Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hunting and the stories we share

I have often found that the hunting stories told by our friends and other hunters add to the thrill and anticipation of the hunt. I remember as a young man when first introduced to hunting I was truly amazed by the hunting stories of others. I would intently listen to every detail of every word. Whether in truth, exaggeration or my wonder of reality the detailed story of a day’s hunt or harvest by another hunter filled my dreams with excitement. I believe that sharing hunting stories with kids and first time hunters is an essential to building their desire for the great tradition.

I guess once you become a serious hunter the love for our obsession makes all of us great story tellers. The details of the events, the descriptions of the weather and scenery, the laughter we share and the explanation of the success of the harvest give passion to all our memories. I make it a point to be as honest as possible when telling my stories as I have no real reason to exaggerate my experiences. I have been blessed with some amazing harvests, a lot of missed opportunities and a lot of days just enjoying the woods.

I've often found that grandfathers seem tell the best stories about that wise old buck that always escapes all the hunters in the area. When you’re hunting in that area your dream is to be the one guy to bring out that legendary buck. The names they call them like the Gray Ghost or Barney Buck often add to the image of their size and their ability to escape. The idea of the legendary monster buck that lies down in a ditch and watches dogs run by or makes a complete circle behind you as you pass quietly through the woods. These are the stories we share on the tailgate.

My first shot at a deer left me with an amazing memory, provided a wise lesson and the understanding that yes they do get away, especially if you miss. This is my story of my first shot at a deer. When I was seventeen my friend and his dad had a small farm in Lunenburg County, Virginia. They spent their Saturday’s deer hunting with their neighbors in a small hunt club. They were a great group of guys with some excellent hounds and a lot of areas in the county to hunt. This of course was long before tracking collars, cell phones, computers and CBs were the
best option for outdoor communication.

I was excited to be invited for a day’s hunt with my friends and their neighbors. We headed out early one morning for a short meeting to discuss which block of woods to hunt and who would go where. The location was decided and the guys began to circle a small block of woods. I rode down a red clay logging road in an old army jeep with my friends neighbor and my friend’s dad. The neighbor who was in his sixties was most likely one of the greatest hunting story tellers I had ever met. He had a positive way of building your excitement and making you feel you were going to get a deer right away. He stopped the jeep and told me to head down the road and pointed toward a low area at the bottom of a hill. He said that’s a great spot and the bucks come right through there all the time. When you walk down the hill go to the right just a little and you’ll get a nice buck.

My friend’s dad chose a spot at the top of the hill just above me. He was a seasoned hunter who’d had a lot of harvests under his belt and is to this day still a true marksman and great woodsman. I walked down the slightly damp red clay logging road and could feel the clay pulling at the bottom of my boots in a suction type grab as I moved further down the road. I found a spot on the opposite side of the logging road and stepped back a short distance into the woods. This allowed me the ability to look across the road toward the woods in front of me. I was armed with an old Harrison and Richards single shot 12 gauge. My dad had bought the single shot shotgun for me with the idea that I would learn the value of the first shot.

I looked across the woods into an excellent view of an open spaced mix of small hardwood trees and pines. The area was very easy to see through as the ground underneath the trees had slight rolls, hills and turns and was nothing like the flat ground I was use to back home. The small hills and rolls enhanced the amazing scenery of the woods. On the far side of the woods I could hear the hounds long range cries as they had been released from their containment of the truck bed.
I watched the woods in front of me intently for any movement. After a short while I began to hear a sound through the woods in front of me. A steady rhythmic type noise sounded out loudly as I heard tish tish echoing past the trees just out of sight. I immediately realized that something was moving quickly as it crunched the leaves on the forest floor. As I looked through the woods in front of me I saw movement coming directly toward me. I thought what is that? In an instant I realized that it was a buck and he was following a path through the woods straight for me.

I quietly pulled my hammer back as I could feel the rush of the excitement adding a bit of shakiness to my hand. I raised my gun to my shoulder as the deer began to move closer. Being new to deer hunting and not planning well I made my first mistake. When I raised my gun my arm hit a tree behind me which sent the sound of my error echoing across the woods toward the large buck. The buck was immediately put on alert. I can remember watching him as if in he was in slow motion as he came to a complete stop and basically slammed on the brakes. He looked directly at me for a moment and made a sharp turn to my left. I squeezed the trigger on the shotgun and the sound of the shell’s release broke the silence all around me.

The buck’s speed increased by volume as he continued on toward the logging road in front of me. His advance was no longer straight for me but about twenty yards further to my left. He was heading toward the logging road and he was definitely going to make the crossing. I fumbled nervously into my pocket for other shell and loaded it quickly as the buck continued his fast advance through the woods. Before I could take the second shot he left two perfectly placed tracks in the center of the red clay road and leapt out of sight as I stood in disbelief. I remember saying I can’t believe I missed him!

My friend’s dad had a call to nature just before the buck had come through. When he heard my shot as a new hunter he knew very well I most likely missed. With his pants and underwear down to his ankles he stood up with his shot gun awaiting the buck in case it headed toward him. Talk about a dedicated hunter. The wisdom I gained from my hunt was to make sure you always have plenty of room around you before you raise your arm, to hone your shooting skills before the season, to never underestimate the wisdom of a buck and always know another hunter is waiting if you miss no matter what.

Story by Hampton Brewer AKA the VAOUTDOORSMAN

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