TITLE: The last hunt September 22, 2015
By olivia gates
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In Louisiana we are blessed to have a dog season , on deer. This season is for running dog on deer. It is from December 9th to January 17th.
All of the members , young and old gather at the deer camp and decide where we will run dogs. Today the destination is the old Downs home place -A piece of land that has been abandoned for many years. As we gather up, around 7AM on a cool crisp early Saturday morning, in a clearing just off the main road, JR drives up in his grey chevy truck with a six pack of beagles in the dog box. The standers all ten of us line the two hills on either side of the valley that JR will make the drive in.
We call these two hills # 1 and # 2 roads. They are of course only four-wheeler trails that line either side of the valley below. The four-wheeler trails are lined with thickets on either side of them. These thickets are tangled mazes of green and dead dried briars, brown, grey and rotting underbrush, small green pine trees and dried up fallen pine tree limbs covered with fallen pine nettles. For JR to get through these thickets , he has to at times get on his hands and knees to make it through.
We standers are the lucky ones being able to walk until we find a small opening in which we hope and pray that a deer will come out of. If the deer tries to cross the four-wheeler road, someone should be able to shoot. #1 and #2 roads are shaped like a horseshoe with the thicket valley in the middle.
This particular day Mike and I are on the very end of #1 road. We are on the edge of the hillside. We have walked down the four-wheeler trail and now face the end of the heavy valley thicket . We are at the top circle of the horseshoe.
Looking into the thicket the only way you can see a deer is the flash of their white tails. White is not a common color seen in a thicket.
Once the dogs are released from the dog box. They hit the ground, with noses sniffling everywhere for a deer. One dog usually, the lead dog will cry out that he has found a strong fresh deer scent. The others will fall in line and the race will be on.
The dogs jumped up several deer down in the main valley. They are running straight for us. Mike got a glimpse of the deer in the heavy pine thicket but no clear shot. The deer turned and came toward me. I had my shotgun up to my shoulder and pushed the safety off. The little pack of beagles were burning up the ground. They were running a big buck and several doe. I focused on the pine thicket and waited. All of a sudden the main doe put her head out of the thicket. The buck had split -off from the does and had sneaked past one of the standers up the hill. She cleared the four-wheeler road and I put my sights on her right front shoulder, and pulled the trigger. I shot several more times at two other deer, but watched the first doe limp out of sight, and down into a hard wood creek bottom and up into another thicket. The little band of beagles came to the old log road with noses to the ground and found the deer’s trail. They stretched out one after another down into the valley and up into the next thicket .JR had several young puppies in this pack, to teach how to chase a deer. The older dogs knew that the deer had jumped across the creek. The young dogs scrambled up and down the creek bank , trying to figure out how to cross the creek. They cried out puppy cries , in hopes that somehow they too could get across the creek.
JR had made his way down to the bottom of the hill. Mike and I were examining the scrape marks made by the first deer. We were looking for blood.
JR asked , “Who shot?”
“I did and I believe that I hit.” I said.
He gave me the high five and said, “Way to go Maw-In-Law. “
We crossed the creek and found puddles of bright red blood. Searching leaves we found spots of blood leading up into the thicket just out of the valley. After following and searching blood , one of the older dogs found the dead deer and howled unmerciful noises . The deer was laying in a clump of fallen pine trees, some fifty foot in the pines.
We never know when will be the last time to run dogs together , or go fishing with someone, or spend Christmas eve at their house. That was the last time JR and I hunted together.
P.S. ( Pearls in my Stand)
In loving memory of my son-in-law JR Bailey. August 16, 2015 JR died with a massive heart attack at home. Though JR was not as patient with his dogs, as my father was, still they hunted for him. He loved several of his hunting dogs and his family.
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