Then, come to find out, the copper pipes weren't flared properly and the pipes had been slowly leaking for years. After many grueling hours, I was able to get the new one installed right before the season began.
Of course, my favorite thing in the fall besides hunting — football — was a close call, as well. I called Direct TV, which is the only provider in my camp's area. The first weekend the guy called to cancel because he was five hours away in New Orleans because the phone worker put my home's zip code instead of my camp's zip code. The following weekend, when I was all ready for the installer to arrive in plenty of time before LSU came on, I get a call from a guy who says, "Your town's address isn't in California."
How about that? Apparently they put the zip code for the Monterey, Calif., because they thought "La." was Los Angeles, and, uh, that must be California. Goodness! I thought I'd never get my football. After a three-hour phone call and explaining to 14 different people, I got them to drive out the Sunday before hunting season. No more squinting at a portable 7-inch TV and listening to games on radio anymore.
Just 5 minutes after the Saints game started I was hooked up. But the three-hour phone call with the Direct TV people was more enjoyable than seeing a fourth straight loss.
The recordable DVRs are the best features for a hunter. I plan on recording many games while in the stand so I don't have miss any evening hunts, which always takes precedent. I just have to be careful to avoid hearing the outcome before watching the games.
The night before the hunting-season opener was, as usual, sleepless with excitement. I awoke early, but quickly had to change my game plan because the spots I wanted to hunt were only accessible by boat after all the weekend's rain.
Then it rained practically all day Monday, even though the forecast was for only zero to 10 percent chance of rain.
I should've stalked, but I stayed committed to the tree stand for many long hours, with the full moon and my best hot weather toy, the Thermacell. I hunted Monday and Tuesday morning at Red River WMA, only seeing squirrels, coons, opossums and rabbits.
Monday evening I got lucky. Just 30 minutes after settling into my climber, a flash on light brown came cruising through — and cruising fast. I was barely able to get drawn in time and let an arrow fly.
I aimed at that front shoulder, but with the movement of the animal it was hit in the midsection at 25 yards. The coyote jumped up several feet, spun a few times, and then flipped over in view, dying within minutes.
It was my first-ever coyote, and I hauled him out to keep his pretty light brown coat. It'll make a fine pelt for the camp wall!
My buddy was able to see more animals than me. In his two hunts he saw two does out of range, a hog, three otters and a bobcat, which he decided not to shoot at 15 yards. He still has my old attitude — if you don't eat it, don't kill it — toward the cats.
This was only my third time seeing a coyote in the stand. Years ago, the first time I had one stop at 20 yards but I didn't want to shoot the dog-looking creature. After reading many articles and hearing about how it's helpful to other animals to kill predators, I changed my view. Also hearing about how they aren't natives to Louisiana and eat their animals before killing them brutally, unlike a cat which kills its prey first, helped change my mind.
After two days of working and celebrating Laura's birthday, for which I gave her tons of new hunting toys as presents, we took off Friday at 3 a.m. for her first-ever bow hunt. I was unsure how she would like it, since she only bird hunted a bunch and made one easy box-stand gun hunt for deer. But she was excited with anticipation from hearing countless hunting stories of mine.
We walked over a mile through some of the thickest tangle of woods I hunt, jumping a few hogs along the way. I set her up in her new ground blind with my old crossbow and took off with my climber.
Her crossbow is in the shop getting repaired. She saw nothing besides squirrels that morning, but got that most-desired adrenaline rush every time she heard something. I jumped a big doe that was bedded 200 yards between us when picking her up and was happy she had fun.
The next day dust was everywhere along the road as I made my way through Three Rivers WMA. The once-desolate place was now loaded with parked vehicles every few yards. Laura slept in, and I got all set up in my ground blind, taking my crossbow for the first time. Thirty minutes later I heard something, but it wasn't an animal.
A guy just 40 yards away was climbing down a tree. He made no noise as I set up, so I had no clue of his presence. He proceeded to rudely yell obscenities, run toward me and bang his stand loudly.
Sorry. Not my fault, buddy. If he would've signaled his position I would've picked another location on arrival.
After that 7 a.m. fiasco, I stayed tight, confident that the rest of the hunt wasn't ruined. At 10:30, I heard some grunting in a thick area nearby. I decided to get out and creep, since I doubted the hogs would come in range of the blind.
I crept 30 yards from the hogs, and they started heading my way with the wind in my face, but it was far too thick.
My heart was beating out of my chest, and my arms were shaking. I found a small gap to shoot through and waited for a hog to cross. The big lead hog turned broadside. I squeezed.
No twack. How I missed I still have no clue. I'm supposed to get the shakes from big bucks, but that goes to show that having massive hogs approaching can be just as exciting.
I took off in the direction the hogs ran. Within minutes I heard a loud grunt and something running back toward me. I found out what that hog scared off as a coyote ran 15 yards from me.
I quickly got it in the scope and fired a bolt. He scurried off, leaving good blood.
After a several-hour sit, I went for the track but the blood ran dry. I was upset I couldn't find the animal to get another pelt. This 'yote was not nearly as pretty as the first one; at least with the two coyotes I shot this season, the bunnies and fawns have their lives prolonged, not saved because soon it'll be me instead of the coyote hunting them!
The weekend was wearing on, with Laura and me having no luck on our next hunts with the windy cold front approaching. I told Laura that the moon was perfect for evenings and the wind would die down for a good evening hunt Sunday, but this spot would be a far walk.
Thoughts of having my girl overwhelmed by the tough walks with loads of gear on our backs were assuaged when she asked if she'd have enough time to get a long trail run in before the hunt. After jogging several miles and making hill sprints, she was now on her fourth hunt, ready for that first taste of action.
We walked the nearly mile route and jumped loads hogs 30 yards from where I was going to set her up. I told her that they might return as I went off with my bow in my climber at the other side of this small pond.
I took video of a big coon that I called in to me. Then I heard hogs in the direction of Laura.
Finally, I got to see my first deer of the season, as a big doe made her way to the hole for a drink at 6 p.m.
I drew successfully, thinking this would be too easy, but instead of drinking at the most likely of spots 20 yards away, she went into the thickest shrub. I stayed at draw for over two minutes, according to my video. But it seemed like an eternity.
After the doe drank, instead of coming closer as expected, she U-turned. I knew she would be quartering away through one lane at 35 yards. As she slowly stepped in, I released.
One problem, though: My pin was perfectly directed at lungs, I didn't notice my 20-yard pin aiming at a small crossing branch 10 yards away, and it cracked my arrow in half.
What a dumb move. I was so caught up with looking at the deer and trying to stay calm that I didn't focus enough on all the surroundings of the shot. Hopefully I can learn from this mistake, which wasn't a first.
I didn't feel as bad once my buddy told me he got busted by a big buck this weekend because he was shaking so badly he couldn't get his bow drawn. I said, "I know the feeling, buddy."
When I went to retrieve my lady, I could tell she had seen something from the smile on her face. The bigger hogs I heard rummaging through the pond never passed in her view, but a group of five piglets trotted just 8 yards in front her ground blind.
Unfortunately she's not used to having the targets move so fast, so she was unable to get a shot off. Ultimately, however, my goal of having her see an animal out of the blind and having her want to go back for more was accomplished.
It was a hit-and-miss first week of hunting for me, but soon patience and persistence will make it a hit-and-find on a big buck for both of us.