Sometimes we make deer hunting more complicated than it needs to be.
Twelve-year-old Louis Rossignol Jr. hadn’t been in his box stand overlooking the foodplot for 10 minutes, and his heart was already in his throat. His eyes bugged. He didn’t breath; he gasped. His father — tense, eyes riveted — looked over his son’s shoulder.
“Not yet, son!” father Louis gasped while gripping his kid’s arm. “Take it EASY!”
He was trying to whisper, but the words burst out like bullets. Too much tension, too much excitement. The scene before them sorely tempted the father to take over, to take control of events and assure success.
But what kind of father would do such a thing? Where’s the fatherly pride in such selfishness? Where’s the lessons all offspring must learn? Yes, even failure teaches valuable lessons — perhaps the MOST valuable.
So the selfish impulse waned. The urge was fleeting. His father decided that little Louis would succeed or fail on his own — as it should be.
No, it didn’t seem possible. Many times before, father and son had embarked on this challenge. Now victory seemed within their grasp. It seemed like a crazy fantasy, but just ten more yards — just a few more seconds — and it appeared that Dirk the Daring might rescue the fair Princess Daphne from the evil dragon Singe!
Could it be?!
Yes! Little Louis hadn’t been on his Gameboy 10 minutes, and it looked like he’d clinch a victory! He’d snapped it on after a full 15-minute vigil over the foodplot! Wouldn’t you know it — NOT ONE deer had pranced through it the ENTIRE time! So who but a stark sadist could blame little Louis for turning to his Gameboy?
Certainly not his father.
“Whatever it takes, Humberto,” he laughs. “Call me crazy, but I enjoy hunting with my son. I want to turn him into my hunting buddy. I’ll never manage it by boring him to death. I’ve seen it too many times. Too many kids burn out on typical deer hunting. They don’t have the patience for it. They wanna see something — even better, they wanna shoot something.”
Typical sanctimonious retort might go: “Well TOO BAD! These kids today! They gotta learn patience! They gotta learn that life is a series of challenges, not a bonanza of instant gratifications!”
But think about it: How many of US deer hunted as kids — much less from a stand? I sure didn’t. To keep me in one would have taken a straightjacket and shackles. No way. We hunted squirrels, rabbits, beer cans, doves, ducks, hubcaps, poul deau, armadillos, bleach bottles, nutrias, black birds, Coke bottles, grackles, raccoons, junked washing machines, robi—OOOPS!
Point is, we went roaming around blasting ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that moved — and many things that didn’t. That night we recounted the carnage while watching Morgus the Magnificent. Things were different 40, 30, even 20 years ago.
Nowadays, what’s a kid supposed to do with his first .22 rim-fire or crack-barrel 20 gauge, or even his pump pellet gun? He can’t just find the first stretch of woods, barge in and start blasting, reloading, blasting, reloading, peppering the dryer with a full magazine from the .22, refilling it and shattering the windows and stitching the fins on the junked Plymouth.
He can’t blast turtles off logs and send them skimming over the water like oyster-shell frisbees. He can’t clutch his 20-gauge crack barrel and sneak along the pasture fence, snickering to his chums similarly armed on either side, then — the distance finally closed — whisper, “Ready….aim—FIRE!”
BLAAAAM! and three shots cut into that huge flock of cowbirds. Then they race over whooping — “AW—RITE! Ten, 15…that’s 21 we got! All the crawfish bait we need!”
He can’t tumble the rabbit that jumps out from underfoot as he races over to gloat at the cowbird carnage. He can’t look up in that tree — BLAM! — and drop the fox squirrel that stayed out a little too late that morning. Those were the days!
We left more death and destruction in our wake than the Mongol Horde. We slew right, reloaded and slew left. Next to us, with our first Christmas guns, Genghis Khan was Florence Nightingale, Attila was Dr. Phil.
“Shock and Awe” indeed! Just ask the few creatures that escaped us.
Point is, we wanted action too. We weren’t ALL THAT different. So stifle the sermon.
So what’s a poor kid to do nowadays? Can’t we at least allow them the thrills of uninhibited massacres, the glories of havoc and destruction on a little video screen? Seems like the LEAST we could do!
“And wouldn’t you know it, Humberto,” Louis continues. “Forty-five minutes later, when he’s starting another Gameboy adventure, we look out and there’s three deer in the foodplot! They kept prancing, wouldn’t be still.
“‘Take the spike,’ I whispered to Louis as he poked his 30-30 out the window. ‘Wait till he’s still…till he gets from behind that little bush!’
“He was shaking alright. He was excited. The deer took another step. Louis pulled back the hammer, took a deep breath…. another step — BLAM!! Deer dropped in his tracks! You talk about a thrilled kid, a thrilled father!
“Well, I got me a hunting buddy now. Week after that, my wife came to the camp with another couple friends of ours. Heck man, for us deer camp’s a family thing. We all get involved. So my wife’s friend went out the next morning, fully made up, big hoop earrings, and covered in — I mean REEKING of — Elizabeth Taylor’s Diamonds and Emeralds perfume. We all laughed, told her she was nuts.
“Well, around 9 that morning, I hear a shot from her direction. ‘No!’ I think. We go over there and …. Yep, she got one! And it was the biggest deer shot that weekend, almost the biggest shot that season! Couple of guys who’d hung out there clothes all night, used cover scents, all that hocus-pocus, hadn’t SEEN a deer!”
Point is, it ain’t rocket science, friends. To read all the deer magazines, you’d think a deer would be impossible to kill. Between all the scouting, all the preparation, all the scent-control, the UV killer (remember that? What happened? Deer stopped seeing ultraviolet images?) — between the camo to perfectly match your tree (heaven forbid you use army-surplus jungle camo in an OAK tree! You need OAK camo for that, or he’ll spot you from half a mile! As for the 400 square inches of blaze orange? Don’t worry, he can’t see it) blah, blah, blah. Deer hunting seems like more science than fun. Worse, it seems like tedious work.
And as we all know from hanging around deer-camps and sporting good stores, there’s a HUGE luck factor involved. Even better, by baiting — either with foodplots or dumping TONS of corn — you can turn the odds greatly in your favor, in your son’s favor, nephew’s favor, wife’s favor, wife’s friend’s favor, etc.
My chum Artie Waguespack sums it up best: “Yeah, I used to spend weeks scouting and all that stuff. I used to put that climber on my back and trudge a mile in the woods….stay out all day and stuff. That was back when I was younger, when I was single, ya follow me, Humberto?
“Shoot man, now? I got a family. I got a job. I got tickets to the LSU game, to the Saints, got kid’s football and stuff. I ain’t got the time for all that scouting.
“Man I used to spend half the weekend scouting out trails. Then the other half watching to see which they’d used that day. You know how it is hunting timber country, Humberto. No way I could get my son gung-ho on a sport like that, ya know what I’m sayin’?
“But you see now, Humberto? Shoot man, you dump 300 pounds of corn. You plant those winter peas — now it’s EASY to find deer trails! And ain’t no question about them using ’em — especially during a cold-snap.
“Now my son gets pumped too. He used to say riding the four-wheeler was the only fun part of deer hunting. Sure, he still likes to go blazin’ around, But he likes the hunting part too, because we actually SEE deer, because he actually gets to SHOOT his gun, ya unnerstan? Who can blame him? Also, we’re not hung-up on big-racked trophies. To him, they’re ALL trophies.
“Hey, those guys who can afford to take weeks off to scout, find the trails, the natural food, the rub lines and all that stuff? More power tom ’em. Nothing against ’em. But me? I got too much other stuff going on, ya follow me?
“And here’s the best part: I’m shooting more deer than ever, and I’m having a ball! Man, the work details at the camp are almost more fun than the hunts — the planting, the fertilizing,the camaraderie, the boozing.
“The wife’s happy ‘cause we can make more tailgate parties, more social stuff with her friends — ALSO because the kids come along with me, give her a break on Sahhhh-dy, ya unnerstan?
“Call me non-sporting. Call me a lousy hunter, whatever. Me? I call it a win-win. Ya follow what I’m sayin’, Humberto?”
Well put, Artie — and YES! I follow you, OKAY!!
From all I read and hear, deer hunting’s not hurting for any lack of deer. It’s hurting from lack of “recruitment,” from getting kids interested. And like Artie says, who can blame them?
Take the typically rambunctious 12-year-old. Take the typically testosterone-addled 18-year-old. Who expects them to take to a sport where the most dangerous part — according to national statistics — is falling out of your stand BECAUSE YOU FELL ASLEEP!?!
Call me crazy, but that doesn’t strike me as an adrenaline gusher of a sport. So bait up a storm, bring the Gameboys, soup up the 4-wheelers — whatever it takes, I say. And tell the gals to come along too. Tell them they don’t have to look like a bag-lady and smell like a skunk to shoot a deer. Indeed they can come jangling in jewelry and drenched in Elizabeth Taylor perfume. What hunting camp wouldn’t benefit from such sights and smells?
Many know that Bobby Amacker does a bang-up job as Rangemaster at Tallow Creek Shooting grounds outside Covington. A few know him as the most resourceful deer hunter around.
“When opportunity knocks around here,” says Bobby, “you’d better answer. This isn’t South Texas or western Mississippi. We’ve got some deer, and SOME good ones, but it ain’t like you see them all the time.”
I heard THAT, Bobby. I sure heard that.
“Biggest deer I’ve seen in my life was last year right here at Tallow Creek, right over there in my front yard. I saw him through my front picture window. Couldn’t believe it! I almost flipped!”
“Bobby, I heard you’d just come out of the shower and were dressed only in your drawers? Is that….?”
“Who told you THAT?!”
“Well, a few….I mean everybody…..”
“OK, OK, yeah! But do me a favor, don’t write about that, okay?”
“No problem, Bobby. You’re secret’s safe with me. I also heard they were camo drawers. That kinda makes it…”
“No sir, they were BIG, white, baggy, boxer shorts. In fact, they were a little loose on me.
“So I run over, grab my bow with one hand, and sneak out the back door — the whole time holding up my drawers with my other hand. Then I sneak around the side of the house, behind the azaleas, still holding my drawers because they were slipping down. Heck anybody behind me woulda seen something like on Saturday Night Live when Dan Aykroyd played that refrigerator repairman.”
“Right, Bobby. That’s one of my favorites, a classic.”
“Anyway, I eased from around the side of the porch, from behind my azalea bushes, —and he’s STILL THERE! Man, I couldn’t believe the RACK! Let me tell ya, my heart was pounding! Well, looked like I wasn’t gonna get any closer than 40 yards or so. No more cover between me and the deer. No more Azaleas.
“So it was time to draw. Now of course I gotta use BOTH hands for this, right? So I’m kinda half-crouching, my drawers slipping farther and farther down the whole time I’m coming up. Finally straightened up and took aim, and still the drawers were slipping. I put the pin right behind that monster buck’s shoulder and — FLUNK!! I let that sucker fly!
“I saw the impact and knew I had a good hit! But in all the excitement, I’d forgotten all about my drawers. Well, they were pretty far down now. Good thing nobody was coming up the driveway just then. They’d have gotten an eyeful!
“Now I could get inside and get dressed — thank goodness — come back out and found half the arrow, covered in blood. Walked 50 yards into the woods, and there he lay. Got him through both lungs.”
Thirteen-year-old Corey Eshleman was seriously bummed-out the weekend he had to spend with his Uncle Gary Nordgren in Folsom.
“Come on Corey!” Gary tried to pump him up. “Whatcha say I put you on a deer stand this evening so you can blast a big one? Come on! Let’s go!”
And Gary ran out of the room like John Belushi in Animal House. Remember that.
“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Let’s go!” And he rushes out.
Well, Corey didn’t follow Uncle Gary any more than Bluto’s frat mates followed him. Gary walked back into the living room.
“No Uncle Gary,” Corey whined. “I’ve never deer-hunted before. From what some friends tell me, it doesn’t sound like a whole lotta fun.”
“Aw come on, Corey! You can’t stay inside all day. Let’s go!”
Ten minutes of cajoling, and Uncle Gary finally prevailed.
Half an hour later, Corey was perched in a tree lounge, looking around, fidgeting, getting bored. Right above his head, hanging from a branch, were some rattling antlers that Gary kept up there.
“Hummm,” Corey thought. “What the heck are these?”
So he grabbed them and started banging them around, more to occupy himself than anything else. Then, he accidentally dropped them.
They hit the ground with a thump, and Corey noticed movement from a little to his left at the impact.
“So I looked over, and there’s this MONSTER BUCK!” he laughs. “I mean a HUGE one, bigger than any Uncle Gary has hanging in his house! And this was the very FIRST TIME I’d ever hunted deer! The very FIRST TIME I’d ever sat on a deer stand! And I’d only been on it a few minutes!
“I just picked up my Paw Paw’s old Army rifle that I was borrowing that day, looked through the scope and found the buck’s shoulder, like Uncle Gary told me. Then —BLAM!”
The 10-point buck — which later green-scored 142 B&C points and in all likelihood came to investigate the rattling from little Corey Eshelman, from this little chap who’d never hunted deer in his life — dropped like a stone.