This pre-spring time of year always baffles me. I am never sure just what I should be doing. If we have a tolerable day, there is a chance D. Earl Durham and I might go try and catch some sauger or something. Other than that, there is not a lot I need to do.
Just got to thinking about this. Thought I'd share it with you as we calm down from deer season. Man, have I ever had a fortunate life.
Just think, for over 20-years, I made a living in professional rodeo, a life I loved. Riding bucking horses and bulls put me through college on a great scholarship and gave me a doctorate in U.S. Geography.
It won't be long. The leaves will start greening, the honeysuckle blooming and them yeller flowers called forsythe or something will be sweetening the air. That is when an old man's fancy turns to thoughts of fish.
I concluded my deer season a few days ago, at White Oak Plantation down in Alabammy. Stick a fork in me I'm done and I'll relate all that in a future column.
Well, bada-bing-bada-boom. It is a new year. Seems like they come faster as each one passes. Wasn't too long ago, I believed you had to cut a deer's throat as soon as possible or the meat would not be tender. Heck, not all that long ago, there was no limit on bluegill or crappie and we could keep 10-bass of any length.
"There's a jolly fat man in a silly red suit, stuck in the smoke hole of my teepee."
That line from a Lakota Sioux parody on our Christmas songs has always made me laugh. Over a month ago, the hustle and bustle of Christmas for the G-kids started at our house. For a while, I thought Jeanne was going to finally fill the empty rooms with boxes of toys.
The boiling sun had just begun to melt the blue-green water of the Gulf into a copper spill. A gull wheeled and screed at Jason. He cast the sand flea far out into the surf and began to wait.
I peeled off my shirt and sat back to watch. I don't have to fish every time I go fishing. I was still full of shrimp and stuff and a solid eight hours sleep still had me slightly groggy. I sipped my iced orange juice and watched Jason fish.
It was not that cold, maybe 45 above. I was 18-feet up a slender tree and shivering so hard the entire tree was shaking. Time to unclimb the tree. I was about to shiver the rivets out of my treestand. I was lucky to get down with no injuries and warm up. I had made some serious mistakes.
Although we are in the heart of our deer season and amidst the best days of hunting isn't all about deer...or even hunting for that matter. There are a lot of outdoor activities besides hunting deer.
For example, the retired Judges, David Earl Durham and Bob "Backwards Tent" Hamilton snuck onto some land probably owned by my very former in-laws and went after antelope.
It has long been a Thanksgiving tradition for me to hunt a few hours, early Thanksgiving morning. Oddly for some reason, I have been quite lucky on these short hunts.
On one occasion, I killed an eight-point that measures just over 130-inches. That is good buck for Wilson County.
It is a cold November night in the Saline Swamp. There are seven of us in the camp house, 12-feet above the ground-Uncle Lester, Uncle Alphus, Uncle Lloyd, Uncle Bobby with Miss Jessie, Miss Lilly and myself. I am related to none of them but they raised me. It is the night before opening day of the Louisiana deer season.
I have no idea why this day is different. Dawn is slowly turning into sunrise. The two owls are right on schedule. They gargle and whoo about four every afternoon and again about 5:30 in the morning. It is a beautiful morning, cold, 32-degrees with not much wind. But this morning, is slightly different.
I have picked this stand for one reason. The tree leans slightly backwards, making it more comfortable on my bad back.
It should be starting right about now. Depending on where you hunt, the pre-rut should be going on now. This is the time the bucks are actively looking for and chasing does.
This is not the peak of the rut. This is not when the largest percentage of does get bred. This is the best time to hunt a mature buck. The peak is not the best time. That should happen just before Thanksgiving.
I have liked this October. The week of rain probably hurt the bowhunting to some extent. Early in the season, I had predicted we might set and archery kill record.
Now, I am not so sure. But except for the one week (which I avoided - more about that later), the weather was about as good for hunting as you could ask.
A feeling of satisfaction, contentment, that feeling that you get when a job is completed and well done. I had this exact feeling a couple weeks ago in early October.
I had been hunting three times. The first hunt, an afternoon jaunt, I let a buck walk, even though he presented a perfect, broadside, 12-yard shot. It was getting late and I didn't want to be blood trailing and field dressing in the dark. I guess my age is showing.
I can still smell, sometimes, even see it. The clean crisp smell of late autumn, the smell of the leaves as I gathered some kindling. The dusty smell of the one room cabin, the ashes in the old wood stove and the shallow, muddy river. I had use of the place and permission to hunt the farm for a couple weeks and I had come to kill the genetically best of the breed.
It was a quiet night, just the right quiet. He played the harmonica softly, just fooling around with a tune. The miles and toll of the weather showed in his perpetually tanned face. The Doc sat with eyes closed, just listening, not dozing.
They had covered miles that day, resting themselves and the horses less often that they would have liked. Now, supper resting comfortably in their bellies, the camp was secure and dry, the horses cared for and hobbled in the small meadow near the creek.
A few days ago, I ran across a letter written 18-years ago. It is from a fellow hunter who shall remain nameless even though he gave me permission to print the letter and use his name. It is to a young woman, a college student, an anti-hunter who wrote to him objecting to a picture that ran in a local newspaper. I thought this an appropriate time to run the letter and his reply.
Our archery deer season opens this Saturday, Sept. 27 at daylight. I probably will go, it is a bit of a tradition for me.
The rules are the same -- three does per day, no more than three bucks the entire season no matter what equipment. Hunt safe and if you climb, use a fall restraint system. We use to call them safety belts.
Our archery season is about open. In fact, it opens Sept. 27, in 10 days. That approaching event made me think of a hunter I know from down in Georgia. Let me tell you a little about her.
The weather liars said it would be 95, August 26. I had on a jogging suit hoody and rain pants and was not sweating. I was working hard, too. Not as hard as the Judge who just about refuses to use the trolling motor. He would rather scull. That suits me fine cause I would rather catch trout.
He came with head down, nose to the ground, walking exactly as I had. But I knew the rubber boots would defeat his sense of smell. Knee-high rubber boots make it impossible for a deer to smell where you walk.
It will sound like a small war. Enough gun powder will be burnt to supply a small army. In fact, there will be a small army out and about when dove season 2014 opens at noon September 1.
In an hour or so, it would be sweltering. Fog lay in patches, low on the water hotter than a bath. The pond, three acres in size, was slick as a mirror. Not a breath of air stirred and the buzzbait made the only wake on the surface as it returned to the Pond Tracker boat.
You can call Judge David Earl Durham by a variety of names.
For well over 30-years, I have called him friend. I honestly cannot remember how or exactly when we met.
It had worked out perfectly and I was grinning like a wave on a milk bucket.
I have known Riley, his wife Eva, son James and daughter Nicky for a long time. When I stepped out of the Otter float plane, on a lake near the Quebec-Labrador border, I knew I was going to have a good time. It was almost like coming home though I was a few thousand miles north of Cedar City.