First Deer Hunt

I’ve never been on a deer hunt.  Until recently.  If you’ve been here long enough to have read my post Triumph over Tragedy, you know that I’m not an avid hunter and that I’ve only recently conquered my fear of the shotgun.

This past Saturday, our radio show topic was one I suggested–“Women Hunters”. Even though I’m not a hunter, I enjoyed moderating the show and sharing about the women hunters I’ve met recently and what great gals they are.

Invitation to a Deer Hunt

One of those women hunters is an all-around outdoor woman who inspires me to the moon and back. She is Rene` Lofton Hatten, and I met her and her husband, Sammy, this summer at our Louisiana Outdoor Writer conference. We chatted over breakfast, and she couldn’t believe the Bayou Woman wasn’t a hunter, so she invited me to the deer camp this fall.

Just Last week she made good on the invitation by asking me up to their hunting camp in the thick timbers of northeast Louisiana for a combination deer/hog hunt. After performing some organizational miracles, I finally saw my way clear to head up there for a couple days to let Rene` work her outdoor-woman magic on me.

Rene` and Sammy, married 32 years, have been building this hunting kingdom for just about as long. Much of the land surrounding their “deer camp” is owned, leased, and/or inhabited by family members, with Sammy having hunted the area his entire life. What a connection to these woods he has.

One can’t imagine what’s involved in establishing a deer camp and hunting acreage, and there certainly was a lot for me to absorb. What with clearing lanes on which to place corn feeders, clearing trails on which the ATVs travel, and constructing deer stands, it now makes sense to me why these folks spend as much time as possible at their hunting paradise.

At the Deer Camp

The camp in which we stayed is an old house that Rene` discovered boarded up when she was expecting their third child 25 years ago. Because she and her two children weren’t really welcome at the extended family’s male-dominated deer camp, she did some digging around and ended up buying that old place, breathing new life into it for Sammy, their three children, and herself.  Now, the camp is enjoyed by any combination of their children, their spouses, grand children, at least three grand puppies and invited guests!

As soon as I arrived, Rene` led me to the shooting yard, where she had the Browning 270 all ready for me to shoot at the “exploding target“, as she called it. After schooling me about the gun and reminding me about gun safety, it was time to take aim at the target, which sat about 50 yards away.

What a powerful gun! I’ve never shot anything larger than a .22 rifle before, so this was quite a blast for me! No pun intended! I shot three times, and all three bullets hit the center bull’s eye.  My reaction?  Shock.  Her reaction?

She said, “I believe I’ve been pool hustled!” but I swore to her, and I do so again now:  I’ve never before shot a high-powered rifle.  I swear.

Time to Hunt Deer

Early next morning, the scent of strong coffee woke me, as the men folk loaded up their guns onto the four-wheelers and headed off to their respective deer stands.  The plan was for everyone to hunt until about 9:30 and meet back at the camp.

First Deer Hunt

Rene` climbs up into 16-foot stand

It was a breezy morning in the 16-foot tall “quad pod” stand in which Rene` and I sat.  She taught me why and how to use fox urine to mask our scent, since the wind direction was blowing at our backs, up the shooting lane.  She demonstrated a “can call“, which mimics the sound of a fawn or possibly a doe in estrus, and another call, which depending on the setting could mimic all deer.

Although we might have been whispering a little too much to encourage deer to come within shooting range, a hungry bobcat paid a visit to the shooting lane.  About halfway up the lane, a pair of frisky squirrels were eating the corn on the ground and playing chase, catching the bobcat’s attention.

We watched through binoculars as the bobcat crouched low to the ground, creeping quietly closer and closer to the unaware squirrels.  As soon as the bobcat came within ten feet of the squirrels, it charged after them, chasing them into the brush.  Squirrel squeals ensued, and then silence followed as the victorious bobcat pranced out with at least one squirrel in its mouth, going back the way it came.  As it went, the white underside of its tail waved like a victory flag behind it.

Since I had never seen a bobcat before and had just said so the night before, this National Geographic moment, seen up close and personal, more than made up for the lack of deer.   Much to my dismay, my camera sat forgotten on the floor of the stand so I can’t even post a photo for you of the beautiful creature.

First Deer Hunt

Sammy replenishes corn feeders

That afternoon, I accompanied Sammy as he replenished all the corn feeders and put out little piles of rice bran for the deer to eat.  Also, it was time to check the hog trap.

First Deer Hunt

Sammy pushes trap door on hog trap

The hog trap was empty, and all the bait was gone, probably consumed by the wily raccoons.  Sammy and his son, Will, decided to move the trap over an area the wild hogs had plowed up the night before.

First Deer Hunt

Moving hog trap

Wild hogs are a pestilence in Louisiana, destroying farm crops and everything else in their path as they root and dig.  Trapping a wild hog in a pen and dispatching it might seem like shooting fish in a barrel, but not only is it legal, the department of wildlife encourages it.

Further, the taking of these destructive animals is necessary, and except for the old boars, hogs provide another valuable source of meat for a hunter’s family. I’m sorry to say, though, that by the time I left, we had not yet captured a hog.

Rene` and I hunted together both morning and evening the first day and didn’t see any deer.  Back at the camp, the men folk reported the same–no deer.  With a full moon, we all deduced that the deer must have been feeding at night and bedding down during the day.  That doesn’t mean that we didn’t continue to sit on the stands and hope anyway.

Day 2 of the Deer Hunt

The second morning, after making sure I was ready to hunt alone, Sammy dropped me off at one of Rene`’s stands, where I sat all morning and saw very little activity of any kind.  Regardless, I was intrigued by the landscape and the vast array of colors of the fall leaves.

First Deer Hunt

View from Rene`’s stand

That evening Sammy dropped me off at his ground blind because one of the game cameras had taken photos of a nice buck in that area two nights in a row.  Making sure I knew he wouldn’t be back to pick me up until dark, Sammy took off to his stand about a quarter mile away.

Once I was situated in the stand and had covered my scent with the fox urine, I sat very still for a very long time, and I might have even dozed off.  I experimented with the can call and tried taking  photos through the rifle scope. Rene` had taught me to be very still in the blind, keeping all movement below the shooting windows.  But hey, it’s hard to take good pics without moving around.

First Deer Hunt

Photo through the rifle scope

The sun had dropped way behind the tall tree line, and the shadows covered the shooting lane as I leaned back in the chair, waiting for Sammy to retrieve me.  Then something told me to look to the right, and way off in the distance was a brown blob in the middle of the shooting lane.

You’ve got to be kidding me.  It’s so dark I can’t even tell if that deer has antlers, I thought as I slowly raised the gun to my shoulder to look through the scope.  Wait a minute.  It looks like two deer.  No.  Wait.  It’s three deer and they’re gathered around eating that pile of rice bran.  

Using photos of deer, Rene` had taught me exactly where to aim for the “heart shot”, because it’s not good practice to wound a deer that will run off in the woods for miles.  My heart raced, and my hands trembled as my breath came in short spurts.  Looking intently through the scope, I could barely make out that one deer had its rump toward me, and the other two were facing me at an angle.

With no daylight left, and the deer grouped so close together, it was impossible to pick out one deer to shoot.  All I could do was sit and mentally appeal to one of the deer to step out broadside so I might get off a good shot.

Evidently, the full moon theory was right.  They must have been out all night the night before and had bedded down all day, causing them to feed hungrily on the pile of rice bran this evening.  There was no way they would turn away from the pile of free food.  In the distance, I could hear the buzz of the side-by-side as Sammy made his way to get me.

I consoled myself with watching the group of dark shadows as they consumed their evening meal and vowed I would be back next morning to try my luck again.

First Deer Hunt

BW sits patiently in the stand

Day 3 of the Deer Hunt

Next morning, I returned to the same stand where a young doe paid me a visit.  She only teased me by running across the lane from one side of the woods to the other.  Since I’ve been home, three men have told me that I should have called out to her (in a very certain way) or used the can call, and she very likely would’ve stopped in her tracks at the sound.  And then, if ready, I could’ve drawn a bead on that sweet spot and taken her down.  I will try to remember that next time.

I’m a tender-hearted soul, and quite honestly, I’m not sure if I have the moxie to take down a doe, but I told myself that I could easily shoot at a buck.  Not sure what that says about me, and maybe one day I will learn that a deer is a deer, and it’s all good table fare.

Upon return to the camp, a deer hung on the cleaning rack, so I got to watch the cleaning process.  Tim, one of their sons-in-law, had taken the deer and generously sent me home with some of the meat quartered so that I could learn how to cut it and process it for my family, which I did and sealed with my Food Saver.  That was just one of the many things that Rene` inspired me to do.  Not only does she hunt deer and hog, she can haul them out of the woods, clean them, and process them all by herself, if necessary.  (Oh, and no doubt she can cook venison well, too!)

The last night there, we attended a fish fry up the road with Sammy’s extended family.  There were three generations of Hatten men there, and Grandpa Hatten had caught and contributed all the catfish and white perch that fed us.  The food was as delicious as the stories were entertaining.

The Hatten family is hard working and fun loving, and I’ve never met more generous and hospitable folks.  Heck, they wouldn’t even let me wash the dishes until after I’ve visited two more times!

I might not have shot a deer or brought home the bacon, but the experiences I took away from those three days of hunting in the piney timbers of northeast Louisiana will last me a lifetime; well maybe not a lifetime but at least until I can make the five-hour drive up there again before the end of deer season!

First Deer Hunt

Back strap ready for the freezer

Now it’s time to get into the BW test kitchen and whip up a new venison dish in time for Thanksgiving!

Your (not-quite-yet) great white hunter,

BW

You may also like...

Comments

First Deer Hunt — 30 Comments

  1. I’m glad you had a good time. Maybe Termite will take up deer hunting and y’all could go on a hunt before he leaves the nest.
    My daughter-in-law’s brothers make the best venison sausage! I’m hoping they have success this year at their deer camp. When they are, they are very generous to those of us that don’t hunt.

  2. That reads like all but one 25 of my deer hunting experiences. Sit in the stand for hours watching the wildlife and trying to make horns grow out of the heads of spikes and does.

    • : ) I guess the trick is you have to invest a lot in the hunting spots and then spend a lot of time sitting enjoying nature while you wait!!!! It was a great experience, and I’m really glad I did it. I’m going to hunt deer on the back of my property now!

  3. Sounds like a fun trip. I have put up all my guns for the most part. I have killed enough in my life time and I now find I enjoy sitting on the dock, watching the ducks while the sun rises more than shooting them. I don’t regret killing game, I just killed enough already, maybe the new guys deserve the time in the blind or stand. I used to help set out stands or re-reed.

    I enjoy getting up fixing breakfast and getting everyone out the door headed to the stands/blinds then kicking back and relaxing with that second cup of coffee. I used to get my tags and throw ’em in the beer stein at the camp for someone that needed ’em. Like you, I usually came home with some meat to enjoy.

    My Pop got this way too. I won’t call it maturity, maybe our priorities just change.

    Enjoy the outdoors, that is how you know where to hunt. Its hard to just show up on Thursday night and expect to kill something if you have not been there since last year. The camp had two chest freezers we always kept full of game for weekend clearing/cleaning and of course the occasional Bouree game or kegger. Maybe even show up an off LSU week and just enjoy the camp.

    We always set up all the stands, but some you knew were going to be more lucky than others by the cuttings and droppings.

    Oh well, again I ramble……. I am glad you got a trip out in the piney woods, hope it was peaceful and refreshing. Glad you are still overcoming your phobia. Heck I am glad ya had a good time!

    BTW anyone have anything you know of to do with fresh lemons? Lemonade, not sure yet about jelly, anything else? Got about 35 lbs today of huge lemons. Appreciate any suggestions. I squeezed a gallon of juice already.

    • Yes, I guess I am getting into the game kind of late, but better late than never. I might decide it’s not for me, and I have never really enjoyed the idea of killing things, even for food, but that’s just the maternal instincts in me. It’s more about survival now. If there are deer on my land, and I can harvest one a year to feed my family, then less money spent on food loaded with hormones and anti biotics. If I get a shotgun before duck season closes, I might put a couple birds on the table, too! But I do know where you’re coming from.

  4. huge lemons? Are they sweet? Used to get a few huge lime and lemon from girl in Arizona they were pretty sweet compared to store bought.

  5. Blu, I’d show you a picture but I would have to figure it out. They are smooth thin skinned, and as large as my fist equally green as yellow. Came off a tree and not a bush. She bumped her tree a few times and they all fell off. She said she got 4 bags this size. I have no idea with to do with lemons besides pies and maybe jelly. The skins are full of citrus bores so couldn’t make a marmalade. I know where all the ones on my Satsuma trees came from now though.

    I never had a sweet lemon so I couldn’t compare ’em, but they make ya pucker!

    • My guess is they are “Meyer” lemons? And I know you know how to do an online search, but there are quite a few bushes/trees down here and folks give them away, not knowing what to do with them other than freezing the juice. Here are a couple interesting sites I found:
      http://localfoods.about.com/od/lemons/a/meyerlemons.htm
      http://www.latimes.com/features/la-fo-meyerlemons16jan16,0,5003872.story#axzz2lTfyyhX3
      Of course, we’re always interested to know what concoctions you come up with!!!

    • Is this them? Meyer lemons and closeup .

      These were on a tree between the old City Hotel in Breaux Bridge and the house next to it – I took the pic last Christmas. Good gosh – if people don’t pick those things, I should have asked. I’d have paid for some Myer lemons. Which reminds me – it ought to be getting toward Satsuma time, too!

      • Satsumas have been out for a couple weeks. Just ate some off the Landry’s tree the other day. Nothing like fresh off the tree! It’s just a shame how much citrus just falls to the ground here and never gets eaten. Real shame.

        • Wooo-hoo! I just called Froberg Farms over in Alvin. They have their own orchards, and the Satsumas are in – they have lots! Guess where I’m going this afternoon? Thanks for the tip!

        • My Satsuma’s are nearly gone now at the house and we had a bumper crop. I think experimenting with Satsuma jelly, I finally got 32 jars canned, lost 16 due to me being stupid and still have a quart of squeezed and filter juice. But they were all extremely small this year but over abundant. They are super sweet this year, but mine are extremely hard to peel. I blamed all the strangeness on the fact that I trimmed the tree two years ago and this is the first fruit.

          Everything I wanted to try with the lemons involved the skin and it was totally eaten up by the borers. I have some “limoncello” I tried to make 6/8 months ago. It was so bad I have started to throw it away a half dozen times. I was cleaning this last week and tried another taste and its actually getting better…LOL I guess like everything else in life, ya just get smoother with age….

          Thanks my friends for the info.

          • I’ve never tried lemoncello, so if it ages well, save me a bottle and we’ll trade! I want to try some. Saw it in a chick flick–Under the Tuscan Sun or something like that. Another fresh lemon story . . . . wait, maybe I’ll make it a blog post. I’ll hold that thought and go take some local lemon tree photos for that purpose . . . .

  6. Now that I’ve got the lemons out of my system – what a great post! And that’s the way to do it – get a long visit, experience all of the aspects of a hunt. It’s as interesting to learn about setting the traps, clearing the paths, putting out the feed and so on as the actual bagging of game.

    I just don’t know if I could shoot a deer. Hogs? No problem. Birds? I’m fine. I guess it’s the expression in their eyes. On the other hand, if I made “sausage jerky backstrap” my mantra and repeated it over and over, that might help. I’ll eat it all, without any qualms. In fact, if I can get ahold of venision chili or summer sausage, I’ll take that first.

    I’ll say this – your post certainly helps to clear up what all that “stuff” is that gets hauled up and down I-l0 toward West Texas in late October. Clearly, it’s not enough to just throw the gun in the car and go, at least if you have your own lease.

    Interesting about you hitting the bullseye three times in a row. I don’t know a thing about guns, but I do know of other circumstances where trying to go slow makes a task harder than doing it quickly. Is it possible that increased power does increase accuracy? Anyway – congrats! If only those deer had separated – no question you’ve have bagged your first deer!

    • All the needed equipment and preparations were overwhelming to me, but they’ve been doing it so long, they work together like a well-rehearsed dance, and it all gets done in a timely fashion. I’m sure I’d always forget some necessary item back at the camp . . . . and then disturb everyone on my ride out of and back into the woods. It’s too late in the year to make any preparations on the back of my land, but I can dress up in camouflage and sit in front of a tree and wait. I can also spread some corn around, but as far as shooting lanes, corn feeders, etc. I’m just going to remain a minimalist, I think. It’s cheaper that way, too! We don’t have a 4-wheeler, but if I can’t walk 200 yards to go hunt a deer, then I don’t need to go. And if I bag one, I’ll just use the old John Deer riding lawn mower to haul it to the front, LOL!!! Now, go get those Satsumas, cher!

  7. Wow…. Even if you weren’t able to get a clear shot at a deer, it sounds to me like you still had a great time. You were with good people and made some new friends. Ate some great food. You learned a few things to carry with you on your next hunt. You saw your first bobcat! Add in that fabulous fall view from the blind and you have the makings of a wonderful visit, deer or no deer.

    No lemon receipts here, Foamheart, other than lemonade. I love candied peel but, like marmalade, you can’t do that if they are all mined up by borers.

    • Gue`, you summed up my trip superbly. That’s exactly how it was. I’m so glad I went, but can you believe I had to be talked into it by a good friend? We were having lunch last Saturday and I mentioned the invite to her, and she asked me point blank, “Tell me exactly what’s keeping your from going?” I hemmed and hawed and said, “guilt, responsibility . . .” to which she basically said, “Get over it and go. When will you EVER have an opportunity like this again?” She’s a red head, so when she gives an order, I try to obey, LOL! It was worth every gallon of gas, getting lost in the woods on the way, and every hour of the six hour drive to get there!

      • I understand perfectly. I frequently need someone to give me a swift kick in the butt to do things. I can hem and haw and come up with all kinds of excuses.

        I’m glad you had Drill Sergeant Red Head to kick you into going. hehehehehe

  8. KIds turn out the way kids turn out. I survived all manner of undescribeable influences and come ons. Which reminds me it is time for a Miah update.

    • Blu – what brought on this comment? Termite is in deep doo doo again!!! Yes, it is time for Miah update. Maybe he can fry the oysters for Thanksgiving, and I’ll take and post photos!!! He’s a great kid and doesn’t give me any trouble at all!

  9. With the whole world worried about lil old me I spend time worrying about others including my bayou buddies is all. blu be making oyster dressing Wednesday eve. I may or may not share.

  10. I went with Bryce one evening and I have to say I could really get into the deer hunting thing. I didn’t even carry a gun with me the first time since it was still bow season but the view, the sounds, and the fact nobody can talk much in the stand was exactly what my soul needed. I see why now he enjoys it. If y’all need me I will be hiding…I mean hunting from the tree stand! 🙂

  11. Wendy, everyone is still talking about your visit. We enjoyed having you at the camp and around the fire. I’m glad you enjoyed the trip, even if you didn’t get a deer. Lol, I’ll try to have one tied up for you when you come back!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *