I have always thought of the outdoors as a place of great solitude — a place where I can ‘escape to’ and become engulfed in the natural world, where things are dictated by nature rather than the whims of man.
Just about everything in our modern-day world changes, but the woods remain the same, at least until someone decides to cut the trees for timber or bulldoze them down to make room for a new subdivision. I can walk into the woods today, and things ‘seem’ exactly as they did when I was a boy sixty years ago.
In essence, things are the same. I’m not referring to a particular ‘woods,’ but woods in general. The smells are the same, the ancient oaks and hickory trees with moss covering their north sides look exactly as oaks and hickory trees did many years ago when I was a boy.
Today when I walk back into a wooded area, I’m flooded with memories of past squirrel hunts with my Dad or when I squirrel hunted with our little fox terrier named Polie. When I walk into a sunlit glade with steam coming up from the cool ground, I am taken back to the spot where I took my first whitetail buck many years ago.
This past week, I had the privilege of spending a couple days by myself hunting deer and hogs in a very special ‘patch’ of woods that have come to be very dear to me.
I have great friends that own a good-sized parcel that is almost totally covered in woods. Their weekend getaway is located at the end of a road and when the gate is closed, the modern-day world with all its hustle and bustle is left behind.
Their camp is nestled in a little clearing with a pond nearby; beyond the pond are acres and acres of wooded land with a creek traversing the southern boundary. Beyond the creek is what we refer to as ‘no man’s land,’ where the bottomland goes on for many miles. This stretch of bottoms is not suitable for farming or ranching because of its propensity to flood during spring rains, but it is teeming with wildlife.
I know no better place to hunt hogs than along this meandering creek. The corn feeders my friend has situated along the creek attracts hogs that spend their time unmolested in the remote reaches of the vast lowland. Deer feed and bed in this remote stretch of bottomland as well, and when the floods come, they have only to walk a few hundred yards out to higher ground on my friend’s place, situated on a gentle sloping ridge that drops off to the creek and lower elevations.
Don’t let me mislead you, I cherish the times in the outdoors I get to spend with my good friends, but there is something different — special — about being totally on your own and in the ‘wilds' for a day or two. If you are a hunter or outdoors person, I am confident you know the feeling I am referring to.
While actually hunting, I was thinking ahead as to how I would get game out of the woods or exactly what I would prepare for the evening meal once back at camp. There was no one to depend on except myself.
Regular readers of this column know that I hunt for venison and wild pork as much for as for antlers, but you also know that I’ve said many times that a deer hunter that says he is not a trophy hunter is probably not telling the complete truth. A heavy antlered buck is always my desire, but I am very happy to put a fat doe that is packing plenty of tasty venison on the meat pole.
On this recent afternoon hunt, I was solo; my friend was to join me the next day, and I really wanted to have a deer on the ground and some fried backstrap, sweet potatoes and cabbage for dinner when he arrived. About fifteen minutes before legal shooting time ended, a ‘youngish’ buck came through, and a lone boar stopped just out of bow range and scent marked a sapling.
I was an opportunist on this hunt, wild pork or venison would suffice, whichever presented a close enough bow shot. My hunting blood was pumping, and far to my left I caught movement: a couple of wary doe were approaching the grove of oak trees I was hunting. The ground was covered in acorns, and they slowly nibbled their way toward me.
Light was quickly fading, and at the very last minute of shooting light, one of the does came within my self-imposed 25-yard maximum shooting range. I can shoot accurately much farther, but lots can happen from the time an arrow leaves the bowstring until it impacts a target. I wait for slam dunk close shots. I picked my bow up and thought for an instant before releasing the arrow.
There I was by myself, hunting a pretty remote section of the woods. It’s very common for a bow shot deer to run at least a short distance before expiring. Did I really want to spend the next couple hours getting my venison out of the woods, skinning and quartering the animal and then icing the meat? Or, did I want to head on back to camp and cook dinner for myself and collect my venison on the morning hunt?
I opted to head to camp and warm up and prepare a tasty meal. Would I have shot the deer if my buddy was with me? Maybe, but I was alone and made the decision to take the easy road! My friend and I shot some excellent video, ate some great camp meals and saw a lot of game but, neither of us loosed an arrow.
The hunt will go down in my hunting annals as one of the most enjoyable times I can remember. Not every hunt has to result in meat for the freezer or antlers on the wall!
Join Outdoors Writer Luke Clayton in Greenville, Texas, on Dec. 14 for the WINTER OUTDOOR RON-DE-VOUX to be held on four wooded acres adjacent Henley Auto Supply (Carquest). Booths for vendors, outdoor cooking and music will be available. For more information visit www.catfishradio.org.