Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chillin' on the Red

Amid the miserable heat this summer keeps dumping on us many are still out there getting ready for the upcoming archery seasons. Some seasons start amazingly early while others seem in no hurry at all. I am finally beginning to feel the itch, it’s coming, soon we will be in the woods. As I watch the online talk about continuing heat I thought back on a trip that wasn’t quite so warm.

Here in the Volunteer State we are not known for bitter cold or long winters. Snow for us is something we see a few times a year at best and anything colder than 25 degrees has folks complaining. Years ago I started to amass gear for whatever Ma Nature decided to send my way. It took several seasons of saving and looking but I managed to fill a closet with things that would let me get out when staying in was much smarter.

Several years ago we were having a winter that was actually on the cold side, well for us anyway. We had snow early, below normal temps starting in late October that continued right through till spring. About mid December my brother gives me a call and asks if I want to head up to Robertson county near the Kentucky line on Saturday.
“Yep, what time?”
“Get here at 4:30 and we will head out. Oh, Stymie is going with us to see if we can get him one.”
This was his nickname his son-in-law, who just couldn’t seem to figure hunting out.

I got to my brother’s house, threw my gear into his truck then went inside. The temperature in Nashville was about 14, where we were headed it was 7, I had planned ahead. As I went inside there was Stymie, standing in the middle of the living room bundled up from head to toe, including insulated coveralls. He looked like a bad ad for one of those backwards blanket thingies.
“Buddy, you might want to take some of that off till we get there. If you wear all that in the truck you will freeze when you get out in the cold.” says I.
“No, I’ll be ok. I don’t want to be cold.”
Stupidity knows no bounds, I knew trying to explain the reasoning would be a waste of air. Lord knows you don’t want to listen to the guys that have been hunting their whole life.

We roll out arriving about an hour later at a nice 90 acre spot along the Red River. We had decided to hunt from our blinds because of the cold. I was the only one that used a climber there anyway. They dropped me off then went up the hill to buddy hunt the big blind facing the bedding area at the edge of our property. I was hunting with my back to the river looking at a spot we called the horse shoe. It is a U shaped field surrounded by woods. They deer used this spot and the woods around it heavily.

I settled in, all toasty in several layers of clothes nothing but eyes exposed. We had good chairs in all of the blinds so the worst thing for me was trying to stay awake. Shooting time came and less than an hour later the radio goes off,
“Hey are you freezing yet?” asks Stymie.
“No. I’m fine, why?”
“It’s too cold. I don’t see how you stand it.”
About an hour and he is ready to call it a day.
I laugh, settle back in and watch the wood line for movement. Everything still frosted white from the night before, my breath making clouds in the still air.

About 8 o’clock my coffee has run its course, I need to take care of this. I had watched the spots where deer cross without seeing a hair but knew as soon as I stood up one would be there, somehow they just know. I took a few minutes to scan everything I could before opening the door to step behind my blind. As soon as I did not one but eight does were standing there about 140 yards out where a second before none had been.

Saying unkind things under my breath I eased the door open to retrieve my smoke pole. I had gotten lucky, the corner of the blind kept me out of sight. I eased the door shut, kneeled down and braced against the corner. The big boss doe stopped broadside to check things out as the others milled around the hill sniffing out acorns. I got a good picture behind her shoulder, touched one off and started reloading. When I looked again all of the deer were still standing there. I picked another one, took a shot which sent them running for the river crossing. I noticed one wasn’t keeping up. Not good. I was hoping she had gone down right there.
I waited a few minutes before going to look, I thought I could see a white belly and was ready to go check when the radio beeps.
“Was that you.?”
“Yeah.”
“Did you get one?”
“I’m about to go check.”
“Ok, we will come down. We had to start the truck Stymie got too cold to sit in the blind.”

I walked to the fence to wait but looked and saw a white belly staring at me. Crawling under I headed into the woods to find a nice big doe there so I grabbed an ear and pulled her to the fence. I went back to look where the second one had been and found a trail leading back towards the river. I followed it only to see it go into the water. There was a small island at midstream but the river isn’t wide so I figured she had made it across. Just as I take a step she jumps up from a small dip, turns and dives in. I get the crosshairs on her, squeeze the trigger, squeeze the trigger.. What the… dang safety is on. I watch as she stumbles across a gravel bar and into the woods on the far bank. I go over to where my brother was pulling up to the fence, tell them what is going on and start back to find a way across the river.


It was cold enough to freeze the juice out of the weed stalks. Note the white stuff.


Now for the bad part. Looking back over my shoulder I motion for Stymie to come along to help track her. This was a mistake. He sounds much like a train wreck in the woods. Sure enough we no sooner get across than he bumps her then won’t stop crashing through the brush. She runs, stops, looks back, runs again. The whole time I am trying to get him to be quiet. This requires me almost screaming at him. I finally give up as she crosses onto property we can’t go on. He looks at me trying to figure out why I’m pissed.

We cross back over to where my brother has the first doe dressed, ready to load. We get her in the truck and decide to call it a day since the cold is too much for son-in-law. He is going to make some kind of deer hunter, between his wife calling every 10 minutes asking when he is coming home to not liking the heat or the cold I don’t hold out much hope.

As this blistering summer rolls along I can think back and laugh about that one. Yes it was cold. Yes poor Stymie learned some lessons. Yes I lost a deer but that spot is full of coyotes and they have to eat, too. I actually like to hunt in the cold a few times a year even if our deer don’t normally move much in it. Remembering hunts like this one help me pass the time and maybe forget the heat for a bit. I can still see the frost covered grass, deer slipping through the trees, hear the Red River flowing just behind me singing softly across rocks as I sit warm and snug.

Opening day will probably be hot here but that’s ok, I can wait a bit for the cold. Soon I will be thinking almost nonstop about getting back in a tree or blind, hopefully with some good luck you will be, too.

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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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