As I stated in a previous post, I hunted the Land Between the Lakes (LBL) twice during my hunting career, the first time scoring my first kill, but the second time was a heart breaking experience. This story is about the second time.
The second hunt was with Allen and Judie Henegar, her brother Buzz, and a mutual friend Art Mallard. As a side note, Art’s wife was named Debbie, and we often referred to her as “Debbie Duck” for obvious reasons! Always thought that was great!
Art and I bunked together in his pop-up camper and after setting up camp we scouted the hills and valleys in walking distance of our camp site. Later, we sat up most of the first night talking, drinking, and playing cards with the others.
Art is a funny drinker. After a couple, he piddles around the camp, or camper, making a sound like “Huum” almost as a punctuation mark of some sort at the end of this thoughts. As the evening progresses, the “Huum’s” get more and more numerous until it makes you want to drink more so you don’t notice them!
On another hunt, years later, we again camped on a bitterly cold night, with a light snow falling into our food, while we sat eating our supper in lawn chairs, and watching UT play in some bowl game on a 6-inch TV he had brought. By the time the game ended we were out of booze, and I threatened to drain the radiator for us to drink, but luckily Art knew I was just kidding…I think! He just said, “Huum,” and wobbled off to bed.
Bright and early that morning at LBL, well before daybreak, I walked directly across the road from camp, jumped across a small ditch, and stepped over into the dark forest to allow my eyes to adjust.
The fall leaves took turns dropping dew from leaf-to-leaf, drop-by-drop, to the forest floor, smothering all other sounds. My darting wide eyes suddenly caught movement just 20 yards from where I stood. I froze, not daring to move a muscle, even though I was also blurred by the morning fog, so I waited until the buck passed behind a large oak just ahead of him.
The buck’s head was decked by a huge rack; I estimated at least 8 points with a wide separation. I could not believe my eyes or my luck! My heart was about to pound out of my chest!
The huge rack soon disappeared behind the oak tree, so I raised the Ruger .270 to my shoulder, found the tree in my scope, pulled the rifle hard into my shoulder, leaned slightly forward anticipating the recoil, made the perfect crosshair picture, laid my finger lightly on the trigger, held my breath, and waited.
“How easy this has been,” I thought! “The guys will never believe the size of this big boy, and how I just walked into the woods…man!”
I continued holding the sight picture and released half my breath and began to tighten my squeeze. I waited…and waited…finally I had to take in another gulp of air and held it. Nothing!
I finally raised my head and looked over the scope…still nothing!
I stood frozen for at least 5 minutes before I began to inch slowing in the wet leaves toward the oak. “He’s hiding…must have seen me…I’ll get’em though,” I said to myself.
I reached the tree, which must have been three feet wide, and peered around its side, slowing scooping out the area on the other side. Nothing! “What the…? This can’t be,” I now said out loud.
I later surmised that the seasoned buck had seen me and turned after reaching the tree and angled straight off with the tree been him and me. Don’t tell me deer aren’t smart…this ol’ boy knew exactly what he was doing and he certainly made a fool of me that day.
That night I went over and over the tale until I’m sure everyone was sick of it, but finally we all, being worn out, went to bed early. However, not long after lights out, the rains came, and I mean came down hard. The huge drops beat against the canvas top of the camper’s pop-out wings so hard that you could feel tiny bits of spray on your face. It really rained and it seemed to have rained most of what I remember of the night.
The night was also filled with dreams of the huge buck. I kept seeing him walk by me in the fog, snickering to himself, and finally tip-toe behind the tree. I awoke with new resolve and excitement. I was determined to get in the woods even earlier and ambush this ol’ boy!
I quickly dressed and tossed down a breakfast bar and headed off filled with anticipation of that being the day I would score my first buck.
I did not get half way across the road before I head the sound of rushing water. The little ditch I had easily hopped across the morning before was now a 10-foot wide raging creek! My heart sank…but I was determined and turned and walked first up the road and then back the other way. There was no use…the water did not subside until after noon that day…much too late for an early morning ambush.
The hunt ended with no further sightings, but I was again armed with lessons for the future. I would never again be fooled by the ol’ disappearing deer trick!