Finding Sign

by Jeff Bright

Small doe in OcalaThose early years of deer hunting were glorious for many reasons. Packing for the trips, warming yourself by the campfires, sleeping under the stars and just being in the woods on a cool fall morning was fantastic. Plus, seeing the woods come alive with animals was completely new to a city boy.

 We had read where the first thing you did was scout out your area and look for sign. Trails, scrapes, droppings and rubs were your target. We would throw our boots on, head out and walk every inch of the area we had picked.

I’ll never forget the first sign I found. It was a huge scrape. I just stood there looking at the pawed out area of leaves. Then I looked up and saw the licking branch above the scrape. I couldn’t believe it. A deer had actually stood here and made this sign.

I called my buddy Billy Williams over and we both celebrated as if we had killed a huge 10-pointer. As we looked closer in the same area we found tracks, droppings and then a rub. A buck had stood in this very spot and rubbed his horns up against this small tree until the bark had fallen off. It was unbelievable.

At that moment, I think we both felt like we had reached the pinnacle of deer hunting. I hung my tree stand near by and hunted that area about as hard as you can without seeing so much as one deer. I knew then we still had plenty to learn about this great animal.

I cannot begin to tell you how much sign we found in Ocala over the 7 years we hunted there and in all those years we never killed any bucks.

 

Awsome Knob

by Jeff Bright

On one trip to Reed Lloyd’s lease in Georgia, he showed me a great spot to hunt at the end of a long logging road.The area was next to a wide swampy area. After being in my stand for about 2 hours one morning, I got the urge to get down and do some scouting. I strapped my tree stand on my back and off I went.

I walked down to the edge of the swamp and could tell it was about 100 yards wide and only about ankle deep. As I slowly walked through the swamp I could see hard woods and then pine trees going up a steep slope. I walked through the wet area and started heading up the bank on the other side. Man it sure looked good.

The area was covered with trails, scrapes and rubs. We would later call this area, Awsome Knob. It was shaped like a triangle with planted pines on 2 sides and the swamp on the other. I walked up about 100 yards and found a good pine tree with a trail running right by it on the left. I jacked up the tree and settled in for the rest of the morning. At this point it was about 9:30. I could see the entire area and I just knew if you hunted this spot long enough you could kill a nice buck.

Not more than 15 minutes later I heard deer coming from behind me. I stayed very still and just waited for them to pass by me. The first deer, a doe, ran right under my stand followed by another doe. Then all of a sudden a nice 4-pointer ran under my stand. He suddenly stopped and froze in his tracks. He was breathing real hard and knew something was wrong. I slowly lifted my rifle and shot without using my scope. He ran off about 30 yards, looked around, wobbled and finally went down. I couldn’t believe it. It happened so fast.

After about 15 minutes I got down to check him out. He was a nice buck, fat and healthy. I dragged him down to the edge of the swamp and was thinking about the best way to get him out. I decided to gut him out there and drag him up to the logging road where Reed could drive down and get a little closer.

I had just leaned over and pulled out my knife when I heard the sound of more deer coming. I stayed knelt down when all of a sudden a doe came crashing through the brush followed by a nice 6-pointer. I raised my rifle to get a shot, but there was just too many small trees and brush for a clean shot. Then another 4-pointer came running through the brush right at me. At the last instant he saw me and veered off to my left and stopped not more than 10 yards away. He was very confused and not sure what to do.

In this small area were a dead deer, a 6-pointer, a 4-pointer, a doe and me. I took aim, fired and he dropped in his tracks. I slowly walked over, grabbed his horns and dragged him over to the first buck and sat down. I couldn’t believe it. I was in a creek bottom in the middle of Georgia with 2 nice bucks in a matter of 30 minutes. Now what to do? I gutted both deer and just stared at my good fortune. There was no way I was going to drag both deer through the swamp so off I went to get Reed. I met up with him and told him my story. He was shocked. Not a bad morning of hunting.

Reed remembered there was a road coming in from the other direction and maybe we could drive down and get a little closer. We drove down as far as we could go and parked the truck. It was still about a 400 yard walk down to the deer which meant  it was an uphill walk back to the truck. Man this was going to be work. We decided to cut a heavy limb and carry them out the old way with the feet tied to the poles. The walk up the slope was pretty steep considering we were carrying a 170-pound dead deer on our shoulders. We would stop about every 30 or 40 yards to rest.

 Finally we got the first deer to the truck and just collapsed and I wondered out loud, who was the idiot that shot 2 bucks at the bottom of a creek bed. It probably took about an hour to get the next deer to the truck and I don’t think I ever worked so hard for a deer. 

 

The Junkyard   

by Jeff Bright                                                          

When I first started going to West Virginia, it was explained that part of the property we would be huntinrichardspics 001g was the town junkyard. I thought it was a joke at first, but sure enough, when we arrived and started heading up the mountain towards our camp, there was the junkyard. Richard Mclaughlin and Jon Pletcher told us that the cars had been there so long that the deer just acted as if they were part of the woods.

As the years went by we also accepted the junkyard as part of the hunt. Mike Wilson was the first to use the junkyard to his advantage. He set up his tree stand on a ridge over looking about 6 rows of cars and trucks. I’ll never forget his directions to his stand. He would say, “Go to the open pasture and turn left at the yellow Chevy truck bed. Then head up between the 2 Ford trucks and look up on the ridge and you’ll see it.”

We started naming our stands by the closest vehicle. There was the Cadillac stand, the Chevy Caprice stand and the Model T stand. If people ever over heard our discussions I’m sure they thought we were nuts. It sure worked well for Mike because he shot 3 nice bucks out of that junkyard in the early years.

Philip Crawford started bow hunting in the junkyard one year and after a morning hunt I asked him if he saw anything and he said he killed a nice pickup truck. He explained he had a nice 4-pointer walk up just after sunrise and at the last second it jumped his string and the arrow stuck in the drivers side door of a pickup truck. I told him it would be an interesting mount, but he decided against it.

Philip and I put up the Cadillac stand and I hunted it many times. It was a beautiful spot, below a ridge with a ton of travel trails and bedding areas near by. I saw a lot of does and caught sight of a few bucks, but I never killed anything out of the junkyard. I showed up one morning to hunt the stand and someone had moved it. I gave up on the area but I’m sure as the years go by the junkyard will produce another buck.

 

The Big 6-point

by Jeff Bright

Jeff BrightPhilip Crawford called in late December and said there would be an opening on his lease in Georgia and asked if I would be interested in joining. I hadn’t joined a lease the year before because I had went to Nebraska with Reed Lloyd and couldn’t afford both a lease and a big trip. We didn’t get anything so this year I was determined to get myself a buck. Joining a lease was the first step to meeting that goal.

Philip said they had power, a shower room, hot water plus about 20 stands set up in the woods that you could hunt. He told me he had a trailor set up with a nice deck that we could share, so that was a big plus. Over the years they had killed some nice bucks and filmed some real bruisers. Philip had taken some nice deer and Jerry Ryder had killed a monster that scored about 130 BC. It didn’t take long to say yes. 

Well this was going to be fun. I hadn’t hunted with Philip in a few years and the fun we have scouting the woods and sharing hunt camps is just to much to mention. Something always happens and the deer plus Philip seem to get the worst of it. On the drive up, he mentioned the lease was outside the small town of Broxton. We drove up in his small pick-up truck and laughed and told lies the whole way up. I felt like I was 25 again and just starting out. The camp was perfect, all the comforts of home. 

The lease was about 600 acres divided into 3 sections. There was basically a 50, 250 and 300 acre piece. We drove around all 3 pieces of the property and you could tell the place was loaded with deer. They had lots of tree stands in the woods already, but I wanted to find my own area to put my 2 stands if possible. We found a area that was a classic pinch point between a pasture and a road. It was a dry hardwood bottom with lots of trails, tracks and old rubs. Then we found another area that had 3 bottoms running through a pine forest that looked good. Both areas had been hunted before and deer definetly used the areas. I drove up later that year with Bill Williams and we set up both stands. I was a happy camper. 

As we drove up for this hunt, the weather was going to be warmer than we like. The mornings would be cool, about 40 degrees, but it would heat up during the day to about 75. We hunted hard but wasn’t seeing much and by the third day our hopes were fading. On the last night, Philip said he wasn’t feeling well and we both went to bed early. When the alarm went off that morning Philip said he was sleeping in and I was on my own. I laid there thinking about how warm and snug I was and was just about to stay in when I decided to check out how cold it was.  

When I walked outside I couldn’t believe it. A cold front had moved in during the night and frost was everywhere. The temperature gauge read 30 degrees. That pretty much made up my mind, I was heading out. I got dressed and for the first time put on my bibs. I was going to hunt my stand with the 3 bottoms. I had hunted the area a few times on our first trip and wasn’t happy with it. After I hunted it a few times on this trip, I was walking the road back to my vehicle when I noticed a deer crossing and checked it out. I liked it so much, I moved my stand and this mornings hunt would be the first time in the stand.  

As I settled in I couldn’t believe how much colder it felt. A new spot plus frost on the ground and I was feeling pretty good about the mornings hunt. I closed my eyes and day dreamed of monster bucks when a sound off to my left perked me up. It was still dark , but it was obvious the sound was a deer. I checked my watch and I needed about 10 minutes before I could shoot. I heard a noise again and saw a flash of antlers and knew he was a shooter. 

As the minutes ticked by, I could hear him feeding and walking and he ended up not more than 10 yards away. There was a clump of bushes to my left and he proceded to feed behind these bushes for about 15 minutes. Finally I was ready and the time was good. After a few more minutes he stepped out and stared right at me. He was a heavy 6-pointer with tall antlers and a heavy body. At 10 yards I settled the crosshairs behind his shoulders and fired. 

At the shot he jumped straight up and ran in a full circle and then headed back in the direction he came. As he dissappeared into the woods I heard him pile up near an old fire break. It all happened so fast and early I figured Philip was still asleep back at camp. I waited about 15 minutes and walked over and found him laying in the fire break. He was a shooter alright, with heavy tall horns and long brow tines. Man it felt good. I checked him out for awhile and then headed back to camp to get Philip. 

As I drove up on the 4-wheeler, Philip was standing on the front porch waiting with a big smile. He had heard me shoot and figured I had killed something. I told him my story and after high fives we headed off on the 4-wheeler to get my buck. When Philip saw him he was struck at how big his body was and the heavy horns for a 6-pointer. We loaded him up and took a slow ride back to camp with the 3 of us on the 4-wheeler. I later found out that Jim Hasley, another new member, had shot a nice little 8-pointer.

 

Bob’s Stand

by Jeff Bright

Jeff BrightReed Lloyd and I headed up for our annual Thanksgiving week hunting trip. This year though would be a little different. Reed decided not to join a lease this year and would be joining me as my guest. I had hunted many years as his guest in the late 90’s and now it would be my chance to return the favor. As we headed up to the property, I told Reed as much as I could about the lease.  

We would start out by hunting the 50 acre piece and go from there. We hunted hard for a couple of days and were seeing nothing mainly because of the warm weather. We eventually tried all my stands and were having no luck at seeing deer. At dinner that night I mentioned to Jerry Ryder that we were seeing nothing and he suggested we try the 250 acre piece. Reed could hunt a tri-pod near the property line and I would hunt an old tri-pod called Bob’s stand. It sounded good to me. Jerry told us how to get there and even in the dark it seemed like we would have no trouble finding the stands. 

The next morning we followed Jerry over to the front gait and jumped in the back of his truck for our rides to the stand. Reed was first to be dropped off and he just needed to follow a path to his stand. Next they dropped me off and all I needed to do was walk down a 4-wheeler trail to my stand. When I got there I found an old rickety tri-pod with dried up camo. I checked it out in the darkness as best I could and decided it was safe. As I climbed in, it was solid alright, just not very pretty. The chair was comfortable but the shooting rail was loose and wobbly. I cut away the old camo fabric and settled in as best I could. 

The stand was located next to an old food-plot with scrub oaks nearby and a bottom off to my left. The area reminded me of the Ocala National Forest. The food-plot was old and grown over with weeds but I could still see trails running through it. I hadn’t been in the stand for more than an hour when a doe popped out into the plot. As I watched a 8-pointer followed her out into the plot also. He was a nice buck and both were heading my way. 

I threw up my rifle and couldn’t decide whether to shoot or not. The angle was bad so I just let them keep coming. The wind was perfect but they could clearly see me. I don’t know if it was curiosity or what, but they both walked right up to me and stood there staring. At this point it would have been a 5 yard shot. After going back and forth in my head, I finally decided not to shoot, and after awhile they both turned and walked away. Man that was tough. 

I was still questioning my sanity when all of a sudden I heard this grunting sound off to my left. It was a buck heading my way fast. He was grunting the whole way and full of fight. I caught a glimpse of his horns and could tell he was a shooter. There was a shooting lane to the left of the stand and this was my only chance. I saw him for a second and held steady on the opening. He burst out of the palmetto’s ready for a fight and I fired. He dropped like a ton of bricks. If I had a 15 foot pole I could have touched him. It was over so fast. I got down and took 4 steps and there he was. He was a nice little 8-pointer with good mass and a 13 inch spread. Not the biggest buck in the woods but still a very nice buck. 

Not a bad way to start on a new lease. I texted Philip in West Virginia and he couldn’t believe I shot a buck out of Bob’s stand. Neither could the rest of the guys. They don’t call it beginners luck for nothing.