Rack Magazine

Brotherly Love

Brotherly Love

By Dale Weddle

Kentucky man might’ve lost some oomph, but his aim doesn’t waver.

Brothers Danny and Ronnie Moore, born on the same date two years apart, have hunted together for most of the last 40 years.

When Danny’s declining health — he’s had to undergo dialysis for 10 years now — threatened to put an end to those outings, especially during the colder, some say better days of deer season, Ronnie found a way to delay having to hunt alone.

“He just can’t stand cold weather,” Ronnie said of his brother.

So they rifle-hunted during warmer temperatures, legally, thanks to a program designed to benefit those with diminished capacities.

Few people living outside Bullitt County, Ky., have heard of the Bernheim Forest. Even locals might know it only by the sign on Hwy. 235 near Clermont, Danny’s home.

With a Jim Beam distillery nearby and several other whiskey producers in close proximity, this is definitely bourbon country, and, not surprisingly, the forest has ties to the whiskey industry. 

Isaac W. Bernheim was a German immigrant who made his fortune distilling whiskey, including that which bore the I. W. Harper label. In 1929, 16 years before he died, he gave the arboretum and forestland to the people of Kentucky.

Since 1945, the property has been managed by a non-profit foundation, and the original 14,000 acres is now 17,000. Their goal is to keep the area as natural as possible.

History indicates limited hunting might’ve been allowed there in the early years, but there were few deer in those days. It’s generally accepted that the place was off-limits to hunters from the mid-1950s until 1984, when the foundation and the Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources staged a limited deer hunt.

The foundation took over full management of the hunt in 1987, and has conducted it ever since.

For the past several years, the number of deer harvested annually has averaged in the 70s.  Management is not geared toward trophy deer, but rather to keep numbers in check.

The property is divided into 23 areas. Bernheim Forest employees are allowed a certain amount of guest hunters, and KDFWR has suggested that total harvest not exceed 100 deer. The nine days of gun hunting mirrors the dates of the statewide season.

Brotherly LoveIn 2000, the National Wild Turkey Federation took over the Wheelin’ Sportsmen program and began arranging hunts for disabled hunters and able-bodied partners. The Bernheim Forest chapter of the NWTF was among the first to step up, and they’ve done so for the past 13 years. 

These hunts are in addition to the forest’s regular nine-day season and are usually held in mid-October. This year’s was Oct. 11-13. The first day, Friday, is an afternoon social event and orientation session scheduled around a meal.

The Bernheim Forest NWTF chapter raises money and pays for everything associated with the hunt. They also have an application process in which wheelchair-bound hunters have priority, though hunters with other types of disabilities may qualify.

Danny’s Hunt

“When we grew up, there were hardly any deer in Kentucky,” Ronnie said. “I remember when I saw my first track. I was just wild that there was actually a deer in the area.

“Over the years, Danny and I were lucky enough to kill several nice bucks, but never really anything considered trophy-size,” he added.

And then Danny’s health became an issue.

“Without Bernheim Forest and the Wheelin’ Sportsmen event, we wouldn’t have the land to hunt and an opportunity to share the woods together like we used to,” Ronnie said.

“Since the property is considered privately owned, KDFWR allows baiting for deer under normal statewide regulations. All stand sites are easily accessible by vehicle. The number of hunters is limited in each of the 23 areas, and the hunt is conducted early enough that the weather is usually mild,” he added.

Bernheim Forest has not been particularly noted for its trophy-caliber whitetails, but two years earlier, after the 2011 season, some massive sheds were found. They were mounted on a board and now grace the wall of the educational building up on the hill as visitors enter the property.

“We were pretty excited when Danny was selected for the 2013 Wheelin’ Sportsmen hunt and that I was to be his hunting partner. Then something happened to take it up a notch,” Ronnie said.  “I had been baiting with corn in the area where we were going to hunt and had set out a camera. About mid-September, this huge buck was photographed. It was clearly the same deer that had worn the sheds hanging on the wall at the educational building. And, now, it was even bigger.

“We got the buck on the trail cam several times, but then, about two weeks before the hunt, it disappeared,” he added. “We didn’t get any more photos.

“I thought the big deer had either moved on to another area, or something had happened to it.

“About a week before the hunt, I set a pop-up blind near the bait site. It was on a little bench, about halfway up a hill. There was a field above the bench and another below it. I could drive almost up to the blind, so it was easy to get Danny up there and situated,” Ronnie said.

“We got into the blind a little before daylight on Oct. 12. Danny was hunting with a .270 topped with a 3x9 scope. It was a beautiful morning and great to be hunting with my brother again.

“It got daylight about 7:15. I was standing up so I could watch the bench, and Danny was sitting,” Ronnie said.
About 8:05, the big buck from the photos suddenly came around the bench. Before the surprised hunters could do anything, the deer seemed to sense that something was amiss, stopped, looked around, and then turned and walked back out of view.

Just as suddenly as it left, however, it came back, rounding the bench at about 80 yards before stopping yet again to assess things.

“We didn’t have time to sit and talk about it because the deer was obviously going to leave,” Ronnie said. “I had never expected to see that deer because in the photos it was always nocturnal, but there it stood.

“I had told Danny to get his gun up, that a deer was coming. He asked, ‘Is it a big one?’ And I said ‘Yes.’

“Danny stood, raised the gun and shot, and the big deer went down and began kicking. I told him to keep shooting while the buck was moving, and he shot it again. Afterward, we both were shaking badly. It was a shared moment we’ll never forget.

“This experience wouldn’t have happened without two groups — the local NWTF chapter and the forest foundation — working together to make this property and this hunt available,” he added.

Hunter: Thomas D. Moore
BTR Score: 224 1/8
Centerfire Rifle
Irregular

– Photos Courtesy Danny Moore

This article was published in the September 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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