Today is Friday, July 25, 2014

The end of the season

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By JOHN L. SLOAN bowriter1944john@aol.com
The yellow finch/warbler kept me company as the sun started to slide behind the pines. One would think after all the years I would know what kind of bird it is that visits with deer hunters.

I was watching the little bird so much I almost missed seeing the doe. She was over 200-yards away and halfway across the opening before I decided to shoot. I have supreme confidence in the Parker-Hale from a steady rest. Young, fat and exactly the right age for the table. The vintage .308 cracked and she dropped in the edge of the woods. I didnt realize it right then, but as far as shooting went, my season was over.

We were in Alabama the guests of the Robert and Hilda Pitman at White Oak plantation, my longtime retreat. The Big Bird was with me and he was busy passing up does, waiting for a shooter buck. The two hunters who were leaving as we arrived had killed beautiful bucks, a high-racked 8 and a dandy 10. They said all the action was in the mornings.

The next morning it was 22-degrees. I felt it was a great morning to sleep in and study for a calculus test. Maybe just, sleep in. So being of relatively sound mind, that is what I did. After it warmed up a bit, I did a tad of scouting for a good stand for Sunday afternoon. Sunday I had a special guest that I really wanted to kill or at least see a deer. In a bit, you will meet young Ryan Donald.

Long about good warm up Matt Pitman and I went to pick up the hunters, Matts brother Joe and Mark Big Bird Campbell (pictured right). Joe had a pretty eight-point and Mark had his twin. I guess I should have gone hunting but I needed the rest.

That afternoon I watched six different does come to a greenfield I hunted years ago. My hanging stand was still in the tree, I could see it from my blind. I killed a nice eight from that stand with a bow some years ago. No bucks today, just the ladies and it was getting cold. I had a feeling it was going to be another sleep in morning. It was and I thoroughly enjoyed it while everyone else shivered and passed on various deer.

Bird went fishing after lunch and Ryan and company arrived. In all, I guess there were about 40 of them, people everywhere. There were probably only six or eight and at my age, Ill not try to remember who they all were or their names. Ryan has cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair. An outfit called Mountaintop Outdoors is in the business of finding youngsters with severe problems and making special outdoor experiences come true. So, the Pitmans were hosting, I was guiding, and we were trying to get Ryan a chance at a deer.

Ryan is a delightful young man with a great sense of humor. The cerebral palsy has him unable to control his arms or legs but with some heavy lifting done by the strong young men like Matt Pitman and Kent Horton, President of the foundation, we were able to get Ryan up in the shooting house and in a stable chair.

The house overlooks an intersection of three fields and has been a great place to kill a deer for several years. I positioned Ryan facing a sloping point coming in from the left and a long field road coming in straight ahead. The two met in a one-acre greenfield with spots of fresh clover coming in from the recent warm weather.

I explained that I expected the deer to come from the left where a thicket formed by an old clearcut met a stretch of hardwoods. It was a perfect transition area to the greenfield. We settled in to wait. Kent manned the video camera to record the event and we talked in whispers about how deer move and such.

Mountaintop Outdoors is completely supported by contributions and holds fundraisers during the year such as golf tournaments and this year, a pigeon shoot is planned. Donations are more than welcome. You can learn all about the organization through at www.mountaintopexperiences.org.

It started with the realization that there are so many young people and wounded warriors with the desire to hunt and fish, but physical limitations and illnesses prevented their opportunities. If you know someone in a situation like that, you can apply online at the website.

Ryan is from Gilbertstown, AL and is a big Auburn fan. The night before our hunt, it had been arranged for him to attend the Auburn basketball game, meet all the cheerleaders, and sit with some of the football players. It was obvious he seeing enjoyed himself on the jumbotron and probably would have liked to have a couple of the cheerleaders in the shooting house with us. Unfortunately, there was not enough room so he had to put up with Brent and me.

I predicted we would not see a deer before 4 p.m. I was off by 20 minutes. The first little doe crept out from the left at 3:40 and started feeding 200-yards from us. At that distance we could talk quietly while she fed unaware of our presence. I had Ryan practice aiming at here. After a bit, one joined her then another young doe and they slowly fed out of sight.

I told Ryan not to be concerned that I felt sure more deer would come out as it got later. Sure enough, a few minutes, those three were back and were then three more joined them. Ryan had been practicing aiming the single shot, .243 at clumps of dirt and as the deer now began to feed toward us, I could see he was getting just a tad nervous.

Both Brent and I whispered for him to relax and I readied the rifle. Slowly one deer worked out from the bunch and started feeding right toward us. I got the rifle lined up and helped Ryan get in position and at 65-yards, whispered for him to take the shot whenever he was ready. The rifle belched and for dirt kicked up close to the deers body. I have missed deer at that range before and he did not miss by much.

As it got dark, two lone deer came out for just a few seconds to bid us goodbye and that was it.

For me it was a super hunt and a great end to my season. I believe Ryan enjoyed it as well. Back at the lodge, we took some pictures of the entire group and replayed the story of a great afternoon and a great end to my season.

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