Thursday, January 24, 2013


Through the early morning darkness, I gazed intensely into my scope to see the small food plot in front of me.  Steam from my breath was trying its best to fog up my lens, and every few seconds I took my head off the gun stock to attempt to look with the naked eye. I was deep into an argument with my inner-self, and my brain was having a tough time believing what my eyes were seeing.


No. No. It can’t be…

But it really looks like a…


As any hunter knows, Mother Nature likes tormenting us with oddly shaped stumps, branches, and leaves that look like deer. Or at least what one would imagine a deer to look like, if one actually stepped out. Our brain has an idea of what to look for, probably thanks to reading one too many Field and Streams, so every time that weird leaf moves, we suddenly think DEER!

But alas, 99% of the time, it’s just some stump that looks exactly like a 10 point buck, or a blowing leaf that looks like a twitching ear. Low light conditions are the worst for these situations and I’ve lost count of the number of defenseless branches I’ve nearly poached over the years. It’s not uncommon for the same stump to fool a hunter 8 or 9 times in the course of a few hours. Eventually, however, the mind grows weary of being wrong –all- the time, and the thought process changes from: DEER!?!...No. To: Stump?...Yes. 

So as I sat there in my stand in the low light of dawn, something caught my eye and my first thought was Stump? But there was a problem. After peering through the scope, it –really- started to look like a deer. More so than usual. In fact, it was even moving around. But since I hate to be wrong…especially when arguing with myself…I wasn’t completely convinced it was a deer. Maybe it was some weird shaped tumble weed or something. 

I come by my reluctance in accepting that a deer is in front of me thanks to hunting years of Florida public land. Seeing a deer on Florida public land is a lot like a seeing a Unicorn, but probably less common. But I wasn’t hunting Florida public land. I was actually hunting a Southern Georgia quail plantation that’s been –extremely- well managed.  So after what felt like an eternity of internal debate, I decided to take a chance at being wrong and guess I was actually looking at a real live deer.

I had decided before the hunt that I wouldn’t shoot any does. This particular plantation is one that I work on during the deer study. My job is to tranquilize does and I figured killing one would be the opposite of job security. So I kept my finger off the safety and watched the little doe eat. About 15 minutes later it became light enough that upon closer inspection, the little doe was actually a button buck. I was suddenly –very- thankful that I had not shot him right off the bat. By this particular plantation’s rules, I was allowed to shoot any does, and one “freebie” buck. After that, I would have to play by the rules of no bucks younger than 5 ½ years old. I definitely didn’t want my freebie to go to this little guy. 

30 minutes later something caught my eye back behind me. I spun around in my stand to catch a glimpse of a deer, not a weird stump, as it slipped behind some cover. I readied my rifle, and watched the opening that it was heading for. Slowly, it poked its head out to reveal a tiny 5 point buck. Though this guy was admittedly bigger than my 6 point from last year, I decided that I didn’t want him to be my freebie either. I watched him for the next 15 minutes as he worked within 60 yards of me, walked out into the food plot, ate a bit, then moved off into a creek bottom. This whole time the button buck was still munching away and I timed it at right at a full hour before the button buck finally walked off. 

Another 30 minutes passed before something else caught my eye in the same area I’d seen the 5 point originally. I quickly grabbed my binoculars (as it was now light enough to use them) and looked. 


I don’t actually remember the process of putting away the binoculars and getting my rifle onto my shoulder, but I imagine it took about a millisecond. I found the buck in the scope and took a good hard look at him. He definitely wasn’t 5 ½ years old. He -might- have been 2 ½ , but his antlers were nice. An 8 point, and he was coming closer every second. The safety was off and my crosshairs darted from antlers to chest, antlers to chest. I had upwards of 5 minutes to shoot this buck, but finally decided at 70 yards out to not shoot him. 

And before you toss me into the category of obnoxious trophy hunters that look at a 170 class buck and go “Meh…I’m really looking for something a bit bigger”, give me a second. He was admittedly small. He might have weighed 125-130. It was a young deer. And though every fiber of my inner Florida public land hunter was screaming “SHOOT HIM”, I let him walk. I know that I’ll get to hunt the area again in the coming years, and he’s going to be a very big deer. 140-150 class deer aren't uncommon on this plantation.

I climbed down about an hour later after not seeing anything else and walked back to the Jeep. While walking back I had a shot on two does that were standing in a field, but again, I decided to not shoot them. I didn’t need the meat, and I’d personally rather see a radio collar on them in a few months. Once seated in the Jeep, I couldn’t help but notice the big ol’ grin on my face. What I’d just experienced was, in fact, my best hunt ever. 

No. I didn’t actually harvest anything. But that doesn’t matter. Too often we measure the success of an outdoor venture on what we shoot, or how many we catch. For me, I prefer to measure success in what I’ve learned or how much fun I’ve had. I had an absolute blast on this particular hunt. Seeing deer when you aren’t used to it has that effect. And at the end of the day, I wasn’t crammed behind a cubicle, or pages deep into my studying. Instead, I got to experience a fantastic hunt and enjoy a passion of mine. The whole thing was exciting and will remain a hunt that I’ll never forget. So to me, I call it successful.

It sure beat staring at stumps.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Call of Duty

Over the course of many years spent in the outdoors, I've come to notice a pattern. A phenomenon, if you will. For a while I saw it as just a coincidence, but eventually it became clear: something's really going on here.

The phenomenon I'm referring to is the strange relationship between being in the great outdoors, and REALLY needing to use the bathroom. And I'm not talking about instances where your stomach gurgles a little and you think to yourself: Hmm...Gonna need to use the toilet when I make it back to camp. No, no. I'm talking about: Oh Lord please let there be toilet paper in this backpack! None?? Why is there ONLY pine straw laying around?!? This situation seems to only occur out in the wilderness, far from the truck, and in areas with really good deer activity. Mother nature comes knocking, and you have to answer. I've therefore aptly named this phenomenon, The Call of Duty.

The Call of Duty generally comes at the most inconvenient times possible. For instance, when I was a teenager, I was helping my dad launch our canoe for a camping trip at Port St. Joe, Fl. Halfway through loading the boat, I received The Call of Duty. Luckily, there's a bathroom right next to the launch. I found it odd that The Call actually came while there was a bathroom nearby and not 7 miles into the wilderness while paddling the canoe. I hurriedly shuffled past several families that were enjoying lunch and getting ready to snorkel as I made my way to the bathroom doors. I reached for the handle to enter and...locked. Ruh roh... Glancing back over my shoulder, I made sure none of the families could see me and made for the women's restroom.


This was more like it. Situations like these are the kind I'd come to expect from The Call of Duty. With no other bathroom for miles, and not wishing to ruin several families' vacations, I quickly shuffled back to the truck for emergency toilet paper before breaking toward the thicket. Of course, I use the term "thicket" to describe the impenetrable wall of vegetative death that I attemtped to crash my way through. Briars, palm fronds, and an assortment of other razor sharp plants pulled at me as I made my way noisily out of sight and into the woods. A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed that my not-so-stealthy departure had, indeed, drawn everyone's attention to the fact I was about to take care of business in the woods. 

Nevertheless, I continued into the woods until I was 100% out of sight, and finally answered The Call. There's always a brief moment after answering where you think to yourself Oh thank you. Disaster. Averted. And I was happily in this thought process when I realized I was in pain. A lot of pain. And all of it coming from below my belt line. I quickly glanced down in horror to see my poor bare bottom covered in hundreds of mosquitoes. I'd already put bug spray on my arms, legs, face, and neck. But who thinks to put bug spray on their butt?

Had everyone thought I'd entered the woods quickly, it was nothing compared to the speed at which I came crashing back out. I came sprinting back into the parking lot bloody, writhing in pain, shouting obscenities, and trailing a long length of toilet paper behind me like a flag. Right in front of everyone. The Call of Duty at its finest.

Another prime example of The Call occurred a few weeks back while hunting Central Georgia for Whitetail. I'd just left the Jeep a few minutes prior and crossed a small creek. I suddenly stumbled across a VERY fresh scrape line. While I stood around debating about which tree I should climb that evening, I received The Call of Duty. Of course, this came right when I discovered the best sign I'd seen all year, and there was no chance of making it back to the Jeep. I opted to quickly work my way down a dim trail and up over a small ridge that overlooked two merging creeks. I soon found a suitable spot, and answered The Call. Only after finishing did I look to notice 3 fresh rubs and two more scrapes that were only a few feet away.

There must be something about actually being in the outdoors that triggers it. One could leave their house without the faintest urge to use the restroom, get into the woods, and suddenly have to use the bathroom like never before. Maybe it's the fresh air? The rustling of the leaves? The scent of pine and oak? Who knows? It's a mystery to me.

Even stranger things occur with The Call of Duty when you actually -live- in the woods. While working on a deer study last year, I lived in the woods with two other guys for months at a time. It wasn't until a few months into the study while bouncing around in a pickup truck with the guys that I came to a horrible realization. One of the guys would offhandedly mention something along the lines of, "If I don't use the bathroom ASAP I'm gonna die". And in response, the other guy would say "Same...I've gotta go bad". I would have responded with something as well, but the urge to answer The Call was already so strong inside me that I feared speaking might hurry things up. I suddenly realized that we all had essentially this same coversation EVERY DAY. Like clockwork. Similar to how women will match menstral cycles if they are around each other long enough, men will actually sync The Call of Duty.

Once back at the field house, I quickly ran inside to toss some gear onto my bed. I turned around, went back into the hall, and reached for the bathroom door at the same time as one of the other guys.

"Dude...I've -really- gotta go"

"Yeah, but so do I. It's..."

We were cut off by the muffled voice of the third guy from behind the locked door.

"Ya'll wait your turn. I'm gonna be a while"

The Call of Duty at its finest.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Featured Blogging and Outdoor Humor

I was recently given the opportunity to write for Legendary Whitetails. They're a hunting apparel/gear company that focuses guessed it...Whitetails. They recently opened up a community section and asked that I contribute a bit, so I happily obliged. The following is just a quick piece of the article.
"I half expect after every stifled sneeze to have to put my eyeballs back into their sockets or push small bits of brain matter back into my ears."
Oh yes. It's one of those articles. To read the full story, please check it out at

I'm currently finishing up a report for what was my best hunting trip....well...ever, and it should be up soon. I won't be spending -too- much time outdoors in the next few weeks. Something horrible has happened, and it's currently consuming most of my waking hours.

Hopefully it'll all be over soon...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Look Back at 2012

So it's a new year. And since I (sort of) keep up with my writing, I suppose I'm required to make some sort of post that reflects on the last year. Right?

Everyone's doing it, after all.

2012 was bizarre to say the least. With the exception of graduating college, there was practically -nothing- that happened to me over the course of the year that I actually saw coming. So here's a list of things I absolutely was not expecting in 2012 (Picture heavy):

My first pig.

Wishing I'd played football so I could tackle deer better.

Becoming a giant fan of craft beer.
Killing multiple deer with darts, yet failing to kill one with actual rifles/bows
Playing with awesome technology (including FLIR)

Sightfishing for Bonito

Having multiple writing opportunites open up
Being single for the first time in seven years
Nearly stepping on a giant rattler

Catching my biggest bass

Then doing it again

Getting a Facebook, Twitter, AND Smartphone (I've almost caught up with everyone else my age)
Discovering Tannerite

Making life-long friends in the middle of no-where
Realizing that fawns get eaten like hot-cakes

Killing my first coyote
Killing my first boar with a pistol

Going Crappie fishing for the first time

Getting VERY little kayak fishing done
Becoming an uncle

Fishing out of a Gheenoe

Catching my first Snook on the fly

Discovering Mullet isn't good when grilled

Practically becoming a radio telemetry master
Realizing how important family and true friends are
Having the Jeep attempt to kill me on multiple occasions
Realizing the Jeep will float (for a second)
Discovering that bow hunting for pigs from the ground is easier said than done

Going on my first muzzle loader hunt

Getting momentarily burned out on hunting for the first time
Actually -wanting- to be around people/civilization
Confirming the fact that I absolutely -cannot- work in an office cubicle with no windows
Learning what "Business Casual" means
Becoming a firm believer in the ThermaCell

Getting paid to write
Getting a new girlfriend
Killing my biggest boar

Learning to play one of the greatest games ever invented:  "Stump Game" (I'd suggest googling it)
Learning that deer can actually growl
And finally,
Deciding to go back to school

Though this isn't an exhaustive list, I feel like I've hit the big moments. I purposefully -don't- write about everything that happens to me in the outdoors. It's important to me to do this as I often find myself becoming disengaged as I try to take pictures, or failing to really appreciate the experience by rushing to write down the events. Certain things make it on the blog, while others are saved to be told first hand around a campfire, on long drives, or when the bite is slow. The love of simply telling a story often outweighs the love of writing about it.

2012 was a pretty wild ride and brought an absurd amount of unexpected events. If I could change just one thing, it'd be to get more kayak fishing done. I really barely got out in the bright yellow yak. So even though I'm never one to make a new years resolution, I guess if I -had- to, it would be to fish out of the kayak more in 2013. Sounds

I will be back out in the woods again this spring to tackle unsuspecting deer. I've also got one more whitetail hunt planned before the season ends for good. I know that things won't go at all like I expect them to in 2013, but I look forward to the unexpected. After all, the unexpected is what makes for good stories.

Stay tuned!