Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Learning to levitate and getting nekkid afield

  Here is a little something for the folks out there that aren’t big fans of some of our creepy crawly friends. I am lucky to not be scared of the critters we run into on our trips afield. Snakes don’t bother me and spiders I can take. Having said that here are a couple of times that statement broke down.
  Over the years I have had encounters with many different animals. From chickadees and squirrels climbing onto my stand to skunks and snakes meandering across my boots. All of these were neat but none did more than make me smile or ,in the case of the skunk, cause a spike in blood pressure and breathing. But long ago in the distant past I had two run ins that still make me shake.
  One of the big things as a kid was the opening day of dove season. We waited for September 1st to roll around. We would start getting camo and shells ready. Look around the house and find our dove buckets and coolers then decide which fields we would head to for the first big hunt. Season starts at 12:00 noon and we would be there.
  Usually we went to either Beesley’s or Flippo’s farms in Bedford county. This particular year we decided to try a different spot. Never tried it but it was a good looking spot, a nice big field and a cedar filled cut off field which is what we were looking for. This gave us a place to shoot the birds before the hunters in the main field started blasting away.
  We got set up and began the 4 hour wait in the blistering heat for the birds to start flying. Sure enough just about 4 o’clock the birds began to pour into the field and the sounds of a young war echoed through the trees. I was having a good day and had a limit of 15 on the ground fairly fast. Back then my trusty Remington 870 was used on everything from doves to ducks to deer and she didn’t let me down.
  I started to search for birds that I hadn’t picked up which involved a lot of sweating crawling through the cedars looking for little grey feathers. I had just about finished gathering up the last when I felt something down the back of my shirt. This something had some mass not the usual tick or ant. I began some interesting gyrations while grabbing and clawing to capture whatever it was taking up residence between my shoulder blades.
  After a good imitation of Curly from the Three Stooges I got a hold of what felt like half a golf ball. I was yelling for one of the guys hunting with us to help get it out but he just stared and says “No.” “Ok.” says I and off the clothes start to come. Try taking off a shirt while holding a handful of material behind your back, not letting go while in a semi panicked state. Got the shirt off and chucked it as far as I could.
  Shirts have terrible ballistics and it hit the ground a couple of feet away. Now I had the creepies feeling things crawling everywhere. I went over to look and found a huge yellow and black garden spider. Huge I tell ya, maybe P&Y or B&C but I wasn’t in the mood to measure. Now the whole hunting party is staring at me half nekkid in the middle of a field. I gathered up my dignity, shooed the offending arachnid from my shirt and got dressed while thanking them for all the help. I can still feel those eight legs making a transit across my spine.

  The second encounter was with my first hunting buddy, Joey. We were in the infancy of our deer hunting. We didn’t know it then but we had a great place to hunt but had no idea how to go after the deer. Our parents didn’t hunt so we were trying to do what all the magazines told us to do. Now this was before climbing stands so you would find your spot and build something in a tree hoping not to fall through before then season ended. So before bow season we headed off to build our new stands.
  Joey headed to one end of the property while I headed up a truly steep hill to get to a ridge line I wanted to hunt. I beat and banged a Frankenstein of a stand into a likely spot and headed back to Joey’s spot. I found him near his stand kind of staring at the base. I walked up and asked what he was doing. He pointed at the 2 ½ ft rattlesnake still twitching a few feet away.
  I asked what happened. He had climbed down the tree and decided to drop the last three steps rather than climb. When he landed he felt something under his foot and looked down to see he was standing on the rattler. Not having anything but his hammer he managed to give the snake a quick bashing while not getting bit. This was bad enough but then came next week and opening day.
  The opener was cool early and late with warm in the middle. We hunted that morning then decided to scout a new ridge before the afternoon set. As we came down the hill I saw something pop up out of the leaves by my right foot. You know how you step on a stick and the other end pops up. That’s what I was thinking. I looked down and saw a big wide head staring at my leg and WAY over there a black tail ending in a stack of rattles.
  I froze and told Joey, “I see a rattler.”
  “Where?”
  “Right by my foot, please, don’t miss it.”
  All we had then were recurve bows and I heard his “Oh Shit!” and the bow string pop. He hit the snake about 10 inches back pinning it to the ground. Everything slowed. I saw the snake turn and strike the arrow repeatedly. I saw the venom running down the shaft. I slowly rose off the ground to a level many a bird would be proud of, moved in a leftward direction while pivoting midair and drawing my bow. I landed at full draw and hit the snake behind the head such was my tunnel vision. The next shot hit about 2 inches back and Joey put one more in for good measure.
  After we calmed down a little and finished the poor snake off we measured to find almost 6 feet of Eastern Timber Rattler. We took it home and then donated it to our high school where it may still be today.
  So for those of you not thrilled with the idea of spiders and snakes I hope the images here are good enough to give you a bit of a chill and other folks a bit of a thrill. They sure did me.

2 comments:

heyBJK said...

Can't say that I've ever been nekkid afield, but I understand why you were! That last rattler was a close call! Too close.

texwisgirl said...

Eek! I've never come up against a rattler in our area, but our dogs sure have helped keep me safe against water mocassins and copperheads. Oh, and I'm SO with you on the creepy-crawlies of having a big long-legged spider crawl down your back! Like you, snakes and spiders don't usually get to me, but if they surprise me, then let the levitation begin! Great recap!

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Born and raised in middle Tennessee.I'm a working wildlife and landscape artist specializing in watercolors. Now making cedar lures and custom turkey calls.

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