For the Love of The Hunt

Florida Sportsman

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  1. #1
    Senior Member PalmettoKid's Avatar
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    For the Love of The Hunt

    11/30/13. Somewhere in Northern Florida...

    The cold predawn air sent an uninviting chill as I followed an old logging road deep into unfamiliar country. Being unsure of the trail that lay ahead of me, I used a dim light to pierce the light fog that hung as a cloak over the damp forest floor. The sun was gaining victory over my descent into the great unknown as the tree line on the Eastern horizon became backlit by its first glow of the day. I realized I would not reach my intended destination by the break of day. I stood for a moment, watching my warm exhales fade towards the sky. I contemplated the lay of the land that I had dissected so many times prior to my journey. I made a reluctant decision to change my course from SW to SE and head for a small knoll that looked to hold some large oaks only a couple hundred yards away. I figured it was worth a chance, but deep down I knew that any buck worth his hide would be found deeper into the swamp by daybreak. Although it wasn't my desired location, I enjoyed the breathtaking sunrise as it's golden rays split the mighty oak limbs and the Spanish Moss slow danced as the once still air began to gently push and pull before settling into its desired flow.



    A few young deer graced me with their presence, topping off what was already a stellar start to the day. It wasn't long after 7am that my feet became restless, for the swamp was begging for my intrusion and I humbly obliged. I gathered myself, got my bearings and then headed to the area I had been anticipating for months. Several swamps nearly converged at one point, which looked to create land bridges connecting lots of habitat. I also imagined endless nooks and crannies along the water's edge for a stubborn old whitetail to haunt, setting the perfect stage for a game of chess with a wary buck. When I neared my area of interest, tracks and rubs confirmed that I had arrived at the threshold of a bucks home. The wind was perfect. I moved ever slower and never without purpose, straight into the very jaws of the swamp...



    I found a few small peninsulas and islands where a buck took a lay and rubbed some small trees within the cypress bottom. However I didn't feel as though I had found his bedroom, so I pressed on. Less than an hour into my search I found what I was looking for, a lone rub at the waters edge that seemed to be reworked several times. The majority of its scarring was facing a tight trail winding back into the tangled bog. I studied the trail and beyond where it wanted to lead me. As my eyes crawled towards the canopy I noticed large pine trees hidden within the cypress. This is it! My eyes widened as a spike of adrenaline raised the hair on my neck. Knowing you are within a buck's wheelhouse suddenly brings a certain 'over awareness' to a deer hunter. All at once, every flicker of movement was magnified and each sound around me was amplified, all becoming ever important. The below freezing temperatures that morning prompted me to lace up my calf-high insulated boots in place of my usual 18" rubber ones, a choice I would soon regret. With high hopes and sheer determination I took up the trail into the bottom...

    The water was clear and still, resembling a mirror laid beneath the towering cypress trees. Upon further inspection, the trail I was following was darker in color. Perhaps it was my adversary who has stirred the mud and turned the trail a rusty-brown. It took what seemed an eternity to cut the short distance between myself and the pine island. I was now more than 3/4 of the way to the buck's lair, I could see much of the dry ground ahead and had yet to spot a deer or any further indication of this area being used by one. The water has now reached its highest point. My boots sunk deep into the ancient peat soil. For a moment, there came a sudden realization of the perceived futility of what it was that I was attempting to do. I began tugging on my legs to break the grip of the swamp. The only branch within arms reach was lifeless, suspended in the air only by the strength of some small vines. A few small vines which my right arm, seemingly by its own volition, had become entangled with. So there I am with a heavy slug gun in my left hand, a right arm elbow deep into a knot of vines and both feet held snug in the muck. At that moment I felt vastly inadequate at accomplishing the task at hand. I paused for a moment to analyze the situation and question what little sanity I thought I possessed. I was a split second from ripping my arm out of the vines and violently twisting my feet out of the holes they were in and marching right back out of that mudhole. It seemed as though this buck had laid every obstacle between He and I, but that has never stopped me from trying in the past. I was far too stubborn to give up...

    A quick calmness came over me, I took a deep breath and contemplated my options. That's when the game changed. A flicker about 50 yards distant and close to the ground caught my attention. As my eyes quickly focused in, I made out the rear end of a bedded deer sticking out from behind a large tree. I quietly, yet feverishly worked to free myself from the grasp of the mud and tangles. I pushed my feet forward slowly beneath the water's surface until I felt the ground become firm again. I took a knee in the frigid water and got the deer in the scope. So there I was, balls deep in freezing water with no clear shot at an unconfirmed buck. Now what? I knew he would outlast me in a standoff. I quickly decided to give him two soft contact grunts with my mouth. This brought him straight to his feet and on a string. I watched him get closer and closer, until the scope was full of his chest. The first time he showed me his shoulder, I squeezed the trigger with confidence. The buck lost his feet immediately and expired within seconds. I stood in disbelief of what just occurred. I racked another round through the 870 and stuck the empty in my pocket as a momento. I walked over to the buck, knelt down and placed my hand on his side. I admired him for his beauty and thanked him for the sustenance he would provide, as well as the lessons he had taught me. Patience and persistence. A buck wise to hunting pressure almost never comes easy, and he was no exception.

    This is where the buck was laying. No defined bed, but right on the 'elbow' of the strip of high ground within the swamp:


    This is where he was laid to rest. He was bedded just out of frame to top left:


    Here he is next to the rub that gave him up:


    Nice to have help for The Haul:
    Last edited by PalmettoKid; 12-12-2013 at 07:02 PM.
    No Shortcuts. No Excuses. No Regrets.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bobjr86 View Post
    Ok so i hunted florida for my first time yesterday and have to say i was really disappointed.

  2. #2
    Senior Member DropTine797's Avatar
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    For the Love of The Hunt

    Well done. You told a story the way it was meant to be told. Godspeed PalmettoKid.

    -Matt
    Last edited by DropTine797; 12-11-2013 at 11:15 PM.
    Five down, Ten to go.

  3. #3
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    Enjoyed the story and the pics. Much thanks for sharing.

  4. #4
    Senior Member flydown's Avatar
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    Post of the year!
    DYING for me was the most HE could do. LIVING for HIM is the least I can do

  5. #5
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    x2 flydown . as if you are really there

  6. #6
    Senior Member GT Fish's Avatar
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    Well done.



  7. #7
    Senior Member flydown's Avatar
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    And the sad thing is… This post won't get nearly as many replies or pages as one of the bickering threads about Bears, Panthers, or fowling water and such..
    DYING for me was the most HE could do. LIVING for HIM is the least I can do

  8. #8
    Senior Member PalmettoKid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by flydown View Post
    And the sad thing is… This post won't get nearly as many replies or pages as one of the bickering threads about Bears, Panthers, or fowling water and such..
    That's fine by me. I took the time to post this for those who would appreciate it. Few as that may be
    No Shortcuts. No Excuses. No Regrets.
    Quote Originally Posted by Bobjr86 View Post
    Ok so i hunted florida for my first time yesterday and have to say i was really disappointed.

  9. #9
    Senior Member bone's Avatar
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    Very nice.

  10. #10
    Senior Member micci_man's Avatar
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    Great story man and congrats!


    Only one problem.....the "ole man" should be trailing up the tail and the "kid" should be toting the kill
    Confusion will lead to understanding, if you allow it to…

    Don't major in the minor things in life

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