It is well documented that ancient tribes used chemical means to reduce fear and increase the fighting power of their warriors. One such drug was from the Amanita muscaria mushroom, a red-speckled cousin of the deadly "Angel of Death." The shamans of the tribes learned that when a warrior urinated after eating the mushroom, the potency of the drug in his urine was many times greater than before. Warriors would then store the urine and drink it on the eve of battle.
Hippocrates stated that: "...from the brain, and from the brain only, arise our pleasures, joys ... as well as our sorrows, pains, grief, and tears. It is the same organ which makes us mad or delirious, inspires us with dread and fear …brings sleeplessness ...and aimless anxiety."
It seems that tobacco was the drug of choice for the 19th and 20th Centuries: "As a marketing device by the tobacco companies, cigarettes were portrayed as a companion, something you could find solace in during pre-battle tension, anxiety and loneliness," said Kluger, author of Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War.
And so it was that I slept fitfully on nights prior to deer hunts, and woke with the need for a cigarette to calm my nerves. To me, it was like going into battle and my mind dwelt on every aspect of the next day’s hunt, shifting through each aspect of the hunt over and over.
I thought about and dreaded waking in the early hours, the lonely ride to my selected hunting area, the walk to my stand in the dark, being surround by square miles of mysterious dark forest, the perception of being the only soul in the entire area, the possibility of firing a tremendously loud round in the quietness of the woods, and giving my position away to the enemy (deer)! I know, it is all so ridiculous, but nonetheless I whipped myself up into a basket of nerves and preconceived notions right up until the moment I finally settled into my ambush point, either high in a tree, or behind a camouflaged blind inside a “downfall” somewhere near a thicket, which I perceived to be the “bedroom” of a huge bedazzled buck. It was not unlike the nights I spent on QRF (Quick Reaction Force) at
Once I passed the point of having to move anymore, and had injected the first .270 round into the chamber, I began to breathe regularly and blend completely into my surroundings, with only my eyes moving slowly watching for the slightest of movements.
This particular morning, I could not wait to get to that stage of “blending in” and to get high into the tree I had selected two weeks earlier. It was a nice slender oak that had grown tall to reach the light of the sun above the surrounding pines. Its first limbs began just above a low hanging limb of a hemlock, providing my lower body with added cover from directly below.
This tree was only 30 yards from a blackberry briar thicket I had scouted and had witnessed on occasion deer moving into it and hiding for the remainder of the day, and about 100 yards from a crabapple tree loaded with fresh green fruit.
All I had to do was get to this tree an hour before daylight and catch the resident dominant buck before he made it to the cover of the thicket!
I went over and over the scouted path into the woods, that went wide around the ticket, and back up to “my tree” most of the night, seeing almost every hour come to my clock. Finally, just as sleep came, or so it seemed, the clock rang out, frightening me awake!
The thoughts of preparation did not leave me until I turned off the truck, and began to pack up for the trip into battle!
Everything went well until I somehow got off my appointed round and ended up totally surrounded by pines. I finally relented and flipped on my flashlight, only to find myself totally confused by the close thicket of pines that reflected my light back on me. The pines seemed to close in, so I turned off the light to allow my eyes to readjust.
I bumped around among the pines for what seemed like an eternity, making much more noise that I intended. Finally, I broke out of the pine forest into hardwoods that seemed familiar. I walked and walked, but could not find anything familiar – I was lost…or at least “my tree” was lost.
In frustration, I flashed the light around and found some dead limbs and a log that I could sit down by until first light.
Slowly the forest floor became light enough that I could make out familiar trees and noticed that I had sat down amidst a large “down fall,” obviously a stand of two to three trees that had blown down at least a year or two earlier. It was a good hiding area, but “my tree” was no where to be seen, and since it was already daylight, it was much too late to be clamoring up a tree.
I became very mad and disappointed in myself and just said, “To hell with it…” and lit up a cigarette. “What the hell…the day is over anyway!”
I sucked on the Winston and exhaled forcefully, not caring which way or if the wind was blowing. I would sit there until about noon, giving any hunters in the area a quiet time and then walk back to the truck and go home.
Just as I crushed out the butt, I heard the snap of a twig from the other side of the dead tree’s root ball. I pushed off the Ruger’s safety and rolled quietly over and laid the rifle upon the horizontal trunk of the dead pine tree.
I could not believe it! There was an 8-point buck, with very dark hair between its wide tines, just moving quickly along a path and headed directly for the briar thicket. I lowered my eyes to the scope and framed the crosshairs right behind the front leg and squeezed.
BOOM! Through the scope I could see the hide ripple at the impact like the concentric circles on a pond of water from a stone. I raised my head and the buck, not twenty yards from me, looked directly at me, wide-eyed and very surprised, almost as much as me!
The buck may have fallen right there had he not fallen against one tree then another, until after traveling about twenty yards further it fell into a heap, kicked twice and lay still.
I could hear my own heart beating as his stopped!
I sat there about five minutes, breathing as if I had just ran a marathon, before moving up to the buck. I poked the buck, first his leg, then his side, and finally his big brown eye. There was no movement – he was dead.
Then, I heard another twig snap and I pivoted to my right! There stood two of his girlfriends with puzzled looks, looking over the situation. One snorted and then stomped her foot and they both ran off. This proved once again how curious deer are, even after the loud noise the rifle had made, they had to come and see. I felt kind of embarrassed having been seen committing my act against their kind.
I turned back around and surveyed the area…not ten yards away from where the buck lay was “my tree!” I never used that tree again, even though I hunted the same area twice more over the years.
I began the task of field dressing the buck, dreading the long pull back to the truck. I spayed out his hind legs, one foot on each leg, and started to make my first cut when he moved! I jumped back, thinking to myself that I would have to dive on him and stab him to keep him from running away, but, I soon discovered that it was me that had moved, the adrenalin in my muscles caused them to twitch, only making it appear that the deer had moved its legs in the dry leaves!
My scouting had paid off. The buck was indeed trying to make the thicket prior to sunrise, and had been eating crabapples – his belly was full of them.
You will note the video I posted has no sound, something I did wrong on the upload, but it is not really necessary. Just enjoy the quiet woods of the Genesis side of the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area, and note the horizontal line of the downfall I used as cover, and the green crabapples the buck had often enjoyed. I taped this about a month after the season closed.
After huffing and puffing for over an hour, I finally managed to drag the 140 pound buck about a ¼ of a mile back to my truck. However, I would frequently hang on trees, sucking in air and saying to myself, “Man, if you don’t die of a heart attack today, you never will!”
I thought some nosey hunters would stop once I got to the highway, but not one stopped. I finally dead lifted the buck into the back of my truck and made my way home.
It was a day I will never forget – you never forget your first buck!