we put in a fantastic day's worth of work on our lease.  We started the day off by putting together a box blind that Ted has had stored in his garage for several years.  It came out looking great, and it now overlooks a new food plot out in one of our cutovers. 

After getting the box blind together, we went over to repair a bridge that crosses a creek down on the bottom part of our property.  Did I say "repair"?   I should have said "rebuild".  The old bridge was four wooden pallets sitting on top of two cedar posts.  The pallets had rotted almost completely away, so much so that you could no longer safely walk across the bridge.  Ted brought four hard plastic pallets, which we quickly installed, thus making the bridge safe for many years worth of crossings.

Next we met up with Doug Beaver, who was busy cutting some trees down that were blocking the view from one of our stands.   We helped out for a few minutes on this, then headed over to move a ladder stand that we had tried to install previously, but it had turned out that all the trees in that area were too small.   We ended up moving it to a nice pine tree overlooking a road running through the lease.  Once we had the stand up, we built a rail around the top, then hung camouflage burlap from it to help hide the hunter. 

After that, we moved on up to a "loading dock" that the loggers had left, and we used three wooden pallets and a piece of roofing material to build a blind overlooking what would soon be a food plot on this loading dock. 

It was finally lunch time, and we were feeling pretty good about what we had already accomplished.  Doug had headed back home to get lunch, then he was going to get Arnold's tractor and come disk up the new food plots at each of the stands we had installed today.  Ted and I sat back and enjoyed our lunches and a nice break from the hard work.

We had one more stand to put up; a ladder, which we installed looking out over one of our roads.

We decided next to spend a few minutes sighting in one of Ted's rifles, but it turned out to be just too hot to mess with it, so we gave up on that and agreed to work on it another day.

Next, we decided to run to town to get a few things, and to check with the taxidermist to see if the pheasants that we had shot late last year were ready yet.  They weren't quite ready, but he said they should be done late next week.  We stopped and got a few blocks of "deer cane", then picked up several bags of fertilizer and headed back to the lease.

Once back on the lease, we swapped our trucks for four wheelers, and loaded them up with fertilizer, seed, and spreaders.  As we started to head out to check on Doug's disk work and get the stuff planted, we discovered that Ted had locked his keys in the truck.  We spent a bit of time trying to break into it, which we finally were able to do, and off we went.

The hard work began, as we spread several hundred pounds of fertilizer by hand on our new food plots.  We got them planted with various seeds (mostly clovers), and were both exhausted by the time we were done.  We also put a Deer Cane block near each of the food plots as an added attractant.   A nice four wheeler ride back to the base camp at Arnold's house, and the day was over.

I want to head back in about ten days and see if any of our seeds are peeking up yet... I might take a half day from work and see if I can get that done soon.


May 10, 2003 Meeting Ted Nugent  
When I first heard that Ted Nugent would be signing books at Borders up in Charlotte, I wasn't sure if I'd go or not.  I recently finished reading God, Guns, and Rock-n-Roll, which you can read about on my Reading Journal (note: no longer in existence).  On Friday, I decided that yeah, I'd like to go meet him.  I told Micki that we may have a long wait to get to see him, but let's give it a try.  We ended up only having to wait for twenty to thirty minutes before we got to the front of the line.  On the way, we picked up copies of Kill it and Grill it, Ted and Shemane Nugent's cookbook, along with Shemane's new book Married to a Rock Star.  Just prior to meeting the Nuge, we got a chance to say hello to his oldest son Toby, then we turned our attention back to Ted, as he was talking to the kid in line in front of us.

The kid, a teenager of about fourteen, asked Ted for his autograph on a paper guitar that he was carrying.  Nugent said "Sure.  You play the guitar?  You're going to stay away from drugs and alcohol, right?  You don't use them now do you?"

The teenager looked away as he replied, "No, I don't use them."

"Look me in the eye and tell me that, " Ted said.  "If you're on any of that crap, I won't sign this stuff." 

The kid managed to do it, and Nugent signed his paper, but shook his head as if he knew a different story as the kid walked away. 

Micki and I spent a minute or two with Ted as he signed our books for us.  We shook his hand, and he told Micki how pretty she was.  We thanked him for the stance he takes, which I'll discuss in a minute, and we walked away.

I've struggled a little bit over where I stand in my opinion of Ted Nugent.  His message is straightforward.  He's pro-gun, pro-hunting, and is more active in conservation than anyone you'll ever meet.  He plants more trees in a year than most tree huggers do in a lifetime.  He's on the board of directors of the NRA, speaks regularly at high school D.A.R.E programs, is a special deputy sheriff in Michigan, runs an archery camp for children, and is extremely vocal to politicians about the right to keep and bear arms.  He is anti-drug and anti-alcohol.  He is a man who stands up for what is right and all that is good.

He's so far right that he makes Rush look liberal.  Of course, being pretty far right myself, I have to admire this.  Where then, is my problem?  It's pretty simple, and I'm quickly getting past it.  It's in his language.  I feel like he uses way too much cussing in his speech... but if that's his biggest problem, then I think I can get past it. 

I admire him for the fact that he will say what he believes, and will not give a feel good, no purpose apology for the things he says.  I can't tell you how much I hate how politicians call for each other to step down when they offend someone. What's the big deal about being offended?  Nugent's language offends me sometimes, but I'm not out there calling for him to step down from his NRA directorship. 

America, get your feelings off of your shoulders.  Quit crying every time someone says something you don't like.  Quit whining about being offended.  Oh, did I offend you with these remarks?  Well, get over it. 

Where do I stand on Ted Nugent?  I love the man.  America needs Ted Nugent.


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