Three days in a row last week the dawn broke onto “misty, moisty” weather, as some poet from my childhood put it. That’s the good news. The bad news is, it ain’t gun deer season yet.
I don’t bow hunt, because of a separated shoulder suffered in Ole Miss football a long time ago. While I have plenty of strength to pull the bowstring back, that action somehow puts a strain on the injured joint, and it will lock, which is decidedly inconvenient fifteen feet up in a tree! An old comrade of mine from the football wars has tried to convince me to get a crossbow these past few years, but I’ve put it off. That second misty moisty morning, I wished I’d listened to him.
Because it is a joy to hunt in that kind of weather. I don’t mean when it’s raining hard, or even steady, but more like being in a fog where you have to cut your windshield wipers on intermittent, if you happen to be driving in it. The woods are wet, yet the leaves move a little, though slowly, and you can ease along without making any noise. A misty, moisty morning is not a day for sitting in a stand; it’s a day for still-hunting, the which a better name might be slip-hunting, because you slip along slowly and silently enjoying seeing the game before they see you. For instance, on one morning like that, I spied a coyote slipping toward me carrying something in its jaws, and I froze beside a big tree. The canine slowed and walked behind a big tree himself, but didn’t reappear. I eased my head out just far enough to catch a glimpse of his flank, seeing that he had lain down.
Deer hunting was forgotten for the moment. I was so caught up in the dripping silence of the woods, that I began easing forward, keeping his tree between us, to see how close I could get before the coyote bolted.
Close! I arrived at the other side of his tree, peeked slowly around it, and the wild canine was gnawing a deer shoulder bone, completely unaware of my presence. Okay, he was facing away from me, so I eased my rifle up, because we war against the toothy predators here at Brownspur. They eat our cats (not always bad!) and have been known to pack up against tame dogs. Yet I hated to break the silence of the woods that misty, moisty morning.
But the coyote survived our meeting. When I peered through the scope, I realized that a 2½ power scope was not an effective sight at six feet! All I could see was hair, and as I searched the lens for an eye or ear, the varmint somehow got a premonition. I reckon I’m lucky he didn’t charge!
One of the biggest bucks I ever saw was during this type morning. I was slipping through a canebrake along an old logging road, and glanced down when one foot slipped slightly in the mud. When I looked back up, this huge buck was standing broadside less than fifty yards away – the legendary Still Tank Buck, all 18 points of him! He was looking right at me, so my only chance was to draw, but by the time my rifle was to my shoulder, he was long gone in the canebrake.
I knew he had 18 points because Mr. Jay, the King of the Island, told me. He ran cattle on the island, and used to rope bucks when he’d jump them. His quarter horse, Skyball, was an expert at that sport, and I’ll bet that at least two dozen times I’ve been a witness when a hunter would come into his cabin to report a good kill, like, “I got a 12-point between the dry lake beds today.”
Mr. Jay might reply, “Was one of his tines on the left antler kind of nubbed down?” When the hunter confirmed that, Mr. Jay would say, “Look at his left ear and see if it doesn’t have two notches in it. I roped that buck a month ago.” And the notches would be there. I bagged a big 10-point we called “The Plum Thicket Buck” one year, and when I went in his cabin to brag, sure enough, he had notched the big buck’s ear. He said the first time he’d roped a buck, Skyball had flipped it, like he did a cow, but the buck came up off the ground and charged the horse. After that, Skyball would flip the deer, then turn and run the rope around a tree, so as to snug the buck up to the other side of it. I’m sure the Still Tank Buck was notched, like Mr. Jay said that misty, moisty morning, and that he had 18 points.