Hunting had been just that in the Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area this year. Meaning that “hunting” was all we had been doing.
It was getting near the close of the season for hunting deer with dogs. The weather had been the coldest in North Florida for many years, staying in the teens for days on end. We had wrapped pipes and dripped faucets at the camp anticipating a hard freeze.
The dogs didn’t seem to mind the cold. As usual each dog raced to be first to the gate to be loaded into their dog boxes in the truck. After the quick, bumpy ride into the hunting area, they each wanted to be first out of the box into the woods to trail a deer.
The hunters though did not seem as eager to venture into the cold. We passed by many who remained in their trucks with the heater blowing. The few who scaled on top of their dog boxes were few and far between. They listened for the distant dogs barking as the wind blew against their chapped, red faces. We, like them, stood and listened in the blistering cold for a while, then succumbed to the comfort of the warm truck. We couldn’t hear the dogs barking anyway because of the howling wind rushing through the pines, creating an almost eerie sound like someone playing musical pipes.
This scenario had gone on for several weeks. It was cold, windy, and we had no luck getting a deer. That is until one windy, wet, dreary day in January. Then things changed.
The temperature began to rise into the mid 50’s. But as is usually the case around here, when the temperatures rise it brings the rain. By the weekend when we went out again, the roads had turned to soup as the rain continued to pour.
This particular Saturday morning the sky was gray and dark as we set out on our scouting adventure through the pouring rain. We met another hunter who was also slowly steering through muddy ruts while scanning the palmettos and pines looking for anything interesting. Usually hunters stop to pass the time of day (if they’re not in the middle of a deer race) and chat a spell. But not that day. Southern hospitality consisted of only a friendly one-handed wave through the glass to prevent the muddy splashes through the windows.
You never know exactly when the deer will be walking. But with eternal hope, we searched mile after mile thinking that “now” could be the time. With each bristle of a bush or moving dot in the distance, our heart would race. The wind and bushes played tricks on us many times.
It was near four o’clock as we were ending our wide loop through the forest. The rain had slowed to a steady sprinkle. Suddenly, I glanced to my left and saw a white flash on the pine ridge.
“Kenny, stop, stop!” I said. “I think that was a deer.”
Kenny slowed the truck to a crawl. Then he saw the white flag too and switched the truck off.
About 85 yards away the deer stopped, turned, and stared at us. He was a legal spike. He seemed as interested in us as we were in him. Amazingly, he stood in position long enough for Kenny to get his Winchester Model 100 rifle in Cal.243.
Bam! He fired one 95 grain ballistic tip round through the deer's heart.
The deer went down.
It continued to sprinkle rain. But now the weather was not a concern for Kenny. It even appeared to have worked in his favor as evidenced by the downed deer. By the time he had field dressed the spike, the rain had subsided some.
It was now time to do my part in this adventure. While holding an umbrella, I then took a picture of Kenny and the deer in the drizzling rain.
Later we got to talking about the deer Kenny had killed in the past. It was exactly 6 years and 5 days previous that he had shot a deer that ran across the road at this very spot when we were hunting with dogs. Even though this spot is not a named deer stand [location where deer have been known to cross and hunters stop to listen for their dogs], Kenny and I have referred to it as “Kenny’s Stand.” But everyone else we hunt with refers to it as “where Kenny shot that deer that time.”