What Do You Enjoy the Most About Deer Hunting?
It was the year 2007. Early September. It was the earliest that I'd ever sat in a treestand and I was doing a marvelous job of sweating. It was like an X Games event getting to the top of that stand. It was stupid hot, but I was hunting whitetails. And that's really all that mattered; at least, I thought.
See, whitetail hunters live by a different creed. Tell me when and where and I'll be there. It's the equivalent of the millions that flock to the finer shopping stores on Black Friday to save $3 on a roll of Charmin. We all have this ridiculous drive for something; it just so happens that this something only makes sense if you enjoy it. And that's why I sit in a tree in September and pay extra for Charmin.
The drive from Georgia to Forest Lakes Lodge in Kentucky was pretty much like any 7-hour drive, until we got to the Nashville airport to pick up another hunter. C.J. Davis and myself were to pick up that fella and drive onward to meet Will Brantley. And we did just that.
It was only about an 80-mile drive from Nashville to wherever in the world we ended up in Kentucky. Luckily, Will Brantley is from that area, so he met up with us and took us to our final destination.
Forest Lakes is tucked into the mining grounds of Kentucky, on some 6,000 acres, in St. Charles. It just so happens that 2007 was a bad year for whitetails in Kentucky. The drought led to a severe case of Blue Tongue and the death of thousands of whitetails. As the manager gave us the tour of the place and showed us were we'd be sleeping, (I prefer to call it listening to others sleep), he showed us a few deer in the cooler.
The boy in camp took this one this afternoon, said Charlie. And the other boy in camp took this one the opening morning. And I think that boy [he was about 40] does a good bit of snoring, so hope you brought your ear plugs.
Though Charlie really isn't his name, you get the point. There were two bucks in the cooler, each pressing the Pope & Young mark. Each giving hope that one of us, even the guy who writes the back column for Field & Stream, would get a shot at a velvety whitetail.
Just follow that road and you'll see the stand, said Charlie. Me and Dwayne built it just before the season. It's a goodun.
Perhaps the X Games reference makes more sense now.
As I walked in the wicked heat to my stand in darkness, I began to imagine the glory of this stand. Could it be 30 feet tall and laced in gold? Perhaps Greek goddesses would be waiting with vine-ripened grapes and a cool towel to wipe the sweat from my brow after the heroic climb to the top? Or more realistically, I'd get to the top and have to sit on a slim piece of wood with no cushion?
Reality struck hard. As I sat perched on my limb, spraying something that said it would cover my scent about every 2 minutes, I heard the first critter of the morning. The wind was out of the south; I was facing north. Perfect, except for critters approaching from the south, like the first one of the morning.
As he, yes, that would mean it was a buck, approached the field, I could see that he was a main-frame 10-pointer, with split brow tines. Shooter? Read the sentence before the question. The woods to the south were thick, so I only got a good look at him when he was about 4 yards from me. I had no shot until he took about three more steps toward the field.
Instead of taking three more steps, he smelled me instead. And apparently he wasn't the only critter in the group. Two more deer, though they remained hidden, took his hint and began to blow at me. And blow at me. And blow at me. Greek goddesses would have helped at this point.
At 11 a.m. that morning, Charlie made the rounds and picked everyone up, even the guy who writes the back column for Field & Stream. The topic seemed to be more about eating lunch than the morning hunt.
Each of the respective souls on the trip sat their respective stand for two days before moving elsewhere. We each saw several does and small bucks, but nothing pressing the Pope & Young standard in which we really weren't after, but I'll make it sound like we were for the sake of professionalism.
After the first night, in which I moved to the couch because the boy who killed the deer was passionate about snoring, C.J., the guy who writes the back column for Field & Stream and myself moved down to the work shed, where Charlie stored a few beds. It was the next best option to Greek goddesses.
During the lull of the day, no one dared to hunt until the afternoon, each had his routine. I read. Napped. Shot my bow. Ate oatmeal cream pies. And rocked on a rocking chair and chatted with Charlie. Pretty much everyone else did the same thing. Except the guy who writes the back column of Field & Stream, he ate a lot of apples.
Four days passed and we stayed true to the way we hunted. We shot a few does and another one of the boys in camp killed an 8-pointer. And that was OK. We'd survived hunting in September. We'd tried our best to make Charlie proud and bring home a Kentucky Sad Daddy, but we'd failed. But we did get to meet the boys, hunt from a treestand made by Charlie and Dwayne, get to know the guy who writes the back column of Field & Stream, and, for a split second each morning, look up with the hopes of finding grapes draping from the stand.
Where to Hunt Velvets
Though hunting the early season can be wicked hot, it can be worth it. There are only a few states that allow you the chance to kill of buck in velvet, so make sure you do your research on the best areas to go. And check with the outfitter to see if you can arrive a few days early to scout and try and pattern bachelor groups. If you are hunting public land, make it a priority to scout at least two days. All for the love of deer hunting.
Check out these states if you want a chance at Mr. Velvet:
Editor's note: This was originally published August 15, 2008.
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