This past week, with the exception of Monday, I have been off work and enjoying the great December weather in the outdoors. Cold, wet, wind blowing, man it was great! I know many folks think that is terrible weather but, I like all of it when I am away from my daily “grind” at work and I can leave the cell phone in the truck and spend time away from everyone and just enjoy the solitude that is found in the deer woods of December.
I sure wasn’t disappointed either, On Tuesday, I travelled to Livingston for a visit with my first cousin Macks. He has a beautiful camp house on the banks of the Tombigbee river and I always enjoy the time I get to spend hanging out with Macks. He was ready to go hunting when I pulled up and I jumped out of my truck into his and off to the prairie land of north Sumter county we went! In just a few miles he let me out and pointed the direction to a ladder stand he had that overlooked a nice green field nestled up to a hardwood bottom and flanked by a number of the ever present red cedars that are a predominant land feature in the West Alabama Black Belt. Soon after I got up in the stand, several does and yearlings appeared from the woods and began feeding. The youngsters would eat a little and then buck and prance, chase each other around the field while the mature does quietly fed and watched.
Like every hunter, I scanned the wood line intently for that “big buck” to join them and he may have, after dark and long after I had left to meet Macks for the ride back to his cabin. His wife Sarah, greeted us and we enjoyed a nice rack of baby back ribs and great fellowship, followed by time on the front porch in some massive red cedar rocking chairs reminiscing about hunts up and down the Tombigbee as we watched it roll by in the darkness. Macks is one of those guys who can imitate a Bard owl call perfectly and as he “talked” to several owls that returned calls to him, His wife and I talked about Macks and what a “hoot” he is to be around. We continued to talk about old hunting trips and the hunting victories he and I shared in as kids until we realized the clock was past 10 p.m. and we were starting to “drag”.
The next morning instead of deer hunting, Macks wanted to shown me his quail hunting operation and since his bird dogs need weekly training, we went over to the quail property called Feather Hill hunting preserve. He set out about 16 quail in sets of two and we enjoyed watching the dogs find and point them and of course, getting in our shots as the quail burst into the air when prompted by the “flush” command that Macks gave to the dogs. He had a new English Setter that reminded me of one my father owned who gave us many thrilling quail hunting moments when I was boy. The pointers were great! But, the Setter worked the ground a bit slower and was more attentive to the commands and the whistles from Macks as she worked across the sage covered hills tracking down the released quail from their hiding spots.
Around noon, the dogs and we were all tired from the morning hunt, so while Macks watered and loaded the dogs for the return to their kennel, I dressed out the 12 quail we had taken and l sealed them up in a ziploc for a planned supper. We spent a couple of hours riding some of the property that Macks manages for hunting and he had to swap SD cards and make sure all his trail cams were working so he would have images to show his hunters for the upcoming weekend. An afternoon bass fishing in a local farm pond gave us a choice of fried bass fillets or fried quail and I enjoyed both of them as well as the company of my second night on the Tombigbee listening to the owls from the dark front porch of the cabin. A thoroughly relaxing but, exhausting, day outdoors!
The next morning, I “slept in” as Macks had an early morning appointment in Meridian and a line of storms was approaching so I enjoyed the storm and several cups of coffee on his front porch before leaving and heading up to Tuscaloosa for an afternoon hunt at my family’s farm. I opted for a hut due to the strong wind following the storm line and made sure to use all the cover scent and masking scents to inhibit my spooking any deer. However, the afternoon hunt was a very poor one where only two does and a yearling came into the field. My nephew and a buddy of his was also hunting and they reported similar poor results from the strong wind that apparently caused most of the deer to stay bedded.
Friday morning was cold but, still with a strong wind so I again sought the aid of a hut to block the wind in a location we call the “peninsula”. This is a beautiful hardwood section of woods that is surrounded by an old swamp area that has been mostly drained. I have taken many deer from the stand in previous seasons so I felt the “deer hunting fever” build in my old bones as I made my way through the woods in the dark to get in the hut well before daylight.
I always love watching the dawn break sitting in a deer stand, shaking a little bit from the cold and a little bit from the anticipation of the hunt. It is a sure-fired way for me to feel like a young man again for a few hours as I am totally absorbed in the hunt, scanning for deer, watching the movement of the does and young deer while I watch for the buck that is the purpose of my trip to appear. And then, he did appear! As I looked down the shooting lane that is cut to the south of the hut a huge bodied deer stepped from the swamp and walked into the lane! My first thought was to get him in my scope to see if he was indeed a “shooter” buck. But, just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone, trotting into the woods on the other side of the narrow lane. The buck had a very wide rack but, the tines were not very long from what I could tell in the brief look. The rack was a dark one and was reddish brown in color, that made me want to get him even more since the color and width were both very impressive.
I was on high alert for the next 45 minutes scanning intently for the buck and he showed up in the eastern lane chasing a smaller buck away from several does who were showing signs of estrus. He then came back to the lane and chased the does back and forth across the lane and out in the thickets on each side of it in the swamp. There was not much way to make a decent stalk attempt so I just sat in the hut hoping he would show up on the peninsula for a shot. At a little after 11:00 two small rack bucks came running out of the swamp and across the open woods so I got ready for “big red” to show up chasing them like he was earlier but, as luck would have it, he never came out of the thicket out in the swamp. Like many old mature bucks, he didn’t get that big by being stupid!
But one thing is for sure, I will be back after him next weekend unless I find out one of my relatives found him first! Oh well, that is why it is called hunting,not just shooting!
Alabama deer hunting, what a way to spend some December vacation days! Only bad part is, I am exhausted, my truck is muddy, and I can’t go hunting for the next few days!
Until next week,
~postoak~ OUT doors..