The moment that I have been dreading since October has arrived: my deer season is finished. What a season I’ve had, though. I cannot remember another deer season where I’ve had this much fun and this much success. Yes, I know there are a few weeks left of deer season, but baseball has arrived and my attention has completely shifted to that. This past weekend has made the transition much easier than I anticipated.
I knew when I pulled out of Hattiesburg on Friday afternoon that this weekend would be my last trip to the deer camp this season. I packed my truck light in order to be able to haul all of my gear from the camp back with me on Saturday night. Friday was cold and cloudy and I had high hopes of catching a late rutting buck chasing a doe. After arriving at the camp just in time to get a decent hunt in, I settled into a ladder stand overlooking a food plot where I’d seen plenty of action just three weeks ago. I sat with the cold wind howling in my face for two hours without the slightest glimpse of life. Maybe this arctic blast was too cold for a Mississippi whitetail to get up and move around. The good news was that my good friend, Ben Tharp, and his son, Reid, were meeting me at the camp. Ben is like having a camp chef. I actually think he enjoys cooking more than he does hunting sometimes, and he didn’t disappoint on Friday night. Ben and I have been friends for years and I’ve learned as much about hunting and cooking wild game from him as I have from anyone else. He is a true outdoorsman and a pleasure to be around at all times. If you don’t have a Ben Tharp at your camp, I suggest you get one.
After staying up way later than planned on Friday, it was difficult to get up and moving on Saturday morning. We got into our stands just as the sun was peaking. I hunted my favorite morning spot, a stand that I’ve mentioned before. It’s a ladder stand on a large hill overlooking a good portion of the land. I love to sit there when the sun begins to creep up, turning what was once dark into a vibrant scene of color below me. The shadows begin to fade from black to orange, red, and yellow. Ducks fly by me from the cypress brake to the south. The deer begin to awake from their slumber, and the sun shines on their backs as they walk through the thick entanglement. With each shiny, brown coat that I see, my heart races with excitement. It’s like my own little slice of heaven on Earth. When the morning hunt is finished, Ben once again comes through. A plate of eggs, bacon, grits, and sausage await for the hungry hunter. The morning fuel will be the driving force for the evening hunt
Around noon, the quiet camp takes on a change. Several members of the Donald family and a couple of other friends arrive to spend the evening. The house all of a sudden fills with cheerful noise. The deer camp experience is now in full swing. All kinds of hunting/fishing stories are being told as we trade laughs. I sit mostly quiet and take it all in. In a world that feels like it’s crumbling, here, in this moment, everything is right. Political conversations are as scarce as capitol police. Talks of covid are nonexistent. It’s almost perfect. We plot out where each of us will hunt that evening, and I picked a stand where I killed a good buck earlier this year, the boot.
The boot gets its name from the layout of the property line. To the South, the property line meets up with the Big Black River and curves into the shape of a cowboy boot giving this stand its namesake. The boot doesn’t get near the hunting pressure as some of our other stands, simply because it is quite a haul from the house. There have been times that I’ve made the trip down there only to see grass, and there have been times where I’ve had some great hunts. Since this was going to be my final hunt of the season, I wanted to go down to the river one more time. And for one last time, the boot didn’t disappoint.
I dropped Ben and Reid off at a double ladder stand along the way to my spot. Their stand overlooks a food plot on the edge of the cypress brake that is notorious for buck movement this time of the year. I really hoped Reid would get an opportunity at a mature buck cruising the edge of the brake looking for a companion. After dropping them off, and driving a little farther, I parked my four wheeler and began a long walk to my stand. I walked slowly taking in the scenery around me. As I walked the bank and listened to the river I thought about what a great season this has been. I’ve been able to share so many memories with friends and family. If I didn’t kill anything this evening, it wouldn’t dampen my season at all. This evening was simply a bonus hunt to finish things up.
I settled into my stand and watched ducks fly by for over an hour. The cold breeze blew straight into my face and gave me a chill. Finally, a spike entered my food plot. He fed for about twenty minutes and seemed quite comfortable. As I was enjoying watching the young deer forage, all of a sudden his demeanor changed. His ears pinned back and his head was fixated on the woods behind him. My heart rate began to increase with anticipation of what was spooking him. Suddenly he took off running straight toward me. He stopped after running about 50 yards and looked back. I picked up my binoculars and looked in the direction he was looking, and there he was. A large, mature buck was entering the food plot. At a quick glance I knew this deer was a “shooter”. I quickly raised my rifle, squeezed the trigger, and just like that, my season ended.
The ride back to the camp was interesting with two grown men, a young man, and a 200 pound buck on a four wheeler. We made the best of it and drew plenty of laughs upon our arrival. As we took plenty of pictures of the deer, and with the deer, it was easy to remember why I love this so much. Baseball is definitely my first love, but moments like these are pretty hard to beat. My thirst is quenched, my heart is full, and I’ll forever remember my best deer season ever.