October 2008
Happy Hunting Ground

Happy Hunting Ground

To anyone who enjoys the outdoors it would be an insult to their intelligence to remind him or her that hunting season is dangerously close. So I won’t do that, but I will share with you some of my thoughts this late September or early October.

I was sitting around the other day contemplating the upcoming season of the year. I personally love fall, the weather is changing, crops are nearly ready for the harvest, doves are starting to get active and, if you listen closely, you can hear the drone of tractors or ATVs in the woods preparing food plots. College football season is getting started, hot weather is several months away, hurricane season is nearing an end, the holiday season is within sight and generally my outlook is better.

I thought of all the work we put into preparing for hunting season. Then the time and effort we expend during hunting season. I begin to wonder, why in the world do we do it? Sure it is a lot of fun going to hunting camps, seeing old friends and everything making up a hunting trip. I am sure I am not the only one having spent hours on a cold, hard deer stand waiting for something to show up and at some point you don’t care if it’s a trophy buck, a scraggly doe, a possum or even an armadillo - something to let you know the world hasn’t ended and you are not the only living creature left in the world.

Why would any sane person voluntarily experience such frustration? I make no bones about the fact that as my enthusiasm for turkey hunting has risen my excitement for deer hunting had dropped accordingly. I tell myself that even though I usually hunt close to 50 mornings in a 75 day season and only kill two turkeys, it’s at least better than deer hunting. I tell myself at least those gobblers let me know where they are and if I cannot harvest one, then the fault is mine. I tell myself that, but when I look back on an endless string of mornings starting anywhere from 3:30 to 5:30 a.m. for six weeks at a time, then I begin to wonder if there isn’t something wrong.

Suddenly it hit me….

We endure all of the work and all of the frustration for when those few times things go right.

All it takes is for a really nice buck to walk into that food plot to make all of those hours of preparation, waiting, freezing, etc. to be worth it.

Earlier I had shared with you a story of a particular turkey I had been trying to get for three years. Every time that old codger gave me the slip, I could remember in great detail every instance he had made me look more stupid every single time we had an encounter. It got to the point where I almost dreaded hearing that bird gobble.

Then the day came where we balanced everything out. He gobbled, I made my move and sounded off. Here he came, as they say, on a rope. The whole hunt lasted about 20 minutes from the time I made my first yelp till he hit the ground.

Then there was the time when I killed my first deer. After hunting hard for many, many years, suddenly, one day it all came together. When I saw that first buck hit the ground, it was all worth it. I had gone years without even seeing a deer that was legal to harvest. When the time finally arrived to harvest my first racked buck, it was like a fairy tale. Within 25 minutes after climbing into my stand, an eight-pointer was in the bag. There wasn’t time for things to go wrong.

Finally, I had the opportunity to seriously pursue a really nice buck. For six weeks we went after this deer. We saw many bucks, but none were the one we were after. If we showed up on one stand, he would come to a different food plot. One evening, with rain getting ready to drown us in the fading daylight, we got him in the scope. However, it was so dark and overcast, I couldn’t make a good shot, so we let him walk away and he never knew we were there. The next day, the morning started as a repeat of the evening before: sultry, wet weather. As the day wore on, the skies began to clear and the temperature started dropping. From that point on, it seemed we could make no mistakes, no matter how hard we tried. By 3:30 that afternoon, a magnificent ten-point, five-and-a-half year old buck stopped running.

It is those days where life violates Murphy’s Law. Those days are the ones that not only have nothing go wrong, but in fact everything goes right, that keeps us going. Those days keep us climbing out of our warm bed on a dark, cold morning and going out to the freezing woods to try one more time. For those who do not hunt, we cannot explain what it is like and, even if we could, they probably either wouldn’t understand or care for those of us that do hunt, we remember them forever.

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