The Land Between the Lakes (LBL), is a National Recreational Area about 90 miles northwest of Nashville, and about 26 miles north of Clarksville, Tennessee, right on the Kentucky and Tennessee state line. The inland peninsula itself is half in
I hunted LBL twice during my hunting career, the first time successfully, but the second time, while not successful; it was the most challenging experience. This story is about the first time.
The first hunt was with
The morning of the hunt, (I’m skipping right to the chase because the two hunts are meshed in my memory and the details leading up to the actual hunts are somewhat confusing now), the five of us skirted a large cornfield in the dark, walking to our stands, spaced some 200 yards apart, located between the field and a slow sloping hill.
I quickly inched my way up the tall hickory I had scouted and settled in for the wait, scouring the area with quick little movements of my eyes in order to pick up movement, but not really focusing on anything. This is the same technique I had learned in
All day I sat there, sucking on the kernels of corn from a dried ear I picked up coming along the field. Slowly, as went the time, kernel after kernel dissolved in my mouth and occupied my time. Occasionally, I would have to pee in the plastic bottle I had packed…along side my lunch!
The day drug by and the heat rose to around 65 or 70, and I could feel the sweat trail down my brow and into my eyes, but I was careful to move very slowly when I had to wipe it away.
The sun sank lower until it silhouetted the top of the hill about 200 yards away. I started to think that my hunt was over for the day and that I had wasted all the preparation and anxiety time.
Just then about 5 or 6 deer came up over the hill from the opposite side from me and stood looking toward the field that was vexing them to “come gorge on my corn.” They suddenly broke and started to run down the hill toward the field but away from my stand. Again my heart sank.
Then, as if divinely guided, one doe broke ranks and headed in my direction. While the doe was still shielded from me by low limbs loaded with fall foliage, I came to full draw and followed her; bending from the waist and maintaining the proper shooting posture.
As fate, or God, would have it she stopped dead still directly under my feet and perused the immediate area, but never looking up. My arms began to feel weak as I strained to hold the 60 pound bow at full draw, and Martin’s voice went over that particular shot one more time in my head.
I aimed lower than she appeared, like shooting at fish in water, taking aim about a foot lower than dead on and released! As happened to me many times, the doe took one more step, maybe jumping the sound of the string being that close, and the arrow twanged into the ground. The doe squatted slightly, and bolted, tail down. In a moment she was lost in the darkness that had now crept into the valley.
I cursed myself, only audible to myself, and began the climb down, making more noise than I should have. Just then Leroy appeared and asked, “Did you hit her?”
“Hell no…I screwed up the shot…Martin will be pissed,” I said loudly.
“Where’s your arrow? Was her tail up or down?”
“I don’t know…down I think…let’s see, she was standing about here...” then my flashlight highlighted the arrow. I bent down and pulled it out of the ground and I felt something wet and yucky. Leroy stepped up and we both lit up an arrow with blood and deer crap all over it!
“You hit her man, you hit her!”
“I hit her,” I shouted!
The five of us searched for about two hours and could not find the doe in the dark. I had to ride back to the motel and try to sleep wondering about my deer…lost out there in the dark woods.
The next morning, not 50 yards from my tree we found the doe lying under some bushes, with about half of one of her hind quarters eaten away by the forest scavengers; skunks, possums, raccoons, maybe even coyotes, who knows. Needless to say, I was very disappointed, but nonetheless, it was decided that I should salvage what I could, if for nothing else to feed my dog.
So, for the first time, I pulled out my Air Force survival knife and began to cut from where the animals had left off up to her chest cavity.
I heard Leroy make a bet with
I had passed my first rite of passage and made my first kill, as they said with “beginner’s luck!” Either by luck or skill, I made the grade with many witnesses. It don’t get any better than that!