Hunting stands were a mystery to me from the very beginning. I’ve been coming to these woods with Kenny for many years now, and the hunting stands still intrigue me. A “stand” is the place where you go to watch for the deer to cross when the dogs run them out of the woods. There is always a story behind a hunting stand name. Sometimes the stories have been forgotten, but the name still sticks.
This is the "Hog Pen Stand." Notice that this stand looks much like the rest of the woods. Do you see a hog pen? Well, neither did I! It was a mystery to me.
This is the "Twin Cabins Stand." Notice how much it, too, looks like the rest of the woods. Where are the cabins, you say? I asked that very same question.
A testament as to just how long these hunters have been hunting in these woods is the fact that they can identify spots in a 580,000 acre wilderness area where the deer are known to habitually cross! I think they’ve gotten it down to a science or something.
When I first started coming to the woods with Kenny, it was almost like everyone was talking in a coded language, because they were talking about things that I just did not see. My first experience of a typical deer hunt with hunting dogs and a group of hunters went something like this:
“Kenneth, go on down to the twin cabins. I’m stopping at the hog pen,” said Bobby over the radio.
“10-4,” he answered his dad, and then looped the radio microphone cord to a hook on the dash.
“Hang on to your hat,” he cautioned me as we sped down the sandy road. We swerved past Bobby and Martha. They were already out of their truck.
I literally grabbed hold of my hat all the while searching out the window for a hog pen among the blur of pines and palmettos. If there was a hog pen, I didn’t see it. We whizzed past a couple of curves on the bouncy dirt road and then came to an abrupt halt.
Kenny grabbed his rifle, flew out the truck door, and then he jumped atop the dog box in the back of the truck.
“Listen for the dogs,” he said.
I was new to this whole hunting thing, and tried to make sense of it all. I opened the door and stood on the running board of the truck. I listened for dogs. I didn’t hear any dogs. I didn’t see much of anything either except for the aforementioned pine trees and palmettos.
“Where are the twin cabins?” I thought to myself looking around.
A crackling static came from the radio. Then I heard a voice.
“I think the dogs turned ‘em,” said hunting buddy Will. “He’s headed for the new road.”
“Get in the truck,” yelled Kenny, as he leaped from the dog box. “We gotta go!”
“What? Why?” I asked and got no reply. I sat down and closed the door in one easy swoop as the motion of the truck slung me and the door. Kenny turned the truck around and we slid through the dry sand in a weaving motion, fish-tailing it before straightening out.
“I’ll stop at the rain coat,” radioed Bert, another member of the hunting party.
“Where do you want me, daddy?” asked Kenny.
“Kenneth, go on down to the triple culverts. I’m headed for the boot stand,” answered Bobby.
“Where you at, Red?” asked Will.
“I’m on 20 headed for the new road,” answered Red, a seasoned hunter who had traveled these roads and hunted these deer for close to seventy years.
We sped down the road. I held on to my hat.
“Look for deer! Look for deer!” shouted Kenny.
Okay, so now I’m speeding down the road, holding onto my hat, looking for deer. All the while, I was looking for a “new road,” a “triple culvert,” a “raincoat,” and a “boot stand.” This is all so confusing, I thought to myself.
We came to a two-rut lane of a road and about the same time saw Red speeding towards us. We hit the turn first and Red followed at our tail.
“Will, where're you goin’?” asked Red over the radio.
“I’ll be at the rye road,” answered Will.
“Then I’ll take the planted pines,” said Red.
We passed Bert, who was parked along the road. I looked for a rain coat. Didn’t see one.
Bert gave a hand signal pointing back behind us.
“They’re headed this way,” said Kenny, pushing the pedal to the medal as we whipped around a curve.
“Hey Martha,” I waved as we sped past her and Bobby. At the same time, I looked for a boot. Didn’t see one. “Where’s the boot?” I asked Kenny.
“Look for deer! Look for deer!” shouted Kenny.
Oh right. I need to get back on mission, I thought. Deer, dogs – not questions about rain coats and boots. Probably, not a good time to be waving to the in-laws, either.
Abruptly we stopped. Kenny jumped out of the truck and took his position atop the dog box. My job was to “listen for dogs” and “look for deer.” I listened. I looked around. And then suddenly, ah hah! I did actually see the “triple culverts!”
That was, probably, when it dawned on me that maybe these “stands” were, indeed, identifiable places and not merely a coded language. I realized though that it helped to have an historical knowledge of the woods as well as the hunters who hunted it in order to break the code.
Another interesting revelation was that the same forest has a different code for each different group of hunters. For instance, one group of hunters’ “cracker box” stand could be another group of hunters’ “rattle snake” stand.
This brings me to the realization that the woods are a treasure chest of history and stories.
For years we traveled past a spot in the woods called “the chopper.” Now, there is nothing there except for the typical pines and palmettos. But in the naming days, there was a large piece of forestry equipment called “the chopper” that was used to cut up the stumps and broken logs that remained after a forest clearing or tree thinning. The old chopper sat broken and rusty for many years until the forestry department finally removed it. All the hunters over the years referred to that location as “the chopper.” And to this day, it still bears that name.
This is a photo of a chopper which is similar to the one that the hunting stand mentioned above was named after.
Sometimes a stand gets a name by a simple action. A stand called the “cornflakes box” was so named because a hunter marked the sighting of a deer by placing an empty cornflakes box on the bushes where a deer went into the forest.
Another more historical name is the “airplane crash road.” The story is that an airplane crashed into the woods and “they” (whoever “they” are) had to build a road to get back into the thick of the forest to retrieve the debris. As unfortunate luck would have it, there is another place named the “new airplane crash road.” As you have probably guessed, yes, another plane did crash into the woods and a road was built to retrieve that debris.
The history of a hunting stand or road is pretty much identifiable by its name. The stands always seem to be named after something that “was” in a location but is no longer in that location anymore. There used to be 2 small houses next to each other at a location that came to be called the “twin cabins.” The cabins are no longer there, but the name stayed.
Some hunting stand names can be confusing unless you’re a seasoned hunter in the area. One such stand is called the “woodpecker trees.” If you notice throughout the forest, there are many woodpecker trees and groups of woodpecker trees. One such group of trees has gotten the distinction of being "THE" woodpecker trees. Sometimes there are many versions of a stand-name story or people have just forgotten how one got its name. I think this is the case here; however, it could be that these woodpecker trees were the first ones people noticed.
As you can see, it can be helpful to know the hunters who have hunted in an area for some time. Through their oral history stories are passed down. This is similar to folk lore over the ages. This oral telling is also how hunters found their way around the forests before the aid of maps and other technologies.
Whenever I’m on a stand, I can’t help but think about the history of its name and the hunters who have stood there before me. I would bet that there are many untold stories whispering through the woods.
Until next time. . . . . . . . . . brenda