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The 2005 Hunting Season

When the 2005 season arrives, Ted and I will take to the woods of Uwharrie to relive our old times in those hills and valleys.  We'll do some squirrel hunting, maybe a bit of target shooting, and we'll be sure to eat some BBQ in Denton, NC.

We'll probably try for the predators in February, mainly just to get back in the woods again.  We're hoping to get a bit of snow to help us track those wary foxes and coyotes.

In April, as always, we'll start pounding the woods looking for turkeys.  Hopefully this will be the year that Ted and I each get a good gobbler.

Things will quiet down in the summer months as we do a little bit of work here and there getting new stands up and getting our leases ready for the deer season. 

Deer season itself will come earlier for me this year, since I'll be hunting in Kershaw County, SC, where the opening day of the bow season is September 1.  That'll give me two extra weeks of deer hunting action, although this will possibly be at the expense of a day of dove hunting.

I have two leases this year; a small one in Lancaster county, SC, and a much bigger one in Liberty Hill, SC.  

2005 Game Record
Animal Seen Killed
Whitetail Buck 33 1
Whitetail Doe 20 3
Turkey (Gobbler/Jake) 8 1
Turkey (Hen) 12 -
Wild Boar 0 0
Coyote 1 0
Fox 3 1
Bobcat 0 0
Squirrel - 0
Dove - 0
Crows - 0
Ducks / Geese 6 1
Notes: Clicking on any picture will show you a full size image of that picture.
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Looking Back Season Review 2005
I'm satisfied.  Only back in 1996 when I killed my first turkey, my biggest whitetail ever, and my first mule deer did I have a better year than 2005.  In 2005 I saw more bucks than I've ever seen in a deer season in my life.  Indeed, I saw more deer than ever before.  Thirty-three bucks and twenty does.  That's a pretty good record, and one that I'll remember for a long time.

This year I had several opportunities to just sit back and watch deer feed for what seemed like hours at a time.  I felt no pressure to shoot at every deer I saw such as I've felt in the past when hunting on a lease where we weren't likely to ever see a deer.  I killed four deer, something I've only done in one other season.  I passed up many other shot opportunities, and I missed a shot at the biggest buck of my life.

I hunted on more than thirty days, which is a good of time in the woods.  Heck, I even got a wood duck one morning while duck hunting.

I think if there's anything disappointing about this past season it was the fact that I spent most of my time hunting alone.  For various reasons, Ted could only join me a half dozen times or so, and I really missed our time together in the woods.  Although I can't say I was ever bored, there were a lot of times I just napped in the truck during the lunch break when Ted and I normally would have been goofing around. 

Still, when most deer seasons end I feel a great sense of depression.  I'm usually overwhelmed with a feeling of loss, but this year is different.  This was what hunting is supposed to be like.  Almost any time I went in the woods I could feel reasonably confident that I would see a deer.  So rather than endure my normal sadness, I can look back on this season and honestly say that I am satisfied.


January 2, 2006 44° Low / 53° High - Fog / Heavy Rain 0 Animals Viewed

I had not intended to hunt today, but Micki wanted me to get out from underfoot while she was doing some cleaning around the house, so I reluctantly agreed to go hunting yet again.  I figured that I would close out my season at the Family Stand, but when I got there all of the corn was gone.  Again I saw nothing, and have not seen a deer since December 10.   When dusk finally fell, I left the stand empty handed but satisfied with such a great hunting season.

December 30, 2005 42° Low / 57° High - Fog 0 Animals Viewed

I went back to the Family Stand today knowing that there was no corn left at the blind in the woods that I hunted yesterday.  There still was a good bit of corn at the family stand, and with the heavy fog today I thought that I would surely see something.  Nothing showed up, however.

December 29, 2005 39° Low / 61° High - Clear 0 Animals Viewed
Went back to the stand in the woods today where I put out corn two days ago.  Deciding that I should concentrate some on this stand next year, I took a little bit of time to clear out a nice parking area in the woods so that I won't have to park my truck on the logging road next time I hunt the stand. 

After clearing the parking place, I hiked down the road to my blind.  When I got there, I was surprised to see that all of the corn that I had put out two days ago was gone.  This place must be swamped with deer.  Well, maybe, but they must only show up at night, because I never saw a single animal the whole time I was in the stand.


December 28, 2005 39° Low / 61° High - Thunderstorms 0 Animals Viewed

Feeling quite tired today I decided to get in the family stand to hunt.  As I've mentioned before, the seat in this stand is really comfortable... a good place to take a little nap if you happen to get in the woods too early for deer to be moving.  I brought the video camera along today and filmed the entire hunt, hoping to get a deer kill on video for Wingshooters.net Outdoors, but I had no luck.  No deer showed up, but I did watch a half dozen squirrels raiding my corn pile all afternoon.

December 27, 2005 32° Low / 61° High - Clear 0 Animals Viewed
Headed down to Gerald's house to hunt ducks this morning.  Although the temperature was hovering right at the freezing mark, I found that I was actually colder today than I was last week when it was 16 degrees out.  No ducks showed up this morning, but I did take another shot at that pesky beaver.  I ended up chasing him all around the pond, but never got more than one whack at him.  Next time I try to get him I think I should bring my AR-15.  This will give me several quick shots with the A2 sights rather than trying to find him in the scope of my deer rifle.

I left out from Gerald's at around lunch time and headed down to the big deer lease, stopping at the store for a few bags of corn on the way down.  When I got to the lease I chose two places to put out the corn and decided to alternate my hunting between those two stands for the next couple of days.

The first two bags went over at the family stand where I feel sure that I can get a doe.  The other bag went deep into the woods with me to stand #31, a box blind that I had never hunted before.  The stand was beautiful, and I will try this stand at least two or three times before the season ends.


December 26, 2005 41° Low / 60° High - Clear 0 Animals Viewed

I decided to get into the woods this afternoon to try to get one last deer for the season.  After looking over our map carefully, I a spot deep in the hardwoods that I had never been to before.  For the first time this year I used my climbing stand.  After getting in place, I stayed put until dark but saw nothing.

December 21, 2005 16° Low / 48° High - Clear 6 Wood Ducks Viewed
This morning it was about as cold as it gets in this part of South Carolina.  The thermometer on my truck showed 20 degrees when I pulled out of my driveway, and it was 16 by the time I got down to the pond.  It was so cold that it took me 15 minutes to get my gear out of the truck and into the boat.  After each load, I had to stop and warm my hands up before I could pick up the next bit of equipment.  When I got the boat loaded and the battery hooked up to the trolling motor, I turned on the motor as I always do before launching the boat just to make sure everything was ok.

The propeller did not turn.  It looked like it didn't even try to turn.  I adjusted the wires on the battery connection and saw sparks jump, so I knew that the battery wasn't dead.  I then realized that the propeller was probably frozen stuck, so I broke it free with my hand and tried again.  This time it spun, so I launched the boat and headed across the lake to my blind.

With it this cold out I brought my portable propane heater with me, which provided just enough heat to keep me warm until legal shooting arrived.  As soon as the clock turned to shooting time, I heard something fly down onto the pond.  The squealing I heard told me it was either a wood duck or a grebe, so I got out my wood duck call and answered.

The squealing increased, and the bird started heading my way.  It was only seconds before I saw two male wood ducks swimming toward my blind.  When they were in shooting range, I grabbed my gun and stood.  The ducks launched off the water, and I fired a quick shot off at the closest bird.  The shot was a miss, so I swung over to the second bird and pulled the trigger again.  Nothing happened!  I had forgotten that I was shooting a pump shotgun!  I struggled to cycle the gun as quickly as possible, targeted the second duck again and fired.  This time the bird crashed to the water in a heap.

After reloading my gun, I got in the boat and went to retrieve my duck.  He was a beautiful mature male woody with perfect coloration. This is only the second wood duck I've ever killed, the first being a hen back in 1999.  Thrilled with my bird, I drove the boat back up onto land, covered it up, and got back in the blind.

Although I heard the occasional wood duck squeal across the lake, no other ducks showed up for the rest of the morning.  At 10:00, I loaded up my gear and headed home to change clothes and get ready for an afternoon of deer hunting.  On the way off of the lake, I spooked a flock of five woodies, which must have been the ones that I had been hearing all morning.

Although I have said that I wouldn't mount another wood duck since I already have a mounted pair, I decided that this bird was too pretty not to send to the taxidermist, so I took him over to Randy Jordan's place to get him mounted.  Randy was able to cut out the breast meat for me, and I decided to have the bird in a flying pose to show off the coloration of his wings.

After taking care of the duck, I headed over to the Liberty Hill lease.  Only Jimmy and Matt White were hunting today, pretty much giving me my choice of where to go.  I decided to head back to the salt lick stand.  The does may be coming into the wheat fields now, so I thought this might be a place to try to get a little bit more meat.

I saw nothing, but shortly before sundown I heard two shots in quick succession come from two different places on the lease.  When it was full dark, I got down from my stand and headed back to the sign in board.  Jimmy and Matt were still logged in, so being the last one there I waited for them to come out.  

When 6:30 came and they weren't out yet, I got out my radio, turned it to the channel most commonly used on our lease, and said "Hey Jimmy, y'all ok up there?"  I didn't actually expect a response; my call was just a long shot, but Jimmy answered.  "We've got two deer up here and can't get one out.  Can you come up and help?"

I told him I was on my way, and after finding out where to meet them I raced up the lease road.  When I found them, father and son were both smiling widely.  Turns out that Matt had killed a nice 10 pointer, and Jimmy had killed an absolute monster.  Jimmy's deer was a six year old 220lb 8 pointer.  Only in Montana have I ever seen such a body on a whitetail.  I mean, this deer was huge.  The pictures below don't do it justice.


After congratulating them on their deer, we loaded Matt's up on my truck and headed home. 


December 17, 2005 30° Low / 34° High - Rain / Full 0 Animals Viewed
Ted was with me this morning as I returned to the duck blind.  The hunt this morning was pretty similar to my hunt yesterday.  The same grebe came in to the decoys and hung around for awhile.  We got a look at the beaver, but he ducked underwater too fast for us to get a shot off at him.

We did hear one duck quacking on the far side of the pond.  Sounded like a ring neck, but we never got a good look at him.  At one point, five deer came into view across the pond, but before Ted could get his pistol out to try for one of them a truck went by and scared them off.

The only other action of the morning was when I called in a couple of crows which Ted quickly dispatched with his 12 gauge.

After lunch we had to part ways, with Ted going home to care for a sick wife and child and me heading down to the deer woods.  No luck for me as I returned to stand #9 and saw nothing.


December 16, 2005 28° Low / 46° High - Clear / Full 1 Beaver Viewed
After an interesting experience with some lost duck stamps (see story) and a long season in the deer woods, I was ready for the ducks this morning.  My father-in-law has a 12 acre lake on his property that is sometimes home to a wide variety of ducks.  I put my deer gear aside, got out my decoys and waders, and headed for the lake.

A few weeks ago, Ted and I had built a nice blind on the lake, so of course that's where I would do all of my duck hunting.   Knowing the duck population is pretty sparse in this area right now, I only put out a handful of decoys, then settled in to wait for sunrise.

The only waterfowl I saw all day was a small grebe that came in response to my wood duck calls.  At one point, a large beaver passed by the blind, and I took a shot at him but did not connect.  The beavers are tearing up the lake, and need to be killed.  I'll have to come back in the winter to try to get some of them out of here.


December 10, 2005 24° Low / 50° High - Clear / 73% Waxing 1 Deer Viewed
Although I did plan on making it to the woods this morning, I couldn't sleep last night.  I was still awake at 2:00am, so at that point I decided to sleep in and just go for an afternoon hunt again.  And again I chose stand #25.  I got to the lease shortly after 1:00, and with the deer not moving until almost 5:00pm I decided to nap in the truck until about 4:00. 

When I awoke, I gathered my gear and walked down to the blind.  After getting settled in, I pulled out a book and began to read, knowing that nothing would show up for at least another 45 minutes.  The first thing that did show up was a gray fox.  Having already gotten one this year for my trophy room I contented myself with watching him sneak around the clearing looking for food.

As I was watching the fox, I heard the sound of a gunshot that sounded like it was on my lease, followed closely by another.  Whap-BOOOOOM.  Silence.  Whap-BOOOOOM.  The "whap" sound that preceded each shot was the sound of the bullet hitting its target, indicating that the target was between myself and the shooter.  I knew that someone on the lease had themselves a deer.

After the fox left, things were quiet for awhile.  Occasionally I would raise my binoculars and scan the woods around the clearing looking for deer.  Once, I saw something that looked like it could be a deer feeding, so I glassed it only to find that it was a crooked tree trunk shaped like the neck of a deer.  As I examined it, I noticed that there was a deer in my field of view that I had completely missed seeing.  It was a big four point, one that I've seen several times before this year.

The young buck stayed around until after dark, and when he finally left, so did I.  I drove back to the sign in board and found that two of the club members were still in the woods: a father and son named Jimmy and Matt.  Since they were the last, I decided to wait around to make sure that they got out of the woods ok.  When it got to be about 6:15pm and there was no sign of them, I drove over to where they were hunting.

Turns out that Jimmy had taken shots at two does.  He had already found the second deer, but had found no spoor from the first one.  I helped him and Matt look around the area for awhile, but in the end we decided that the first shot was a miss.  The "whap" that I had heard must have been the bullet striking the muddy ground.  


December 8, 2005 33° Low / 29° High - Rain / 51% Waxing 3 Deer Viewed
As the season winds down and I find myself with four deer tags filled, I'm finding that I'm not racing to get into the woods each morning.  I stayed up late last night and decided to skip the morning hunt today.  Instead, I left home at around 9:00 and went down to Arnold's house to help him set up a new computer.  Only after spending most of the day working on that did I head over to the lease.

No one was tagged in when I got to the sign in board, giving me my pick of stands.  I decided again to concentrate on #25, knowing that there still ought to be a big buck down in the swamp.  I got to my stand pretty late; around 4:00pm, and had not been in it very long before a nice doe showed up.  I almost shot her, but decided I could still probably pick up one last doe later on in the season and instead chose to wait for a buck.

As I watched the doe, I saw her lift her tail and leave quickly.  Almost immediately, two bucks came into the clearing and began to feed.  There was a big cow horn spike and another smaller spike.  They were both very cautious but never sensed my presence in the blind above them.  I watched them until after dark hoping that a monster buck would join them, but they were the only animals I saw.


December 3, 2005 31° Low / 54° High - Cloudy to Rainy / 8% Waxing 3 Deer Viewed
Ted and I went to Liberty Hill again today.  I went to #1 and Ted went back to #3 this morning.  I was so tired that I could barely stay awake in my stand.  I nodded off and dozed until just after sunrise.  As soon as it was full light, I saw a deer feeding out about 80 yards in front of my stand.  I checked it out in my binoculars and saw that it was a good sized doe.  I decided to take the deer, so I grabbed my rifle from it's resting place in front of me.

As I picked it up, I banged the barrel against the metal of the stand.  I winced, expecting the deer to flee.  Getting the rifle in position, I looked through the scope and was surprised to see that the deer was still there, although it was alerted to the fact that something was wrong.  I stared at it through my scope for five full minutes, unable to move for fear of spooking the deer.  The crosshair was over the deer's back, but I didn't want to risk even the small motion of bringing the rifle down to center on the heart.

Finally, the deer looked away.  When it did, I centered the crosshairs, flipped off the safety, and squeezed the trigger.  The deer took off running, but I could tell it was hit.  I listened carefully for it to crash to the ground, but heard nothing.  Getting out my radio, I called Ted to let him know that I had shot one, but told him to stay in his stand for a couple of hours.  No sense messing up a hunt when the morning was just getting started.

I waited about 20 minutes, then decided to go track my deer.  I found blood pretty quickly, and was pleased to see that it was bright red.  The blood trail was sparse but constant, and it was short work finding the deer.  When I got to it, I was in for an unpleasant surprise.  My nice sized doe was really a young peahead.  I'm not sure how I misjudged the size of the animal.  I had scrutinized it through scope and binoculars for at least five minutes, and it had all the characteristics of a good sized deer.   Upon further examination of the animal, I saw something else that surprised me.  It's lower jaw was a full two inches too short.  Seeing that, I was glad to have taken the deer.  This deformity could have lead to a hungry life for this animal.  It didn't look like it would be able to feed as a normal deer might.

After meeting up with Ted, he told me that he had seen a four point, as well as my bald eagle and seven gobblers.  We got my deer loaded on to my truck and took it to the processor, then headed back to the Riverdeck grill for a hamburger.  After that, it was back to the lease for a long nap.  Awakening at about 2:30, we decided to look around the lease a bit and see which stands looked promising for later hunts.  We did this, then headed back into the woods to hunt.

Ted went to #2, and I decided to go back to #25 even though two deer had been killed there in the last two days.  As darkness approached, I saw a big deer come into view down in the hole in front of me.  Turns out that it was a six pointer, so I had to let it pass.  A big spike also came in to feed.  Seeing these two deer in the same spot that I had killed a doe two days ago, I came to the conclusion that blood on the ground doesn't affect the deer. 


December 1, 2005 43° Low / 53° High - Clearing / New Moon 3 Deer Viewed
The last month of deer season started today.  We often say that it's rare to see a deer after Thanksgiving in these parts, and with the heavy hunting pressure our lease has had this year I'm not surprised that most folks aren't seeing anything.  I had decided to start with stand #1 in the morning, then hit #3 for the afternoon, but a tip from Arnold sent me to #25, where he had seen several bucks last night.  He suggested that I hunt there both in the morning and in the afternoon, which is what I did.

I got to the sign in board a little late, and was surprised to see that no one else was in the woods yet.  I signed up for #25 and headed in.  Just past the gate, I stopped at this big trailer that we keep full of corn, grabbed three bags and left $15 to cover it, then drove on in to where I would be hunting.  Wanting to do things just right today, I parked a good bit further away from the stand than  I normally would have and walked in.  By the way, here's a picture of the sign in board.  I've mentioned it so many times that I figure you might want to know what it looks like.

Since I was walking such a long way in, I decided to make my load pretty light, and I thought that surely the eagle wouldn't show up at #25, which is pretty deep in the woods, so I again took my camera out of my backpack and left it in the truck.  Sure enough, the eagle was the only thing I saw this morning. 

At about 11:00, I decided to head over to the Riverdeck to get a quick bit of lunch before going back to the stand.  I went and got my truck, then drove it back to where I had been hunting and spread out the corn that I had bought.  Finishing that task quickly and quietly, I got my lunch, then came right back to the woods, again parking a long way from the stand.

I was back in the stand pretty early, and having forgotten to bring along a book to read to pass the time, I knew I was in for a long afternoon.  This time of year, it would be right before dark before anything showed up, so I made myself as comfortable as I could and began my long wait. 

About 30 minutes before dark, a big doe showed up at the corn pile.  She fed for quite some time, and I kept thinking I'm not going to shoot this deer.  I'll wait to see if those bucks that Arnold saw show up.  After about a half hour, I saw movement in the woods behind the doe, and my binoculars revealed a small buck.  He looked like an 8 pointer, but I never got a good enough look to be sure.  He didn't stay long.  As it got darker and darker, I made out another deer behind the big doe.  This one was another, slightly smaller doe. 

I finally decided that this first doe was really a good sized deer, and I might not get another chance, so with only minutes left in legal shooting hours I slipped the safety off of my rifle and centered the crosshairs on the deer's heart.  The doe was facing slightly away from me and had her head down when I took a breath, let it halfway out and squeezed the trigger.  In the dim light I could see that I had dropped the deer where she stood. 

I racked another cartridge into the chamber and watched the deer for several minutes to make sure she stayed down.  When I was sure that she wasn't going anywhere, I climbed down from the stand and went to get my truck.  The deer was down in a pretty deep hole, and I tried several times to get a good picture, but there just wasn't room to snap a good shot off, so what I ended up with is what you see below.


November 27, 2005 xx° Low / xx° High - Clear / 17% Waning 1 Deer Viewed
I decided to go hunting this afternoon at the last minute.  It's been almost a week since I was in the woods, and the urge hit me to get out there in the wild.  I went to stand #3 since it's pretty easy to get to quickly.  Took my camera this time in case the eagle showed up again, but I never saw him. 

Just at dark, I saw a deer standing out by the corn pile.  I got my binoculars on it, and twice thought I saw spikes, so I had to let this one pass.  Got out of the stand at full dark and headed home empty handed but satisfied at just having been out here today.


November 22, 2005 31° Low / 47° High - Clear / 87% Waning 1 Deer, 1 Coyote, 1 Eagle Viewed
After coming off of a long pager week at work, it was time to get back into the woods.  I'd only have one chance at it before going away for Thanksgiving, so I wanted to make this one count.  I decided to go back to stand #3 and try to get another look at that eight pointer.  If he was even slightly legal, I had decided that he was going down. 

As the sun began to rise, I saw something moving in the logging road about 100 yards down from my stand.  I got my binoculars on the animal and could see that it was quickly moving my way, but I couldn't decide what it was.  When it got about halfway to the stand I realized that it was a pretty large coyote.  I debated making the shot, but decided that I really wanted a deer today, so I simply watched as he came almost all the way to the stand before turning off into the woods.

Shortly after the coyote left, I saw a huge bird swoop down and make a low pass over the logging trail, heading away from me.  I first thought that it might be a buzzard, but then I saw that the tail was white.  I knew what it had to be:  a bald eagle.  My sighting was confirmed a few minutes later as the bird came flying back in my direction.  I watched in awe through my binoculars as it kept coming and kept coming.  To my surprise, the eagle landed on a branch on a pine tree not 10 yards in front of the stand.  I was wishing I had not left my digital camera back in the truck, but since I didn't have it I simply stared at the bird, marking this picture in my memory.  He didn't stay long before flying off out of sight.

Ten minutes later, I saw movement in the woods right under the branch where the eagle had perched.  A small spike buck moved out in front of the blind, stopping occasionally to stare at me to try to figure out what I was.  I remained motionless and simply watched as the deer crossed the road and went off into the woods.

The rest of the morning was quiet, and at around 11:15 I left the stand, walked back to my truck, then drove to town to get lunch.  Next I went over to Arnold's house and drove my four-wheeler out on to the Briarpatch lease.  I wanted to see how the fields were doing.  Turns out that they were doing pretty poorly; there was only a little bit of chicory coming up, and very little wheat to be seen.  In disgust, I left and went back to the big lease for the afternoon hunt.

I went back to stand #25, hoping again that the big buck might show up.  As darkness approached, I heard a buck moving in the woods behind me.  I could hear his antlers crashing against the trees, as well as the occasional grunt.  He never showed up, and when night finally fell I climbed down and headed home.


November 12, 2005 35° Low / 68° High - Clear & Windy / 81% Waxing 2 Deer Viewed
This would be my last hunt for ten days.  I've got to carry the pager at work next week, which restricts me from hunting for that time period.  Ted and I went back to Liberty Hill, this time with me in stand #3 and Ted hunting down in #1.  It was pretty early when I heard Ted shoot, and a radio call confirmed that he had killed a doe.

At about 8:15, I saw a doe emerge from the woods.  She stood looking at my stand for several seconds, then wandered around the little logging road in front of me.  She was skittish, and did not stay for very long.  After only a few minutes, she lowered her head and made a dash for the woods.  I'm not sure what scared her, but I don't think it was me.

A half hour later, I saw a big buck come out from the same place that the doe had emerged from.  He followed her exact trail, never hesitating.  I got a good look at him through my binoculars.  He was a nice eight pointer, but was not quite a shooter.  It was with a great amount of regret that I had to pass on shooting him.

That was all I saw this morning.  When I got down from my stand and went to get Ted, who was anxious to get down to his deer.  As I approached, he shook his head and told me that he had made a mistake.  His doe turned out to be an antlerless buck.  I've never seen anything like this; he wasn't a button buck.  It looked like a 2 year old deer, and it had bases where antlers should have been, but there was nothing there.

After taking the deer to the processor, we went back to the lease and grilled some pork ribs, then rested awhile before the evening hunt.  Ted went to #3, and I went back to #25 where I am sure there is a big buck lurking.  Unfortunately, neither of us saw anything at all for the rest of the day.

This is Stand #25
November 11, 2005 32° Low / 63° High - Clear / 72% Waxing 1 Deer Viewed
With a doctor's appointment early this morning, I was restricted to an afternoon-only hunt.  After Ted told me about the eight pointer that he had seen at #3, I wanted to go there to see if I could get a look at him.  I spent three hours in the stand, but the only thing I saw was a young eight pointer, obviously not shootable, that popped his head out from the woods, looked around, then turned and fled.

The deer seem to be really spooky right now.  There is a lot of hunting pressure on this lease, and with the rut moving in the hunters are spending more time in the woods than usual.  This has the deer on edge, and we may not see as many of them for the next few weeks.


November 10, 2005 42° Low / 69° High - Clear / 63% Waxing 0 Animals Viewed

With my Outer Banks trip behind me, Ted joined me for his first Thursday hunt  of the year.  I wanted to try #1 again, and Ted would go back to #3.  As the sun came up, I saw that all of the corn was gone from down in the hole to my left, but someone had put some out 75 years in front of the stand beside the road.   We stayed in our stands until mid morning, but I saw nothing.  Ted had seen two spikes and an eight pointer.  The eight might have been a shooter, but he held his fire, not wanting to shoot a deer that was not club-legal.

After we left the woods, I wanted to go over and pick up some more corn to put out on a few of the stands.  We bought 500 pounds from a local farmer, then went and put it at a couple of places on the lease.

In the evening, Ted went to #1 and I went to #25.  Ted saw one spike buck in the fresh corn that we had put out, but I again saw nothing.

Outer Banks results were pretty good.  I caught 34 bluefish, 6 sea mullet, and two gray trout.  My dad caught a good many blues as well.


October 28, 2005 35° Low / 57° High - Clear / 9% Waning 4 Deer Viewed
Ted and I returned to the woods today for our first hunt together in quite awhile.  Ted was hunting as my guest at Liberty Hill.  I went to stand #1 and sent him on up the road to stand #3.  Soon after first light, I saw a spike buck down in the woods to my left.  Had to pass, of course.  He didn't stay long, but shortly after he left another spike appeared off to my right.  He quickly crossed the road and was gone.

At 9:45am, I glanced down into the hole to my left and saw another deer.  This one was an 8 pointer, but his antlers were too small for him to be legal on our lease, so again I had to pass.  When he left the area, nothing else showed up for the rest of the morning.  At 11:00, Ted and I met up to go get lunch.  Ted had seen two eight pointers and a spike.  One of the eights may have been a shooter, but he did not have time to be sure about that and thus could not take the deer.

For the afternoon hunt, I was originally for going to the salt lick stand, but Ted suggested that we hunt in the same area we had been in this morning.  He went back to stand #3, and I went to #25, which is a tall ladder stand deep in the woods looking down on a corn pile.  At 4:00pm, I saw a big deer down in the corn.

I raised my rifle and saw that it was a really nice buck, with antlers outside the ears.  I centered the crosshairs and fired.  The deer leapt straight up into the air, turned, and ran.  I was sure that I had made a good shot.  I called Ted on the radio and asked him to come help me retrieve the deer while we had plenty of daylight.

My glee started to fade when we got down to the corn and found no blood, scuff marks, or any other sign that the deer had been there.  A quick inspection of the area yielded nothing, so we began a methodical search.  We made our way through the Carolina swamp, but still found no sign.  After a few passes, I decided to try to get more help.  I went back to the sign in board and left a note for the other guys in the woods asking them to come help search when they got done hunting.   I also called Arnold at his house, and he said he'd head over and help too (Thanks, Arnold!).

We searched until after dark, covering every avenue of travel that we could find, but we found absolutely no sign of the deer.  It's possible that the shot was a miss.  All I know is that we gave it everything we had and came up empty.   Losing a deer can be really discouraging.  Although this was the biggest whitetail I had ever shot at, now that I'm home and am thinking about it, I'm glad we found no blood.  This leaves the possibility open that it was a miss. 

Up next is a week long break from hunting as my dad and I take a fishing trip to North Carolina's Outer Banks.


October 27, 2005 34° Low / 63° High - Clear / 28% Waning 9 Deer Viewed
Another cold morning, and I was going somewhere new today.  Stand #1 would be my destination.  This is a ladder stand on the first road on the Liberty Hill lease.  Once in the stand, to your left you are looking down a steep hill into piney woods.  The lease road runs along the right hand side of the stand, and across this road is another set of woods.  You can see about 120 yards in front of you and 40 yards behind you from the window in the back of the blind.

I got to the lease early again as is my habit.  I like to get my choice of stands.  The stars were still bright in the sky when I signed in, so I sat in the warmth of my truck for fifteen minutes just relaxing and anticipating the hunt.  When it was time to go in to the woods, I drove past my stand and parked my truck a good bit up the road, out of sight of the tree that I would be hunting from.

As soon as it became daylight, I saw a big doe about 100 yards out in front of me.  I wanted to take her, but she didn't linger long enough for me to confirm that she was a doe and not a spike.  As she passed from view, I looked down into the pines to my left and saw another deer.  This one was a spike, so I had to leave him alone.  I watched him feed for awhile, hoping that something bigger would come out, but he soon left on his own.

As things settled down, I glanced back up the road over my shoulder and saw another buck heading my way.  This one was a big four pointer, and he was traveling the wood line to my right.  He never hesitated as he made his way along the edge of the woods, and once I saw him leap over a cluster of young gum trees.  He was soon out of sight.

A bit later, I caught more movement in the road at the far end of my viewing distance, and through my binoculars confirmed that I was looking at two does.  They were partially obscured by brush, and I had no shot opportunity.  They soon disappeared, heading down the road away from my stand. 

Things were quiet for the next hour or so, and as 10:00am rolled around I was about ready to get down from my stand.  I decided to try my "The Can" call a few times just to see what would happen.  The rut should be here soon, and this is a great call that mimics the bleat of a doe that is ready to breed.  I sounded the call four or five times, then set it down and looked around.  Almost immediately I saw another doe way out at the far end of my view.  She looked like a decent sized one, so I raised my rifle and fired.  She fled, and as I watched through my scope I saw one, two, three more deer follow behind her.  Seconds later, I heard a crack that I hoped was the deer that I had shot at crashing to the ground.   

I couldn't tell from the doe's reaction if I had hit her or not, but I felt good about the shot, and the sound I had heard added to my hopes.  I raised my rifle again and looked through the scope, finding the spot where the deer had been standing when I shot.  I was looking for a landmark; something to use to try to find the start of a blood trail.  There were no distinguishing trees or bushes in the general vicinity of the shot, but I noticed the sunlight making a peculiar splash across the ground right about where the deer had been standing.  I knew this would only last for a few minutes, so I gathered my gear and lowered it to the ground, climbed down and walked back up the road to my truck.  Once there, I stripped out of my heavy camo overalls because I knew I had a tracking job ahead of me and didn't want to get overheated.

I parked down near the sunlit patch of ground and began a slow walk down the road looking for blood or fresh scuff marks in the dirt.  Finding nothing, I kept walking, glancing back occasionally until the stand was out of sight.  I turned and started back toward the truck, this time moving a little more slowly.  I offered up a quick prayer asking for a recovery of the deer, and almost immediately saw a thin line of blood on the ground. 

Ok, here we go, I thought.  I marked the spot, then entered the woods.  Once I got a general direction of travel established, I stopped looking for individual blood spots and instead began to look for the deer.  The crashing sound I had heard was not real deep in the woods, so when I had made a 50 yard loop without finding anything, I went back to the last known blood spot and inspected the ground.

The blood was bright red indicating a good hit, and although the trail was not heavy, it was pretty constant.  Picking it up again, I found where I had made my mistake, and soon found myself looking at my deer laying dead on the ground in front of me.

I'll make the write-up a little shorter for the evening hunt.  I decided to try one of the ground blinds on the backside of the lease.  Choosing stand #18, I got settled in at around 4:00pm and saw nothing all evening.


October 25, 2005 37° Low / 49° High - Clear and Windy / 40% Waning 3 Deer, 1 Fox Viewed
The coldest weather we've had so far came in over night, and I had to scramble to find my insulated coveralls for today's hunt.  I went to Liberty Hill and again was the first one there.  I chose the salt lick stand since William had seen several deer there two days ago.  I didn't get much sleep last night, and had to struggle to stay awake in the stand.  At one point I dozed off and awakened just in time to see a deer come into the field. 

A quick glance with my binoculars confirmed that it was a spike; yet another small buck that I couldn't shoot.  When will I see a doe, I wondered.  I watched the spike feed for awhile, hoping that something else would come along, but he was the only deer I saw this morning.

As I arrived at the sign-in board to remove my tag, Arnold and William pulled up.  They were hunting where we had put fresh corn out on Saturday, and both of them had seen a few deer.  No shooters though. 

After an early lunch at the Riverdeck Grill just a few miles down the road from the lease, I went back to the sign-in board and decided to go to the family stand this afternoon.  I was real early, so I drove over to the trail for the stand, parked, and napped in my truck for a few hours.  At 3:30 I awoke and headed for the stand.

At about 4:00, I saw my old friend the fox come into the field.  I've seen this one before, but have not wanted to shoot and ruin my deer hunt.  Now that I had a deer in the freezer, I could satisfy my long-standing desire to shoot a fox and get a full body mount of it.  I raised my rifle, slipped off the safety and fired.  The fox dropped to the ground, stone dead.  Knowing that these animals can be rabid, I waited several minutes to be sure it was dead before I approached it.  I wanted to get it out of the field so that the body wouldn't scare off any deer that might come in later this afternoon. 

I retrieved the fox, took a few pictures, then got back in my stand.  Within an hour, a deer came into the field and began to feed.  It was eating from right where the fox blood was, so this was a good lesson.  I had fired my rifle an hour earlier, killed and retrieved a fox, and yet here was a deer standing in the same spot I had been messing around in.  If you see a fox or a bobcat or a coyote and want to shoot it but don't want to mess up your hunt, don't worry about it.  Shoot away... it likely won't bother the deer.

As the deer fed I confirmed that it was buttonhead, so it was yet another no-shoot situation.  The wind swirled, and the young buck caught wind of me.  He looked my way, twitched his tail, and quickly left the area.  The wind continued to pick up as the evening approached.  I put on my Walker's Game Ear muffs to both keep my ears warm and to try to hear any deer walking over the sound of the wind.  They worked quite well, because just as it got dark I heard a deer coming in.

It crossed the field quickly, and I saw that it was a large spike buck.  I'm really getting tired of seeing these small-antlered bucks, and am ready to see either a doe or a big monster buck!  But, although I complain about how many young bucks I'm seeing, I'm really just glad to be seeing so many deer this year. 


October 22, 2005 65° Low / 85° High - Clear / 77% Waning 0 Animals Viewed
Ted was out of commission today for our normal Saturday hunt for medical reasons, so I headed on down to Liberty Hill by myself.  I planned it so that I'd arrive at 5:30am, a bit early, but it would ensure that I would get to hunt the stand of my choice.  I wanted to try somewhere different today, so I went to stand #13, which is a box blind on top of a hill looking down a stretch of the lease road.  There are hardwoods on one side and pines on the other, so this could be a good transition point for deer.

Shortly before daylight, Arnold's drove by as he headed in to his stand.  The woods quickly returned to normal after his passage, and I sat patiently watching for deer.  Nothing emerged all morning.  As Arnold's truck came into view at around 10:00, I climbed out of my stand and waved him down, wanting a ride back to my truck.   He also had seen nothing.

There had been a couple of shots that sounded like they came from the area of the salt lick stand.   Arnold said that his game warden friend William was hunting over there, so we rode over to see if it was him.  It wasn't, so we packed up and headed back to Arnold's house.  Once there, we changed and discussed plans for the day.  Arnold and I were going into town to buy some more deer corn, then William would meet up with us for lunch. 

We did all this, then went back over to the lease to put out some corn.  We found several good spots, including one that could produce a monster deer in the next few days if one finds the corn pile.  We finished up the work and headed down to the river to get a cold drink, then it was back to the woods. 

I chose a ground blind between the family stand and the salt lick stand that looked promising.  Arnold went to my favorite stand, the ladder at #9, and William went to a tall lock on stand called #8.  William was the only one to see anything, but nothing he saw was a shooter.


October 20, 2005 58° Low / 87° High - Clear / 85% Waning 1 Deer Viewed
The forecast for the afternoon was for summer-like weather, but it was cold enough for me to put on a warm sweatshirt when I first went into the woods this morning.  Arriving at the lease, I saw that I was the only hunter there, giving me my pick of stands.  I chose #9 again, feeling confidant that something would show up there. 

Shortly after sunrise, I saw a deer emerge from the woods and begin feeding in the corn pile.  A thorough inspection showed him to be a cow horn spike; a deer that would not be legal to shoot on these lands.  I contented myself with watching him feed through my binoculars.  He stayed around from 7:10 until about 7:30, then left and never returned.  I saw no other deer this morning.

I decided to drive over to the Wagon Wheel restaurant for lunch to get some BBQ.  As I was leaving Liberty Hill, I saw a helicopter flying low over Highway 97.  Shortly after that, I came upon an ambulance creeping slowly up the road following a group of men on four wheelers.  Even more intrigued, I continued on my way.  I passed a couple more groups of men walking up the road, and finally pulled off to talk to them.  Turns out a motorcyclist from my hometown was missing and had last been seen at the country store just up the road.  The sheriff deputies were out searching for any sign of him.

After lunch, I headed back to the woods and decided to give stand #16 a try.  This is a ground blind that sits on the edge of a food plot that also has a corn pile.  This was a horrible choice.  There is a small hill in the middle of the food plot, and the blind sits slightly below it.  You're looking at this hill the whole time you hunt the stand, and I was left with a terrible headache and a feeling of claustrophobia from the close quarters of the stand.  This stand really needs to be elevated.  I doubt I'll hunt there again!


October 18, 2005 70° Low / 85° High - Clear / Full Moon 0 Animals Viewed
An afternoon only hunt at Liberty Hill ended up with me not seeing a thing.  Although two big bucks were killed on the club this morning, they certainly weren't moving this afternoon.  After putting out a couple of bags of corn at various stands, I decided to hunt in the salt lick area.  I may give up on this stand for awhile, because the only thing I've ever seen here was a little three pointer.  None of the other hunters in the woods this afternoon saw anything either.

On a side note, I have found some big deer tracks in my back yard.  I've put some corn out there for them to enjoy, so maybe I'll get some pictures of them before long.


October 13, 2005 62° Low / 81° High - Clearing / Waxing 82% 7 Deer Viewed
There are, occasionally, perfect days in the woods.  And as you've surely heard, a bad day hunting is better than a good day working, but quite frankly there are times when the hunting itself can get boring.  Try sitting in the woods for 5 days in a row without seeing a deer.  It can be frustrating, which is why we need those perfect days to keep us going.  Unfortunately, perfect days can come all too rarely.

Today was one of those perfect days, and it goes to prove that killing a deer is not the ultimate measure of the success of a hunt.  We all want to kill a deer, me no less than any other hunter, but I when I came down from the stand this morning I was grinning more than I would have been if I had gotten one.

I got to Liberty Hill and saw that I was the first hunter in the woods, which gave me my choice of stands.  I decided to go back to stand #9, the ladder box on the longest road through the lease.  It overlooks a short stretch of the lease road, as well as a small food plot to the right and a long planted strip of wheat through the woods straight ahead.

I had about a thirty minute wait before shooting light, so I sat quietly in the stand and listen to the woods waking up around me.  About ten minutes before legal shooting, Arnold drove by in his truck with game warden William Poole as his guest for today's hunt.  I watched them make their way up the rutted logging road and out of sight. 

As proof that vehicles don't scare deer that much, not five minutes later, just as it became light enough to see, I saw two deer walking up the plowed strip of ground to a corn pile.  I glassed them and saw that they were a big bodied six pointer and a smaller fork horn four pointer.  They fed on that corn for 45 minutes with me watching them the whole time.  Although neither were big enough to shoot, it was a pure thrill to just be watching those bucks feed. 

When they had had enough corn, they eased through the small patch of woods to their left, crossed the logging road, and disappeared into the thicket.

The four point deer crosses the logging road into the woods

Ten minutes later, the four point was back for more.  As he fed, I heard a noise to my right and watched a small doe bound out of the thicket behind me and run off into the woods.  I knew something was chasing her, and was not surprised to see a smallish buck following closely behind her.  I didn't get a chance to count his points; never even got a look at his rack, but he wasn't a shootable deer.  They both crashed back into the woods and vanished.

The four point, alarmed by the racket, had disappeared by the time I looked back his way.  As the woods settled down, I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer grunt in the thicket behind me.  Two more grunts, lower and louder, followed.  I turned to my left and watched a big doe come out of the thicket, cross the road, and bound through the woods.  When she found the corn pile, she stopped short and started to feed.

This doe was a shooter, but I knew from her actions that there was probably a buck behind her.  Rather than focus on her, I kept my attention on the spot where she had emerged from the pine thicket.  Finally I saw movement and watched as a huge five pointer came into view.  He had three points on one antler, but the other one was nothing more than a main beam and a brow tine.  His rack stretched out beyond his ears making him a legal deer on our lease, but I saw no reason to shoot him... he was too ugly.  He did give me a great broadside shot opportunity as he crossed the road.

He followed the doe's trail through the woods while she fed, and when he emerged she left the scene.  The five pointer turned and sauntered away, going in the opposite direction that the doe had gone.  I guess he gave up on her.  He left with a finality that said that this morning's perfect hunt was over.  It was a strange feeling, but it really was there - the feeling that I would see no more deer that morning.  Almost immediately, I saw Arnold's truck roll in to view as he and William left the woods.

And so my perfect morning ended.  I was in the stand for about three hours, and during that time there had been only 15 minutes total where I was not seeing deer.  By the time I left the stand I had seen four bucks and two does; not bad for a morning's hunt.  Oh, at one point, a hawk flew right passed my stand clutching a fish from nearby Lake Wateree.  A beautiful sight.

Arnold and I then headed up to Courtney's BBQ in Clover where we would meet with a couple of game wardens and fellow users of the SC DNR's deer hunting forums.  We were there to discuss some possible changes to the game laws in SC.  The meeting went well and we had a good time, but it was soon time to head back to the woods.

I went to #9 again, with William hunting in the stand before me and Arnold in the next one down the road.  Late in the day, the fork horn from this morning's hunt came back to feed, but he was the only deer I saw.  I got to see a raccoon come to the corn, but other than that it was quite.  After the hunt, one of the guys from the club showed up with a nice 8 pointer that he had gotten in the stand that I had originally planned to hunt from this afternoon. 


October 12, 2005 62° Low / 76° High - Cloudy / Waxing 75% 2 Deer Viewed

My second afternoon-only hunt at Liberty Hill started with a phone call from Arnold saying he had killed a nice 8 pointer earlier in the day.  I drove by his house to check it out, and indeed it was a really nice buck.  He had killed it from stand #10, where I had seen four bucks the previous Saturday. 

I left Arnold's house and went to the lease.  I was debating about whether to hunt in the family stand again or get back in #3, the ground blind on the road where I killed my deer last year.  Seeing that someone was already hunting near stand #3, I went for the family stand.  I got in the stand and got settled and was surprised to see a deer enter the field almost immediately.   It was a spike buck with a large body, but unfortunately it wasn't a shootable deer.  I watched it feed for hours.  Occasionally it would leave the field only to return 20 minutes later.

At one point it left and a beautiful grey fox came in.  I wanted to shoot the fox, wanting desperately to get a full body fox mount, but I decided that tonight I wanted a deer more.  The fox grabbed an ear of corn and sprinted from the field.  As soon as it was gone, the spike came back and began to feed on the wheat in the field.  To my right, I heard a tree crash to the ground and watched as the spike fled in fear.  Shortly after he left, a deer began to blow loudly from over where the tree fell. 

The woods were quiet for awhile, then the spike came back into view 30 yards up the road out of the field.  This time, he kept looking into the woods to the right, and I wasn't surprised to see a large doe come into the trail.   This was a shootable doe, and the spike was obviously at least a year old and was not one of her offspring.  She was alone. 

I watched for 30 minutes, waiting for a clear shot, when finally the doe turned broadside.  I heard a shot in the distance, almost as if that was my signal to take my own shot.  I had a clear target, so I slipped the safety off and fired.  The doe dropped to the ground, kicked for a few minutes, and was still.  Deer #1 for the year is in the cooler.  I got the whole thing on film, and Micki and I watched it during supper tonight.


October 11, 2005 64° Low / 72° High - Cloudy and drizzle / Waxing 68% 1 Deer Viewed
I was halfway down to the Liberty Hill lease for my afternoon hunt when my cell phone rang.  It was Micki with car problems, so I turned around and went to help her get situated.  We got her car towed, picked up a rental car for her, then I headed back down to the woods.  I had planned to hunt at stand #9, a ladder stand where I had hunted for the first time this year, but it was too late to get there by the time I got to the woods.  Instead, I went back to the salt lick stand.

I had barely gotten seated and was still pulling gear out of my backpack and organizing it on the seat beside me when I noticed something at 250 yards that looked like a deer.  I dismissed it and went back to rummaging through my equipment.  I looked up at the "deer" again, thinking that it could be a deer standing facing me.  As I watched, it moved, so I quickly grabbed my binoculars and confirmed that it was a deer: a three point buck.  I was so tired of seeing small bucks that I shook my head in disgust, but kept watching the animal.

It moved out of the trail and into the woods, vanishing forever.  It was the only deer I saw that day.  Heading out of the woods, I ran into Arnold, who had been hunting in the family stand.  He had seen a doe and two fawns, one of which had a mature six point rack even though the deer itself couldn't have weighed more than 50 pounds.  This will be a good deer some day.


October 10, 2005 64° Low / 66° High - Rain to Cloudy / Waxing 56% 2 Deer Viewed
Although it was pouring rain when I got up at 4:15 this morning, this is my week to hit the woods hard as often as I can, so I got up and went hunting.  The rain continued the entire way down to the Liberty Hill lease, but I kept going.  When I got to the sign in board, I saw that only one other hunter was in the woods today, and he was nowhere near where I wanted to hunt.  Good.

I chose to start the day at the salt lick stand.  I drove in the back way through a narrow woods trail wanting to avoid the slick red clay road as much as possible.  Didn't want to take a chance on getting stuck when I was out there alone.  I drove past the huge double "family stand", then past two ground blinds on my way to the ladder stand that watches over the salt lick.  Having never come in this way, I was unsure quite where the parking spot was, so I kept going until I came to a wide spot in the trail that looked like the pull-off.  I parked, gathered my gear, and made my way to the stand.  The approach to the stand didn't look quite right, but I found it with no problem even in the dark. 

As the sun began to rise and the sky lightened, I looked to my right and saw the nose of my truck not 30 yards away.  I saw then that I had driven almost all the way to the stand.  This wasn't really a problem, because you could safely park right under this stand if you wanted to and still have your vehicle completely hidden from the view of anything in the field.  Still, this wasn't quite where I had wanted to put my truck.  Something just seems "wrong" about hunting within sight of your vehicle.

I stayed in the stand until 11:00, but nothing entered the field.  With four days of hunting ahead of me, I was only slightly disappointed when I climbed down and headed to town for lunch.

I got back to the sign in board at around 1:00 and saw that the other hunter had changed locations.  He was now in a tower on the very far edge of the lease.  No problem there; I wanted to hunt the "family stand", and he was a great distance away from there.  The family stand is a huge double stand that overlooks a wheat field.  For a seat, it has the bench of a pickup truck in it which allows for great comfort as you hunt.  Here's a picture of the view from the stand.

When I got into the stand, I immediately saw a pile of corn at the far end of the field.  No problem; this is quite legal in Kershaw County, SC.  I was also surprised to see how quickly the wheat was growing. 

Since I was quite early getting into my stand, I got comfortable, then pulled out a book and began to read to pass the time, pausing twice every page to look around for any activity.  I finished my book at about 5:00, put it away, then settled in for the evening hunt.  Almost immediately, I saw a deer come into the field from the right-hand side only 40 yards out.  It was a buck, and although he had a little bit of mass to his rack, I could tell that it was too small to meet our standards for shooting.

Looking closely at his antlers through my binoculars, I saw that I was looking at a seven pointer that was in really bad shape from a trophy point of view.  His G2's were gnarled and twisted on one side and stubby on the other.  He had one G3 and a short, rounded main beam.  Even with the poor antler quality, he was almost as wide as his ears.  He looked to be a 2½ year old deer, so although he had some potential for antler growth, I was afraid that with had I was seeing he'd never account for much in the looks area.

He fed on the corn for 20 minutes, then snuck off into the woods.  I kept a close watch, thinking that other deer may enter the area at any time.  Twenty minutes later I saw movement, then watched as the same seven pointer came back for seconds.  He fed for another 20 minutes or so, then left for good.  At one point, a deer behind me began to blow.  Whenever the blow sound happened, the seven point would look around, then go back to feeding.  An important tip here: just because a deer blows at you from one direction, this likely will not affect deer in other areas near you.  Although they react to the blow by becoming aware that something has scared another deer, they do not typically run when they hear another deer make this sound.

Just as it was getting too dark to come down, I saw a deer cross the trail at the far end of my vision.  I couldn't tell what it was, so I've counted it as a doe in my scorecard at the top of this page.  Right after that, something else entered the field.  I looked at it with my binoculars, but it was too dark to see exactly what it was.  It was either a raccoon or a fox.  At any rate, my hunt was over, so I loaded up and went home.


October 8, 2005 71° Low / 77° High - Rain / Waxing 29% 5 Deer Viewed
Ted and I planned our final muzzleloader hunt for today, but on Friday night the remnants of a tropical storm moved through our area, drenching us with much needed rain.  As I was driving through town running a few errands, Ted called to ask me what I wanted to do.  I suggested that we scrap our plans to use muzzleloaders and instead head over to the Liberty Hill lease where rifle season is open and he could hunt as my guest.

We met at Arnold's house at around 6:00am, then got in my truck and headed over to the club.  I was pretty disappointed when we got there and saw that many of the good stands had already been signed up for, and we were left picking over the scraps.  I chose for us stands #10 and #11, which are a ladder stand and a box blind each overlooking long stretches of the same logging road.  I had seen deer a couple of times in this area last year, and was hopeful that this would still be a good area.

The red clay road into the lease was nothing short of a mud bog, but my Jeep Grand Cherokee handled it beautifully.  After a white-knuckled drive to the parking area, we said our "good lucks" and each walked to our stands.  Mine was drenched, not being covered, but fortunately Ted had his treestand umbrella with him, which I gratefully borrowed.  He was hunting in a covered blind and thus would be warm and dry.

The first part of the morning passed uneventfully for me until suddenly I noticed a brown hump in the grass 40 yards out from my stand.  Nothing had been there moments before, and my first thought was that I was seeing a large rabbit.  I quickly realized that it was a very young deer, and although I knew I wouldn't shoot, I inspected it carefully through my rifle scope.  It was quite healthy, but way too small to shoot, so I contented myself with watching it as it fed in the grass, then leapt gracefully into the woods after a short time.

The woods grew quiet again when off to my right I saw a flash of white as a spike buck ran past my stand, 30 yards off.  I raised my rifle and watched as another spike went by followed quickly by an ugly six pointer.  None of the deer were big enough to shoot, so I watched in fascination as they chased each other through the woods.  I tried to call Ted to tell him that the deer were on the move, but he wasn't responding to my radio signals, so I gave up. 

Ten minutes later something made me look to my left, and as I did I saw a mid-sized eight point buck run across a small strip of plowed ground, then through a tangle of brush and out of sight.  On my radio, I heard another hunter say he was giving up and was heading out of the woods.  I tried in vain to radio back to tell him to stay put for awhile, but he couldn't hear my calls.  After his truck passed, I climbed down and went to get Ted. 

Ted had also seen two bucks: a four pointer and a spike.  So, although neither of us saw a shootable deer, we both at least got to see some brown today.  We loaded up in my truck and headed back to Arnold's shop to make lunch, then cut our day short to go home to meet other obligations. 


October 6, 2005 71° Low / 71° High - Light Rain / Waxing 14% 1 Deer Viewed

I'm haven't been getting many morning hunts in this year, and today was no exception.  Again I would be hunting just the afternoon down at the Liberty Hill lease.  I knew I'd have the place pretty much to myself today, so I would have my pick of stands.  I decided to go back to the salt lick stand, which as you can see from the picture below has a great view of a food plot.

Because of the lack of rain, nothing was growing in the field yet, but the salt lick near the edge of the field has been heavily visited by deer, so I hoped that I would catch one coming to it this afternoon.  As I approached the field to get in the stand, I was startled to see that I was too late; although it was only 3:45pm, there was already a doe pawing at the salty ground.  She saw me and bolted for the woods before I even registered that she was there.

I hurried on to the stand, hoping that more deer would show up later, but the field remained devoid of cervids for the rest of the day.  Several times throughout the afternoon doves would land in the field, feed for awhile, then suddenly all fly off at once as if startled.  I've often watched this phenomenon hoping that it meant that a deer was entering the area, but so far the sudden scattering of doves has never lead to a subsequent sighting of deer.


October 1, 2005 67° Low / 85° High - Cloudy / Waning 2% 0 Animals Viewed
Today would be the first hunt of the year for Ted as we headed down to Briarpatch for the opening day of the muzzleloader season.  We had prearranged our hunting locations and had planned to meet at Arnold's house, then four-wheel over to the lease together.  Not getting much sleep on Friday night, I awoke with a start at 5:00 this morning: 30 minutes later than I had set the alarm clock for.   I rushed to get ready and was pulling out of my driveway at 5:26.  Fortunately, we have a garage at my house, so I can load up my truck with all my gear and know that it's safe and ready to go.  This saves me a lot of time in the mornings, particularly on days like this!

I was about 15 minutes late meeting up with Ted, but we still had enough time to get into the woods before sunrise.  Just as I got settled in my stand, the sun began to peak over the horizon.  I was hunting in a box blind overlooking a salt block and an empty food plot.  Ted was hunting in his favorite stand, #3, where he once killed 4 deer in a single year.   Or was it 5?

Neither of us saw anything, so at around 10:30 we met up and discussed doing a brief bit of work on some of our stands.  We had to swap out the seat in one of our ladder stands, put a chair in one of our box blinds, and reattach another ladder stand to the tree.  We got this accomplished pretty quickly, then headed back to Arnold's for lunch.

I've talked before about how Ted and I used to look forward to going out to eat lunch at the various restaurants around our hunting areas.  Two years ago, however, we decided to try something different.  Instead of going out, we'd start bringing things to cook at the camp.  We've cooked everything from chili and hamburgers to ribs or steaks and salads.  We kind of did this to try to recapture the memories from some of our first days hunting together, back when we'd stay at my grandfather's cabin and cook fantastic camp meals of steak, red potatoes, and sourdough bread.  Cooking our lunches at the camp has now become one of the things that we look forward to the most, and today we had steaks, green beans, and salads.

I brought my laptop computer along with me today, and after lunch we watched a couple of hunting videos, then helped Arnold change the brake pads on his motorcycle.  Ted also switched out the hood supports on my Jeep for me, since mine were worn out.  As we were trying to decide where to hunt for the evening, Arnold suggested that we try the woods on his land rather than waste our time trying to hunt our leased cutover.  Gratefully, we accepted the offer.

I led the way down Arnold's roads to show Ted how to get to a fantastic stand called "The Ledge", which is an old wooden ladder looking down over a bottom that deer love to feed in.  It's in the middle of a hardwood forest, and is a great place to see deer.  I headed back up the road and then down to my favorite stand on Arnold's land, "The Ridge".  This is where I shot my first deer ever, and I usually hunt here at least once every year.

Although we were hunting some great stands, the deer just weren't stirring tonight.  I heard one blow a couple of hundred yards away, but that was the only sign of deer either one of us had all evening.  There was one turkey that kept doing a "kee kee run" call, This is a lost call used by turkeys as they try to find each other after they have been scattered.


September 29, 2005 82° Low / 90° High - Clear / Waning 5% 0 Animals Viewed
I woke up this morning with a lot of sinus pain and decided to pass on the morning hunt.  Getting some more rest might better prepare me for the rest of the day.  I slept until about 9:00, then got up and got ready to go.  I decided to go to Briarpatch to check on our food plots before heading to River Run to hunt in the late afternoon.  I stopped by Arnold's house to say hi, and found that he was about ready to go get some lunch, so we headed in to town together and got some Mexican food. 

After getting back to his house, I headed out to the lease to try to figure out where Ted and I should hunt on Saturday morning.  We've been having a horrible drought, and things on the lease were as I feared.  None of our food plots have sprouted.  This will make hunting here really difficult, because without food plots we have nothing on the lease that would attract deer.  In disgust, I drove my ATV back to Arnold's, got in my truck and headed down the road to the River Run lease.

Last time I hunted River Run I wanted to hunt the salt lick stand, but there had been no seat in the ladder stand.  During lunch, Arnold had checked in with the River Run president who said that there should now be seats in all stands, so I decided to try again on this one.  Arriving at the stand, I was relieved to find that there was indeed now a place to sit. 

The afternoon was quiet, and all I saw were a bunch of cardinals.


September 22, 2005 87° Low / 93° High - Clear / Waning 66% 18 Turkeys Viewed
Today was my second afternoon hunt for the 2005 deer season.  I was again hunting at Liberty Hill, but this time I was planning on getting into a ladder stand overlooking a large, well-used salt lick.  I signed in for the stand, drove to within a quarter mile of it, then gathered my gear and hiked down the road to the stand.

When I got to the stand, I carefully checked the underside for wasp nests, then, seeing none began to climb the ladder.  Parting the curtains, I was disgusted to see that there was no seat in the stand.  With a 6 hour hunt in front of me, I knew I couldn't use the stand.  I climbed back down and laid my backpack on the side of the trail, then made my way back to my truck.  There was another ladder stand about a half mile past this one, but rather than walk it and get too hot I decided to drive down to the next stand to make sure there was a seat in that one.  This turned out to be the right choice, because again there was nothing to sit on.

I headed back out to the main road to go back to the sign-in board to choose another stand.  Now drenched in sweat, I knew that the hunt was pretty much blown, so I chose the simple ground blind overlooking a long stretch of trail where I had killed last year's only deer.  After the first hour in the stand, I saw five big hen turkeys walking toward me from about 200 yards away.  They stayed in the area for the rest of the afternoon, with many other turkeys joining them in their feeding from time to time.

At one point, I heard something walking in the woods to the left of my box blind.  Looking around, I saw four of the biggest gobblers that I have ever seen in my life.  Easily standing four feet tall each, my jaw dropped open and I wondered if I was seeing ostriches rather than turkeys.  They were that big.  They caught sight of me and turned and ran.  They were so big that their footsteps on the parched dirt road sounded like the hooves of deer running.  I doubt that turkeys get much bigger than these four monsters.


September 17, 2005 87° Low / 99° High - Clear / Full Moon 3 Deer Viewed
I was out of town this past week and missed the opening of the deer season.  I had to wait until today to go for the first time, and even then it was an afternoon only hunt.   Since Ted was again unable to hunt with me, I decided to go to the River Run lease in Kershaw county, where it's already rifle season.

Arriving at the sign-in board, I was quite surprised to see that no one else was hunting this afternoon.  I had all 1,800 acres to myself, giving me plenty of stands to choose from.  I chose a ladder stand labeled "#9", which is up on one of the logging roads and overlooks a long narrow plowed strip of ground.  I was dripping with sweat by the time I got seated in the stand, but knew going into it that this would be the case.  The only thing in my favor was that it's too early in the year for the deer to be spooky yet.

At 6:15pm, I looked to my right and saw the first deer of the year standing on the edge of the woods looking my way.  It was a two year old doe, not large enough to shoot, so I simply watched as it leapt across the road and back into the woods.  About an hour later as dark was settling in I saw something cross the little plowed strip of ground about 70 yards in front of me.  It looked like a raccoon, but I couldn't quite tell for sure if that's what it was.  I raised my binoculars, but it was gone.  However, I was shocked to see that I was looking right at another deer, this one a yearling doe.  As I watched, the mother materialized behind it.  I could have easily gotten a shot at the bigger doe, but since it had a yearling with it I decided to pass.

I watched them for about 5 minutes before they vanished from view, and nothing else appeared the rest of the night.  Still, I was quite happy with my opening day, having already seen three deer.


September 3, 2005 64° Low / 91° High - Clear / New Moon Many Doves Viewed
Today was a divergence from the normal start of my hunting seasons.  The opening day of dove season started at noon, but Ted wasn't able to hunt with me today, so I decided to go it alone.  Rather than sit in the field waiting for noon to arrive I didn't even go down to the lease until 3:00pm, just in time for the afternoon flight of doves.

Since I was on my own, I decided to just play around a bit rather than hunt seriously, so I took my .410 shotgun to add challenge to the already difficult task of shooting doves.  Doves were plentiful on the lease and I got plenty of shots off, but never managed to actually hit anything. 


August 12, 2005 71° Low / 90° High - Partly Cloudy / 1st Quarter 2 Animals Viewed
With the opening day of deer season less than a month away, I decided to go down to the Briarpatch lease today to look around.  I haven't been down there since turkey season, so I figured I'd better take a bit of time to see what kind of work needs to be done to get ready for the season. 

Briarpatch is mostly a cutover now, and this year it's turning green again.  There was new growth everywhere.  This will probably be the best year for hunting that we'll see in quite some time.  In the next few years, it will become an impenetrable jungle until the new pine trees take over.  Our fields are full of tall weeds, and need bush hogging and planting.  Our roads continue to wash out, and are in worse shape than ever.  There's not much we can do about that without renting a Bobcat.

Heading down the power lines, I jumped two nice sized does.  Good to see some deer out there today.   I put out half a dozen salt blocks too.  All of our licks were looking great, with deer still coming to them in droves.  I also found a great place to put a ladder stand.  I'll talk to Ted about that next week.


April 30, 2005 63° Low / 71° High - Cloudy & Strong Storms / Waning Gibbous 3 Animals Viewed
Ted and I would close out the turkey season today, starting at Liberty Hill, then heading over to Briarpatch.   That was the plan, anyway.  We met at Arnold's house, then drove together in my truck over to the big lease.  The sign-in board told us that someone was already hunting on the first road, so we headed for the second one, an area of hardwoods on one side and pines on the other.  We parked and started walking up the road, owl hooting every hundred yards or so.

Nothing.  The turkeys were silent this morning.  As we walked, another truck of hunters drove past us, and we waved them by.  We turned down a side road, now tree calling softly, but the turkeys remained quiet.  Finding a half-hidden set of turkey tracks in the road, I suggested that we get in the woods in this area and just sit, only yelping occasionally.

We picked our spots and settled down maybe 20 yards apart, looking in different directions.  I used a diaphragm call to yelp occasionally, always a short series, as if I were a hen still on the roost.  Once, I beat my hands against my chest and cackled, simulating the sounds of a hen leaving her tree.  Not long after that, I saw movement in the woods in front of me, headed my way.  I got ready to shoot, but it was only a hen looking for company.  She got close, spotted me, and ran the other way.

Wanting to spread farther apart, I motioned for Ted to stay where he was, then I moved 50 or 60 yards to the right, putting a deep gulley between the two of us.  I found a spot, sat down, and called a few more times. 


Presently, Ted took out his slate call and began a series of yelps.  On the second or third series, the silence was shattered by a gobble that ended as soon as it began.  Ah, I thought.  A jake.  He didn't mean to let out that gobble, and now he's afraid that a boss tom will come and whip him for his impertinence.  I turned quickly and saw them:  two jakes, forming the vertex of an Isosceles triangle with Ted and I at each of the far points.  I already had my turkey for the year, so I sat still and watched the action play out.

I couldn't see Ted from where I was, but I quickly heard the boom of his 12 gauge, followed immediately by the stray pellets tearing through the underbrush.  In an instant, I was up and running, heading for the turkeys.  To my left, I saw glimpses of Ted running in the same direction, each of us skirting the edges of the gulley.  I saw the turkey flapping on the ground and got ready to shoot.  I looked at Ted to see what he was going to do, and saw the other turkey also flapping.  Two in one shot!

Ted's first turkey turned out to be a double.  His shot was long; 40 yards or so, and the pattern had spread enough to take out both of the birds.  They each had 4" beards and weighed in at around 12 pounds apiece. 

We gathered up the birds and headed into town to check them in and pick up lunch.  We bought a couple of BBQ plates at a restaurant in Ft. Lawn, then took them back to Arnold's shop.  While we were cleaning the birds, a strong storm moved in, and I knew then that the hunt had come to an end.  We finished up with the birds, washed up, and sat down to lunch with the rain pounding on the tin roof above us. 


April 21, 2005 51° Low / 84° High - Cloudy / Waxing Gibbous 0 Animals Viewed
Hunting alone today, I decided to go back to the Liberty Hill lease and give it a try.  The sign-in board showed that I was the only hunter on the property today, so I had my choice of where to go.  Arnold had mentioned that there was a gobbler in the pines near the first gate, so that was where I would start. 

As I got out of the truck and began walking up the logging road, I knew that this was going to be a rough day.  Pain flared in my back, a chronic problem that I live with, and I paused to rest at one of our deer stands.  When the pain subsided I continued up the road, but in moments it was back, and worse than before.  I sat beside a pine and owl hooted a few times, but nothing answered.

Standing, I knew that I couldn't continue on, so I limped back to my truck, reclined the driver's seat all the way back, and waited for the pain to pass.  When it finally did, I had no choice but call the day off and go home.


April 9, 2005 67° Low / 70° High - Clear / Waxing Crescent 1 Turkey Viewed
I had several things to do this morning which would take me into the early afternoon, so I didn't get down to Arnold's house until a little after 4:00pm.  He was out of town, so I fed his dogs and played with them for awhile before getting on my four wheeler and heading out onto the Briarpatch lease.  One thing on the lease was different today from last week.  There are deer tracks everywhere.  Our roads were covered with tracks, many of which looked to be from pretty good deer.

There was one set of tracks that looked like they were from a monster deer.  We've got a good one on our property somewhere.

There is a wide power line right-of-way that runs steeply down one side of the Briarpatch property.  We've got fields at two flat points on this line, and I decided that that's where I'd look for the turkeys.  I glassed the first field from 400 yards away, but it was obviously empty.  Wanting to be as quiet as possible, I stopped the motor on my ATV and coasted down the long hill into the field.  I parked in a little dip where my four wheeler would be out of sight, then walked to the top of the rise where I could look way down into the next field, some 500 more yards below me.

The field was empty.  Since that field is on a heavily wooded creek bottom, I decided to go down there and try to get a gobbler going up to roost.  To get down to the field, I decided to walk the power line, which goes up and down through a series of hills, going ever lower until you come to the field.  At the top of each hill, I would glass the field to make sure that nothing had entered it while I was out of view.

As I came to the last hill, I saw a hen come in the field, then turn around and leave.  I'm not sure what scared her off; I don't think it was me, because I was still over 150 yards away and was mostly hidden in the tall grass.  I watched the field for some time waiting for her to return, but she never did.  I finally walked the rest of the way down the hill and hunted along the creek bottom for the rest of the afternoon.  I did this without success of any kind.

During my hunt, I kept an eye out for shed antlers, and did find the skull of a big spike buck.  One antler was partially squirrel chewed, but the other was stuck in the mud and was in great shape.  I kept the skull, and will spend some time on Sunday afternoon cleaning it up.


April 2, 2005 57° Low / 62° High - Rain, Heavy Wind / Last Quarter 10 Turkeys Viewed
On this, the second day of turkey season, Ted would be joining me for his first hunt of the year.  We met at the Briarpatch lease, where I had him park his truck and jump in mine, and together we rode over to the Liberty Hill lease.  When we arrived at the Liberty Hill sign-in board, I was surprised to see that no one else was registered to hunt today.  I signed up for a two mile stretch of road that would take us from one end of the property to the other.

We parked, and began to walk through the woods, giving an occasional owl hoot to try to get a turkey to shock gobble.  With heavy winds and occasional bursts of rain, I wasn't confident that we would hear any gobbles, and not surprisingly, we didn't.  We walked to the back gate without hearing a single turkey, so we turned around and headed back to the truck, stopping for about an hour with each of us sitting in a separate deer blind just hoping to catch a stray turkey wandering in the logging road.

By 10:00, it was clear that nothing was happening on this lease this morning, so I suggested that we go ahead and get lunch, then head over to the Briarpatch lease and see if anything was in the fields.  We had a quick lunch of fried chicken in nearby Heath Springs, then drove over to the little lease.  We parked high on a hill in the middle of our cutover that overlooks one of our fields, some 500 yards away.  Almost immediately, we could see that there were turkeys in the field.

Using his binoculars, Ted said that he thought that they were hens.  Thinking that there might be some gobblers in the area, we quickly formulated a plan of attack.  We couldn't take the easy way and walk down the road to the field; we'd be in view of the turkeys the whole time if we did that.  Instead, we chose to head straight down to the creek bottom, pushing our way through the jumble of the cutover. 

I put us on a path that pointed us away from the field, trying to get some distance between us and the turkeys for the first couple of hundred yards.  Once we made it to the 75 yard wide river bottom, we got as close as we could to the creek itself.  This would let us make our way to the back of the field, far from where the turkeys were feeding.  We made our stalk quickly but quietly, and soon found ourselves on the edge of the field.

Looking intently through the deadfalls, I could see that at least one turkey, a hen, was still in the field.  Suddenly Ted hissed, "There's one right there!"  I suddenly saw a bird in plain view.  "It's a jake," Ted said.  I wasn't sure; I couldn't see even a puff of beard.  When the turkey looked away, I pointed at a patch of briars and said, "let's get behind that.  It's our best bet to get right up on them."

When we had the chance, we moved into position, Ted on my right, me right in close to the briars.  I thought we had made our move completely undetected, then, suddenly, I saw four heads craned high staring at us.   My shotgun was instantly in position, and I whispered to Ted to be careful when he shot, we were standing side by side and needed to keep this situation safe.

As the turkeys stared at us, Ted said, "they're gonna run." 

"I'm shooting," I said, and immediately fired at the nearest male.  He collapsed in a heap on the ground.  Ted took a step into the field and shot at a bird that I couldn't see.  When it was safe, I moved into the field and saw two birds on the ground, and the rest were leaving the area at a dead run.  I kept my gun trained on my turkey, making sure he didn't get up again.  Unfortunately, Ted's did.

"He's running," Ted yelled.  I looked up in time to see that his bird had gotten up and was halfway across the field.  Ted took a shot at him and yelled "shoot him, shoot him" to me.  I led the running bird as much as I could and hauled down on the trigger, but the turkey never flinched.  Ted stood stock still in surprise.  I could still see his bird running for the thicket.  "There he is, chase him, chase him," I yelled.  Ted took off, but the bird was gone.

Mine was down for good, and 100 yards up the power lines I could see the turkeys crossing.  "There they are, can you do it?" I asked Ted.  We were both exhausted from our long stalk, but Ted was game.  We started up the hill and were soon out of breath.  The turkeys were gone.

"Tell you what," I wheezed.  "I'll go down and get my bird and bring him up here.  You walk the wood line and see if you can find any sign of yours.  We'll meet back here shortly." 

By the time I got back up the hill, it was over.  Ted could find no sign of his turkey, and there was no point in looking further.  From the way he was running, he was probably halfway to North Carolina by that time.  And so, although we were both disappointed that Ted didn't get his bird, both of our hearts were still pounding from the excitement of the hunt.  This was unquestionably the most exciting turkey hunt I've ever been on.


April 1, 2005 56° Low / 60° High - Light Rain / Waning Gibbous 6 Turkeys Viewed

Man, it was close. Went to my lease down by Wateree this morning. As soon as I got out of the truck, I heard one gobbling a few hundred yards up the road. I moved quickly in his direction and got situated in a great spot. He responded beautifully to a single soft yelp. He was closer now than I thought, so I shut up immediately and let him come.

As I sat waiting, a hen came running by me, clucking and yelping. She went straight to the gobbler; MY gobbler, and they took off together.

Nothing else was gobbling on this lease, so I finally left and went over to my other lease off of Walker Rd. in Lancaster County. Heard one gobble just across Cedar Creek from where I was calling, and soon heard the two shots that collected him.

As the rain started moving in, I decided it was time to head back home and give it another shot tomorrow morning.

I've been hunting for a lot of years now. Rule #1. Hunt your way back to the truck. Walk back to the truck like you could see game at any time. You'd think I'd know that by now.

I came strolling over the hill like I was walking through the park. I wasn't trying to be quiet; I was just ready to get to the truck and get out of the storm. I was fully visible when I topped the hill, and there in my food plot was a monster gobbler and four hens.

I was in plain view, just out of range for a shot, and they had seen me. I broke out into a dead run, but they were gone.

January 15, 2005 33° Low / 45° High - Overcast / Waxing Crescent (36%) 0 Animals Viewed
With the deer season over, I always like to try to get in the woods a few times in January and February to ease myself out of the habit of going hunting every weekend.  I'll go squirrel hunting, predator hunting, or even, occasionally, duck hunting.  Today, I was after the coyotes.

It was hovering just above freezing when I got down to Briarpatch.  I gathered my equipment and made my way out onto the lease.  I'm using a Johnny Walker electronic caller and a Feather Flex Rigor Rabbit motion decoy this year, but neither of them did me any good today.

My first stand was over at Ted's box blind near one corner of our property.  Nothing.  After that, I moved a quarter mile up the road to a ladder stand, but again had no luck.  From there, I went over to the pallet blind, but again saw no game. 

I decided to head over to the Liberty Hill lease, which is much bigger, and thus offers more hunting locations.    I made several stands on the various roads on that lease, but still saw nothing.

There is much more to hunting coyotes than just grabbing an electronic caller and pressing a button.  This is going to take some hard work, but I'm going to learn how to hammer these predators. 


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