It can be any story that comes to mind that you have enjoyed sharing with family and friends in the past. An abridged version of a previous hunt story is welcome!
When I was in my late teens I spent a lot of time bow hunting in eastern Oregon and Idaho with my dad. One place we hunted, was nicknamed the middle finger. It was a ridge between two canyons that started from a parking lot and climbed straight up to the top where it flattened out. It was a miserable hike to get on top, but once you were there, it was flat and elky! On the 3rd day my dad needed a break so I went alone. I started my hike well before daylight. I was and still am a little, scared of the dark when I’m in the woods.
About half way up I was positive I was being stalked by something that was going to jump on my back at any moment. I was spending more time looking behind me than in front of me. Every sound was a mountain lion, or possibly a bear. I had worked myself up pretty good when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye.
Something was attacking me from above. I dropped to the ground as a squirrel narrowly missed my head. I could feel the wind it was so close. It landed on the tree next to me and started chattering at me. I can only assume it was attracted to my headlight.
I sat until day break. The sight of that squirrel coming at my head is something etched in my mind forever.
5 arrow quiver. That’s important later
My wife and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary in South Africa. Hunted for 6 days in the eastern cape and then did some touristy stuff.
Red lechwe were not on my radar at all. But once I got there and saw them, I wanted one. There were a lot in this area. And we spent a couple days stalking them. One stalk blown by a rabbit that we spooked ;)
Finally got on this bull and had a good stalk. A female duiker almost ruined that stalk. Had to freeze and wait until she passed us
Finally got to within 40 yards and had a chance. I had developed target panic the year before, but was in denial and hadn’t diagnosed it.
I drew while behind a big bush, stepped out, centered the pin, then flinched like a little turd and punched his guts. That was the first arrow.
He bounced off, kinda half circled and gave me a follow up frontal at 40 yards. I shot too quick and Shot him just a tad left of where I should have. Single lunged him and drove an arrow out of his rear. That was arrow number 2
He ran off and we watched his pals cross a river bed then take off. He wasn’t with them. As we snuck that way, I happened to find the first arrow. I went ahead and knocked it.
Got to the river bank edge and there he was, hurt and laying down. 50 yards. I shot right under him. That was arrow 3.
Knocked another and center punched him. But I wasn’t sure. That was arrow 4
So I knocked another and center punched him again. Arrow 5.
He was dying, but I was not sure if those laying shots, so as we walked up to 20 I shot my last arrow into him. Shot 6. Out of 5 arrows
It was a damn cool hunt. Wish my shooting had been better
Well, Florida State University was not going to be out done and decided to come up with their own sports drink. They toiled in the lab and invented what they thought was a superior version. And it very well might have been, however the commercial success never came. This was more than likely due to the name they gave their version of the sports drink, Seminole Fluid.
THE NIGHT I WAS STALKED
I hunt a farm that has a big chunk of timber on it, with an old wagon road that bisects it. I too was scared of the dark (or what I imagine lurked in the dark to eat me) for a while when I started hunting, and I just forced myself to spend time in the dark, and kicked that irrational fear. But this story happened when I was 16, and still pretty nervous in the dark.
I would drive down that old wagon road and park, and then go hunt. Which I did that night.
I had an old Summit Climber, with an after market bow holder and a length of rope tied to it as a pull up rope.
I hunted that evening, and as I got ready to leave, the sunset was very red and pretty, and the coyotes were singing, so I stayed in the stand longer to listen and watch the colors. At that time, I never carried a flashlight or headlamp.
So I got down, stowed the stand in the dark. It was a dark night. No moon. Some cloud cover. Started walking to the truck.
Hadn't gone far, and I could hear this rustling in the leaves, following me. I stopped, it would stop. I would stop, it would stop.
I did this routine for a while. I'd hear the rustling in the leaves, and stop and peer around in the dark to see what was following me. Nothing.
Finally, I lost my composure entirely. Took off on a dead sprint for the truck. Got there and dropped my bow, slung the stand off my back, jumped in and locked the doors. Then fired up the old 350 and turned on the high beams.
Nothing. I sat there a while. Calmed down. Reasoned that nothing would stick around with that 350 roaring. Got out to load up my bow and put the stand in the back.
That's when I noticed that I didn't wrap up my pull up rope, and it had been trailing in the leaves behind me. . . . .
2008, calm, sunny early October morning in KS. I hung my stand in the dark at a pinch point on a bluff. Shortly after legal shooting time begins I observe a coyote headed right for me. At about 12 yards I shoot him and he dies instantly. Great morning already, but just beginning.
10 minutes later here comes a flock of about 10 or so hen turkeys. They see the coyote and are skittish for a bit, then the boss hen comes in and jumps on top of him and begins to rake him over. No hesitancy on my part, I shoot and she dies less than 10' away. The other hens started to jump all over her, and I was just amazed at what happened and I never considered reloading.
I sat down for a few minutes and dialed a good hunting friend to tell him what just happened. I was talking in hushed tones when I see a mature doe headed my way. I tell him to hang on, I stand up and put the phone on the seat and get ready.
She comes directly in to check out the carnage, and you guessed it, arrow number three on the way. She dies maybe 20 yards from my stand.
I pick the phone back up and my friend said he heard my bow and asked what happened. I told him, and we are both in disbelief when I said, "hang on" again and repeated what just happened with what was the doe fawn to the doe I just harvested. (I was in a high density area and there to reduce numbers.)
This all occurred in a span of less than 15 minutes. Very lucky to be sure...
I remain in the stand for at least 30 minutes. I have a trio of yotes go by me at 15 yards, but they came in silently from a direction I was not looking traveling at a fast trot. By the time I could reach my bow, they were too far out of range in the dense timber I was hanging in. Very disappointed in myself as I love to reduce predator numbers where quail and turkey are struggling.
Just a few minutes later I hear some noise behind me and I stand to look to see if maybe my doe was not completely expired. I am sure we have all heard the stories of one getting up to run away. Much to my dismay, it is a coyote standing on top of my dead doe pulling her hide away to get to some fresh meat.
One of my best shots ever, it was only 25 yards but I had to thread it through branches taking the trajectory into account. The dog died right where the picture was taken.
Damn Frank, that was a heckuva morning in 08.
The same property, nearly an identical occurrence in 2010.
Thanks guys, but we all know it was extreme luck! Exciting though and a grand memory until the Alzheimer's sets in;-)
I had my head down and was just wondering around in the woods with tears in my eyes. When I look down there is a cow bell laying in the middle of the woods. I pick it up look at Roger and said that’s a trip it Belles birthday!! We smile and I put the bell in a glove so it doesn’t make any noise . Would not have mattered with the wind . It was ripping 25-30 mph.
Not 5 minutes later we found the corner and there is a bull raking a tree in this meadow.
I drew back guesses the yardage at 50 and shot. Hit looked a little back. We sit down and wait for 4 hours .
Blood is good at first and then peters out . We have been here before . I make a small circle around this big rock and the bell in my pack makes a noise. Not 3 steps later my bull is laying there dead. Tears of joy run down my face.
There is no doubt my old dog that I had shared so many memories with was looking out for me that day.
We had been steadily catching a bunch of 12 to 14 inch eyes. I had one on (I use ultra light equipment and take my time reeling them in -- fun) all the sudden a northern grabbed my eye and the fight was on.
I finally got him to the surface and my wife took a pic of him with the eye crosswise in his mouth -- hope the pic shows up. The other gal had the net ready -- just as I got him close enough to net he spit out the eye and went down.
I quickly dropped my rod tip and gave the eye a little jerk --- wham he hit it again, I got him back up and again just as he was in the range of being netted, he let go again.
Same thing I dropped my rod tip, he hit it again I got him to the side of the boat and we netted him and the eye. I have a pic of both of them in the net but can't find it.
* EDIT,, The pike was only about 38 inches and really skinny.
That is a very cool story. No doubt Belle was there with you on that hunt!
My wife has been deer hunting since 2005 and killing a P&Y caliber animal had always eluded her. Several close calls on really nice animals, but no dice. She'd killed numerous good bucks and 1/2 dozen does along the way... but that BIG buck (P&Y caliber) was what she was after. She was due...
In October of 2019 we got a trailcam pic of a pretty decent buck and she immediately puts it as her watch screensaver. She told me... "I'm going to kill him". I replied, "I hope you do honey."
November rutcation rolls around and on the morning of November 8th, a group of us that hunt together were on a mass text talking about what we were seeing or not seeing. Then THE text comes through... "So who's up for looking for a big ass Buck???" I couldn't get out of that tree fast enough!
Apparently the buck was dogging some does that were snacking on acorns in the bottom where she was posted up. After harassing the does, he strolled back the way he came and she put a ten ring shot on him at 24 yards. Not only did she call her shot AND accomplish a goal of hers, she smashed it out of the park. I've never been more proud for a person as I was for my wife that day. We rehash that day quite often.
3rd pic is when I pulled up near her stand area and the finality is pic #4.
It was September 1996 and we were hunting Barren Ground Caribou in Alaska. We were hunting the Mulchatna herd, west of Lake Iliamna. I was using a 62”, 65 lb draw weight longbow with Port Orford cedar arrows tipped with a 2-blade Magnus broadhead. There were three of us on the hunt; me, Russ, and Dennis. We had been dropped off at a high mountain lake by a Beaver float plane. There was a small grove of trees above the lake that had a nice little stream running through it. My buddy Dennis had hunted the area the year before and had traced the stream out to its head where it came out of the mountain just above camp and discovered there were no beaver with access to the stream due to its steepness, so we knew it was safe to drink out of. Many streams in Alaska look inviting but contain Ghiardia so you must be careful. The water was ice cold and had a great taste.
We set up camp, with the kitchen facilities 100 yards from the sleeping tents. We rigged up ropes to hoist our food supplies out of the reach of the bears. There were lots of bears in the area. We stretched a blue tarp between trees to provide a dry area where we could relax. After we got camp set up we gathered firewood and relaxed for the afternoon. In Alaska you can’t hunt on the same day you’re airborne. This was on the tundra so there are very few trees. Fortunately, there was a lot of driftwood piled up on the shores of the lake and this supplied a ready source of fuel for the fire.
Next morning after a good breakfast of flapjacks laced with fresh picked mountain blueberries we set out to hunt. I made sure all my necessities were loaded into my backpack. When hunting wilderness areas like this you need to be prepared for any emergency. Besides the normal hunting gear that I carry in my backpack, I had added some emergency items. I had a 2 day supply of freeze-dried food, bottle of water a small folding back-pack stove, stainless steel cup, a space blanket, water purification tablets, extra socks, extra down vest, rain gear, water proof matches, small first aid kit, extra compass, signal whistle, signaling mirror and paraffin fire starter. I also had a walkie-talkie but figured it would be of limited use in the mountainous terrain. Russ and Dennis would be hunting the ridges north of camp and I would be hunting alone on the mountain south of camp.
After a couple of hours of hiking, I found myself on top of the ridge where I had a good vantage point for glassing. I made myself comfortable and started to glass. I could see a couple of small bands of caribou but nothing I was interested in stalking. I continued to glass and saw more small bands of caribou, still nothing I wanted to stalk. Just before it was time to start back to camp I spotted a black bear on the slope below me. Since, in addition to my caribou tags I had a black bear tag I was interested. He was moving pretty fast so I didn’t think I could catch up to him. But since he was between me and camp I decided to give it a try. I did not catch sight of him again. Russ and Dennis arrived back at camp 20-30 minutes after I did. Russ had taken a small black bear. We put the bear meat in the stream downstream from camp and Russ salted down the hide.
Next morning when we got up we could see caribou on the ridge across the lake as well as on the ridge west of us. Since the ridge across the lake was near where I had hunted the previous day I would try for them. Russ and Dennis would go after the ones west of us. It took a couple hours to hike to the ridge top, and when I got there no caribou were to be seen. I prepared myself to spend the day glassing as I had the day before. I saw a few scattered caribou and a couple of black bears, but everything was too small or not in a good position to stalk. When I got back to camp Russ and Dennis were already there. Dennis had killed a caribou cow and he was taking care of the meat. Russ was grilling some bear steaks over a bed of alder coals. This was a young bear and he had been gorging on blueberries. That was some of the best meat I’ve ever eaten.
The third morning we elected to hunt the same areas we had the first morning. I got to my vantage point and settled in for some serious glassing. About mid-morning I spotted a band of caribou with a decent bull in the bunch. But they were moving fast and didn’t present an opportunity for a stalk. A few minutes later I spotted a black bear in a blueberry patch on the slope opposite my position. It looked like he would be in the patch for a while so I decided to try a stalk. Using my binoculars, I picked out a route that would take advantage of the alder thickets and a couple of ravines that would keep me out of sight until I was in position. I strapped my backpack on and started my stalk. Slightly over an hour later I had arrived at the head of the ravine that abutted the berry patch the bear was in. It had been at least 30 minutes since I had last been able to see the bear so I was hoping he was still in the patch. As quietly as I could I eased out of my backpack and nocked an arrow. I gave myself a few minutes to slow down my heartbeat and then eased up out of the ravine, longbow at ready.
When I cleared the top of the ravine the bear stood up about 20 yards away and stared at me. He was black in color, but he wasn’t a black bear – he was pure grizzly. This was a BIG bear. We stood there and stared at each other for what seemed an eternity. Among the thoughts running through my mind, the predominate one was that if he came for me, I was a goner. What should I do? I thought that if I just stood still he might not perceive me as a threat, but I also realized I was probably within his discomfort zone. He began to show some signs of irritation and began popping his teeth, so I decided I needed to do something. I knew I couldn’t out run him and running would probably provoke a chase response. There were no trees to climb. I was confident that I could kill him with my longbow, but I could not stop a full-on charge. I finally concluded that my best course of action was to slowly back over the lip of the ravine out of sight. I began to slowly back up, never taking my eyes off the bear. When I was out of eyesight and at my backpack, I dropped my bow and unstrapped the .300 Winchester Magnum rifle from my backpack. That big Magnum was a comfort to me, but I didn’t want to try to stop a charge at point-blank range. If he came over the lip of the ravine, he would be less than 10 yards from me when I first caught sight of him. As quietly as I could I gathered up my bow and backpack and eased my way down the ravine, clutching the Magnum at ready. It was still early but I made my way back to camp, I was through hunting for the day.
Shortly after daybreak, I happened to look over my shoulder in time to see a coyote coming into range. He cooperated fully and I made a good shot on him. He probably didn't go 20 yards but ended up dead in the cow pasture. Right before he died he gave a short howl.
I thought 'Awesome - dead coyote!'
Then I noticed we had an audience. Every cow in that pasture was standing as still as could be & looking at that coyote.
Not a single cow moved for what seemed like 5 minutes. Finally, one closest to the coyote started moving towards it - about as cautiously and slowly as a cow can move. It would stop every few steps and make sure that coyote wasn't getting up ready to start a massacre.
Finally the 1st cow makes it to the coyote and sniffs & looks & does a little hoof bump to make sure it was dead. It took a few minutes for that cow to make sure it was dead. After a few minutes of posturing - look what I did, I'm the bravest out here! - the cow decided it was time to go back to feeding.
But every other cow in that pasture had to come over to that coyote and check it out. Each one of them sniffed it for a while and a few repeated the little kick.
It was very funny to watch. Exciting times in the old pasture that morning!
Sometime that morning, I even remembered I was hunting deer and had a nice doe come by.
So on top of all the action in the pasture, I had my first time ever killing 2 of anything with my bow.
It was a morning I'm not likely to forget.
Suddenly I caught movement in front of me, not on the ground but straight ahead at eye level. Out of that heavy, quite, snowfall a snow owl appeared gliding straight towards me. At the last second the owl veered left and was gone into the night. So close I felt a breeze on my face when it passed. Pretty insignificant, just a random incident in the deer woods but very cool. Funny, the things we experience and remember as bowhunters.
There were several brushy draws on the place sloping toward the river and my blind was set up at the junction of one big draw and the mouth of a smaller draw feeding in to the big one. Seemed like a likely spot for deer to peel off looking to bed in the tall grass on the open top.
I got into my blind well before daylight and almost immediately I heard something rustling around outside. As it got gray daylight I could see it was a doe and fawn. A little later a small buck was outside my left window. The wind was blowing from the S, the deer were N of me, but my blind was completely covered in cedar limbs. Maybe that saved me, I don’t know. After the deer left, I had a pain. I mean a bad pain. I had no choice but to scramble out of the blind, go about 50/60 yards UPWIND, and do my business. Now I’m always prepared for that, so I finished kicked dirt over it, and scrambled back into the pop up. I was just getting settled back in, buckling my release when I saw feet, then knees, then a nose ! The biggest buck I’ve ever drawn my bow on was standing straight downwind of me and my masterpiece ! He turned to his right, which put him out of my lane, then did an about face and walked in front of me. He stopped when I drew, must have heard something, and I released an Axis with a Wasp Hammer right into his heart. I damn near hollered, but as I sat watching my nock glowing on the arrow stuck into the bank behind where he stood, I knew he would be laying up on top. I was right.
I went out with him and 2 others from the store to pick up the trail and see if I could find his "10 pointer". It took awhile, but I managed to find blood in a cattail swamp on the underside of the stalks. I was belly crawling through nice and slow when I see a bedded buck at 20 yards ahead. The buck was a 6 point, but looked like he wasn't doing too great- head up, but only semi alert. I backed out to confirm how big the buck should be. The guy says- well, may not have been a 10, but was ear tip wide. Assuming this was his deer, and not having any bow with us, I took my buddies Kbar knife, cut down a wrist sized maple tree and lashed the knife to the end with my boot laces. Basically fashioned a 6' spear, and headed back in. I managed to crawl back in there and speared that buck in the chest while it laid there. I was about 7 feet from it when I drove the spear into it, puncturing one lung and just slicing the edge of the heart. It jumped up, ran 40 yards and fell over. That story was the talk of the store for many years. It certainly ranks right up there with my best "deer tracking/killing" stories.
I'll share a couple here
There’s some stuff on the news here the last few days about lizards (green iguanas to be exact) falling out of trees, stunned by the exceptionally cold temperatures, in warm places like low country South Carolina and Florida.
I’m no more keen on precipitating iguanas (no matter what color they are) than the next guy or gal, but I am intrigued by the reports that they are not only edible but delicious. In fact they are reported to taste just like chicken.
I’ve had the privilege in my life of eating many critters which are reported to taste like chicken. That list includes but is by no means limited to groundhogs, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, frog’s legs, black snakes, rattlesnakes, alligator, crawdads, snapping turtles, ring-neck pheasant, guinea-fowl, mourning doves, ruffed grouse, starlings, crows, muskrats, bobcats and raccoons.
Nary a one of them tasted anything like grandma’s fried chicken but quite a few were comestible indeed. I have to say that anything on the list beats Spam-and-Ramen by a long shot.
This makes me ponder the question of how the lowly chicken, the feathered backyard scratching, egg-laying, fertilizer making semi-flightless bird she is, became the yardstick by which all other white meats are judged.
Was there ever a time when it was otherwise? If I scan the works of Jeff Chaucer, Bill Shakespeare and maybe a few of the early Popes, will there be a passing reference to some other carnivorous culinary choice?
Did the early Spaniards upon first capturing an example of “el legarto” dress and eat him and say (in Castilian Spanish of course) “tastes like swan”?
Did the mighty Lakotah occasionally swoop down from horseback and capture a marmot or jackrabbit, roast him over a buffalo chip fire and proclaim “taste like sage-hen”?
I have to admit I’m a little envious of the folks who have fresh supper fixins just dropping out of the eucalyptus limbs on the side-lawn.
If any of y’all know somebody who lives further South and has iguanas (or fresh pecans) falling out of their shade trees, tell ‘em I’d love to try some on the grill. I’ll trade ‘em a few jars of squirrel meat.
Tastes just like chicken.
My friends, the last time I inflicted one of my wandering ponderings on y’all I fully intended to make it the first in a series of Happy Hermit analyses of great or not so great moments in American History.
I fully intend to pursue that line, but I kinda got sidetracked by a homely little story that popped up in my conscious memory, that hits a little closer to home and has much less far reaching significance than, say John Smith’s landing at Jamestown. I'm about to tell y’all about the wild cow hunt of 1948.
It seems that in the years after the second Big War there was a family living back up the holler in Franklin County Virginia near a place called Hickmon. Don’t look for that on a map, it’s too little. If you find the tiny town of Callaway though, and draw a line eastward toward the County seat of Rocky Mount, then look for where that line meets Madcap Creek, you might find it with a good magnifying glass.
This family I am speaking of was “squatting” on an abandoned farmstead, with some sort of an old house and a log barn. The family decided to move out and in so doing, abandoned a cow. As my dad and grand-daddy told it, “a ole wild cow”. Most of y’all, having seen well-fed contented bovines lounging on pasture, chewing their cud and looking like Webster’s definition of the word “placid”, are probably having trouble getting up a mental picture of a “wild cow”.
Well folks I ain’t seen but a couple in my time but let me tell you, they DO exist and they ain’t ole Bessie. Anyway, winter of ’48 when my daddy was a pre-teen, and it was “cold as forty h@%s” the way he tells it, some of the men folks around Hickmon got to pondering, the way Hickmonites are apt to ponder, that it was a shame that nobody could catch that ole cow. Beef is beef after all and even wild stringy old beef makes decent stew when it’s free for the taking.
These gentlemen, who in their own way were likely about as wild as the aforementioned cow, decided to get their guns and bring home that free beef. Now daddy and granddaddy tagged along just to see the fun, and granddaddy toted along his Montgomery Wards single shot .22 he was so proud of, having ordered it brand new in ’32 from Wards with three and a half dollars of his New Deal money earned working for Mr Roosevelt.
All these wild hill boys and this wild cow had a wild time in the wild Blue Ridge foothills, mostly avoiding one another in the process. Granddaddy, being more the talking and sitting type, sat himself down by the old log barn with his only son (my daddy) and they had themselves a good chat.
Long about a good while later, the ole wild cow figured she’d had enough fun and it was time to get back to the barn and rest a spell. Grandaddy sat there all quiet and waited til she ran into the log barn and peered out the unchinked spaces between the wall logs.
Now the spot in a cow’s forehead where a .22 bullet will do the most good at converting wild cow into tame beef stew is pretty small. The cracks between those logs wasn’t much bigger. Grandaddy was one of those fellas, like his eldest grandson (yours truly), who had the utmost confidence in his own abilities, even when those abilities might not always align perfectly with the level of confidence we had.
Long story short grand daddy shot the ole cow and down she went.
The rest of the fellas came in shortly and a fire was built and the butchering commenced. A shallow hole in the dirt, lined with a paper fertilizer bag served as a hand wash basin when filled with branch water and heated with rocks laid in the fire. The fresh meat was stuffed into burlap feed sacks and distributed evenly between all hands.
Thus ended the great Hickmon wild cow hunt of 1948. Thus ended the wild cow of Hickmon.
Hello loyal readers! I promised last time to get back to the Happy Hermit American History series once I got that wild cow story off my noggin, so here we go again. Speaking of wild cows, did you know that there are two separate strains of wild (feral) cattle unique to North America? It seems that when the early Spanish conquistadores were conquistidating their way up through what’s now Mexico and the Southern coast of the United States and generally following Columbus’ example of jerky behavior towards the home folks, they brought along cows and pigs to eat.
They brought cows and pigs rather than ribeye steaks, hot dogs and pork chops, because Yeti coolers hadn’t been invented yet and there were still lots of bears around then. It seems that these Spanish folks lost a few hogs and cattle along the way, and were to busy being jerks to the local folks to round them up.
The indigenous peoples (“Indians” for short) weren’t much inclined much help gathering in the cattle, probably because they were miffed about being tortured to death , chopped with swords, and shot with matchlock muskets. That kinda behavior may influence people but it don’t win many friends.
Anyways most of the conquisting went on around about Florida, Texas, and California and down into Mexico, what-all had been claimed by the Queen of Spain.
When them lost cows and lost bulls hit that brush and grass country they started in to having calves and eating grass.
Before too long there was wild cows all over the place and since my granddaddy wasn’t born yet and Montgomery Wards wasn’t selling .22 rifles yet, they stayed. After a couple of centuries those wild cattle had got used to the country, and started looking quite a bit different than the ones that first came over on the boat.
They could live on almost anything and almost nothing, were longer in the leg, longer in the horn, meaner in the face and had a much greater resistance to diseases, worms, bears and butcher knives than their cousins in sunny old Spain.
That’s pretty much the story of how the Florida Longhorn and Texas Longhorn cows, (and how eventually the Vaquero and the American Cowboy) came to be.
As the late great Jerry Clower would say “if I’m lyin’ I’m dyin’”!
Check in after a week or two and I’ll fill you in on Cajuns, mudbugs, and wild asparagus.
I recently spent a very enjoyable weekend with my friend Randy “The Owl”.
Any time with Randy is great because he always has humor and wit and decency, as well as beer. That’s a rare combination it sometimes seems.
We spent the weekend doing what Randy and I do best, plotting the demise of large edible wildlife.
I say “plotting” because I’m a lot better at the planning of critter demises than the actual execution of them. Let’s just say my stealthiness and weapons skills have decreased as my age has increased.
Still there was some demising accomplished and more meat was brought home from camp than was taken TO camp, so there was a net meat-gain achieved. After all the stealthing and arrow-flinging and uphill walking (seems there’s never any downhill walking these days, just uphill) we cleaned up a bit, ate a nice meal and relaxed until time to leave.
While we were relaxing, Randy happened to say something profound. “You know” Randy said “I need to remember that leaving is part of the trip.” (please elaborate, my wise friend Owl, I thought)
Elaborate he did, and well, albeit briefly.
“I come on one of these trips, I get unpacked, I get in the woods, I start to decompress, the stress of life and work falls away” (I’m paraphrasing, Randy is much more articulate than I am.)
“And then it’s time to leave and I start getting back in the ‘stress mode’. I need to remember that leaving is part of the trip, and hold onto that relaxation and calm feeling as long as possible. “
Yes Owl, yes, we all need to remember that: “leaving is part of the trip.”
Whether it’s leaving a hunting or fishing trip, the beach, leaving Bali, Hawaii or some other exotic vacation, leaving an enjoyable life role, like a job you loved, or being a parent of a young child; we need to remember that leaving is part of the trip. We need to enjoy that part as well and hold on to the good feelings as long as possible.
Now dear readers and friend, Owl I’ll expand that idea a little further. I’ve had a full and wonderful life so far. I’m not anywhere near ready to kick the bucket yet and I still have a lot of fun and fight left in me.
Still one of these days we all take that “long path a’winding”. I hope when it’s time to go I can remember that leaving is part of the trip. Thanks Owl for pointing that out.
I’ve always loved October, but here lately I’ve really started to appreciate it more, because my back is gettin’ old.
October hereabouts is that time when the weatherman starts sounding like a quarterback calling a play: “42, 73, 39! “
October is my favorite time of year not because of that pumpkin-spice, hayrides,
Halloween, apple cider, piles of leaves in the yard “stuff” either. October is when you stop canning vegetables, and start canning squirrel and deer meat.
October is when you get to take all that vacation time your co-workers already squandered at the beach in August. October smells like Hoppes #9 and gunpowder, sausage seasoning and soup-beans.
October is when the air is clear as crystal and smells like wood smoke in the mornings, the mountains change from beautiful and green, to beautiful and multi-colored, and the lawnmower goes back in the shed where it belongs.
October is when you can sit in a tree at daybreak with your long johns on and people don’t think you’re crazy.
October is bow season, squirrel season, turkey season.
October is when there’s still enough grass to not feed hay, not enough grass to make hay, no weeding and picking in the garden but not cold enough for hog-killin’.
October is when the weather is mild enough you can still fool yourself into believing your woodpile will last the winter. When your back gets to be the age that my back is you appreciate such blessings.
October is when there’s no snow to shovel, and no mud to track in.
October is when you lime the garden down and browse the seed catalogs, plant your new fruit trees and prune your old ones.
October is when the chores are light and don’t make you sweat but your coat and rubber boots can stay in the closet.
October is when your back gets a rest.
When November rolls around a deer hunter breaks out the rifle and gets serious about filling the freezer with venison.
In October you sit in the quiet woods with your bow on your lap, watch the birds and squirrels play and enjoy the sunshine. There’s a lot less dragging deer and lifting them onto the tailgate than what you get in November. It’s relaxing.
I know a lotta y’all younger folks love October just like I do but for other reasons.
Y’all can have your pumpkin spice lattes. Me and my old back will take our nap on the oak ridge.
This is the story about my recent trip to Kodiak Alaska. Before we get there we have to start where I started, on the little red dirt farm in Callaway Virginia.
A few months after I turned 13 years old my dad woke up one morning and decided to build a house.
I guess he was bored, having a lot of free time after working his full time job at the veneer mill and farming til dark then raccoon hunting til the wee hours, and probably thought home construction would fill his idle time.
Now when I say ‘build a house” I don’t mean that he went to the bank and took a loan, hired a contractor and presented the contractor with a set of plans. I don’t even mean he bought the materials, lined up the subcontractors and supervised the job.
I mean he went out in the woods and picked out several large white pine and poplar trees, cut them down, pulled them out with the farm tractor, loaded them onto a borrowed flatbed truck, and hauled them to his cousin Odell’s sawmill.
Well, actually I did all that. You see my dad was a hard worker, but he also was a one-armed man and using the chainsaw was a bit of a challenge.
So 13 year old me did the felling, dragging and loading, and daddy did the hauling. This occupied most of MY idle time that winter and spring, after school, farm chores, cultivating corn, plowing and planting, picking and hay baling, firewood getting-and-splitting, squirrel hunting etc.
By the time school let out in June, we had a decent size log-yard at cousin Odell’s place, so of course I packed a few clothes, my work boots, and a few books and moved in with Odell, his father “Uncle Doc” and Aunt Nona for the summer.
While I was bearing down on my 14th birthday I enjoyed the relative leisure of my new domicile. At Uncle Doc’s we didn’t get up before the first rooster crow to milk, do chores etc. We lazed in bed until the sun was almost up, took our sweet time over coffee and a hot country breakfast, then around 7:30 or so we moseyed up the hill to the sawmill and milled a few logs, stacked a little lumber, and shoveled a little sawdust until “dinnertime” (about noon). At mid day we took a long break, drank some iced tea and ate a cold meal of biscuits and ham or milk and cornbread, then we went back to sawing, stacking, and shoveling for a little bit. When the sun started getting too hot maybe around 3 or 4 PM , we packed up and went to the house, washed up, had a cup of hot tea, talked a little, tinkered around the place, maybe picked berries, went fishing, and did a few chores, and sat on the porch and waited for the lightning bugs to come out.
This was my summer vacation. All too soon as the logs were all sawn into lumber we loaded it up on the flatbed truck, hauled it home to the farm, “stacked and “stickered” and covered it. After that my routine of plow-plant-harvest-feed resumed.
The next summer the actual construction started. We had neighbors and kin who pitched in with skilled labor. They did the wiring and plumbing, masonry, roofing, carpeting and such. All this while I cut and carried, climbed ladders, fetched and toted, drove nails and we built that house.
Now friends that house is still standing today and as far as I know has the original 1970’s carpet in the bedrooms. As you can imagine the carpet is very worn but if you were able to look, you’d see that the carpet in the bedroom which was mine, is almost new looking. As the saying goes, that’s a tale you can swing a cat by.
To be continued…
My friends, when last we talked, I was on the cusp of explaining why the bedroom carpet in my old bedroom at my parents’ home is remarkably unworn, compared to that in the rest of the house.
The simple reason is that although rain or shine, weekday or weekend, summer or winter my feet hit the floor at or before daylight most days, my feet never really contacted the floor. The floor in my room was covered with reading material at all times. There were Field and Stream magazines, Outdoor Life issues, Virginia Wildlife, American Cooner, and American Rifleman periodicals strewn about the floor with a few Gander Mountain and Sportsman’s Guide catalogs mixed in for variety.
I read these cover to cover, laughing along with Pat Mcmanus and Ed Zern, stalking the Luangwa Valley with Peter Capsick, shooting all the lovely guns with Jeff Cooper and Skeeter Skelton. I fished the Great Lakes, caught golden trout in remote Montana alpine pools, shot rapids in canoes all over the Northwest and poled dugouts along the great Amazon.
I faced many charges by mighty Cape Buffalo and African lion, treed cougar in New Mexico, and brought down grouse and quail with my Purdey double. (I still don’t have a Purdey double barrel shotgun, but I do have a purty one.)
Elk and mountain goat fell to my arrows and feral hog to my revolver, my larders were full of musk ox and caribou venison.
I cooked grayling over an alder twig fire in the Yukon, and landed beautiful peacock bass in the rivers of South America.
I stalked bonefish on the flats in the Keys and fought half-ton marlin for hours on heavy tackle.
I trapped fur in the big woods, dug clams in the marshes, tonged oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and hunted squirrel with beautiful tiger maple stocked flintlocks. I took mule deer in the sagebrush at a quarter mile with my custom 300 Win. Mag and dropped six-foot wide antlered bull moose with my lever action .444 Marlin.
Those slick papered floor protectors were my dream factories. I knew I’d never really do those things, foresaw only a life like the life I knew. While I tossed hay bales, slung grain sacks, pulled calves and piloted Farmall tractors under blazing sun and biting sleet, my mind carried me to Africa, Brazil, and Alaska in pursuit of adventure.
Alaska! Russia’s fur factory, home of the diminutive but fearless Inuit and his quarry; seal, walrus, the mighty white bear!
Alaska, home of the great brown bear and his brawnier big brother the Kodiak grizzly! Alaska! Strewn with gold nuggets, awash in oil, populated by men and women so tough they ate rocks for breakfast!
Of all the places I longed see, Kodiak was the pinnacle and as far out of reach as Tierra Del Fuego, the Pantanal or the Congo.
The only way I’d ever get there was though the pages littering my bedroom carpet. Still a young fella can dream can’t he?
To be continued……
Folks in case you missed it, my last tale centered around my adolescent obsession with outdoor sports and adventure. I may have left y’all with the impression that my only experiences in the area were vicarious, through reading about such things. Well dear readers, such is definitely not the case!
I harassed daddy until he caved and at the age of almost-nine years old I became the proud owner of a single shot .410 shotgun. I already had a rabbit-beagle so I by the time November rolled around I had everything I needed to be that noblest of all hunters, a houndsman!
The pup and I took to the fields and fencerows every chance we got and one foggy morning the inevitable happened, an unlucky cottontail rabbit ran into a semi-randomly directed shot-charge from the little Stevens shotgun.
That moment was where my budding career as the next Leatherstocking very nearly came to a screeching halt. In all my planning and preparations, all my brave scheming against the lives of wild things of this glorious planet, the reality of actually dealing death had never occurred to me.
The rabbit was dead, and I was its killer. The guilt was crushing. I’d killed chickens, and I’d assisted at the demise and dismemberment of numerous hogs and cattle. Blood didn’t faze me and neither, I thought, did death. I was a farm kid, I knew we ate meat to sustain life and that was the way the world worked.
This was different. This was a free, beautiful wild thing and now it was dead. In my heart I swore never to kill a wild thing again.
The problem was that I had firmly set my life goal of being a mountain man, roaming the wilderness, eating what I caught and dressing myself in furs. My plans for a life of freedom depended on killing wild things.
I was a tortured nine year old indeed.
What to do? Tame my spirit and give up the adventurous life? Or harden my heart and resign myself to mayhem?
I’d like to tell you that a wise uncle or grandparent sensed my turmoil and sat me down for a chat. I’d love to tell you exactly what the kindly gent’s exact words were. I’d tell you how I’ve held them in my heart for decades to be dispensed in turn to other young men as they face these questions. Their simple homespun wisdom would sparkle like poetry as I spoke them at just the right moment and with just the right cadence. I‘d wrinkle my brow in empathy for the lad as I put down my whittling before speaking. After the advice I’d deliver a back pat and offer him a strip of perfectly smoked venison jerky from my bib overalls pocket. The sad fact is that there WAS no kindly uncle to soothe my remorse. There WERE no magic words. There was no back pat, no whittling, and no jerky.
The only wisdom I can pass along is that the guilt of killing a wild thing never completely goes away. You just balance it with the joy of being part of the natural world, and satisfaction in the skills you’ve developed. You enjoy the meat and admire the furs and antlers. You tell the stories to hunters you respect and you maybe add or delete a few details where necessary. You share the meat with those who enjoy it but are unable to hunt or who choose not to.
You do that or you quit.
To be continued…
Loyal readers, when last we visited the subject of my career as an avid outdoorsman, I’d just moved past the trauma of taking my first small game. The next 40 plus years of hunting, fishing, frog-gigging, turtling, trapping, predator control and the like could fill volumes, but I suspect if you filtered the lot through the screen of what’s interesting to most folks you wouldn’t have enough to fill a bean pot. So with regards to the chase, I’ll cut to the chase.
After setting my adolescent heart on pursuing the life of an uncivilized buck-skinner, I was faced with the question of how to make that happen. Obviously I couldn’t follow the 6 generation family tradition of farming as a profession. While farmers often hunt, farmers rarely hunt far from the farm, and farmers rarely can afford expensive gear and exotic trips. Farming is a low-income profession for most and an expensive hobby for others.
Looking around at myself and my siblings I also realized that children are expensive, and looking at the car dealership ads I saw that cars are too.
My goal then was three-fold: 1) Do something in life besides farm. 2) Don’t date, get married or have kids. 3) Get a cheap used vehicle and learn to work on it. By following these three life rules I should (I reasoned) be able to afford both the time and money for at least a few of the trips and adventures I dreamed of experiencing.
Looking back at the point in time when I reached that conclusion, oh about 1973 ish, or ten years old, it seemed fairly simple. While I wasn’t immediately able to shake the farming habit without running away and joining the circus, the no car and the no girls vow went pretty well until right around 1976 or ’77. I still didn’t have a car, but the same girls who seemed so easily to foreswear at ten years old, underwent a miraculous transformation before my very eyes. I was losing the struggle.
Luckily for me I was, and am, a singularly physically unprepossessing specimen so while the flesh was weak, genetics and luck preserved my self-imposed celibacy goals well into young manhood.
At some point during my last couple years of high school I got tricked into taking college board exams and through some apparent mix up in the scoring process was awarded high marks.
I had assumed that my penchant for hunting over homework and class attendance would immunize me from the danger of post-graduate education. Alas, high SAT’s, an overly motivated guidance counsellor and Pell Grants conspired to send me off to ivy-covered walls rather than ivy-thickets.
From there the disaster snowballed. The four years of classes weren’t too bad since the school I chose had an Environmental Science department. I was able to pick and choose classes so that I was still mostly hunting, fishing, camping and hiking, albeit for class credit. Just after graduation though, an obviously myopic young lady with low standards and a hankering for wedding cake batted her green eyes at me and the first thing I knew it was 2014 and I had two adult children.
Somewhere along the way I did manage to do quite a bit of mild to mundane hunting and fishing and other cool stuff in field and forest, and met a few folks who were living the life I’d always wanted.
Some of these guys and gals actually seemed to like having me around, if for no other reason than while I’m not real smart, I can lift heavy stuff.
That’s when I started getting invited to go on hunting trips like the ones I read about in the magazines on the floor way back when.
Then one day I got the email from Randy.
“ Cecil do you have any interest in bow hunting deer on Kodiak”?
Uh well…. Let me see… does a hound dog like biscuits?
I grew up on a little “root hog or die” red dirt farm in Franklin County Virginia. Our farm equipment was WW2 era or older and pretty well worn out even in the early 70’s.
“We” had a gas engine Farmall “M” tractor, a couple of “H” Farmalls, a McCormick-Deering F-14 and also a Model 15-30 which would run on gasoline or kerosene and probably moonshine whiskey in a pinch. This last was a steel wheel model and was only started once a year to run the hammer mill and grist mill.
These tractors had no mufflers and rarely had a “hot” battery. To start them you’d pull out the choke with the switch in the “off” position, hand crank the engine 3 times then push in the choke, turn the switch on and crank ‘til she started. There was no rain cap on the vertical exhaust pipe, just an old bean can placed on top to keep rain or snow out of the engine. If you forgot to take the can off before cranking, there was about a 20% chance of being beaned by the bean can. That teaches short-term memory skills and attention to detail.
That’s also probably why granddaddy called me “knot head”.
That kind of upbringing makes you resourceful, in a bib-overall McGuyver, baling wire and duct tape sort of way.
So dear friends, if you’ve followed my rambling discourse of my gradual descent into the strange maelstrom which has been my outdoor sporting life, I’m about to relate these skills to my recent trip to Alaska.
The way this trip worked was, my friend Randy and I got ourselves and our hunting gear by the best means we could, to the town of Kodiak, on the Island of the same name, off the coast of Alaska.
I had finally made it! I’d arrived in the Great Northland, “Russian America”, the fabled land of gold strikes, northern lights, of dogsleds, Inuit and earthquakes!
Kodiak is a nice little town. There is an airport with an about 2/3-scale jet airliner runway where they land full-size jets. Kodiak has a hotel, a U S Coast Guard base, a fishing fleet, a Wal Mart, a sporting goods store, some restaurants, 15 bars and a liquor store. In other words, my kinda town.
After a couple days of soaking up the sights, sounds and smells of greater metropolitan Kodiak, we piled our gear and ourselves into a tiny 70 year old float plane with a nice polite young pilot who I suspect may be an escapee from a mental hospital. At this point we were off and away on the true wilderness experience I’d longed for since I learned to read some half a century (0r 5% of a millennium if you prefer) ago.
After flying over (as well as between, alongside and sometimes under) stark snow covered peaks peppered with mountain goats perched precariously on precipices we circled the 60 foot boat which would be our home for the next eight days, and splashed down gently on Olga Bay.
I am no outdoor writer so I won’t attempt to regale you with the tales of our daily adventures pursuing sitka blacktail deer with bow and arrow. I’ll only say that these deer were shortchanged by nature in not having middle fingers, and make up for the lack by communicating with hopeful bow hunters by their actions and body language.
As a bit of a side note, Kodiak happens to be the home of the largest variant of the grizzly bear ( “Ursus horribilis”) which species in general is known for largeness and as the species name implies, horribleness. Also they’ve got big teeth.
For this reason we carried guns and bear spray while on the island, mostly so we’d have something to do while the bears were bearing down on us to stave off boredom until the actual getting mauled process started.
While planning, I carefully inventoried my handgun skills versus the getting mauled thing and decided to bring a double-barreled 12 gauge instead of a pistol.
The terrain on Kodiak has two uniform features. There are no trees, and there’s no easy walking. There are dense alder stands which are traversed along bear created “tunnels” There is tundra cut by gullies and tussocks and holes. There are very steep grassy slopes and then the cliffs. You get it, walking is tough. Running is out of the question.
A couple days into the adventure I suffered a clumsiness-related mishap which resulted in the shotgun being slightly injured. While there was no cosmetic damage, a small part became lost which cause the gun to lose its key function. The gun couldn’t be fired. A gun which can’t be fired is basically a stick.
I am no bear expert, but I suspect that 10 foot tall half ton grizzlies don’t find a pressurized can of souped up hot sauce and a big stick to be all that daunting. I wasn’t really excited about crawling along bear tunnels while so equipped. Something must be done. When back on the boat, I took the gun apart and applied those years of root hog or die training to the situation. I figured out how the gizmos were supposed to work, what the missing piece was supposed to do, and I started looking for a suitable replacement. After no success with a candy wrapper, part of a q-tip or a corner of a business card, I found that a properly prepared and placed piece of cigarette paper did the trick. I now had my back up gun back.
Thanks to the Lord’s merciful Grace, I didn’t have to use that patched up shotgun on a bear. The one that ran between Randy and I the next day after the gun repair didn’t stay to chat. Having a functional firearm sure made seeing him a lot more enjoyable. I reckon being a knot head “root hog or die” kid ain’t always a bad thing.