A "Rattling" Experience
It was a cold winter day, for sure. The temps hovered in the mid 40’s and it was just one of those gray, bone chilling days.
The wind was howling as I decided that my current plan was not working.
I had hunted for three days and in spite of the fact that it was the middle of the rut, I had yet to see a decent buck. Heck, I had yet to see a buck at all!
I knew I needed a change of plan.
This new plan included a trip into the nastiest, thickest stuff on the farm – the tangle of pines, elms and briers that ran alongside the southwest corner of the beaver pond.
We rarely bothered with this area because it was so thick, you could hardly see 20 yards in front of you.
After a morning hunt, I walked the edges of the area and picked out three major trails going into and out of the gnarly, non hunter friendly area… and then chose the center one and made my way in. The area comprised about 20 acres – more or less – and was bordered on one side by a wide, shallow beaver pond and on the other by mixed pines and hardwoods. This latter area was always riddled with scrapes and rubs.
I found the area laced with trails, going this way and that way – but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason. I did not find any scrapes or rubs and that surprised me greatly – at least the lack of rubs…. Making my way into the interior of the area (this spot is a pond today, brimming with bass, catfish and panfish), I found one small semi open area where you could see about 30 yards – I hung a homemade chain on stand using screw in steps in a pine tree that was no more than 12” in diameter. This was a very basic stand, consisting of only a platform, a chain and a lower brace. We called these stands “Andes” stands and I do not even recall why now – but the brace was under the stand and had a chisel point that stuck into the tree – this provided a platform to stand on with no obstructions. I could only get the stand about 10’ up the tree…but, I hoped that was enough!
I snuck out as quietly as I could, leaving the tree tops swaying in the breeze.
The year was 1985 or so and this was fairly early in my deer hunting experiences. I was on my friend’s farm in southeast Georgia – this farm had been like hunting the Promised Land after hunting public hunting areas for the first part of my career.
After a probable lunch of Vienna Sausages and crackers and a short nap, I made the trek back into the area. The wind continued to howl and the afternoon had turned even colder. I eased into the main trail and found the stand I had hung earlier in the day… I looked around and I recall thinking… this is ridiculous… go on back to the swamp and hunt… heck, go up to the field edge and try to catch a buck scent checking the area as it gets dark… you are not gonna see anything in here. Heck, man – you can not even see 40 yards in here, this is more of a bow set up than an early November gun spot.
Shaking these thoughts off, I thought – what the heck – let’s give it a try in here. I pulled the Marlin 30-30 over my shoulders and rested it on my back, grabbed the little chain on seat and headed up the screw in steps… These seats were popular back in the 80’s – they were a small seat, about 8” square and a little swing set chain that attached the seat to the tree…
Gaining a kneeling stance on the platform, with the rifle still on my back, I started to chain the seat to the tree… I was fumbling with the chain and the clasp... the wind was blowing and the chain was rattling in my hands as I was concentrating on getting the seat set up. After a few tries to get it set where I wanted and to get it secure on the tree, I as finally satisfied that the seat was ready when I glanced down… GREAT SCOTT – UNDER THE TREE!!!!! A NICE BUCK!!!!
No more than 3 yards from the tree – the 8 pointer was looking around in every direction, his head jerking this way and then that way… I still recall, with clarity, his posture of defiance as he stood there…. “WHO IS FIGHTING IN MY AREA????” he seemed to be saying.
Now… at the time, my dim brain did not put two and two together – he heard the chain rattling and thought it was two bucks fighting and came busting in there to see what the commotion was about…
But… back to our befuddled hunter in the stand… remember him… the guy on his knees, ten feet up a tree and his rifle conveniently positioned on his back????
Hmmm, this is a position that seems to be incredibly conducive to SCARING off every buck in the county…not in harvesting a decent buck!!!
Our hero of the day does what any stupefied hunter would do, right??? Drop the remaining portion of chain and it makes a nice, loud clanging sound... great move, there JimBob.... real smooth!
At this point, we would expect that our friend the 8 pointer would vacate the area, using common sense as a guideline – and return to this thicket never again – at least not this year…. Right????
He turns a half circle and comes even closer to the tree the stand is in (if that was possible - had I fallen from the stand, I would literally have landed on his back!). He is still concentrating, looking all around.
This still leaves our hunter, on his knees, ten feet up with his rifle on his back.
At this point, in a stroke of genius, he decides that OK… I will just take my rifle off of my back and casually shoot this deer, simple as that.
Should be simple, right????
Oh no, not to our hero this day. The rifle comes over the head, bringing the Vietnam era style boonie hat right down over the eyes of our now blinded hunter!
OK, now surely our antlered friend has had enough and bolted… to parts unknown… no deer could stand for all of this tomfoolery and still be beneath the tree.
Well – this one could… our hunter has now dropped the hat, pulled the rifle the rest of the way over his head and brought the 30-30 to bear, shooting straight down at the buck!
BOOOOOMMMMMM – and the buck is gone with a flash of white!!!!
Did that really happen, I think??? Still on my knees on the platform, I stand up, turn around and sit on the seat to mull over the events.
Under the tree.
While I was chaining the seat on.
He let me drop the chain, making even more noise.
Hat over the eyes.
Rifle off of the back.
What was wrong with that crazy fool??
Now, I know… of course, it was lust and bravery, but at the time, I could not quite connect the dots…
Now, back to the cold November day… After a 30 minute wait and with heart still pounding, I climb down and look around – not a speck of blood or other evidence can I find!! I make a few circles in the area I KNOW he was standing… nothing!!!
I broaden the circles – now on hands and knees…. Nothing!
Back up the stand I go… and glance down – yes, I am looking in the right place… he was standing RIGHT THERE!
Back down I go and start looking in the direction he took off in… back and forth I go until finally, I pick up a faint blood trail… leading out of the thicket and into the open woods… Rifle in hand, I am now on the track!
The trail leads out of the thicket and just that quick, right back into it!
The blood is getting heavier now and so are the woods… briers claw at me and the undergrowth is almost too heavy to push my way through, so I go to my hands and knees to get under and through a particularly nasty part… burrowing my way through, head down and still finding blood – more blood now - I reach a slightly more open spot and raise my head – GREAT SCOTT – no more than 5 feet from me is the buck, laying down with his head up, looking right at me!!!!!!
While I consider myself a fairly aggressive fellow, my first thought was “where is reverse????".
Frozen for a second, I take a second look… the buck is there, no doubt and he is staring right at me… or so it seemed!
He had made a loop, I guess, as he fell and his chin had literally landed in the fork of two branches, holding his head up off of the ground… and making it look like he was just sitting there waiting for me!!!!
I gather my wits… look into his eyes and see they have hazed over – and poke him a time or two to make sure he is in fact – deceased…and then sit down and have a good old belly laugh.
I am not sure who was more foolish that day – me or the deer!!!! In spite of my best efforts to screw it up, I still managed to harvest the buck, which at the time, was a decent buck for me!
We kept a stand in that area for years, harvesting many more deer from the same tree - several with the bow and arrow. It was a good spot,but you had to be on your toes every second!
In a strange turn of events, a kid on the farm across the dirt road harvested a HUGE buck that same day – doing exactly the same thing… but he was attaching the chain around the tree on a ladder stand when the buck appeared and waited around long enough for the kid to take a 12 gauge with buckshot from the floor of the ladder stand and get off a good shot at the buck - a scant few yards from the stand. That buck was a solid 10 pointer, about 18 inches wide and would have likely scored in the mid 140’s or so.
Mine was nothing like that – but I guess the bucks in Bulloch County were in a fighting mood that day!!!!