With the slow deer season I had endured, I was eagerly anticipating my winter hunting vacation.
And with a new truck ordered a month before, my ol’ beat up Ford Escape just needed to keep rolling for a few more weeks. Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the cards, and the wheels stopped spinning when my fan belt died at the start of my vacation.
I soon found out it pays to have a reliable vehicle when you’re hunting alone more than three hours from the nearest person.
On a Monday morning driving to Sicily Island Hills Wildlife Management Area, my Escape’s fan belt ripped off and wrapped around my axle.
Waiting in the 28-degree darkness for four hours was no fun, and neither was the towing and repair bill (my 5-year free road side assistance had expired the previous week.)
So I was good to go, or so I thought.
A few days later, after a sub 30-degree evening hunt way out in Sicily Island Hills WMA, my fan belt came off again and kept popping off. Even worse this time, I had gotten wet exiting the woods and I left my heavy jacket and pants near my climber planning for the next morning’s hunt.
After nearly freezing to death during a long dark wait, I got towed to the 45 miles to my camp with an additional towing charge on Christmas Eve morning to the Ford dealership.
My wife was back home and on-call for work, so she couldn’t leave town to get me. And with all the rental cars in town booked for the holidays, I was going to have to miss Christmas down south with my family if the dealership wasn’t able to fix my ride.
After lunch and another $500 setback, the dealership said it was nothing more than a twisted fan belt from puddle water splashing on it.
So I decided to slip on my hunting boots to hunt some public land in Mississippi on my trip home to Thibodaux.
After seeing several non-legal bucks, I thought my hunt went great until I cranked up my Escape. The fan belt popped off again while I was more than ten miles down a long muddy road from the nearest house, alone in very cold conditions.
With yet another call to get towed home, I was feeling slightly saved but upset about a fourth towing bill. However, after the one-hour wait, the agreed-upon tow truck never arrived. Hours later they called saying no one could tow me until Christmas Day.
Then, suddenly my phone died and wouldn’t charge or turn on at all. Spending Christmas night freezing in a broken down SUV, I was officially in a bind.
After gathering sticks to start a fire, I decided to start banging on the engine’s pulleys and continued to weave the fan belt on. Magically, on the seventh attempt, it started spinning.
I drove directly home, and it popped off as soon as I got in the driveway.
It was a Christmas miracle to some, but with no working vehicle to hunt in, I was starting to feel like the Grinch.
But I vowed not to let bad luck ruin my vacation.
After getting my phone repaired, I made an internet reservation for a full-sized truck from Enterprise. However, when I showed up at Enterprise, they had no truck, only an SUV.
I read the policy fine print carefully that said no pets, but it didn’t say anything about no dead deer, so I took off hunting in my rented SUV.
Then, my local Ford dealership called on my drive saying my new 4x4 F150 had just arrived. Forget hunting with an SUV ever again - it was time for a real hunting truck. Finally, I was able to easily tote around my pirogue, so I went scouting a new area to hunt the bucks-only gun season beginning the next day.
I set up with my compound bow in the middle of an open cutover with no expectations, but after rattling, I noticed a buck 100 yards away.
With one grunt he made a beeline for my stand and I made the 25-yard shot.
As the buck slowly trotted off from the liver pass-through, I re-knocked and let a long shot sail. The 53-yard shot arched perfectly into the back leg, shattering the femur. Playing it safe on the track job, I went to look for my buck the next morning while my brother hunted.
In the midst of searching, some hogs nearly ran me over. I knocked down two in their tracks with my .270. And even better, the second pig fell just ten yards from where my 5-point bow kill was laying stiff.
During the vacation, I was able to get a 140-pound doe with my Marlin .444, and another doe with my muzzleloader on a ground hunt in Sicily Island Hills WMA.
Dragging both those deer over a mile helped make up my missed time from the gym. Check out a video I compiled of these hunts by clicking here.
On R. K. Yancey WMA, I stalked a pack of hogs, shooting a 30-pound boar. I also managed to shoot a coyote on the run.
But the hot streak didn’t end there.
On Dec. 31 with several minutes of shooting time left, I heard deer approaching my closest deer trail. I saw a doe with a huge-bodied deer trailing her about 30 yards back. Time was ticking, and they were meandering so slowly that I might have missed the opportunity.
On Mississippi public land, non-resident hunters are only allowed to shoot bucks with at least 12-inch spreads or 15-inch beams, and no does.
Even as the huge deer was at 25 yards, I couldn’t see any horns through my $20 Wal-mart clearance sale scope on that cloudy evening, and the doe that had just passed me picked up my scent and stomped her foot.
After hunting Mississippi public land for three years, I had only come home with close encounters ending in defeat, but on this evening the powerful influences of the rut were on my side.
With less than 100 seconds of legal time remaining, the buck stood 15 yards away staring directly at me. I caught a quick glimpse of a large left beam, and the hammer dropped.
Another cloud filled the sky: a cloud of black powder smoke which propelled my sabot towards triumph.
When I went to track the next morning on Jan. 1, a 5 ½-year-old, 195-pound 6-pointer would be waiting in the woods at the end of a dark red blood trail from a liver shot. What a great way to start the New Year.
I did miss out on a close encounter with the largest buck I ever laid eyes on later in the trip when my cheap muzzleloader scope fogged up at the moment of truth.
However, nothing could bring me down after shooting a giant hog that bottomed out my 300-pound scale and weighed 280 pounds field dressed on Bayou Cocodrie NWR.
Pulling that porker three quarters of a mile to the nearest ATV trail by myself was the physical challenge I dream about.
I’ll include the details of that large tusked boar in an upcoming article. After letting many small bucks and does walk, I was saving my last either-sex tag for something with a rack. While hunting a spot I saw a racked buck on early in the year, my second encounter with him turned in my favor.
I was able to harvest that nice 11-pointer from R.K. Yancey WMA with my Marlin to tag out. But even after 118 hunts and my most productive public land season ever, including 27 hogs and 7 deer in the freezer, I don’t have enough.
Last year, after tagging out, I ran out of meat before the end of summer.
Now, I have ten remaining bow hunts on Mississippi public land to get another bruiser.