Sumter outdoors columnist Dan Geddings: Déjà vu at the reserve


"Hey, I just drove up to the pond, and when I got out, I heard something go crashing through the brush near the path to my stand. I walked over there to look and found blood. It's fresh, and I think somebody just shot a deer." Clayton was on the phone and sounded anxious. Then he added, "I trailed the blood into the woods but lost it. I've walked all over."

"Well, it's déjà vu all over again," I thought to myself. A couple of years ago somebody shot a deer in our woods behind the pond while I was there working on a stand. I heard the shots, called the game warden and went to investigate. I didn't see anyone, but I did hear a four-wheeler on a nearby road. The poacher must have seen me coming.

When the wardens got there, we walked the edge of the field looking for tracks or any other evidence. I walked over into the woods and started back toward the pond. I found shotgun hulls and just beyond that, I found blood. I hollered for the wardens, and when they got there, we followed the blood trail. The woods were flooded, and at the edge of the water, we found a dead deer. It was a small button buck, and it was still warm. The person that shot the deer must have fled when I went to investigate.

The deer was shot by a trespasser and left to spoil. It angered me. The subsequent investigation ended without finding the guilty person. Now, another deer was shot on the property by a poacher.

When Clayton called me that morning, I wasn't able to go there until later in the day. He met me at the property, and we followed the blood trail till it ended. We speculated that maybe the deer wasn't fatally wounded and may have survived. Or maybe it wasn't even a deer. Maybe someone had shot a coyote or some other critter. But we knew better.

We gave up the search but decided to watch for buzzards and notice any bad odors on the wind. I decided to go back in a few days and look again.

We've maintained a trail through the woods to the back of the property, and I usually tie new flagging to the trees along the trail every year. A week after we found the blood, I went back to remark the trail. On the way back to the truck, I caught just the slightest whiff of an odor. I stopped and circled around the area but couldn't pick up the scent again. I was tired and gave up but decided to come back and look at the area again.

A few days later, I returned to put some corn on one of our stands. Just off the trail, I noticed some tufts of white hair that I had not seen before. I stopped and looked more carefully. It was deer hair from the underside, and there was a lot of it. I set my bucket of corn down and started making circles through the brush. My circles got bigger. I knew the hair was from the belly of a dead deer, and I was determined to find it. There was no odor on the wind, but it had been nearly two weeks since we found the blood.

I continued to search the area and finally found a carcass, or more correctly, the remains of a carcass. The remains were skeletal. Legs, rib cage, backbone and a skull. The skull had two small antler protrusions. It was a button buck. Coyotes and other scavengers had stripped away all the meat and soft tissue. Even now, there was only the slightest hint of odor as I stood over the scene.

Someone had shot the deer and made no effort to retrieve it, or they had been scared off when Clayton drove up. It has saddened me that someone would again trespass to shoot a deer on my property. We don't hunt there very much, and I think of the land as our reserve. The land and the wildlife that lives there deserve better. We will step up our efforts to look after the place, and hopefully it will make a difference.

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