The summer heat usually lingers on into September, but after Labor Day I always feel like we’ve turned the corner to fall. With cooler temperatures on the way, let’s start getting into the hunting mode.
When I was in school at East Tennessee State University, I didn’t have a lot to do on weekends. To pass the time I would explore the back roads around Johnson City. Especially public access roads on Cherokee National Forrest.
One weekend while slowly cruising through an area near Watauga Lake, I noticed what appeared to be a very well-traveled game path going down a road bank. I stopped to confirm and found that it was loaded with fresh deer tracks. Obviously, there was a good population of deer in the area!
Even though the path itself was on private land, it was very near an isolated section of the Laurel Fork Wildlife Management Area that was open for public hunting. I filed the information away for future reference.
As it turned out later in the fall, circumstances dictated that I would need to stay on campus over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. With everyone else being gone, this would give me a good opportunity to hunt. I purchased my TN hunting license, and brought my Winchester Model 100 .308 hunting rifle down from Virginia. I won’t mention where I kept the rifle, but even back then I could have been in a bit of trouble if it was discovered.
At my first opportunity, early one morning, I packed my hunting gear and drove to the area that I had discovered weeks earlier. Because I had never been there before, this was as much a scouting expedition as a hunt.
Nothing is ever easy! I had awakened that morning with an upset stomach, but was determined to continue with my plans. After parking along the rough access road, I hadn’t gone very far up the wooded ridge when nature dictated that I spend some immediate quality time under a conveniently placed laurel bush. Maybe too much information, but not the greatest way to start a morning!
Still a little queasy, I continued my slow still hunt up the ridge. After a while I made it to the top where there was a small steep hollow with a good view of the opposite ridge. It seemed like a good spot to hang out for a while and rest my bones.
Suddenly I heard a loud commotion on the next ridge! It was a herd of deer working their way up through the undergrowth. They stopped to forage around in the leaves directly across from me. It was buck season only, so I started scoping each one to see if I could see antlers.
Out of nowhere, a deer stepped up on an old blown down tree mound in clear view. It was a buck! I found him in the scope, put the cross hairs on the shoulder, and pulled the trigger. He went down on the spot. I excitedly made my way down through the hollow and up the other side. The 7-point laid in the depression left by the blown down tree. I couldn’t give myself a high five or a pat on the back but I was feeling pretty good.
After field dressing the buck, it was time to figure out the best way to drag it back to the car. To go back the way I came, I would have to drag the 7-point across the head of the hollow and up a steep side. If you have ever dragged the dead weight of a deer up and across a steep grade, you know it’s a difficult proposition. Even though I had no idea where I would come out, I decided to drag it downhill, hopefully to the main road. From there I could walk to get my vehicle.
But alas, this is a two-part adventure! I was a long way from home, living on campus and had a deer to transport, skin-out and process. Stay tuned for “the rest of the story” next month!