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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fall Hunt


   I went out for a nice enjoyable deer hunt down home when I was about fourteen. That was only my second hunt. I had gone the year before but never even got a shot at one so I was really determined to bring home some meat this time. Since you could only hunt deer with a shotgun in Okmulgee County I had to borrow a twelve gauge from Thomas Knuckles dad. He was always nice about loaning me guns as long as I could supply my own shells. That year the only one he was able to loan me was a double barrel which was a really nice gun except that it was awful heavy and kicked hard enough to rattle your teeth. I all ready had a hunting license so I stopped by the store and picked up my deer tag and a box of twelve gauge slugs.
   There are a couple of ways to deer hunt, one is to stalk which is just sneaking through the woods trying to spot a deer and get close enough for a shot. I tried that most of my first hunt. I wasn't nearly as good at sneaking through the woods as I thought I was. In my little pea brain I was moving through the woods like Daniel Boone when in fact it was more like I was stumbling through like a crippled elephant. The other way is to still hunt which is just finding a god spot to see a trail either on the ground or in a deer stand and wait for a deer to walk by. I tried that a couple of times but I just didn't have the patience to sit there long enough. I could stay a little longer in a tree stand just because climbing up to one was a pain in the butt and once I was up there I hated to climb back down.
   The first day I was all the way up by Salt Creek before the sun came up sitting next to a big cottonwood watching a spot where I knew deer crossed the creek. I knew they came down out of the woods to feed in a field on my side of the creek and I was hoping that by getting there early I would see one headed back across. Of course since I had run into several trees, tripped over a couple of roots and damn near fell into the creek (forgot to bring a light) on my way to the sitting spot lowered my chances of seeing anything.
   I sat there for about an hour after the sun came up not being real still. It was pretty well impossible for me sit still in one spot back then. Being able to stay in one spot without moving for hours would be a lesson it would take me years to learn. I did stay there as long as I could but finally I had to get up and move around even if had the patience to stay longer, deer season is in November and it was getting cold just sitting there.
   I spent the rest of that day trying to do my sneaking and moving slow through the woods. I did get to see a couple deer, unfortunately they were both does and since it was a buck only season I just watched them hop away. Later that evening I was back at a well worn trail at the bottom of the hill Stanley and I always camped on. I had seen deer on that trail several times during the summer and I was sure it was one of the main ones that they took from the woods down to the creek each evening. I went up the hill a ways and found a good spot where I could sit and still see the tail. I made myself sit there as still as I could until dark but all I saw that day was a dozen squirrels and one fox, no deer.
   I spent the next three days wondering all over those woods and the only sight I had of a buck was his white butt bouncing through the woods heading for the next county. We had a storm move in the following day and since I didn't really want to be roaming around in the freezing rain I took that day off. The storm pretty well blew through that night and I was up and ready before daylight. I only had two more days to find a deer and I was getting desperate. I was up on the hillside leaning against a big oak tree when the sun came up that morning. It wasn't going to be a fun day. Everything was coated with a thin film of ice from the storm and it was so cold I had to keep my hands in my pockets so they would be warm enough to hold the gun. Of course my impatience started work within an hour and I ended up spending most of the day trying to find a spot where I would be able to see more of the trail and moving around trying to stay warm. The one thing I couldn't find anywhere along that hill was a tree stand. Since so many people hunt deer in that country there are always deer stands scattered around. Most of them were just a few boards or branches laying across a couple of limbs. A few of them even had boards nailed to the tree to help climb up. Not finding any along that trail should have told me that maybe it wasn't the best place to hunt but I had myself convinced that there had to be deer moving along that trail.
   I was moving back toward the creek when I noticed a big red oak tree that was growing right next to the trail. The thing that caught my eye was the two branches that grew out over the tail about thirty feet above the ground. Now that would be a great place for a deer stand I thought. The limbs were about six to eight inches in diameter and grew out at an angle from the tree both at the same level. If I had of had a few boards are even some sturdy branches I could lay them across those limbs and be able to see a long way down the trail. But, I didn't have any boards. I didn't even have a hatchet to cut and branches and buy them time I gathered the stuff to make a stand the season would be over. I had about two hours left to hunt and as I stood there staring at those limbs I had an idea. Notice I said idea, not thought.
   I figured I could climb up that tree and just sit on the limb. It looked to me like they were close enough for me to put my butt on one and my feet on the other. I'd have to be careful because the day was still cold enough for most of the tree limbs to still have a coating of ice on them. I did have some rope with me (in case I needed to hang a deer) and I figured I could tie it to the gun and pull it up after I was set. I did my normal big tree climbing trick and found a broken limb that I could lean against the tree and climb up it far enough to get a hold of the first limb. There was a little more ice on the top of the limb than I had thought and I came real close to falling before I could even get started but with a little work and a lot of luck I made to the limbs. The limb I ended up standing on was on the opposite side of the tree from the ones I wanted to be on and the hardest part was stepping around the tree. The tree was too big to reach around and there was a tense moment when I had one foot on each limb and tried to figure out how I was going to get both on the same side. It took a minute but I was finally able to get around on the limbs I wanted to be on at which time my foot slipped and down I went. Not all the way to the ground though, I think it might have been better if I had, but no, I went down with a leg on each side of the limb. I just kind of lay there for awhile thinking I was going to die, or being afraid I wouldn't, worrying that I was going to really ruin this hunting spot if I puked all over the trail.
   The pain finally eased off enough for me to sit up and get my leg over the limb and I found out that I had been right on at least one thing, with my butt on one limb and my feet on the other I had a really good view of the trail. It took a few more minutes to pull the gun up on that rope and I was finally set except for one small problem. I was sitting on the limbs right next to the trunk so I could lean against the trunk and wait for the rest of the pain to go away. The problem was that I couldn't see all that far down the trail from there, I needed to move out a little farther. By the time I got wiggled over to where I see well my feet were sticking almost straight out and were more pushing against the limb instead of being on top of it. It wasn't really all that comfortable stretched out like that and the cold from the ice seeping threw my britches did help much but since I only had about an hour and a half left to hunt I figured I could put up with it.
   I sat on that limb for the next hour literally freezing my butt off, starting to wonder how I was going to get down out of that tree (see, idea, not thought) when I saw something that I thought was moving down the trail. Whatever it was it was a ways off and with me trying to look through the branches it was hard to tell if it was something big moving on the trail or was I just seeing a squirrel moving through the trees. After a couple of more minutes of staring I realized that not only was it a deer moving down the trail toward me but that even better it was a deer with horns!
   I brought my gun up and got a bead on him as soon as he walked into a clear spot and discovered a minor problem. I was sitting right over the trail which meant the deer was walking straight toward me. I was higher than him but still, all I could see was mostly his head. He would dip his head every once in awhile and I'd see his back but from where I was sitting I wasn't going to be able to get a shot at him. I was afraid to take a chance of just trying to shoot him in the head because that was going to be a hard target to hit but there was no way he was going to turn to the side. I was beginning to think that all I was going to get to do was just sit there on that limb and watch him walk right under me without ever getting a shot. Out of desperation I came up with a plan. I carefully pulled the gun back and aimed it straight down between my legs. I figured that as long as he kept going the way he was he would walk directly under me and I'd be able to shoot him in the back.
   The plan worked really well right up to a point. He came walking down the trail without ever looking up. I held my breath as he passed under me, aimed at his back and pulled the trigger. That's the point where things went a little wrong. For one thing I had a double barrel shotgun with both barrels loaded and in my excitement I pulled both triggers. The butt plate on that ole gun was just a steel plate and it kicked when you shot it and if you shot both barrels at the same time it kicked twice as hard. Leaning over and shooting straight down didn't help either.  As soon as it went off it kicked my shoulder up which caused my feet to slip off the limb I was pushing against. My feet went down between the limbs and I dropped the gun trying to grab the limb to keep from falling, but I missed. I whacked my forehead on limb in front which made my butt slip off the limb I was sitting on and down I went.
   One good thing was that I landed on the deer when I fell. Thankfully it was on his back and not his horns. The most important thing was that after I finally got my breath back and was able to look around I found that dropping the gun hadn't hurt it at all. I was in a panic thinking I was going to have to go back and tell Mr. Knuckles that I had broken his gun.  I did get the deer, a nice little two point all though I was never one hundred percent if he died from me shooting him (I only hit him once even though he was less than thirty feet away) or from me falling on him.