But Woods touched on a very near and dear topic - The old days.
I would love to hear some of your stories from "the old boys, way back then".
As a young lad back in the late 60's early 70's I would sit and listen to my dad and his brothers tell stories about when they used to deer hunt back in the 40's, 50's and even early 60's.
They talked about how if someone happened to come across a deer track crossing a road it was REALLY something and they would talk it up with everyone they new.
They would talk about how back then all the area farmers would get together and make huge deer drives and go from one farm stead to another making drives - and any public land in between.
They talked about how they would always put the good shooters on the far end of the drive area so that if a deer did come out they would for sure get some venison.
They would laugh and reminisce for hours - I'm sure a LOT of the stories were "stretched" just a bit for me and my cousins as we listened. We even learned some interesting words when the beer got flowing good. :)
That was back in the 50's and early 60's - towards the end of the timber wolf era.
My dad and all my uncles are gone now - oh how I miss those times.
After several hours of mooching - we call it still hunting, he came to a camp with some younger guys all setting around a camp fire mid day.
Just then a grouse flies up and lands way up in a pine tree. He asks them if they want it for lunch. "Hell yeah" so he pulls up his old lever action, iron sights, 30-30 and takes the head off the grouse. Walks over and hands it to them and walks off to continue his hunt.
He still laughs about that and said he sure is glad there weren't 2 of them - there is no way he could ever do that again.
I have that gun - he customized it to better fit his left hand shooting.
THE BLUE BUCK. (An Old-Timers Outdoor Story)
As the eerie timbre of a dog horn floats across the swamp, so the memory of the blue buck floats across the years. The sudden stillness was the first thing the boy noticed. The night birds hushed their twittering. The owls finished their pre-dawn questioning of “who-cooks-for-you”, and the sound of his uncle’s outboard motor had long since faded into the distance. He was too far from civilization for the sound of normal human activity to reach him. The nearest real road was highway to Ferriday and it wasn’t much. The great expanse of the Cocodrie Swamp stretched around him in expectant silence. Sometimes he could hear a barge on the Mississippi River. The sound would float across the swamp to be muffled in the cypress and tupelo gum trees. The boy sat hidden beneath the skeletal arms of one of these trees, waiting for dawn. The coming of dawn is in itself a memorable occasion. This morning, would be special. This morning, the boy was to kill his first deer. This morning had a place in his memory. It was before the big timber and agriculture boom that would help civilization push its’ unwanted nose into the quiet backwaters of Cocodrie Swamp. This was before the land was cleared for bean fields and surrounding land leased to big hunting clubs. On this morning, the land and the wildlife it supported belonged to those who could invade it and be as one with it. This morning, the swamp lay dreaming in its’ own solitude and peace. To the north was Ferriday, to the east Vidalia, to the south, a long way the town of Marksville and far west was Jena. Somewhere between these points, the boy nestled among the cypress knees and waited for the first signs of dawn. Around him lay thousands of acres of uninhabited swamp. But this morning is a morning of memory and a fear of being alone has no place in a memory. At first, there was nothing but the distant “Kyuuk, Kyuuk, Kyuuk” of the giant woodpeckers, they called a Log God. The trees had begun to make their grotesque silhouettes against the fain dawn when the boy heard the first distant belling of Old Skillet, his uncle’s strike dog. At first, the boy was not even sure he heard anything. The swamp sometimes played tricks on an eager boy of 12. He strained to hear the far off sound. It was plainer now. It just had to be Old Skillet. “Sounds like they are coming down Muddy Drain,” he thought. “I hope they don’t cross the bayou.” He could know these places because he had practically been raised in this swamp. He could visualize the buck with trophy antlers-all daydream bucks have trophy antlers-bounding and gliding ahead of the dogs. Old Skillet, Buster, Squeally and Madame Old Folks were in full cry now. The boy shivered with excitement. The buck he dreamed of would be almost blue, very large and sporting rocking chair antlers. The boy’s daydream was shattered by the high call of his uncle’s dog horn, floating on the air like the call of the Windigo, urging the dogs on. Then came the sound he had been expecting. The dogs were turning to come down the bayou toward his location on the edge of a small, water-filled break. The buck would cross the slight hump of the white oak flat in front of him, before taking to the water to lose the dogs. They were not so distant now. “Surely,” he thought, “they can hear me breathing. Maybe I should move a little to the left, closer to that log?” How many times have such thoughts crossed the minds of hunters much older than the boy? The boy’s knees began to shake like palmetto leaves in the wind. The chill he had felt earlier had gone with the first sounds of the dogs, only to be replaced by shaking from the increased flow of adrenalin. To help stop the trembling in his legs, the boy rose to one knee as he had seen his uncle do. Then came a new sound. “Chk...Chk...Chk.” It could only be the buck crossing the slough between the head of the small, nameless lake and the flat where the boy sat. The boy did not move. “I can’t sit still much longer,” he thought. Suddenly the morning was shattered with silence. The dogs were hushed, trying to unravel the trail in the water-filled break. No birds called. The Log God stopped his pounding on the hollow cypress. No squirrels moved in the white oaks. Magically it was there. Just at the edge of the glade, stood the buck. He was not as big as the boy had dreamed but just then, he looked as big as an elk to the boy. He had the blue tinged coloring of the deep swamp deer and the sunlight filtered through the lace of leaves and Spanish moss to spotlight his eight-point antlers. The buck took one tentative step into the open and in an instant was in full flight, his white tail accentuating each bound. The boy rose and fired both barrels, never thinking to aim. The deer was gone in a tangle of vines and buttonwoods. With a heart as heavy as his hip boots, the boy ran to where the deer had vanished. He studied the ground, looking for blood. There was none. “I missed!” he thought, “He was so close. I had to hit him! What if missed!” A few yards into the thicket, he saw a spot of crimson. The L.C. Smith, double 12, had been on target. The boy was running now, stumbling in his one-size-too-big hip boots. Then he saw him. His first deer. His buck. Each point perfect against the green of the palmetto leaves he brought down as he fell. He was as beautiful in death as he had been in life. The boy was at once elated and yet, somehow a little sad. His uncle was beside him now, the Winchester Model 12 in the crook of one arm, ever present pipe in the corner of his mouth, out of breath from running the last 200 yards to reach the boy and share the moment-good or bad. Still without saying a word, his uncle reached into the pocket of his faded hunting pants. When he removed his hand, he handed the boy his old, stag handled Case knife. The meaning was clear. The boy had taken one more step toward manhood. The man leaned against the door of his pickup truck. He squinted across the bean fields. Barely visible in the distance was a line of trees. “It was over 50 years ago,” he thought, “I doubt I could find that white oak flat, even if it was still there.” Much of the swamp was gone, replaced by beans. What was left divided by private leases and wisely some in a wildlife management area. Much of the swamp was scarred. The ugly tracks of ATV’s and miles of surveyor ribbon, badges of those who couldn’t find their way, bright markings, replaced faint b lazes on tree trunks. “The days of the dog hunter are almost gone.” The man thought. “Dogs can’t read posted signs and as the habitat shrinks, there is no room for the dogs or the old-time swamp hunter. Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe there are no more blue bucks to hunt.” The man opened the truck door and bent to reach behind the seat. At last, he straightened. In his hand was an old goat horn, worn smooth by years of handling and scarred by years of hard use. The man turned and looked again at the distant tree line. He raised the horn and blew one long, wavering note across the fields. “Once more for the blue buck.” he said. ###
Thanks for posting, Bob
THe UP was about as wild as I can remember, especially for a guy from northern Ohio on Lake Erie but my upbringing was in the out of doors or at least in the rural area of northern Ohio. Back in high school (class of 1958) most of my friends had a hand me down shotgun, maybe a 22 rife, a dog, and a bike to get around on-- (no fenders on the bikes as that was not cool if you left them on). We raise hell on the local squirrels, ducks (sometimes, and rabbits. Trapped coons and muskrats and then cut grass (push mower at first) for extra money. Some of us would work on the local farms, for 75 cents to one dollar an hour.
My first bow was for shooting carp in the local marshes as prior to the bow we would use sharpened stick, pitchforks and sometimes, large rocks. A fiberglass arrow produced flopping carp on the end of the line. We waded the marshes of Lake Erie and came out with blood suckers on our legs. Just what one did but we had a lot of fun.
Oh yes, the UP of Michigan. Home of iron ore and copper mines and a grand history of logging the huge white pine trees. One can still find old 4-6 ft dia stumps scattered across the upper part of the state.
Yea, a rich history of deer hunting also in the thick hard woods and cedar swamps. A 30/30 lever action rifle seemed to be a good rifle. No hunter orange, just red and black wool pants and jacket or just some "hunting gear" that was made to do to match the enviornment. I can not remember there being any other bow hunters around. At least I did not know of any.
One day in 1960, while shopping at the base BX (store) I came upon a Ben Pearson 50# bow. There were also some cedar, feathered arrow with Bokin BH for sale. The next pay day ( $110 per month but with room and board) I purchased that bow and 6 arrows. I only knew that I would pull back the bow with ease. I knew nothing about arrow spine or limb brace hight, etc.
During the summer, I would walk the fence line, explore the adjacent woods, fish for brookies in the cold water streams. My target of choice was chipmunks and squirrels. And once in a while I would see a white tailed deer mostly running and snorting away.
I did not have any experience hunting deer so the woods and time afoot would have to be my class room. Hit and miss for sure. And it was hit and miss for the first two years. Oh I had a few close encounters as I stalked along trying to be indian like but the deer seems more intuned to their environment that I was. They were full time wild critters and I was only a very part time hunter and I use the term hunter very lightly.
There were only two maybe three hunting magazines available back then. Field and Stream, Outdoor Life, and Hunting and Trapping but the stories on bow hunting were few. Some of you might remember, Wild World of Sports on Sunday TV and hour long hunting and fishing show in the 1960. One show producted was Fred Bear hunting bears in Alaska. Boy did that get my hunting fire burning brightly. I noticed that Fred and his crew of fellow bow hunters only worn natural looking hunting cloths and maybe a woodland camo jacket. I just had to purchase the camo jacket which I did for the following deer season.
The 1962 deer season came quickly but I had to work my hunting time around my work schedual as a radar operator, but the deer woods were within walking distance and just across the 4 wire fence as the base was located in the depth and center of the forest 25 miles south of Marquette Michingan and Lake Superior.
There was a logging operation going on just off base and within a half mile of my living quarters. Hard woods such as maple and oaks and with acorns abound on the ground. Tree stands was not legal in Michigan at that time but I had read a few hunting stories about the advantage of hunting high off the ground so when I came upon a "natural" tree stand where one tree had fallen into the crouch of another tree forming a platform twelve feet off the ground, I knew I would take advantage of this situation.
Sometimes after working a mid night shift and in the early morning I would run into the woods, climb into my natural platform and wait, and wait I did. I remember one time, I was very tired so I layed down on the platform and fell asleep. Lucky I did not fall out and crash to the ground.
Then one day and one afternoon a doe deer came into the small clearing surrounding my stand and she ran right up to the bottom of the oak tree which had recently shed most of its acorns.
There I stood, bow in hand, my face and hands covered with burnt cork, my woodland camo jacket was slightly faded but softer, green AF work pants and black AF boots made up the rest of my natural outfit. Almost like I remembered Fred Bear on his adventures..well almost!
THe doe was only 10 feet below me and feeding on the fallen acorns. While drawing back, she much have sensed something and looked up at me. The arrow found it mark between her shoulders. She was out of sight within a second but I heard her crash a few seconds later. The blood trail was very easy to follow in the fallen leaves and there she was, my first deer with the bow.
I had field dressed a lot of rabbits but nothing of this size, but I just looked at her and the job at hand as just a large rabbit to clean. I was thankful she was not a large doe so after field dressing, I was able to place her over my shoulders and carry her out and back to the base.
One of my AF friends lived in the on base married housing and was a hunter and offered to help cut up and store the deer in his freezer and then invite me for a few wildgame dinners.
The word spread around that "Robin Hood" had killed a deer with his bow. I would have preferred to be linked to Fred Bear but maybe that would come later.
Hunters are still hunters. The wild deer are still very wild. And while the equipment has changed some, it still take times and boots on the ground, an understand of the prey, and a passion to be just like Fred Bear.
Old timers deer story? Well maybe but I still have a young outlook and the bow hunting passion still burns within.
My best, Paul
I enjoyed deer hunting with dogs as a young guy. Not as easy as lots of folks think, but always fun, even when you don't get a shot. It's more about the hunt, the social aspect, and hearing the dogs on track. And of course, everyone thinks they have the best dog ever ! As John's story states, it's not very practical anymore, and has been illegal here for several years now, but I can still remember some fun times listening to the dogs run.
My dad and uncle were a couple of WWII navy vets, and my personal heroes...finest kind...but, not deer hunters. Small game and pheasants were their fortes. They're both gone now, and I miss em every day.
My dad did, however, allow me to start archery at a very tender age, and in the 60's here in Wisconsin, before age 18, an archery deer tag was one dollar...so away we went!!!
I grew up a farm kid and every free hour was spent gallivanting about the local woods and hills.
Me and the "crew" spent our fall days in pursuit of the wily whitetail which, truth be told, were waaay more wily than any of us.
I think with every 12 year old boy added to the mix, the "brain power" is diminished by tremendous amounts. We'd stomp about after our ellusive quary with nary a clue as to what we were doing, but we were...by God DEER HUNTERS!!!
The odds were incalculable of the chances of our arrow and a deer's vitals occupying the same space and time, but any deer spoted was gonna get a twig launched in his general direction.
We determined early on that it was IMPOSSIBLE to actually hit, let alone kill, a deer with a bow and arrow, but that wasn't gonna stop us...no siree. If nothing else...we were persistent.
Then, one day...it happened...one of us, sadly...not me, actually HIT A DEER!!!!
Right in the hoof!!! Fatal? No. BUT...he had a few drops of blood on his rather dull Ben Pearson broadhed...real deer blood! HE WAS A GOD!!!
Since those days I've dragged a lot of deer out of the woods of Wisconsin and the mountains of Wyoming. I'm still shooting the recurve, but now know what I'm doing. I no longer feel that heart pounding adrenaline rush upon the approach of a deer I'd choose to take. But, I do still enjoy being out there.
That said...I sure miss that innocence of kid hunting. Sadly, I think my generation was about the last with that opportunity. Times have changed...and not for the better.
Mine's one of about eight, but I left out the part about almost getting sent to the principal's office for telling my second-grade class I'd seen a deer in 1965. Mrs, Finch said Kansas didn't have deer. I didn't back down.
I hope she hit one with her car some day.
We always joke that they've each seen a lot of "the biggest buck I've ever seen".
My dad always comments that there were so many deer back then, and if they would have known how to hunt, they'd each have trophy room full.