The joy of hunting

BY DAN GEDDINGS
Posted 11/4/18

The wind was perfect. Out of the southwest, blowing my scent behind me. It was very light and could only be detected by little puffs of baby powder that floated down and away from my stand. My little squeeze bottle wind checker, loaded with white …

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The joy of hunting

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The wind was perfect. Out of the southwest, blowing my scent behind me. It was very light and could only be detected by little puffs of baby powder that floated down and away from my stand. My little squeeze bottle wind checker, loaded with white powder, can show me the slightest breeze.

The stand is in a grove of big pines. There is a scrappy understory of smaller trees. A flooded hardwood bottom is to the east. There is a thicket to the west. The deer prefer the cover of the thicket.

It is a beautiful place, with dappled sunlight streaming through the canopy of pines. The play of light and hard shadow changing with the arc of the afternoon sun.

Wood ducks squeal in the flooded timber. There are many. I can see the ripples on the shallow water. I hope they stay around for a few more weeks. Duck season opens soon.

I look over my shoulder at the big corn field to the north. There is a flock of wild turkeys walking along the wood line. They are feeding on the corn that was spilled by the combines. I tried counting them, but it was impossible. The screen of trees between us made it difficult, and their constant shifting didn't help. I finally estimated there were about 20.

The afternoon was beautiful. Sunny and cool enough for a long-sleeved shirt. I had folded my camouflage vest and packed it in the top of my backpack. I knew that I would probably need it when the sun went down. The mosquitoes weren't out just yet, but I knew they would come with the evening shadows. My Thermacell was handy.

The turkeys had moved beyond my view, but I could hear their soft clucks and muted yelps in the edge of the timber behind me. I heard wingbeats so soft that I thought perhaps I had imagined it. But the slight rustle of limbs confirmed my suspicion. They were flying up to roost above the water, in the tall cypress and pin oak trees.

The orange ball of fire to the west was now behind the distant timber, and a softer shadow flooded the grove of pines. The air found a nip to it, and I dug for my thin vest. A crunch in the leaf litter behind me caught my attention and stopped me. I froze and turned my head to the left.

A buck was walking into view right below the stand, from my rear. He was just a yearling, with a small three-point set of antlers. He never looked up at me. I watched him amble on through the pines, and he disappeared from my sight toward the thicket.

I wondered why he hadn't winded me and took out my wind checker. With the first puff I could see that the wind had shifted around to the east and increased in speed. The powder now floated horizontally through the canopy, not downward toward the forest floor.

I shivered a little from the excitement and the chill, then pulled on my vest. I sat til the woods were dark, then climbed down.

The sun was gone now, and the western sky was bathed in an orange glow. I lingered, then turned toward my truck and home. The afternoon had been one of pure joy.

Later that evening I got a text and a picture from my friend Bubba Hartley. He had shot a nice buck. Hunters love to share their stories, especially when there is success. The next day he told me the details of how the hunt unfolded. There was joy in his story.

A couple of days later I met Thomas Johnston on a hunt club road in the Wateree Swamp. When I introduced myself, he asked, "Are you kin to the fellow that writes for the paper?" I assured him that I was, then added, "Actually, I am that fellow." We had a wonderful conversation, and he told me stories of his hunts with his grandson Thomas. I could hear the joy in his voice and see it in his face as he talked about the things that he loved dearly. I left him feeling like we were old friends.

Hunting can be a joy just for the experience of being out there, and it can certainly be a joy when there is success. But I think there is an even greater joy when the experience can be shared with friends and family. I love sharing my stories with all of you.

Reach Dan Geddings at cdgeddings@gmail.com.