September 2007
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

Getting stuck. That pretty much says it all to most hunters. Those two words will instantly conjure up memories for most hunters (and farmers as well) of some of the most harrowing events in their hunting memories. It also is an excellent excuse for being late or absent from events that are particularly distasteful, but it will never work at your own wedding.

Most of the time, getting stuck is nothing to joke about or to do on purpose because it is such a pain to "un-do." Not only will you get filthy, angry, frustrated, angry some more, tear something up, get even angrier and finally blow your lid, most guys will not tempt fate by pretending to get stuck. If you’re told he was late because he was stuck, pretty much count on it being the truth.

Attention wives and girlfriends, if your other half tells you that he will be late for the ballet recital, tea party, your family reunion, marriage counseling session, etc., or he is late for such things and the excuse is that he "got bogged down," trust me he’s not lying.

Getting stuck is referred to in many different terms such as the simple ".. got stuck," "bogged up," "bogged down," "buried it," "bogged ‘er to the axles" and many others.

In my hunting and farming career, I have left many vehicles and machines sitting in either the field or the woods, bogged to the axles. Getting a tractor stuck is really depressing because you have to either wait for things to dry out or go get a bigger tractor. You really have a problem when you have stuck the biggest tractor on the place. On almost any farm, there are stories that are legends about the biggest bog there ever was on the place and what all it took to get unstuck.

Here is an example that was told to me as true. It happened in south Baldwin County. I will mention no names but there are people who will know exactly who I am talking about when they read this. There was a farmer who owned a huge lime green, four-wheel drive, articulated frame tractor that literally throbbed, whether it was running or not, with the power of around 275 horses. The story goes that an 18-wheel dump truck got bogged in a field with a 30-ton load of lime while trying to dump. (For you non-farmers in the crowd, a truck with 30 tons of lime probably will gross out at 40 or 50 tons total weight.) A call was placed to this farmer and was told they needed him to come and pull out the truck. At the time, the going rate for this green monster to come to your place and perform such a task was around $200. The legend continues with the tractor showing up and hooking onto the truck, still full of lime, and proceeding to pull it out of the mud. Upon reaching dry ground, the tractor driver asked the truck driver where he started getting traction and the truck driver explained that he was pulled out so fast that he never had the time to build up enough air pressure to unlock all eighteen brakes on the truck. Draw your own conclusions.

As dry as it has been, many of us are trying to remember just what a mud hole looks like and those of us who have really bogged down a piece of equipment worry that we will not recognize one when we see it and will bog down again.

Some of us are even able to get stuck on dry land.

Where I used to hunt in Dale County, I was stuck many times on a red clay road. I dreamed of the day when I would be able to afford a four-wheel drive truck and would not have to worry again. My dad had the bright idea that if I kept a "come-a-long" in the truck I would have no worries. Dad was from the horse and mule days where the animal that was providing the horsepower had enough sense to stay out of the mud even if the operator did not, so dad had no concept of "bogging to the axles."

I tried his method once and all I got was mad and ended up having to hunt a tractor anyway.

Finally my dream came true. My brother and I used to hunt there but we would park at the gate and walk the distance to the field where we hunted just because we feared "the clay spot" in the field road. This spot had stranded many a vehicle. It was a spot that seemed to be crafted by Mother Nature for entertainment purposes. Not only was it a clay deposit that seemed about twenty feet deep, but it was situated in a curve that went up or down a hill depending on whether you coming from or going to the field.

If you were going into the field, you had to slow down for the curve, allow for the hill and maintain enough momentum to get through the mud. Coming out, you had to accelerate to allow for going up hill, slow down for the curve and once again maintain enough momentum to get through the mud. There was a fine line between too much and not enough and that "bog" claimed many a vehicle.

My dream came true because my brother called and told me that he had just bought a four-wheel drive S.U.V. and we no longer had to fear the clay hill. (This was the same vehicle that, a few years later, I had to single-handedly load a dead deer onto that has been related in a previous article.)

Sure enough, when we shifted into four-wheel drive, we plowed through the wet clay and continued our journey.

We set up camp and then with plenty of daylight left, we went to set up our stands. It was the first time that we had not had to carry our gear in by hand and my brother said that it would be nice now that we could drive almost to the spot where we wanted to hang our tree stands; I agreed.

We approached the creek I fell into a few years later and as we made the approach to crossing the creek we were confronted by the ruts of tractor wheels that were generations old. I reminded my brother not to drive in the ruts, but to straddle them. I’m not sure what happened but there are several possibilities. He didn’t hear me, I didn’t talk loud enough and he didn’t hear me, he heard me and ignored me or he heard me and tried to stay out of the ruts but slipped in anyway despite his best efforts. I feel it was the latter. Suffice it to say that in dry weather, there we were, high centered in the ruts in the "path."

We rocked, we pushed, we cussed, we spun the wheels, we pulled, we dug, we stuck logs under the wheels, we spun the wheels some more, we jacked the front end, we jacked the rear end and we cussed some more. All to no avail, this baby was stuck. We ended up walking all the way back to the farm and got some tractor help and, of course, the tractor made short work of freeing the vehicle.

Over the years, I have learned many ways to free a stuck vehicle. I have found the best way to get something out of the mud is to never put it there in the first place. This is why I have never bought a four-wheel drive vehicle because it is too tempting to assume that you won’t get stuck. This is usually the point in this article where I quote my father for some words of wisdom, but now I will quote myself. (This is one I plan on passing to my grandchildren.) "Show me someone that can get any vehicle unstuck and not break a sweat doing it and I’ll show you someone that has been stuck many times."

Ralph Ricks is the manager of Quality Cooperative, Inc. in Greenville.