Providing I survive another Christmas with the G-kids, I'll be leaving early Sunday morning. It is once again time for the Christmas gathering at White Oak Plantation, in AL. Just a few years ago, the lodge would be full of the Pitman family and a scattering of paying hunters.
There would be about 30-hunters scattered across the 20,000 acres. It is the pre-rut for AL bucks. It would be a clamorous, bustling lodge. But odds are, this year, I'm going fishing.
Now, reduced to less than 1,500 acres and no longer a full-blown hunting lodge, it will be just some of the Pitmans, Florella Crouch and I. It is somewhat of an interesting story.
Five or six years ago, Robert and Hilda Pitman started selling most of the land, including the two best, big bass lakes in the South.
After years of catering to as many as 500-outdoorsmen and women over the years, it was time to kick back and relax. Scale down. Other than Florella Crouch and me, only Pitman family members, about 10 of them, will be there and it is a relaxed hunt. In fact, it is so relaxed, last year, I didn't even go hunting. Instead, Robert and I went fishing. After all, it was 80-degrees and the bass needed culling.
Due to the careful management and limited hunting, some of the bucks on the remaining 1,200 acres of deer habitat, including manicured food plots, have gotten some impressive head gear.
If the weather cooperates, as in lows at night in the 30's, I'll be giving it a little more attention this year. But probably not a lot more.
But make no mistake, some of the first equipment to go in the truck will be rods and tackle box.
The lake right behind the lodge not only holds a lot bass, it holds some huge ones. The largest ever caught is just a notch over 13-pounds and I know for a fact, there was at least one larger in the lake.
I saw it when it was attached to my Uncle Lester's line...briefly. Florella caught one that went 10-pounds.
I started hunting White Oak close to 40-years ago. I have had some memorable trips there. I still hold the record for the largest deer ever killed there with a bow. But most memorable, was the hunt that Robert and I started with the express purpose of attracting female bow hunters. We started Does and Bows, a hunt for women only that was so successful, other lodges began to copy our pattern. We ran it for 13-years.
After the second year, we had a full house of 25-women and most years, had a waiting list. That is how Florella came into the picture.
Florella, lives to hunt and fish. She was at every one of the Does and Bows hunts for 13-years and came to some other events as well.
She has killed some big deer and caught some big bass. And, as it is with me, she became part of the adopted family.
At home in Harrisburg, Georgia, she works year-round managing her property for wildlife and fishing around the area. She makes her own jerky, sausage, preserves of several varieties and her own beer and wine. I estimate, she has at least once, been at White Oak, every year for the past 20.
Robert and I have a goal for this year. We want to catch somewhere between 75-100 bass and cull them out of the lake.
Once we get the bass population back down, he can re-stock the bream and get it back to its' former population where an angler could catch a cooler full of bream that might easily average a pound.
Robert's favorite lure is a simple Beetle Spin. Last year, he made me take all my fancy lures off and tie on the one and only Beetle Spin I owned.
I now have a healthy supply. A few days of hunting in the mornings and fishing in the afternoons, or vice versa is just what I need. Add to that some of the finest home cooked southern meals and a good night's sleep and I'll be recharged for the coming year.
Here is a tip. If the Pitmans ever open the Lodge Pond to bream fishing again, book a trip. You'll thank me.