Dave McCracken
January 11, 2003, 02:11 PM
I haven't been able to take much time off for hunting this year as some of you know. But I did use up one of my scant supply of vacation days yesterday and headed over to the Eastern Shore for a day's hunt with best buddy. Md has inaugurated a 2 day special firearms season following the end of M/L season,this year the 10th and 11th of January.

It could have gone better. B/B took a nice breeder, a yearling one and one half year old doe with his inline.

I set up on a hot spot over 2 acres of uncut soybeans,saw maybe 40 deer and put a good shot into another breeder at maybe 45 yards,but couldn't recover her.

Let me say something for those not familiar with the Shore. It's still mostly rural, a real food factory, and everything flat and dry enough to raise crops on is tilled, year round. The food triad, corn, soybeans and winter wheat, means year round food for deer. Many places, including this one, have deer densities of over 100/sq mi. Food cover, relatively mild winters, make it a Utopia for deer. Mature does don't have twins, they've triplets, and I've seen a couple with 4 fawns in attendance.

The cover, those areas too wet or steep to crop, runs from thick to inpenetrable. I've kicked up deer at 10 yards and never seen a hair. Once that doe I shot yesterday was in that swamp, chances of reducing her to possession were not great. After an hour of searching, I was soaked to the knees and bleeding some from briar scratches. I doubt she suffered, she gave that upward jump and twist that means a lung shot, but in the minute or so she had left she went deep into the jungle and was lost.

These deer are hunted hard, and are as spooky as any alive. So while there's plenty of targets, the hunt's no gimme. And, it's shotgun only, so up close and sudden is SOP.

Anyway, I returned last night bummed out a bit. I've only lost 3 deer in my life, and losing this one was a major disappointment. I resolved to rework my schedule and get in a few hours this AM, the last day of any season I could take some venison in. So, dawn found me wending my way through the wet spots in the logging road at the place mentioned in "A Walk In The Woods".

A new lease, this is 300 acres of really nasty stuff, logged long enough ago to grow back up thick as quills on a porcupine. Greenbriar, bramble, poison ivy, sumac, and in the summer millions of skeeters and ticks. Lyme's endemic and West Nile Virus is showing up.

The wind was marginal, the temperature cold enough that the leaves were dry and brittle enough to make it sound like I was treading on cornflakes. Still hunting was lunacy under these conditions, so I trudged along the logging road that was the only access point and decided to sit on stand until my toes went numb.

Naturally, I jumped some up as I entered, and at 20 yards the brush was so thick they walked away, not bolted with flags hoisted.That's thick cover, when the deer can't run through it. I couldn't have inserted a slug through that stuff, so I didn't try.

A little more bummed out, I snap/crackle/popped down the twotrack to a cross trail with some rubs marking a buck trail. Fishooking in gave me a better wind, and I sat on a down log next to a tree with a few weathered boards nailed in it, showing where another hunter in decades past thought he had a good spot. I decided to sit it out until my feet got too cold and call it a season.There were tiny trails nearby, and some recent sign, so it was as good a spot as any.

I need hunting like I need oxygen. It's my decompression, my avocation, the relief from life's wounds. And with Wife's surgery, money probs, my less than good health, life's been a little painful lately. But,now in the woods,
those problems seemed less overwhelming.Still important, but not an avalanche of $%!+ bearing down on me.

A flicker of movement ahead of me snapped me from revery, and the 870 came to hand. I deciphered the clues about the time the red fox moved into view. A flame with volution, it counterpointed the drab colors around it as it moused along a down log, eyed me, decided I wasn't good to eat and was possibly dangerous, and exited, stage left.

So,I settled back, kept my attention on the woods around me, eased my shotgun back to a comfortable but ready position, and breathed better than I do in the haunts of home. I saw nothing manmade but what I brought, and not even the sound of a distant engine was heard. I was in a wild and silent place, full of muted beauty, and the Healing began.

This was the Shore in winter,so geese flew by and called an ancient summons to others. The brittle clarity of the moment held long enough that I could almost hear the dynamo that is our world humming like a note too low for ears, but easy to feel, infinitely sustained.

And so the time passed, intent on the world around me,but having the time needed to take my life out, look at it closely, and note all that was good.

I held out as long as I could, but feet and bladder eventually got me moving. I eased back down the trail and over the boggy places, moving easier and better than on the way in despite my immobility for some hours. Unloading near the Toyota, I stowed everything and climbed in. As I headed back towards Rt 301, I noticed I was whistling....

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January 11, 2003, 02:28 PM

Again, I got to go hunting with you today.



Dave McCracken
January 12, 2003, 11:00 AM
You're welcome, HS. Hope others like it too...

January 12, 2003, 11:15 AM
Dave, as usual, a compelling read. Thanks for sharing your thoughts once again! :)

January 12, 2003, 08:41 PM
Don't involve bringing any game home. ;)

Thanks for the reminder, Dave!

Dave McCracken
January 13, 2003, 05:22 AM
You're welcome, folks. Bringing meat home is the ostensible goal of hunting, but there's so much more to it.

January 13, 2003, 05:59 AM
Dave, terrific!

Those of us that hunt can really appreciate your story!

I have had many hunts that ended with me walking out the woods cold and hungry thinking to myself, "well damn, at least I don't have to mess with dragging a deer, field dressing it etc." Hehehe, pulling out the Justies

Looking back, some of the best hunts I have had were hunts where I saw Ol' Mossyhorns but never got a shot. I think those are the hunts that keep me longing for the next. (like something really needs to ;) )

Dave McCracken
January 13, 2003, 06:10 AM
Thanks, Marshall. It's the hunting and not the killing that's important. Hard for some folks to understand, especially those whose feet rarely leave pavement.

"One does not hunt in order to kill, one kills in order to have hunted"- Ortega Y Gasset...

January 13, 2003, 06:45 AM
Wonderful! You capture the feeling of being in tune with the natural world, which, as you say, is something we need.

Dave McCracken
January 13, 2003, 06:57 PM
Thanks, John, a thought or two on this...

For eons, men hunted for a living. Evolution and the Hunting Way molded us, from our steroscopic vision to our incredible ability to co-operate in time of need. Our very lingual ability was a survival tool first because social predators need a way to communicate"Head them Wildebeests off at the pass", or something similar.

Anyway, we need to hunt because the old abilities and instincts are still in place, Watch small boys of ANY culture as they play, w/o coaching, chase down and ambush games like those we call Cowboys and Indians and Hide and Seek. They're as instinctive as the actions of a kitten 4000 generations removed from the jungle stalking and pouncing on a string dragged slowly along the floor.

Anyway, by going out and obtaining meat the old fashioned way, or just going after it under certain conditions imposed by self, society or law, we return to a more natural life for just a little time and are renewed by it.

January 13, 2003, 07:39 PM
Well, sir, you do string together words in a most pleasing fashion.


January 13, 2003, 09:33 PM
That story sounds like some of the hunts my dad has gone on. It has happened often enough that when he says he's going hunting I tell him he means camping with guns.;) :D

Dave McCracken
January 14, 2003, 03:20 PM
Singer Gary Morris calls it, "Hiking with weapons".

January 14, 2003, 05:00 PM
I hope your year gets much better. No hunter likes leaving a wounded animal, but it happens sometimes despite our best efforts.

I'll say a prayer for better health for you and your wife, and raise a glass for a better hunt next time and soon.

Thanks for the stories Dave.

Dave McCracken
January 14, 2003, 10:13 PM
Thanks, Blades. That doe wasn't wounded, she went and died where I couldn't go. I shot from a rest at less than 45 yards, broadside standing. Her reaction was the same jump and twist I've seen on a good number of lung shots.She didn't suffer, but she got into the thick stuff w/o much of a trail.

January 16, 2003, 08:33 AM
Great read, Dave. Thanks for the reminders of good hunts, whether bringing back meat or not.

I haven't had much opportunity to hunt over the past 10 years, but I still hear the 'call of the field'. And, I am also bothered over lost game, no matter if a squirrel, rabbit, dove, duck or deer.

January 16, 2003, 11:15 AM
Thanks Dave.
Reminder to myself that its the journey-not the destination.

Getting out 'hiking with guns' or even walking the farm with a sidearm can often recharge my batteries, and decharge the woes of the world.

2nd Amendment
January 16, 2003, 12:20 PM
Good read, thx. I wish you the best in this new year.

After 13 months building my new house, everyday, all day, I've finally gotten an opportunity to relax a little. As much as possible considering the financial state the place has left me in. I've pretty much just sat and vegetated in the house and woried about how I'll pay for this, that and the other. But Tuesday I did something I've always said I'd do and never gotten around to.

My gramps died when I was two, so I never got to know him and have no real memories of my own. But I've heard so much about the man over the years. He was unusual, to say the least. A builder, a miner, a horse-trader par excellence. Traded for everything, including land. We've still got quite a bit of that land and one piece he used to walk the fence lines of every evening, even the day he died.

It's a small piece, only about 30 acres, back at the end of a dead end road, land locked. Not easy to get to. Been in one branch or another of the family since the 1880's and "his" since the 30's. Pretty much untouched, which is unusual in this area of strip mines and blank, open fields. I've hunted it from a stand on the front part a couple times but really never had an opportunity to explore it.

So, I loaded up an old Stevens pump I found sitting forlorn on a store rack a couple weeks ago and headed out across the field behind my house, across the tracks which cut this piece of land off from that one and climbed the fence. It's old, rusted, stuck to wooden posts with the tops worn away in that jagged look of age. Some places it's in the middle of tree trunks that probably weren't even sapplings when it was put up. And then I commenced to walk. Within two minutes I spooked two deer who avoided me leisurely, tails up. If it were still season I could have had them both, a doe and a nice buck. I just watched them disappear into the old woods.

A little farther I found the hulk of a car from the 30's or early 40's. Nothing left but the rear window area of the roof and the tops of the doors. I had no idea it was there, all these years. A little further on, a shed with an old wood burner in it. Again, I thought all the buildings were long gone. Interesting, thinks I. Maybe that old stove still works...I might have to come and find out some night.

Rabbits, seven more deer, who didn't seem to really care that I was nearby, and then the cornerstones of the house I knew was somewhere back there. Where my great great grandfather was born. A little later the foundation for the tipple of the old mine my family worked at the turn of the century. Again, I had no idea it was still there. I always heard the tales of how a neighbor had dumped a huge amount of stolen goods down it back in the 30's but hey, that's just another old story. Again, I wondered. Maybe I could get in there some day, see if the tale is true...Something else to think about.

Last fence line on this crooked, meandering piece of property. Still standing along it are the telegraph poles, with their glass insulators still in place on the cross bars. Wood rough and grey with age. Wonder how they avoided being pulled down decades ago? Who knows, but they still stand straight as if waiting for new lines and new messages.

Back across the tracks and home again, hands cold, feet froze, covered in burrs. Never raised the shotgun or felt any need, though I could have had deer, rabbit and squirrel for the year and nobody would have ever known. All the stress hasn't really felt so bad since and I know, now, why he must have made it a nightly ritual. I believe it may become my own.

Hmm, maybe I should have started another thread.

Dave McCracken
January 16, 2003, 03:27 PM
You're welcome, guys. And 2nd, thanks, that touched me....

January 16, 2003, 05:03 PM
Man, that's why I like it here. Thanks.

January 16, 2003, 05:26 PM
Great post 2nd :)


January 18, 2003, 12:53 AM
This place is as much "Home" as TFL was. Thanks for coming to my home and inspiring me to make new traditions with my kids.

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