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The 2004 Hunting Season

In 2004, we'll try to open up the year with a couple of early predator hunts.  Our lease was productive for coyotes and bobcats last year, and hopefully we'll be able to call a few more in.

After that, Ted and I will be taking a trip to Taylorsville, NC to hunt wild boar.  This will be our second trip after pigs, but our first with a quality outfitter.

In April comes the turkey season, but this year Ted may not get many chances to try for these beautiful birds.  He has a baby girl on the way who is due in late March. 

In September, we're going to try to have a field planted for doves, and we'll spend a couple of days pounding away at them when the season opens.  Once we've hunted them a few times, we'll replant the fields for deer.

The deer season will come in around the middle of September, and once again it will be time to hit the woods on a weekly basis. 


2004 Game Record
Animal Seen Killed
Whitetail Buck 3 1
Whitetail Doe 27 0
Turkey (Gobbler/Jake) 3 0
Turkey (Hen) 4 -
Wild Boar many 1
Coyote 2 0
Fox 1 0
Bobcat 0 0
Squirrel - 0
Dove - 2
Crows - 0
Ducks / Geese 10 0
Notes: Clicking on any picture will show you a full size image of that picture.
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January 1, 2005 Season's End  
Having seen a deer from the cutover ladder stand on the big lease a couple of evenings ago, I decided to finish my season from the same stand.  I parked my truck about 500 yards away from the stand, put the red filter over the lens of my Sure-fire flashlight, then began to make my way down the road.

The walk to the stand was uneventful.  Unfortunately, so was my time in the stand.  For the first three of four hours, I didn't even see any birds.  I did hear some duck hunters across the street on Wateree tearing it up, but I wasn't after ducks.  I was after deer. 

With the sun rising high overhead, I knew it was time to come down and head home.  Each time I decided to climb down and hit the trail, I held back, savoring those last minutes in the stand.  I stayed in the tree for another hour or so, then, knowing I would stay all day if I didn't get down soon, I tossed my seat cushion to the ground, forcing me to finally descend.

After getting down, I walked around the woods for another half hour or so, just taking the time to learn the lay of the land a little bit.  When I could stall no more, I made the long walk back to my truck, got in, and went home.


December 30, 2004    
Today was my final all day hunt.  I decided to start by going back to the box blind on Walker Road for one last hunt there before the season ends.  Since that blind is really easy to get into, and since it's so far from where the deer cross that you don't even need to wear camouflage clothing, I timed my arrival to be just before sunrise.

I got situated in the blind, and as soon as the sun began to rise I noticed movement in the road out at the 350 yard marker.  Right where the deer have been crossing all year.  Thinking this was my chance, I raised my binoculars to make sure that it was a deer.  In the gloomy light, I could not be certain what it was.  My first thought was that it was a coyote, then I decided it was a deer.  Not being sure, I refrained from shooting.

After a minute or two, the animal disappeared from sight, and I thought my chances for taking it were over.  But as the sun began to get higher in the sky, I could see that whatever it was was still there; it had only been hidden from view by a brush pile at the edge of the road.  At this point, I identified it as a big coyote.

He hung around for almost 45 minutes, walking back and forth, sniffing the wind, and just meandering along the road.  He never came closer to me than 250 yards, and never went further than 350.   I had already decided not to take him, since I wanted a deer today, but I also knew that his presence would prevent any deer from crossing the road.

I raised my 7mm magnum rifle, aimed into the dirt off to his right, and fired.  I saw the dust fly, and the coyote ran into the woods at full speed.  He was back 15 minutes later. 

Just for fun, I had carried my AR-15 with me today.  Shaking my head, I again sighted into the dirt to the animal's right, then squeezed of a half of a dozen rounds in half as many seconds.  He yipped and scattered, then never returned.

The hunt was over though, because nothing else crossed the road.  When it came time to leave, I decided to drive down to where the coyote had been.  Although I was sure he was ok, I wanted to make sure that all of my shots had been clean misses, as I had intended them to be.   I found the spots where the bullets hit the dirt, and saw no blood.  As I was confirming this, I happened to look over to my right, and there was a big doe crossing the road not 75 yards down from me. 

Although I was still carrying my AR-15 at this time, and although it was locked and loaded, the deer was bounded on both sides by property that I do not have access to, so I had to let the shot opportunity pass. 

In the evening, I went over to the new lease, wanting to give the big cutover ladder stand another try.  I sat there for most of the afternoon, but nothing was moving.  As darkness was settling in, I lowered my backpack to the ground and began to prepare to descend the ladder.  As is my habit, I looked all around me one last time, and this time I saw the hazy outline of a deer standing in the road 75 yards from me.

I got the deer in my scope, but it was too dark to determine the size and sex of the deer, so I had to let it walk.  This was the last deer that I would see this season.


December 24, 2004    
I went right back to the ladder stand this morning.  It was a beautiful day to be in the woods; cloudy, slightly windy, and the temperature hovering just above freezing.  At around 9:00am, I saw a big coyote come running down the road.  I raised my rifle, tracked him, and when he was in the clear, I took the shot.

I saw the bullet splash in the road behind him; he was moving too fast.  By the time I had chambered another round, he was gone.

I knew I should have brought my AR-15 this morning.  I had planned to carry it with me, but decided against it at the last minute.  Had I taken it, I could have quickly squeezed off several shots at the coyote, and would have had his pelt at the tanner by now.

I'll only get three more hunts in this season.  Two morning hunts, and then one full day in the woods.  


December 23, 2004    
After going to a Christmas party at Micki's office this morning, I headed straight from there to the new lease.  I wanted to hunt in the ladder stand that Ted hunted in last week, and this was a perfect chance to do it.  I got in the stand at around 1:30pm, and within 15 minutes I had already seen a doe.  She was about 400 yards back up the road that I had come from, and she crossed quickly and with her tail high in the air.  Something had scared her, but I never saw what it was.

It was quiet for the rest of the afternoon, but just before dusk, something made me turn in my seat and look to my left.  I saw a deer coming toward me.  I stiffened, then slowly raised my rifle.  I couldn't see the deer's head, so I held off on taking the shot.  I watched for several minutes, but never could tell if it was a buck or a doe.  Finally, the deer turned and ran off the way it had come.

I watched it circle behind me, but it was moving too fast for a shot.  I did see antlers as it ran, and it looked like a pretty good buck.


December 18, 2004    
With the season coming to a close in the next two weeks, it was time to take Ted over to the new lease and let him get a look at it.  We met at Arnold's house early enough that we could go from there to the lease and beat anybody else on choosing our stands. 

I had my bag of corn from Thursday, so I took it back to the box where I shot my deer a couple of weeks ago.  Ted hunted just around the corner from me in another box blind.  Although neither of us saw any deer, I had a huge flock of turkeys come in and... well... gobble up the corn.

After leaving our stands, I took Ted around to some of the other roads on our lease so that he could get a good peek at it.  We decided that our afternoon hunts would be right back in our same stands, but when we got back to the sign in board we found that someone else had taken those stands.

I ended up hunting at the far end of the lease, over two miles back in the woods.  Ted hunted a ladder stand overlooking one of the two cutovers on the lease.  Again, neither of us saw any deer, but Ted had one start blowing in the woods behind him.  Think I'll give that stand a try late next week.


December 16, 2004    
This late in the season, I would expect that I would have my act together, but it all fell apart today.  I needed the rest this morning, so I chose to sleep in and then go hunting on my new lease in the afternoon.  Left home at about noon and got about halfway down to the lease when I realized I had made a blunder.

I left my hitch-basket at home.  Not wanting to stick a dead deer in the back of my Jeep, and fully intending to whack something this afternoon, my only choice was to turn around and go get my basket.  Which I did.

An hour and a half later, I was back to where I had been when I realized I had forgotten my basket.  I drove another ten miles or so, then pulled in to a little hunting shop to pick up a bag of corn to spread on my lease.  Got back on the road and got settled in to make the last 20 miles when I realized that I had left my four wheeler keys at home...  No big deal, since I wasn't going to use the ATV today, except... the key to the lease gate is on that ring.  And there is no way around those gates.  And my stand is over a mile up the lease road.

It was too late to go back home for the key, so I decided to head over to Briarpatch.  Which, of course, I also don't have the key for, since it's on the same ring that was sitting on my kitchen table.  No huge deal, since I could probably find some way to drive around the Briarpatch gate, or at the worst I could just go in from Arnold's gate. 

Made it to Briarpatch and hunted Ted's box blind, but, after all that, saw nothing.


December 11, 2004    
As the hunting season begins to wind down, Ted and I spent one of this year's last days in the woods together.  Having given up on the box blind on Walker Road, I chose instead to hunt in a tree looking out over our cutover.  Ted decided to hunt in his box blind down near the power lines.  We met at Arnold's house, got on the four wheelers, and headed out onto our lease at around 6:00 this morning.

Shortly after sunrise, I heard Ted shoot; a short crack that I knew wasn't his 7mm magnum deer rifle.  Knowing he carries a 9mm pistol with him on his hunts, I figured that a coyote or bobcat had come into range and that he collected it with a shot from the pistol.  I grabbed my radio and waited for Ted to call me to report what he had shot.  As soon as I turned it on, I heard him beep me, but when I tried to answer my battery died.

After an hour or so, I heard Ted's four wheeler coming up the hill, so I started getting ready to come down from my stand as soon as he showed up.  Before long, I heard him walk up the road behind me.  "How long will a deer last before it spoils?" he asked.

"In this weather, hours," I responded.  "Did you shoot one with your pistol?!?"

He told me he had brought his .308 today, thus the lack of the rolling boom of a seven mag.  Ted told me that he had shot an eight pointer, his best deer to date, so I got down out of my tree and we went to get it.

Ted's seconds deer of the year and best ever - an 8 point whitetail

We got Ted's deer squared away, then I cooked us up a lunch of salad and blackened ribeye steaks.  After that, we went out onto Walker Road to find out once and for all why I've missed my shot four times in a row.

The answer?  It's a longer shot than it looks.  What I was judging at a little over 200 yards turned out to be a full 340 yards.  I loaded up a copy of Remington Shoot, a free ballistic program from Remington, and keyed in the numbers.  Ouch... a 150 grain 7mm magnum bullet zeroed at 100 yards will drop 16 inches at 340 yards.   This fully explains why I could see the bullet hitting the road in front of the deer, and why I made clean misses every time.  If I try that shot again, I'm going to need to hold above the deer's back.

After settling the matter of my misses, we went back to Arnold's and rested a bit before going back into the woods.  This time, I went to the pallet blind while Ted went to a new location a couple of hundred yards off to my left.  It rained three off and on for the rest of the afternoon, and neither of us saw anything.

Next Saturday morning, I think I'll head back to Walker Road one last time.  Sixteen inches.......


December 9, 2004    
Dan Hartman of the Central Carolina Outdoor Club and I hunted up in Cleveland County, NC this morning.  We knew that a big storm was on the way and that we wouldn't have much time, but I really wanted to get a look at the property, and this would be Dan's last chance to hunt this year.

The area I hunted was a pair of hollows just past a big stand of managed pines bordered by large fields.  I saw a good bit of sign; lots of trails and a couple of rubs.  No animals though, and as soon as I heard the first crash of thunder, I knew it was time to leave the woods.   This lease has potential, especially if you try to catch the deer as they leave the woods and head for the fields in the evenings.

I spent a good bit of time debating with myself about whether or not to hunt this afternoon, since a huge storm was still in the area, but in the end I decided to chance it and go get in a box blind on the new Kershaw County lease.   It turned out ok weather-wise, since the storm broke up before it reached us, but I again didn't see any animals.


December 4, 2004    
Another day back at Briarpatch, and I've come to realize that the box blind on Walker Road is cursed.  Literally jinxed.  Every morning at 7:20am, a big doe crosses the road a ways out in front of the stand.  Four times now, I've been in the stand when she's crossed, and four times I've taken the shot.  Four times I've missed.  Each time, I've found where my bullet hit in the road. 

The problem, I think, is that there is nothing to really judge the deer against, and they are further away than they look.  For example, this morning after I shot, I saw a pile of leaves on the side of the road, and I judged the deer to be about five yards beyond that.  When I walked down to look for blood, I found the spot where the deer jumped forty yards from the leaves.  An amazing misjudgment.

The shot also looks like it's about 200 yards, but I'm betting it's closer to 350.  So, I think I'll finally turn away from this stand and hunt somewhere else next time.  Ted said he'd like to give it a try, so all I can say is "good luck buddy".  Ted didn't see anything this morning during his hunt, but he did find a beautiful, almost completely intact quartz arrowhead.

In the afternoon, Ted and I hunted fairly close together out on the power lines.  He was in a climbing stand looking one direction, and I was in a ladder overlooking one of our fields.  I think at one point I heard deer walking around in the woods on the edge of the power lines, but they never emerged.  There was a lot of squirrelular activity; enough that I'm looking forward to going after the little tree-rats in January.


December 2, 2004    
Gerald, my father-in-law, had a medical procedure today that he needed me to drive him to, so when we got back, I decided to take a quick hunt on his 100 acres.  I walked out along a ridge, following the layout of his lake, then found a promising place to settle in. 

As I sat quietly, his dogs came running up to me, having tracked me through the thickets and into the hardwood grove.  I laughed, got up, and walked back to the house.


December 1, 2004    
With a whole day off of work today, I spent the entire day hunting on the new lease.  In the morning, I went back to the same road blind that I hunted a few days ago, where the corn pile was.  It was really windy this morning with occasional squalls of rain, and no animals showed themselves.

The corn pile that another club member had put out was all gone, so during lunch I went to the store and bought another bag.  I came back and poured it out in the same spot, then settled back into the blind for the rest of the evening.

As dusk approached, I could hear a deer moving around in the woods off to my right.  From the blind's position, it is impossible to see over into those woods, so I had to listen in growing anxiety, hoping the deer would emerge onto the road.  At 5:15pm, it happened.  As I watched, I saw a deer step out cautiously into the road.  I raised my rifle to get a look at the deer through the scope and confirm the size.  Cranking the magnification on the scope to 9-power, I inspected the deer and saw that it was a fair sized spike buck. 

With a quite snick, I slid the safety off, centered the crosshairs, and squeezed the trigger.  The deer dropped in it's tracks, and I breathed a sigh of relief at having made a quick, clean kill.  I jacked another cartridge into the chamber, then watched the deer through the scope for a few minutes to make sure it didn't get up and run off.  He twitched a few times and was still. 

I waited about 5 minutes, just in case another deer might come out, but none did.  Shaking, I emerged from the blind and went and retrieved my deer.  Before taking the shot, I had to take the whole history of the season into account.  I don't typically shoot spikes, but with the season almost gone and no deer to show for it, it was time to get one in the freezer.


November 30, 2004    
Taking a half day off from work today, I decided to hunt on my new lease (more about this in a later entry).  I called Arnold to see if he was going to hunt today.  He said that he was, so this would be one of the first times we've gotten to hunt together in years. 

I stopped by his house on the way to the new club and helped him split a bit of wood, then headed on over to the lease.  I had initially planned to hunt in a tree alongside a logging road looking out over a cutover, so I marked the club map to show where I would be.  When I got to my planned spot, I decided to look around a bit more before getting into my stand, and I found a better spot about a half mile further up the road.  Choosing to hunt here instead, I called Arnold on my cell phone and asked him to move my marker on our map when he got to the club.  This saved me a good half hour of time, and I was able to get my climbing stand on the tree and get hunting right away.

I was in a beautiful spot, but saw nothing the whole time.  Arnold hunted along another logging road on the property, but also didn't see anything.  I did see hundreds of cormorants fly by, making a beautiful sight in the setting sun.


November 27, 2004    
After a week out of the woods, I was getting withdrawal symptoms, so it was wonderful to find myself sitting in a deer blind before dawn this morning.  As usual, I went back to the blind on Walker Road.  I'm having about a 90% success rate on seeing deer from this stand, and I will continue to hunt it until I tag one from it. 

This morning, things went a little bit differently.  As the sun came up, I heard a stick crack in the woods behind me.  Most of the time, the deer cross in front of the blind, anywhere from 60 to 300 yards out.  Today, they crossed behind it.  As I looked around, I found myself face to face with a good sized doe at 15 yards.  The problem was that she was between me and my truck, and I could not be sure that I could make a kill shot without the possibility of whacking a large Jeep Grand Cherokee in the process. 

I watched the deer for about 5 minutes, always waiting for that split second safe shot opportunity, but it never arose.  The deer finally saw me and took off into the woods, and another one that I hadn't previously seen ran off with her.  I had to laugh at the situation:  a perfect 15 yard chip shot, but a completely unsafe backstop, so I was forced to pass on the shot.

Almost immediately after I turned back around, I saw two deer crossing 200 yards out, almost in the usual place.  However, these two were just over the crest of the hill, providing me with the choice of risking a long spine shot or passing.  Of course, the only answer was to pass.

I headed over to my other lease after a short lunch break, determined to sit in a stand for the rest of the afternoon.  After inspecting the new map of the property, I saw the someone may (or may not; it wasn't clear!) have been in the place I wanted to go, so I chose instead to go sit in a box blind overlooking a long stretch of logging road. 

I found the blind and got settled, and soon found myself thinking man, this would be a great place for a corn pile.  Baiting is legal in the county that this lease is in, and as I raised my binoculars to try to determine where a deer might emerge, I did in fact see a small pile of corn on the side of the road bed.  Good deal

At around 2:30pm, a large flock of turkeys came out of the woods and began to feed.  I watched them for about 30 minutes before they left the area, and not long after that it started to pour rain.  This continued for the rest of the afternoon, and no deer at all showed up.  It turned out to be a good thing that I chose the box blind, since I remained perfectly dry the whole time I was in the stand.  Had I gone to my original choice of stands, I'd have been drenched in the first two hours.


November 20, 2004    
A repeat performance of my hunt two weeks ago.  Same blind, same situation.  Another miss.  I checked my rifle earlier this week, so I know that it's ok.  Just a run of bad luck.  I was filming the deer, and was struggling to get the camera focused when it emerged from the woods.  As I moved from the camera to my rifle, the deer had turned and now had it's tail directly facing me.  I thought it was still standing sideways, and when I shot, I completely missed.

Ted, hunting in the pallet blind, saw nothing.

Last year, I shot a coyote while deer hunting.  I had decided to have the pelt tanned, and the taxidermist had called earlier this week to let me know it was ready.  During lunch, we headed over and got it. 

In the evening, I hunted the box blind, and Ted hunted "number 3", his old favorite stand.  Neither of us saw anything.


November 18, 2004    
After taking a weekend off to go fishing with my Dad at the Outer Banks, I was ready to get back in the woods.  I was on my own this morning, and went over to the pallet blind.  About an hour after sunrise, I heard a commotion in the hollow to my right, and as I watched I saw the white tail of a deer as it came busting out of the woods and out into the cutover.  I never got a clear look at it, and certainly never had a shot opportunity.

I kept watching, and as I sat I heard the sound of something moving in another hollow, this one off to my left.  I finally got to where I couldn't stand it, so I slowly left the blind and made my way over to the edge of the woods.  The wind was perfect, so if it was a deer there was a good chance it would not know I was there.  I watched for some time before finally seeing that it was just a couple of squirrels gathering acorns for the winter.

After leaving the woods, I met up with Arnold.  He had recently told me about a new lease opportunity on 1800 acres of prime land that had only been lightly hunted for the past two years.  I knew right away that I wanted in, so he took me over to let me get a look at the land. 

That afternoon, we headed back over there.  I was hunting a ladder stand along a logging road, and I wasn't in it long before a spike buck came walking right under my blind.  It was against club rules to shoot something that small, so I let it walk, happy to have just had one come so close.  Almost immediately after that, a beautiful fox came by, but I let it walk, choosing instead to wait for another deer.

I saw nothing else.


November 6, 2004    
Another all day hunt at Briarpatch.  Once again, I headed for the box blind on Walker Road.  I see deer from that stand at least 90% of the time, so I'll keep hunting it until I tag one from there.  Ted went to the pallet blind.  Right at about 7:00am, a deer stepped out into the road about 250 yards out from me.  I fired.  Couldn't tell if it was a hit or a miss.

About ten minutes later, I heard a single shot from Ted's direction, along with the accompanying whump sound of the bullet striking bone.  I could tell that Ted had hit his animal.  He quickly radioed me and told me that he had tagged a spike buck.  I told him that I had shot but was not sure if I had hit or missed, and that I was going to go down and take a look.  I asked him to leave his deer where it was and come over and help me look for mine.

We looked for a good while before finding where my bullet struck the road.  A clean miss. 

After we took Ted's deer to the processor, we decided to get back in the woods and try to call up a buck using Primos "The Can" doe-in-estrus bleat caller.  We walked up Arnold's back road and found a likely spot to sit in the woods.   Since he had already connected this morning, Ted was videoing me for Wingshooters.net Outdoors on this hunt.  We settled in and I began to call.

Almost immediately, I saw a flash of white.  Oh man, I thought.  An albino!!  Ahhhhhh, crap.  A wild dog.  The dog moved quickly and silently, looking for its prey.  It didn't see us in our camo.  I got my rifle ready to shoot in case it saw us and chose to attack.  Ted unholstered his pistol and also got ready to take a shot.  As we watched, the dog snorted and ran away.

We laughed a bit, then chose one more spot to try some calling, but nothing else responded.

That evening, Ted went to his wooden ladder stand, and I went down to the box blind.  Neither of us saw anything.


November 4, 2004    
With heavy rain falling, I cancelled my morning hunt.  It's funny; I love hunting in the rain, but it's hard to get motivated to actually get out in it.  Once I'm out there, I'm as happy as can be, but the prospect of facing the wet day often keeps me in bed.

I arrived at Arnold's house at around 2:00pm.  The rain was still heavy, but by then I was quite ready for it.  I put on my rain gear and made sure I had my treestand umbrella in my backpack.  The woods are the place to be in the rain, so I headed up the hill toward Arnold's ridge. 

As I crested the hill, I turned off my four wheeler and coasted silently down the gentle slope of the forest road until I was within about 150 yards of where I would enter the woods.  Although the stand was off to my left, I had a plan in mind for this hunt.  I entered the thick woods to the right of the road and made my way in about a hundred yards.  I then applied some estrus doe urine to my boots and to a drag rag, then began a wide arc through the woods in the direction of my stand.

When I had made a long trail and was within 50 yards of the stand, I removed the drag rag and hung it from the limb of a cedar tree.   I climbed the ladder into my tree, put up my umbrella, then sat down and got comfortable.

By 4:00pm I was ready to do some calling, so I used my Primos "The Can" estrus doe bleat several times.  Within minutes, I heard a deer approaching from the perfect direction.  The wind was in my face, so there was no way he could smell me.  I was shocked though to hear him snort in disgust, then turn and run.

He couldn't have smelled me.  Although I never saw the deer, he must have gotten a look at me. 

Nothing else approached the rest of the afternoon.


November 2, 2004    
It's been almost a month since I've been in the woods.  Micki and I took a week long vacation to Texas, and immediately after that I spent the week on pager duty at work.  So now I'm back, and I'm ready to hunt.

Today I went down to the farthest field on our lease at Briarpatch.  The wheat was looking really tall, indicating that the deer are most likely still eating acorns in the woods.  Although I stayed in my stand until it was pitch dark outside, nothing entered the field.  A slow return to deer hunting, especially with the rut under way.


October 11, 2004 Rifle Season Opener  
At long last came my favorite hunting season, the general firearms portion of deer season.  Dawn found me right back in the stand on Walker Road, positive that I would pop a doe.  As the sun began to rise, I felt myself growing tense with excitement, expecting a deer to appear at any moment.

Time passed.  Birds flew across the road, and I could hear the turkeys making their fly down cackle as they left the roost.  No deer.  The morning went by, and finally, at 9:30, I glimpsed a deer in the road at about 225 yards.  Sighting in on it with my scope, I quickly determined that it was just a yearling; definitely not a deer to take on opening day, with 2 and a half glorious months of hunting stretching out before me.

The young deer didn't tarry, and it soon disappeared into the thick brush at the edge of the road.  Where there is one deer, there are often more, so I kept my rifle ready, waiting for another to appear.  I was soon dismayed to hear the sound of an approaching vehicle.  While this usually won't ruin a morning's hunt, it will at least spook any deer that are already on the edge of the road. 

Setting my rifle aside, I raised my binoculars and watched the truck approach.  It turned out to be two trucks, and they ended my hunt by parking in the road almost exactly where the deer had disappeared just moments before.  I'm not sure what they were doing down there, but all hopes of a safe shot were gone, so I packed up and headed back to the house.  That's the chance you take when you hunt a place like Walker Road.  Although it is very lightly traveled, it is still a public road.

I called Ted on the radio, told him what was up, and he agreed to meet me back at the house, having seen nothing this morning.

I knew where I was going this evening; out to the tower on the power lines.  Ted headed to #3, his favorite stand (where he killed a whopping five deer one year).  Although I stayed until the last possible moment, I saw nothing.  Ted also saw nothing.

My deer count this year is already up to sixteen animals.  I'm really pleased with this, especially since I only saw a total of seventeen deer all of last season. 

I've just noticed that my descriptions of my evening hunts are often brief, while my talks about my morning hunts are more detailed.  I think this is likely because I tend to see and kill most of my deer in the mornings, whereas my afternoon hunts are most often times when I don't even see a deer.  Or maybe it's just that I'm tired of writing by the time I get around to talking about the evening hunt.   


October 9, 2004    
I gave myself an extra half-hour's worth of sleep this morning by deciding just to drive my truck over to my hunting area instead of stopping at Arnold's and getting my four wheeler.  I decided to hunt on Walker Road again, having seen deer pretty consistently there each morning. 

As I settled into the blind and got my camera ready to do some filming for Wingshooters.net Outdoors, I noticed a dark shape in the road about 40 yards away.   Using the video camera's "night vision" mode, I was able to determine that it was a large rabbit.  I filmed him for a few minutes, then got a glimpse of a deer crossing the road 60 yards out from me.  I fiddled with the camera a few minutes to get it centered on the deer, then raised my muzzleloader to take the shot.

The deer never presented me with a great shot opportunity, so I held off on squeezing the trigger.  It soon vanished into the heavy brush on the side of the road.  Although I kept the camera rolling for another ten minutes, it never reappeared.  Shortly after I stopped filming, I saw more movement in the road about 200 yards out.  As I watched, four deer crossed, one of them having the body mass of a buck.  Since the shot was out of muzzleloader range, I had to be content with just watching them.

I heard Ted shoot at about the same time as my deer left the road.

I stayed in the stand until 10:15, but saw nothing else.  I drove over to Arnold's house, expecting Ted to be waiting there for me with his deer.  He had missed, it turned out, a doe at just over a hundred yards, one of a group of three deer that crossed in front of him.  He also got a good look at a bobcat, but we're still a few weeks away from the season opening for these predators.

During lunch, we drove over to the taxidermist's and took a look at our boar mounts from our January hunt.  While not quite ready, we could see that they were going to be beautiful mounts.  Should just be another week or so before we get to take them home.

Ted and I both headed over to the lease for this afternoon's hunt.  Ted was going back to the box blind where he shot at the doe this morning.  I planned to hunt in the field behind him, but when I got there I didn't see sign of much activity, and the wind was horrible.  I changed up and headed down to the wheat field along the creek, taking Ted's pop-up blind along for cover.

Although I hunted until the last possible minute, I saw nothing.  Ted was also skunked this evening. 


October 7, 2004    
Another chance to get in the woods with the muzzleloader today.  Having had some luck a week ago in the box blind on Walker Road, I decided to give it another try this morning.  It was quiet for most of the morning, but at about 9:30 I glanced up and saw a deer standing in the road about 200 yards away.  Knowing it was out of range for the muzzleloader, I scrambled to get my video camera rolling.  I managed to get a few seconds on film before the deer jumped into the woods on the side of the road.  Never could determine if it was a buck or a doe.

After hunting I met up with Arnold, and we went into town to get some lunch.  Arnold wanted one of the Thermocell mosquito repellents that I was talking about earlier, so we went to several stores before we finally found him one.  They really work well, as I said, but I'm still not sure about whether or not the deer can smell them.

In the evening, I went down to Arnold's ladder stand on the ridge.  At about 6:30, I heard movement in the woods over my shoulder to the left.  I slowly turned and saw two deer coming down the hill into a gulley.  Once they got into the gulley, I lost sight of them, although I could occasionally catch flickers of movement down in that direction.  I never could get a good look at them in my binoculars or rifle scope, so I had to hold off on shooting.

After ten maddening minutes, one of the deer snorted loudly, having winded either me or my mosquito repellant.  They weren't sure what the problem was, because they jumped back into the woods about fifteen feet, then held there for a few minutes.  I got my scope centered in the vitals of one deer, but still had to hold off on the shot because I couldn't make positive identification on the size or sex of the animal. 

They finally decided they had had enough, and took off snorting into the woods.  I saw that there had been three deer there in all, and one of them may have been a buck; I think I saw a glimpse of antler as they bounded off.  Since I couldn't be sure, I had to classify it as a doe in my "2004 Game Record" at the top of the page.

This last sighting brings me up to seeing a total of ten deer so far this year; far ahead of where I was last year at this time.


October 2, 2004    
With me having to drive almost an hour and a half to hunt each time I go, it's getting harder and harder to do two mornings in a row.  And so it was that today I decided to just do an afternoon hunt.  I decided that the pallet blind was the place to go, so I drove directly to the lease, parked, and made my way to the stand.

The pallet blind has real good camouflage on it, so I was wearing an ordinary pair of shorts to try to beat the heat.  As bad as the mosquitoes have been this year, this was a risky proposition at best, but I was armed with a new mosquito repellent from Thermacell.  I was a bit skeptical about this product, but I decided to give it a try.  On performance, the product receives five stars from Wingshooters.  In four hours, I had a total of four mosquitoes fly in my blind, and all of them immediately exited before they could bite me.  Wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I walked away without a single bite.  

I did not see any deer, unfortunately.  The mosquito repellent is supposed to be odor free, so I'll hold off on final judgment of it until I can verify that it does not spook game.


October 1, 2004 First Muzzleloader Hunt  
Ted and I were again both hunting today.  We were planning to start off the day in very different areas, so we decided to just go straight to our stands, then meet up after the morning hunt.  Ted was heading over to the pallet blind, which overlooks a bean and wheat field in the middle of our cutover.  I was going to hunt in a box blind that watches Walker Road, a dirt road that runs through miles of timberland. 

I parked my truck at Arnold's shop, got my four wheeler, then drove down the road to Doug's house where I would sign myself and Ted in for our morning hunts.  Doug heard me drive up, so he came out to greet me, and we chatted a bit about the prospects for the morning.  When our visit was over, I got back on the four wheeler and headed down Walker Road.  I parked at Arnold's back gate, then made my way along the wood line to the box blind. 

This blind hasn't been hunted in years, so I expected to have to do a good bit of clearing of any underbrush that may have sprung up, but to my delight I found that only one or two small trees were blocking the view.  I quickly trimmed them down, then got settled into the blind.

At exactly 9:00am,  a deer appeared in the middle of the dirt road.  She came as deer so often do.  One second there was nothing, the next she was there.  It's always amazed me how they just show up in the middle of your field of view without you seeing them enter.  I was talking to Ted about that after the hunt, and he confirmed that it's the same way with him.

I fumbled with my video camera but couldn't get it started; I kept pressing the wrong buttons, so I finally gave up and raised my rifle.  As the deer paused, I centered the crosshair and squeezed the trigger.  White smoke billowed, then cleared.  The doe was still there, standing just as she had been before I shot.  After a few seconds, she turned around, then leapt nimbly back into the woods.  Another deer just beyond her stayed put for a moment, giving me time to finally turn the camera on.  I got the second one on film for just a second, then it too was gone.

I waited a bit, then got out of the blind and walked down to check for signs of a hit.  Although I found where the deer had been standing, the was no blood, no hair, nothing to indicate a hit.  I walked out several trails through the woods, but again found nothing.  All indications were that it was a clean miss.

After meeting up with Ted, we checked my rifle and found that I was 3 inches low at 50 yards.   The deer was at least half again that far away, so I'm confident that I shot below her, either between her legs or off to the right.  We re-zeroed the scope so that I am now shooting 2 inches high at 50 yards, which is right about where I want to be. 

After we zeroed my rifle, we spent some time putting up a new climbing stand, which meant clearing shooting lanes through the thick trees.  We were both soaked with sweat by the time we were finished.  I decided that I just felt too nasty to even go into town to get lunch, so I gritted my teeth, grabbed a bar of soap, took the garden hose around back of the shop, and took a quick cold shower right there outside.  There's a test of manhood for ya; ice cold well water and a bar of soap.  But man, did I feel better afterward.

In the afternoon, we were trying to decide where to hunt.  Arnold told Ted to feel free to hunt on his land, so I suggested that he head down toward the ladder stand on the ridge.  This is right in the middle of a bunch of white oaks, so I felt sure that this would give him the best chance of seeing a deer.  I had planned to make my way down toward the pond, but it was so humid out that I was again sweat-soaked by the time I got to the top of the hill, so I just settled down in the ladder stand overlooking Arnold's fields.

I'm going to write an article about misery for Wingshooters.  I've been miserable before and have loved every minute of it.  Be it duck hunting in cold, wet weather or freezing on the end of a pier while fishing in February, just bring it on.  But put a swarm of mosquitoes around me, buzzing in my ears, and I'm about ready to scream.   By the time darkness fell, I was constantly flapping my hands beside my ears, just trying to keep that high pitched whine away.  I didn't care if a monster buck saw me, just stop with the noise! 

To my surprise, just at dark a big big deer crossed the field in front of me, but I couldn't make a positive identification of its sex, and it never paused to give me a clear shot, so I let it walk.  As it left the field, I fled, just so relieved to be away from the mosquitoes.  Ted, already back at the truck, told me that many deer had winded him during his hunt, and that he had seen nothing.  Shoulda taken one of them cold showers, buddy...


September 25, 2004 Final Regular Season Bowhunt  
Today was most likely the last day we'll get in the woods during the regular bow season.  Ted and I were both hunting today, with plans to meet at Arnold's house at around 6:00am.  I was going to go from there over to "the ridge" on Arnold's property, with Ted planning on hunting one of the roads on our lease.  I pulled into Arnold's driveway right on time and saw that the road up to the shop was blocked by several cars. 

Ted was there waiting, and we decided to turn around and just drive over to the lease.  We did that, and as we drove I tried to decide on a new place to hunt, since the walk from the lease down to the ridge was just too far to do this close to sunrise.  I had forgotten that Ted had his four wheeler with him, which he offered to me, so I was able to drive down to the ridge and hunt where I wanted to.  Ted went on to his original destination and set up in his ground blind.

The leaves were slightly damp when I entered the woods and made my way to the ladder stand on the ridge.  I was able to make a silent approach to the stand, get in, and get settled without causing too much of a stir. 

Sunrise came slowly, and the woods gradually began to come to life.  I heard a rustle in the leaves off to my right and watched as a flock of hen turkeys passed by.  Dogs barked in the distance, and the sparse bird calls grew louder and more frequent.  I sat peacefully, sometimes using my binoculars to probe the thick brush at the far end of the woods, watching for movement. 

A stick cracked in the woods to my right, a sound that indicated something big was on the move.  As I watched, three does came bounding past, not really running flat out, but not taking their time either.  At their closest point, they were forty yards away and always on the move, a definite no-shoot situation for bowhunting, so I had to be content in just sitting and watching, happy for having seen my first deer of the year.

The deer were soon gone, and the only other event of note was the clamor of a flock of turkeys being scattered in the distance, perhaps by a coyote or a bobcat. 

Ted and I met up at the trucks, got lunch, then did a bit of work on a couple of our stands.  We were a bit tired after doing all of this, so we headed over to the store for some cold drinks, then went and sat by the river and dozed.

In the evening, I went back to the stand on the ridge, while Ted set his blind up in the field at the far end of the lease.  Neither of us saw anything, and so ended the final bowhunt of the season.


September 23, 2004 Bowhunting  
Although I had planned to hunt the entire day today, I didn't sleep well last night, so at around 1:30am this morning I made the decision to forgo the morning hunt and just go down to the lease in the afternoon.  I got down to the lease around 11:00am and decided to go check out our fields and look for the treestand umbrella that I dropped on opening day.

I found my umbrella immediately, then drove the four wheeler around inspecting the fields.  The plants are growing really well, and the deer are really attacking the soybeans.  They've eaten the tops off of many of them; looks like there's about two weeks of beans left, then we may need to plant some more.

I also put out a few more mineral blocks; the deer seem to really like the ones that we've been using, so I replenished three of our best spots. 

The evening hunt was fruitless; I hunted in my blind on the edge of one of our fields, and although I saw no deer, a gobbler and a jake came in the field and fed for awhile.  Fun to watch, but illegal to shoot!


September 15, 2004 Archery Season Opening Day  
At last, deer season is once again open.  Ted and I were hunting on the lease today, having gone down yesterday afternoon to set up our blinds. 

We spent a long day in the blinds, both staying in them all day.  Ted reported seeing a doe with two fawns in one of our fields, as well as a bobcat.  I was hunting over an old spot that we've always put some salt blocks in, but nothing came through.  Our fields are looking beautiful, with beans standing two to three inches high.

A bit of a frustrating end to the day as I struggled to repack my blind into it's case.  The instructions that came with it do not refer to my variety of blind, so we ended up just stuffing it into my truck uncased.  I contacted the manufacturer this morning and they sent me a set of instructions for my product, so we should be all set to go with it in the future.

Looks like the hurricane is going to prevent us from hunting on Saturday, so it may be another week or more before I get to go again.  And darn it if I didn't just realize that I dropped my treestand umbrella somewhere in the woods on the way out today.


September 4, 2004 Dove Season Opens!  
In the Carolinas, dove season traditionally opens on the Saturday before Labor Day.  Although we haven't been able to do it for the last couple of years, Ted and I have traditionally tried to get together on the day to welcome in the hunting season.  We usually hunt the public fields of the Uwharries for the opener, but this year it struck me that we ought to be making use of the food plots on our deer lease to hunt doves.

With that in mind, we planted our plots last weekend, and while doing so we took special notice of how many doves were in the area.  After worrying a bit about whether or not our plots would be considered "baited" when it came to hunting doves, I called the local game warden, told him our situation, and asked if we would be ok.  He assured me that as long as we had covered our seed, which we had, we would be ok.

So, noon today found Ted and I sitting in a little natural blind on the edge of one of our fields.  Having seen so many doves last weekend, I was really optimistic about our hunt today, even to the point of picturing both of us going home with our limit.  Alas, doves, like deer, seem to know that the season has opened, and they were quite scarce today.  We tagged two birds apiece.

Although we didn't have the birds that we hoped to have, it was, as always, wonderful to get back into the woods.  Deer season opens in just eleven days.  I've already got my spot picked out for the opener.


April 29, 2004 Final Turkey Hunt  
This was it; the last morning for my 2004 turkey hunts.  I decided to hunt on the lease again, since the turkeys had been gobbling pretty loudly over there a few days ago.  This morning I started the hunt in the same way that I did on Saturday.  I walked down the tree line at the edge of the cutover, stopping occasionally to hoot or do some soft hen tree calling. 

As I approached the creek, three turkeys off to my left began to gobble loudly in response to my hen calls.  Oh man, I thought.  Sounds like they're finally on my side of the creek.  I tree called a few more times, then beat my hands against my chest to simulate the fly down sound of a hen.  The gobblers went wild, but sounded like they didn't want to leave their roost yet.

We called back and forth for a good 30 minutes before I finally decided to move a little closer.  As I began walking, I clucked a couple of times on my slate call, and got a very loud response from the gobblers.  They are really close... I backed up a few steps and sat down quickly against a tree.  I barely had time to get the video camera in position before I got my first look at a gobbler about 30 yards away.

I was sitting against tree that was on a high bank, and the gobblers, three of them now in view, looked like they were going to walk toward the top of this bank, circling around me to get a look at what was in the creek bottom.  The only chance I'd have was to get a shot at this distance.  I raised my shotgun, saw a gobbler's head framed between some branches, and fired twice.  The turkeys took off in a mad dash, and I knew that my pattern had been deflected by the thick brush.

I got up and chased the birds for a few minutes, but it was no use; they were way off into the cutover by the time I got to where they had been standing.

Having only one shell left in my gun and no extras with me, I decided to walk back to the truck and get a pocketful of them since it was still early.  As I headed up the hill, another gobbler started sounding off to my left back near the property boundary.  This left me in a quandary.  It would take me 30 minutes to make my way up to the truck then back down to the creek.  The turkey may move on by then.  I decided to go after him with one shell.

I headed back down to the creek and found a hiding place in some tall grass at the edge of our property.  I began calling again, and two gobblers responded within about 30 yards of me.  Although we called back and forth for another half hour, they were with hens and wouldn't come my way.  One hen did come down to check me out, but the gobblers never moved.

By the time the toms shut up, I was ready to head on back to the truck.  I walked up through the woods, calling occasionally, but the gobbling seemed to be pretty much over for awhile.  I stopped and rested in Ted's box blind for awhile, then finished the hike back up the hill to my vehicle.  Once there, I decided to do a few pick-up shots for Wingshooters.net Outdoors, taking a few minutes to film our first "tip of the day" segment. 

As I finished the filming, I heard another gobble in the woods to my left, so I grabbed my gun and made one last try for a gobbler, but by the time I got to the woods he was long gone. 

That wraps up the season.  I'm left with my memories and a bunch of video to edit to piece together our first show.  There won't be any kills on the video, but I think you'll get a good view of what real-life turkey hunting is all about.


April 24, 2004 Turkey Hunting The End Approaches
This morning was one of those rare mornings when I laid in bed asking myself if I really wanted to go hunting today, or would I just rather sleep in.  As 4:00am approached, I closed my eyes and decided to sleep in.  The heck with it, it's too hot and the ticks will be out today.  So I'm not sure how I wound up in the shower or got my camouflage overalls on, but the next thing I knew I was in my truck and halfway to Lancaster. 

On the way down, I undertook a long debate with myself about where to hunt:  Arnold's land or the lease.  I ended up winning the debate, and chose the rough terrain of the lease over the familiar woods of Arnold's property.  This meant an added bit of excitement as I had to spend a few minutes racing down a dirt road that we don't technically have access to, looking over my shoulder the whole time to see if anyone noticed.  Nobody but a fat doe saw me, and she didn't seem to mind my brief trespass.  The problem, you see, is that our remaining lease is now landlocked, and the only way to get a truck over to it means crossing somebody else's land, if only for a few hundred yards. 

After I got my truck parked and my gear ready to go, I let loose with a few traditional owl hoots, the standard way to open a morning of turkey hunting.  Nothing gobbled at all, so I started walking down the road, heading toward the tree line to my right this time rather than following the road to the left like I did last time I hunted the lease. 

As I approached the edge of the forest, I heard a turkey gobbling in the pines somewhere close by.  I stepped into the woods and made my way toward him.  He soon shut up, as the gobblers have been doing all season.  Another and another started gobbling soon, both down near the creek, which was pretty close to where I was anyway, so I ran down there, found a tree, and sat down.  Both of these boys soon ended up with the hens, which took them out of the game pretty quickly. 

Next I headed off to my left going to our big field where I put out a few decoys, then crawled into a brush pile to see if anything would come into this prime strutting area.  Although I heard a bunch of gobbles all around me, none of them were really close, and none of them decided to come to the field.  I did see two hen wood ducks fly in a circle around the field, which was pretty exciting. 

After giving up on the field, I chased down two more gobblers, only to have both of them end up with hens before I got there.  I know this because in both cases I could hear the hens clucking and yelping.  So, although I ended up skunked again, at least the morning was full of action.


April 22, 2004 Turkey Hunting  
I wish I could write about turkey hunting the way that Tom Kelly does.  The man is just a flat out good writer.  But I can't, so we'll just settle for another fact filled hunting journal entry rather than one full of pretty adjectives. 

I hunted on Arnold's land again today, and the only gobbles I heard were over smack dab in the center of the old lease.  No way to coax the turkeys out of those deep gullies, and no way to get close to where the birds were while staying on legal hunting grounds.  That being the case, I contented myself with a brief walk around the property before packing it in and heading home. 


April 17, 2004 Turkey Hunting Taylor Leonhardt Arrives!
Arnold had some guests hunting with him today on his property, so I went straight to the lease in order to keep out of their way.  I parked my truck about halfway down the road on our lease, then walked down the hill to Ted's box blind.  By the way, where has Ted been in all of this?  Y'all haven't heard anything about him this turkey season!

Ted and Michelle have a new addition to their family:  his new daughter Taylor, born on April 9th.  I'm about a week behind in doing my hunting journal updates, so unfortunately I didn't get this news in here until today, but we're really excited for Ted and Michelle. 

Ted and Taylor

As I was saying, I paused at Ted's box blind and was immediately rewarded with a loud gobble.  It was coming from down toward the creek, and just possibly past the creek, but if so, it was close enough that I might be able to coax him to the edge.   I headed down the hill as quickly as possible, with the turkey gobbling his head off the whole time.

As I left the cutover and headed into the woods, it became clear that the gobbler was on the other side of the creek.  That's not our property, so I'd have to really be lucky to work him right to the edge and get him into a legal shooting position.   I settled down against a tree on the river bank and started doing a bit of "tree calling".  This is a set of short yelps, usually no more than three or four at a time.  Following that, I simulated a fly-down by slapping my hands on my chest quickly, which imitates the sound of flapping wings.  The gobbler got excited and let out a yell or two.  We talked back and forth for a half hour, me pleading him to come to the bank, and him insisting that I come over there.  He finally gave up and went the other way.

I did a bit more hunting, placing decoys in a couple of our fields, but saw nothing.  I heard a few hen yelps throughout the morning, which leads me to believe that the mating season is just getting underway.   Maybe next time...


April 10, 2004 Turkey Hunting  
Today Arnold and I were going to hunt together.  Although he's let us base camp out of his workshop for several years, Arnold and I haven't really hunted together in quite some time, so I was really glad to get the chance to get back in the woods with him.  We met at his house at about 5:30 this morning, long before sunrise.  The plan was to get down to the pond and cross the dam while it was still dark so that any roosting turkeys in the area wouldn't see us. 

We made it down there and sat in the woods on the edge of his property for quite some time, but all of the gobbles that we heard were a long way off.  We finally decided to walk back up the hill and go down toward the back gate and see if anything was making noise on that side of the land.  When some time had passed and no turkeys were heard, Arnold headed back toward the house, while I slowly made my way down to the back gate.

As I got near the gate, I saw that a truck was parked there, so I walked on over to see who it was, and maybe catch a trespasser in the act.  Turned out it was Doug's truck, so I sat on the tailgate and waited for him to come out of the woods.  When he showed up, we discussed the lack of turkeys for awhile, then parted ways.

Heading back to the fork in the road near the pond, I sat down in the woods and fooled around with my friction caller for awhile.  As I was clucking away on it, I heard some hens cluck back, but I never could get a look at them.  I finally gave up and went home.


April 8, 2004 Turkey Hunting  
Having heard a gobble down near the pond on Saturday, I decided that was the place to start today.  I made my way down the road to where it forks just above the pond, stopped, and hooted a few times.  Nothing answered, so I decided rather than head on to the pond itself I would take the other road and walk to the back gate.  I didn't get 20 yards down the road before I heard a gobble back at the pond. 

I turned around and jogged down the hill and across the dam, then stopped on the edge of the woods to wait for the gobble to sound again.  It wasn't long before I heard it, quite close, just over on the old lease.  I eased my way into the woods, settling down just near the property line.  Yelping softly, I got a loud gobble.  I transitioned into some serious cutting, which rewarded me with two gobbles, followed by a the strong beat of the gobbler's wings as he flew down from the tree.

After one or two more gobbles, the two toms shut up entirely.  This is it, I thought.  They're headed right to me.  I waited quietly for them to appear.  Silence.  I waited more, but they still didn't show up.  I kept up my vigil for over an hour, but they never appeared.  Something must have spooked them, but I'm not sure what it was.    We'll try again on Saturday for them.


April 3, 2004 Turkey Hunting  
Today was pretty much a repeat of Thursday.  I started out at the top of the hill on Arnold's property and let out a few owl hoots.  Hearing nothing, I walked down the trail toward the pond, yelping or hooting along the way.  As I got to the back gate road, I finally heard a gobble down below the pond a good ways away.  At the same time, I heard a hen softly clucking somewhere within 50 yards or so of me.  It was a tough decision... go toward the gobble or stay near the hen.

I decided to try for the gobbler, but by the time I got down to the pond he had already moved over onto our old Bowater lease.  I thought that I might be able to call him back over to Arnold's land, so I walked into the woods behind the pond and headed toward the property line.  On the way through the woods, I found a massive shed deer antler, bigger than anything I've ever seen in the area.  Most of the tines were gone, but from what remained you could easily see how big this deer had been. 

When I got to the property line, the turkey had quit gobbling.  Standing at the edge of the old lease property I remembered my facemask, lost somewhere in this area on Thursday.  I made a couple of quick but fruitless forays into the woods to look for it.  I really hate that; it was the best mask I've ever found, and it came as part of a three piece camouflage outfit.  I doubt I'll ever find another one that's quite as good.

After losing track of the gobbler, I walked back up to where I had been when the hen was clucking.  By the time I got there she was gone, so I continued walking down the road toward the back gate.  Hearing no turkeys in the area, I made my way back up the road.  It's a good long walk from the back gate all the way back to Arnold's house if you follow the roads, so I decided to go straight through the woods instead.  It was tough going, but I made it, climbing my way out of the huge rift that we call "Blowdown Valley". 

I went back to the house, spent some time with Arnold, then took my popup blind back to the field where the hens and jake had shown up on Thursday.  Although I sat there for the rest of the day, the turkeys stayed out of the field today.  I heard them briefly as they passed by, but they decided against eating the chufa this time.


April 1, 2004 Turkey Season Opening Day  
Man, have I been looking forward to getting back in the woods!  This year we've picked up a camcorder, so we're going to start videoing our hunts and putting them together to release as web-only TV shows here on Wingshooters.net.  This was my first opportunity to get the new camera out into the field.

The bad news this year is that back in early March we got the news that one of our leases was sold.  This was a bit of a blow, because to get to our biggest lease we really have to cut across the one that we lost.  We'll need to talk to the new owner about getting crossing rights at the very least.

I started out this morning as I always do when I'm turkey hunting.  I walked to the top of the hill on Arnold's land and let out a couple of barred owl hoots.  I listened quietly for several minutes, but heard no gobbling.  Moving quietly along the trail, I paused every hundred yards or so to listen, yelping quietly or hooting occasionally.  No response was forthcoming, so I stopped and considered my options.  Walk the length of Arnold's property or head over to our lease, cutting across the part that was recently sold.

I chose the latter and decided to hike the mile down to the lowest field and see if I could catch the gobblers strutting in there.  Making my way quietly across the old lease, I emerged from the woods onto the power lines, where our best fields are.  A quick check of the dirt logging road showed only a few turkey tracks heading into the first field, so I stuck with my plan and walked down to the second.  The sign wasn't much better there, but I decided to sit quietly on the edge of the field for awhile anyway. 

Shortly after I got settled, I heard two shots fairly close in.  Another twenty minutes passed, and then I saw someone walking through the woods toward my field.  Even though his face was covered with a mask, I recognized Doug Beaver by his dark glasses.  I watched him walk into the field, oblivious to my presence.  I finally gave a little cluck on my diaphragm call and got his attention.  He walked over and told me that he had taken a couple of shots at some gobblers, but had missed them.  We chatted briefly, then he headed on back into the woods.

I sat for awhile, then decided to make my way back to Arnold's land.  I took a glance at the lay of the land and determined where I thought Arnold's pond was, then made a straight shot through the woods, trying my best to avoid the loggers.  I came out right where I thought I would, after a couple of narrow misses with one of the paper company's skidders.  The worst part was that I lost my best facemask somewhere along the way!

Back on Arnold's land, I walked through one of his fields and saw lots of fresh turkey scratches.  I decided to go get my popup blind and spend the rest of the day there waiting.  I got in the blind at about 10:30am, and stayed there until dark.  I watched a hen turkey feed for at least an hour as dusk approached.  There was at least one more hen with her, and I got a close but brief look at a very young jake, but the gobblers never showed up.

I'm thinking that the weather may still be a little cool for the turkeys to really get started on gobbling.  I'll give it another shot in a few days!


January 18-20, 2004 Trophy Boar Hunt Chestnut Hunting Lodge
We're going to do things a bit differently with the entries today.  Usually, as you start from the top of this page, you read the most current journal entry.  Working your way down takes you to earlier hunts.  However, since this entry deals with a two day wild boar hunt, I'm going to stick it all under one entry in the journal, starting with the trip to the lodge and ending with our arrival back home. 

Sunday Jan. 18, 2004
Over six years ago, Ted and I took our first wild boar hunting trip.  We picked an outfit at random from the classified pages of a hunting magazine and ended up going to a place called Buckhaven Plantation in Estill, SC.  We learned our first lesson in hunting trips the hard way.  The "lodge" turned out to be a smelly old general store.  We spent six hours on the side of the road in the proprietor's broken down van, and no offer of a discount or rescheduled hunt was made.  I saw one animal, a spike buck, which I stupidly passed up.  The trip earned Wingshooters.net's first ever "1 star" ranking on a five star system, and more importantly, it earned our scorn for Billy Lively and his outfit forever.  We even stood outside of his booth at a hunting show one day and talked people out of doing business with him.

Ever since that first miserable boar hunt, we've talked about doing it again, but this time with a classier outfit.  So Ted turned again to the classified ads, this time looking for a "no kill, no pay" type of hunt, where at least we wouldn't end up wasting our money.  He chose  Chestnut Hunting Lodge in the mountains of North Carolina just outside of the town of Taylorsville.  Chestnut is run by a fellow by the name of Jerry Rushing..  If you've never heard of him, Jerry is a moonshiner-turned-actor.  The 1970's movie Moonrunners was based on his life.  If you've never heard of that, maybe you've heard of The Dukes of Hazzard, which itself was based on Moonrunners.  We figured that if this guy was staking his name on the place, it had to be better than Buckhaven.

So it was that early Sunday afternoon I packed up my Jeep and headed up to Ted's house in Charlotte.  From there we'd drive to Taylorsville, get some supper, then find the lodge and hopefully catch the Panthers game before bed.  In Taylorsville, we saw Harry Gant's restaurant, and being a fan of the old NASCAR driver from years ago, I suggested that we eat there.  Ted was agreeable, so we sat down to a quick supper before getting back on the road.

We didn't have too much trouble finding the lodge after we left the restaurant, and I felt a surge of excitement as we turned into the gravel driveway that led past the main gate.  It was still light out, and as we drove up to the lodge Jerry Rushing himself waved at us from the front porch.  We parked and walked over to the wooden deck to say hello to Jerry and the two fellows sitting with him.  As we introduced ourselves, I did a double-take as I noticed several deer feeding peacefully in the pasture below the house.  I nudged Ted, and we both stared in amazement as several bucks walked into the field and began to spar.  Jerry ignored them as if it were something that he saw every day.  Which of course it was.

After the introductions between ourselves and the two other hunters, we all walked into the house, where Jerry regaled us with some stories from the 25 years that he has run Chestnut.  As he talked about different dogs and hunters that had been "cut" by boars, I started to get a little nervous.  Although Ted and I know full well the dangers of hunting wild boar, it got a little bit more real as we heard about some of the wounds that they have inflicted to people over the years.  We wrapped up by signing the waivers that said that the outfit was not responsible for death or injury that might occur during our hunt.  A great way to top off that discussion!/p>

These pictures show the den of the lodge with many of the trophies taken at Chestnut over the years 

Seriously, wild boars are very dangerous animals, and you need to be prepared to handle any trouble that may arise.  Be ready to jump up into a tree if one comes toward you, or, if you're near a hunting blind or tree stand, get into it at the first sign of trouble. 

We finally headed into the den to watch the Carolina Panthers wrap up the NFC championship, then watched the instructional video that discussed the rules of hunting at Chestnut.  The rules were really pretty simple... no alcohol, period.  Stay in your stand, period.  If you shoot the wrong animal, you have to pay the full cost for that animal.  If the guide points out the wrong animal for you to shoot, you pay your original price.  Just before bed, Chuck, our guide, showed up, introduced himself and talked a little bit about how the hunt would be conducted. 

Monday, Jan. 19, 2004
Ted and I were both awake long before the alarm clock went off.  When the other hunters started to stir, we got up and ate some venison steak biscuits that I had packaged, then got ready for our hunt.  Chuck said that he would be putting me in a stand called the "clay banks", while Ted would be hunting from the "blue box".  We would be within about 150 yards of each other, and were to stay in our blinds even if we shot a hog.  The other two hunters, Kevin and Charlie, would both be hunting Texas Dall Sheep high on the ridges above us.

We all piled into the back of an old Ford pickup just as the sky started to brighten, and Chuck drove us up onto the property.  He dropped Kevin off first, pointing his stand out to him from the window of the truck.  We drove on until we came to a fork in the mountain road  where an ATV was parked.  There actually were several of these parked at handy intervals along the trail... a great idea if you have private property and aren't worried about people messing with them. 

At the fork, Chuck told Ted and I to climb out and wait for him to drive Charlie to his stand.  He'd come back for us shortly and take us to our blinds.  As the truck drove away, I heard my first hog squeal high on the hill above us.  I glanced at Ted.  "Was that a pig?"  I asked him.  "I think so," he replied.  We both inched a little closer to the four wheeler.

"You nervous?"  I was the first to ask the question.  "Oh yeah," he said. 

"What did you think about all that talk last night?  Scare you a little?"  Me again. 

"I'm not going to lie.  Yeah, this is a little scary."  Ted.

"I'm glad it's not just me feeling that way," I finished.  We got a little closer to the bike, trying to make room to jump up on it if a boar headed our way.

Thankfully, it wasn't long before Chuck showed up again.  We piled into the front of the truck and went on up the road.  When we got to my stand, Chuck pointed out the most likely direction that the pigs would come in from, then showed me about where Ted would be so that I would avoid shooting in that direction.

My stand was a box blind that sat just off of the road, and it had a great view of the side of the mountain as well as a long stretch of dirt road.  It overlooked a small pond that was right behind Ted's stand.  I settled in and watched through the trees as Chuck dropped Ted off then drove away.  I hadn't sat there for five minutes when I heard something walking through the woods in front of me.  As I strained my eyes to see in the dim light, a doe appeared not ten yards in front of me.  She was grunting quietly, the first time in my life that I've ever gotten a good chance to listen to a whitetail vocalize.  It sounded nothing like any of the deer calls that we have.  I tried to get a few pictures of her as she walked by my stand, but it was still a little too dark.

I sat in my stand, shaking with excitement.  In the woods for less than ten minutes, and I had already seen a deer.  After the doe passed by, things settled down for about twenty minutes.  Then, as I looked down at the pond, I saw several more deer walking through the woods.  Man, I thought.  Those deer are walking right past Ted's stand.  I bet he's shaking right now!  I watched the herd of deer for over a half an hour.  There were several bucks in the group, including a ten pointer. 

As I watched the deer search for food, I heard something moving on the mountainside high above me.  I raised my binoculars and got my first look at a wild boar.  It was an ugly one:  pink and black.  I sure don't want that ugly thing on my wall.  If I have to pay the "sightseeing fee" and pass that one up, I'll do it, I decided.  There's a $150 price tag on seeing a shootable animal but passing it up at Chestnut.  This boar was a couple of hundred yards up the mountain from me, but he was headed my way.  I caught a glimpse of two more hogs, then lost them in the underbrush.

The deer also got wind of the boars, and they all scattered.  I moved into position to try to get a shot in case the hogs showed up in shooting range.  As I sat watching for them, to my surprise the entire herd of deer showed up right outside my stand.  I couldn't resist putting down my rifle and scrambling for my camera.  I managed to take the best pictures of a deer that I've ever gotten.

As I continued to marvel at the deer, I almost jumped out of my stand at the crack of Ted's rifle from the valley below me.  I whipped my binoculars around, expecting to see the surviving pigs bolt from Ted's area, but nothing appeared.  Listening for Ted to give a "yee haw", I turned my attention back to the deer, but all I saw was their white tails bobbing up and down as they left the area.

How many deer can you count in this picture?  Click to find out!

Just when I started to settle down again, I heard something else walking through the woods near me, and, raising my rifle, I was shocked to see an entire group of boar standing 20 yards away.  I centered my scope on a good looking animal, then saw an even bigger one move apart from the rest of the crowd.  Oh man, I thought.  What a monster.  I shifted my rifle over to the big one, waited a brief second for a clear shot opportunity, then squeezed the trigger.

I watched the dust fly from the hair on my hog's back and knew I had scored a hit.  I was amazed that the boar didn't even flinch.  It turned toward me, started to charge, then reversed direction and went over the hill as the rest of the pigs headed for parts unknown.  I followed my animal with my scope, debated on taking a second shot, then decided it was a solid, well-centered hit, and lowered my gun.  Within seconds, I heard a crash like the sound of a tree falling, followed by another one.  That one's dead on the ground, I thought to myself. 

Now comes the hardest part, the long wait for the guide to show up.  For what seemed like hours I paced back and forth in my little stand, listening for the sound of a four wheeler, watching the hills intently with my binoculars trying to get a glimpse of the truck rounding the bend in the road.  Several times I looked down a Ted's stand, hoping to give him a photos-up signal.  During this time, I saw at least 15 more hogs, some of which I managed to get some good pictures of.

Here are the four hogs that were in the group that I shot mine out of.
The big one in the center is about the same size as mine.

It had to be one of the most agonizing waits of my life.  I knew I had a pig on the ground, and everything in me wanted to rush over to look for it.  But I kept remembering the lodge rule that hunters must remain in their stands until the guide arrives.  So I kept waiting, pacing, standing, sitting.  After an eternity passed, I heard something making a chuffing noise high up on the hill.  With my binoculars, I easily found the orange hat of Chuck, the guide, as he made his way down the hill.  He was throwing rocks at a group of hogs and making barking sounds at them trying to move them off of the mountain.

He finally got down to the road and walked over to my stand.  "Did you shoot?" he asked.  I told him that I had, and that I was sure I had a hog down.  I told him that I believed that Ted had shot also, just a few minutes before I did.  I told him where my pig had been, and we walked over to the spot where it had been standing when I fired.  We didn't find any blood at the point of impact, so we began following the trail that the animal had taken when it ran off.  I found a drop of blood about 30 yards away from our starting point, and was about to mention it to Chuck when he yelled that he had found my pig.

It was an absolute monster.  We guessed later that it weighed over 420 pounds.  It was a Russian strain sow, and it looked like a bear laying there on the ground.  We knew immediately that it was going to take all three of us to move it, so Chuck and I decided to go over and see what Ted had shot, then come back for my animal. 

Ted popped out of his stand smiling from ear to ear when he heard us approach.  "I've got one on the ground right over there," he said.  We headed in the direction that he was pointing and found a beautiful 250 pound black boar laying on the ground.  Ted had dropped it in its tracks at 80 yards.  Working together, we dragged it down to a creek bed for some pictures.  Chuck did a quick field dressing job on it, then we headed over to do the same on mine.

Here's me with my HOGGG!!!! 

We dragged mine down to the road after the dirty work was finished, then Chuck told us to stay put while he went to check on the other two guys.  They were after Texas Dall rams, and neither had gotten a shot yet.  Ted and I had to endure a good long wait while Chuck went back and forth with the other two hunters, trying to get them their animals.  At one point, we were sitting there talking quietly when I heard something walking in the woods above us.  Looking up, I saw three more huge pigs, so we quickly grabbed our gear and ran for my blind, where we waited out the rest of the morning.  Several times we saw pigs, and once a group of rams. 

Finally, when Charlie and Kevin had collected their animals, we all piled in the truck and headed back to camp for a quick lunch, after which Chuck skinned and quartered all of the animals.  Jerry Rushing stopped by for pictures, then Ted and I decided that we didn't have enough cooler space to pack our skins back in, so we had to head in to Taylorsville to pick up some plastic tubs.  We followed that up with a steak dinner at Sagebrush in Lenoir, then headed back to camp, then on to bed.

Me, Jerry Rushing, and Ted stand beside the results of our day's work 

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004
We got up early, wished the next group of hunters good luck, then headed back to Ted's house to spend the day butchering our hogs.  Man, what a chore.  We worked from about 9:30am until around 3:30pm cutting and packing our meat. 

After we finished, I headed down to the taxidermist's shop with our heads.  What a great hunt we had, and we really will be looking forward to our next adventure at Jerry Rushing's Chestnut Hunting Lodge.


January 3, 2004    
Duck hunting could easily become a passion for me.  Although I really enjoy any kind of hunting, if I had my choice for flat out fun, I'll take the ducks every time.  I love venison, and would rather kill a deer than a duck, but when you're not seeing many deer, that kind of hunting can get tiring.  I've learned to take a book along with me in the deer stand, which really helps me get through the long hours where nothing is happening.

But with duck hunting, there is so much to love.  The rough weather, putting out decoys in a freezing marsh in the hours before dawn, hunkering down in a blind as the birds start to come in... all together it makes for a wonderful time.  The problem, though, is this.  It's probably the hardest kind of hunting of all, at least for me. 

You have to have a good place to hunt.  I've got access to a couple of ponds, but that's about it.  You need to be in a flyway if you really want to see anything.  For me, we've got a few resident wood ducks, the occasional merganser, and maybe a fight of geese or two.  But we just don't have ducks in big numbers in my part of South Carolina.  You need a good duck boat.  I've got a little twelve foot v-hull that is badly in need of a new trailer.  I do live close to a big lake, but I wouldn't even begin to know where to try to hunt on it.  You need to really be up on your duck identification.  Yeah, I can pretty much name any duck you show me when he's standing still and I get a good look at him, but I really need some practice when it comes to ducks on wing.

So for me, good duck hunting remains just out of reach.  But every time I get the chance, I'll go sit by the edge of one of those two ponds.  And maybe this summer I'll spend some time trying to get my boat in shape to see what Lake Wylie has to offer. 

Today Ted and I decided to try a mixed bag of hunting.  I spent so much time talking about duck hunting because that's what we did first.  We went and sat on the edge of Arnold's pond this morning, hoping that a wood duck or merganser would come in.  As the morning wore on, we did have the same five Canada geese that I saw last week fly in, but they spooked almost immediately, and we didn't get a shot at them. 

No other ducks showed up, but as we watched the pond, a covey of quail flushed over near the far edge of the water, so after we finished duck hunting we did a little dogless quail hunting hoping to jump them up.  Nothing; they must have headed for some distant country.  After that we gave the crows a try using my electronic caller, but I think they must have heard that tape before, because only one showed up, and he didn't stick around.

I keep telling myself ... boar hunt in two week... boar hunt in two weeks.  I hope that'll hold me until turkey season!


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