I'm gonna take you to the back of the property this morning," Brady said to me, "Be ready early."We dropped off Mandy and Jason, and headed down some narrow overgrown roads. "Boy, I gotta get in here and do some trimming" Brady mumbled as we dodged overhanging branches. "If you hear shooting back here, it won't be any of the ladies."
Brady dropped me off at my stand, and handed me his gun. "This gun is right-on" Brady told me, "I'm only giving you two shells, that's all you'l need." I thanked him for letting me use the gun. I brought my bow, because I had sold my Remington 243 a couple days before the hunt. Because this was the last time I could hunt, and no one had taken a deer yet, I wanted to increase my chances of being successful. He waited until I was inside, then spun around and headed down the two track. He still had other ladies to put in their stands.
I sat in the darkness listening for footsteps in the dry leaves, reminiscing about the last couple days. How wonderful it was that I had the opportunity to hunt at the Pine Acres Plantation in Estill, South Carolina, thanks to Brady Copeland, the Copeland family and the great people at Buckmasters, Womenhunters.com and Safari Club Sables. I was attending the First Annual Disabled Womens Hunt, sponsored by them. The hunt was offered to disabled ladies and cancer survivors, and since I'm a cancer survivor, I qualified. I was excited about the opportunity to hunt with a bunch of ladies, and especially honored to hunt with some very determined wheelchair bound hunters. You see, back in 1985, I fell from a treestand, (actually, one of the screw-in steps pulled out) and I fell 18 feet. I pulled every tendon in both feet and ankles, bruised both wrists and split the inside of my chin open when they hit a log at the base of the tree. I was laid up for 16 weeks (have you ever tried to use crutches with two bad feet?). Had I landed a little different, I too, could have easily been in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I felt drawn to the chance to hunt with these remarkable ladies, and was excited about Buckmasters and Womenhunters.com giving us the chance to get together.
This morning was the last we could hunt. The weather had been beautiful the last two days, but the deer weren't moving much. Although it was the middle of December, it had actually been too warm. A cold front was coming through, and I could feel a nip in the air. Everything seemed different this morning. The weather had changed, and I was hoping the deer would change also.
As the darkness gave way to the faint gray of dawn, I could hear footsteps behind me. It was still to dark to see anything. I was wondering what kind of terrain I was hunting in. A few very large trees began to appear out of the gloom, like stately gray pillars. I could hear footsteps in front of me now-still too dark to see. I could feel a stiff cold breeze pick up. I was glad I had my Scent Loc suit on, so I didn't have to worry about the wind. As the woods began to take shape, I could see a mixture of large oaks and very small pines. Thick, yet open. As it got lighter, the woods came to life with birds and squirrels. I could make out the two-track now. My stand was situated along the edge of the two-track , and I could shoot about 100 yards in each direction. I could see a field about 200 yards beyond the woods to my right. This place looked like it should be crawling with deer!
I kept my eyes tuned to every bit of movement in the woods, scanning for something out of place. As I scanned, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked down to my right, and there was a doe standing in the small pines 30 yards below me. She whirrled, disappearing into the pines. Darn, I thought to myself, I must have spooked her. About 5 minutes later, a doe came running through the woods toward the two-track about 80 yards out. She stopped in the middle of the two-track, I raised my borrowed Weatherby 270 rifle, and fired. She disappeared into the woods. I hoped Brady was right when he told me the gun was right-on. Then it dawned on me. "You dummy, I'll bet that doe was being chased by a buck," I said to myself. Sure enough, a few minutes later, I saw antlers coming through the woods, right on the doe's trail. The huge buck stopped about 20 feet from the two-track, put his head down, and walked out to the edge of the trail. He looked down the trail, then looked my way. I was trying to get into position to shoot, and he whirrled and headed back into the woods. Darn! I blew my chance! Then I thought, he's looking for the doe I just shot, try calling like a doe. Maaaaaah, Mmaaaaahhh, MmmaaaaaaahhhHHH. Suddenly, below me I could see antlers coming through the pines 30 yards away. It was a smaller buck. A nice 6 point. He came out onto the two-track, looked at me, and I could see he wasn't big enough to shoot. He scooted across the trail and bounded off into the woods behind me. Suddenly, there he was! Right on the heals of the smaller buck, was the Big Boy I saw earlier. He stopped 10 feet from the trail in some thick brush. I raised the Weatherby, found an opening in the brush right on his shoulder, and fired. He disappeared. I waited a few minutes, and since I was out of ammunition, I decided to look for my deer. I looked for the buck first, and found a few specks of blood leading away from where he stood. It was hard to see without my glasses, so I went back to the stand to get my glasses out of the fanny pack and set down the rifle. "I know I hit the buck, better go see if you hit the doe" I said to myself. As I approached the area where the doe stood, I could see I made a great shot. I easily found the doe about 50 yards away. I returned to the trail to resume my hunt for the buck, and Robert, Brady's helper, pulled up with his pickup. We loaded the doe, and started back down the trail when Brady pulled up with Mandy, Jason, and Lisa. "Did you shoot?" everyone asked. "Twice" I said, "One deer is already loaded, and we still need to look for the other. He was about 30 yards from the stand." "He?" Brady replied, "How big?" "Let's just put it this way Brady, we BETTER find this deer!!" I smiled. I showed Brady where the blood trail was, and since we were getting short on time, Brady let his German Shorthair, Wade, find the deer for us. I returned to the truck to take off my Scent-Loc boots and tell Lisa the story, and in no time, Brady and Jason were pulling my deer back to the truck. "I see why you wanted us to find this deer!" said Brady. I couldn't believe my eyes, he was the biggest deer I've ever gotten! The twelve point had a 16 ½" inside spread, with the longest tines 10 ½ & 11 inches. After a ton of field photos, we headed back to the lodge. Sheila, Barbara, Sue and David were waiting for our arrival. Finally, someone from the group was successful! Everyone joined in on the photo session, then it was off to the lodge for lunch and packing. The hunt was over, but the memories and new friendships will remain with me forever! Thank you Sue & Danny Burch, David Sullivan, Brady Copeland, Barbara Strawberry, Lisa Lander, Sheila Burnham, Mandy & Jason Sears, and Karen & Herman Myers for a hunt I will never forget! I would also like to thank the Copeland family for the use of their lodge and property for the hunt. Thanks also to Barbara Strawberry and Safari Club Foundation Sables for sponsoring our food, David Sullivan from BADF Buckmasters and Sue Burch from WomenHunters.com for doing a great job of putting this hunt together. I will be forever grateful!