Hard to believe that its been a couple of months but the last week of hunting season I got to go on what turned out to be a pretty typical hunting trip.
I’ve known this fellow David for 18 or 20 years and he happens to own a partial interest in 1,200 acres of mostly dried up swamp in North Florida. David wants to sell his share so he talked me and Tim into going up there on a hunting trip.
David is a realtor and so is Tim. I never did figure out how I fit in the deal except that David doesn’t really know Tim that well so I was there to keep the conversation going. Naturally, work kept expanding to fill up the only day that I could go. I changed my mind back and forth for over a week planning to go and then planning not to go. I finally fell off on the Madison County side of the fence Tuesday evening.
The weatherman promised clear weather until the evening so we dressed for cold, dry weather. We rolled out of town a little before 5:00 AM and 45 minutes later we were passing Gainesville in a drizzle that followed us all the way to Madison and all the way back.
Since it was drizzling, we left most of our gear in the barn and drove around in the truck looking the place over. We stopped to do a 3 point turn down near a small sinkhole and I noticed movement about 50 yards up ahead. I couldn’t tell what the heck it was ( wet, gradient lens glasses) so I told Tim to hold on because I was looking at something. There was a tree right in front of us and Tim couldn’t see what I was looking at. He kept trying to get me to look at a dead tree that had a funny looking knot on it because he thought that might be what I was talking about. About the time I got him convinced that I wasn’t looking at a funny looking knot, whatever I was looking at stuck its big ole white tail up in the air and ran off. We wandered down to where it had been and examined the forensic evidence. No finger prints and definitely no gunshot residue but lots of nice, fresh deer tracks. I did not realize it at the time but a precedent had been set.
Back in the truck, we puttered around some more and finally wound up on a neighboring property that Tim just happened to know was for sale. Turns out that it backs up to a corner of David’s property and the two put together just might be a decent place for a few cows. By coincidence, Tim knows a cattleman that is looking for a new place to raise his cows. By another coincidence, Tim also knows of another piece of acreage that backs up to that one and makes it an even more decent place to raise even more cows. The trip was starting to make sense.
Eventually, we wound up going into the town of Madison by way of Greenville and had lunch at Oneil’s Buffet. Everybody in town goes to lunch at Oneil’s Buffet. Its that good. Since we weren’t hunting while we were at Oneil’s Buffet or checking out the old Courthouse, it stopped raining. Soon enough we found ourselves in a pawn shop where I dug up five boxes of Super X 250-3000 Savage brass from a pile of old reloading stuff. The boxes weren’t for sale but I said “I don’t want the boxes, I want the brass” so I got 100 nice “once or twice fired” Super X cases for $20.00. I’m happy.
After some more loitering downtown, we made it back to the barn. Since we were on the hunting property again, it was raining. I lasered a tree that looked like it was about 100 yards away and sho-‘nuff, it was 101 yards. I put up a target frame with a shoot-n-see target on it about a yard from the tree for a nice 100 yard “range.” I had brought a couple of Savage Model 99s and one needed to be sighted in. I loaded it up, stood in the doorway and took an offhand shot. That little old bullet got there about ¾ of an inch high and right. I can’t even see that well at 100 yards much less shoot that well so I put it back in the case. David wanders over and asks why I only fired one shot. I gave him the binoculars and said that I was done. He looks at the target and can’t believe it. 100 yards, offhand with a lever action in .358 Winchester less than an inch from point of aim. I won’t repeat his exact words (‘cause I promised Buckshot that I wouldn’t cuss if he’d let me post here) but he really thought that was special.
Yeah, I know that I should have fired a 3 or 5 shot group but here’s the deal on that. This is a Model 99 Timber Rifle. The barrel walls are almost shotgun thin. Heck, they’re darn near thinner on the outside than on the inside! It saves weight but would have heated up fast if I had fired a string of shots. That wouldn’t have told me a thing about how the rifle would perform hunting. Your first shot at game is from a cold barrel. You don’t need a second one if the first one goes where its supposed to. My first shot from a cold barrel was pretty darned close for an offhand shot so that’s where I left it. Its done the same thing the last 3 – 4 times I’ve “sighted it in” so I do have a group. It was just shot on different days in different counties in different weather. Just like hunting.
After a while, Tim and I got bored and decided to check out some wet looking lowland near the barn. I grab my backup gun, a pre-acutrigger, department store Savage 111 in .270. It will shoot a ¼” group off of sandbags. Its stock is plastic, unlike the two 99s.’ We wound up on a road that lead to a place where David said he always sees hogs. We got to the end of the road and turned down a wide trail right into a flock of turkeys.
This time Tim’s on the right and I’m on the left. A few weeks earlier, I neck-shot a turkey at 60 yards with that same rifle but today I can’t even tell for sure that I’m looking at turkeys because my glasses are wet and so are both ends of my scope. I can’t dry anything off because all my clothes are wet. Tim keeps saying “come over here, I can see them fine” (he doesn’t wear glasses and his Winchester is iron sighted) and I keep saying “I can see them, I just can’t tell what part of them I’m lookin’ at.” Turns out that, because of this big bush in front of us, he can’t see the turkeys that I’m looking at and I can’t see the ones that he’s looking at. We are looking at two different flocks maybe 100 yards apart. Didn’t we do this right before lunch with the deer at the sinkhole?
My flock finally hears or sees him (I’m writing this so it was him that they heard) and head for the tree tops. That gave me a bad case of De ja vain’t. I worked up a real strong feeling that I ain’t gonna do that again without getting mad. We walk toward the second flock and they join their bretheren in the trees. They all start moving from treetop to treetop just ahead of us. Down on the ground, we started to follow. I don’t even know why. What else do you do when its 43 degrees, pouring down rain, you didn’t bring rain gear and all you can manage to do is play Abbott and Costello every time you see game? You just keep on playing. We didn’t go far before we stumbled onto a good 3/4 acre that looked like its just been plowed under. Fresh hog rootin’s radiated in every direction as far as you wanted to walk. They lead to a water hole that was obviously the local social club.
Since we are onto good hog sign, its raining even harder (more De ja vain’t) and David calls to see where we are. That’s the only flaw with the property. Cell phones do work there. We tell him what we found and that we are headed back to the barn. When we get maybe 150 yards from the barn we can hear David, standing in the barn door, clucking away at us on his turkey call. ‘Till that moment I had never noticed how much a turkey call sounds like somebody laughing.
So its pretty much pouring by this time, still 43 degrees like its been all day, a steady wind is blowing and David says “y’all need to stand at these doors (at the front and back of the barn) ‘cause a deer or a hog is bound to cut across this field before dark.” Ok. Its David’s place. He should know. I take up a spot in the front door by the truck and Tim takes the back door. I have the 270 and Tim has his cell phone. His Winchester is a 30-30 but its in the truck. I don’t remember what caliber his phone was. Didn’t matter anyway ‘cause the phone must have jammed when the deer trotted out 40 yards in front of him. He couldn’t get that phone to shoot to save his life. He was talking to somebody back in Ocala, pacing back and forth, and didn’t see the deer until it was almost on top of him. He starts hollering “Deer, Deer, somebody get a gun!” Danged if the deer didn’t trot right on by when he started hollering. Deer are unpredictable like that. He never did get that phone to shoot. I never saw that deer so I did no better with my rifle.
Something about that prompted Tim to get his rifle back out of the truck. We switched doors because the rain was blowing in the back door pretty bad and he had had his share of it. He went to guard the lee side and it wasn’t ½ an hour before he saw 2 more deer “filtering through the pine trees.” I was soaked and groggy from hypothermia anyway so I said “I’m goin’ down there and filter after ‘em.” I found a bunch of brand new tracks 40 yards from the barn right out in the open. They led to a pile of corn (we didn’t put it out and hadn’t known it was there until that moment) and then they led off through the pines. No deer. Just tracks.
Mercifully, it got dark. We had managed to keep the deer, turkey and hogs from overrunning our position and capturing the barn so we packed up and headed home. I had spent a day in the woods instead of the office. I had my brass and my target so I was happy. All the way back David kept saying that he couldn’t remember the last time it had rained all day long. After a while, Tim remarks that he can. It was the last time that David and I went to his house to shoot doves.
Yep. Pretty much a typical hunting trip.