Friday, January 9, 2015

No Dear No Deer

Despite my country-boy upbringings, Ol' Backwoods is apparently not that good of a deer hunter.  No deer yet, dear.

In my part of Alabama, we have exactly four Saturdays left in the hunting season.  And the rut hasn't started yet, though there are some indications that it is about to start.

I'm part of a hunt club that has a lease on a huge wilderness tract, one of the largest in a 4-county area, with multiple creeks running through it.  I have spent a lot of Saturdays, and a lot of other vacation days besides, walking that land this year and sitting in its blinds and stands,arriving before sunup, and staying in the afternoon until sundown.

To no avail.  No deer yet, dear.

I've been trying to learn from the hunters in my club that have been successful, but they have very different schedules than I do, so we don't run into each other all that often.

It'd be a big deal to get me a deer this year.  I know engineers and scientists, truck drivers and firemen who have all gotten deer this season before me.  It's not just that I envy them.  I would be very pleased to shoot a deer that just walked up on my stand, sure.  But I want to hone the skill of being able to stalk and hunt them, in places where there aren't food plots and salt licks.  I want to hone this skill for many reasons, not the least of which that venison is high-quality protein that my wife, despite being a city girl half her life, knows well how to cook.

But there's more: being a successful big game hunter would prove to myself that I really could provide for my family from the bounty of the land during a breakdown in the civil society, in which commercial food might be hard to get.  Sure, I could pot some tree rats with a 22LR.  That I can do.  But there ain't much meat on them, and it's mighty greasy.  Venison is good meat, and there are a lot of deer around here.

There's deer on my club's place, that I know.  There's kills in our club's log,  tracks on our greenfields, and rubs on our trees. I have seen some deer early in the season, but I never quite had the shot, except once.  There was a spike buck standing next to a young doe about 75 yards from my blind in late November.  I wasn't sure he was old enough, and just about the time I had aimed my rifle, he saw me and bolted.

Maybe if I had been wearing camo face paint, he wouldn't have seen me, I don't know.

Those of you who got their first deer at, like, age 7 must be laughing your tails off.  But you hunted in a time and place of plenty.  You see, when I was a kid, there weren't any deer to hunt in the woods of West Virginia where I grew up, not too far from the town of Coalwood made famous by the movie "October Sky" and Homer Hickam's novels.  With no deer to hunt, I never learned to hunt them.

When I was a kid, nobody I knew was a big-game hunter, and they knew nobody that was.

During the early part of the 20th century, deer in West Virginia had been poached almost to extinction, and the ones that remained stayed far, far away from civilization.  My Dad said he never saw a deer once when he was a kid, and he squirrel hunted almost every day in season, and was in the woods plenty more than that.  My coal-mining grandfather saw a big buck on his 125-acre place once, but it got away before he got a shot off.

I had to wait until adulthood to learn deer hunting, when the herds came back almost everywhere in the US.  I have been doing it seriously about 2 seasons.  This season is more than half over, and I still haven't gotten my first deer.

Well, we'll try again in the morning.

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