A Father's Pride: A Son And Great Hunting Partner
By Juddie D. BurgessIn our family, the one thing we really look forward to every year is the upcoming buck season in West Virginia. This year would be my first since my heart operation in March. During the 2003 buck season, I started having chest pains while walking up the mountain to my son's favorite ridge. Regardless, my son, Jerod, and I managed to score 4-point bucks.
After several more months of chest-pain problems, which I tried to find other reasons for, a visit to my family doctor was in order. He scheduled stress tests in March of 2004. A week after the stress test, I was in the hospital having not one, but two stents put in my arteries that supply blood to my heart. The doctor wasn't sure if the stents would work, but without them, he would have to do open-heart surgery. The doctor was able to get the stents in place. Thank God for miracles.
Now here we are, Jerod, my youngest son; Alvin, my brother-in-law, and me on our trip to Greenbrier County, W.Va., to hunt in the Monongahela National Forest. Our camp is located in a little community known as Neola, which is about 90 miles from Fayetteville, our hometown.
Jerod, Alvin and I left on Saturday, Nov. 20, to go to the hunting camp. We arrived at about 2:30 that afternoon and set up camp. We share the campsite with my father-in-law, Charlie. Charlie and his two sons, Harold and Kenneth, would be coming up on Tuesday, as Harold had a doctor's appointment Tuesday morning.
On Sunday, we got up and had a good breakfast of fried eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy, thinking that just once in a while I could indulge in a good meal. After breakfast, we started planning our strategies on where we were going to hunt. We drove up to Rucker Gap, which is between West Virginia and Virginia, and scouted the area. As Sunday drew to an end, we went to bed early.
The next morning, we rose at the designated time and drove to the area we were going to hunt. It is over a one-mile walk on an old fire trail that the park service has abandoned to our favorite hunting spot. We sat in the woods all day (10 hours) and didn't see anything except for some squirrels. It was a cloudy day with the temperature in the 50s. On the way up the fire trial, we did find a few scrapes and a few rubs. But not spotting any deer at all had us worrying about whether we would see anything and whether the deer were in pre-, peak- or post-rut.
Alvin sat in a spot on another ridge and did not see any deer either. At one time, he thought he had a deer running behind him. However, when he turned around he saw a big black bear running up the hill toward him. The bear must have seen Alvin turn around because it took off back down the hill.
Tuesday we went out and only got to hunt half the day. Rain started to settle in and we didn't want to get soaked. The temperature was in the mid 50s which is quite warm for November in West Virginia. We did see a few turkeys and one black bear; he probably went 225 to 250 pounds. He crossed in front of Jerod and me at about 40 yards. Before leaving, Jerod and I wanted to check out the end of the ridge we were hunting. We found two fresh scrapes. In fact, the scrapes were so fresh you could still smell the musky odor. Alvin went to another ridge that had a flat and sat there until we called for him on the radio. Again, he hadn't seen any deer either. He did see a mother bear and two cubs. It's a shame it wasn't bear season!
Charlie, Harold and Kenneth showed up at camp around 8 p.m. They asked us how things were going and we told them we had not spotted anything except for critters that we weren't hunting.
Wednesday Jerod and I went back to the same locations. Charlie, Harold and Kenneth went a different direction out a new fire trail that had been established about 12 years ago. The park service kept it up, and it is used by handicapped hunters. It was drizzling rain and the temperature was about 60 degrees, but we wanted to get some hunting in. After about 3 hours in the drizzle, a downpour started, so back to the truck and camp again. My son and I still hadn't seen any deer, but Alvin said that he spotted a 10-point buck just before the downpour started. He didn't get a shot at the 10-pointer since the ol' boy was staying in the thicket.
After arriving back at camp we had to go to a laundry mat in White Sulpher Springs so we could dry out our hunting clothes. That is how much rain we got. Even with ponchos we still got soaked.
By this point we had hunted three days and only one person had seen a deer. I was getting worried. I though that we would have have at least seen some does by now.
Thursday morning, we got in the woods kind of late. It had rained hard the day before, and we had thunderstorms that night and early Thursday morning. I reached my stand at about 8:20 a.m. It was still drizzling rain, but the temperature was dropping. I settled into my spot.
I was sitting on a hillside where I could watch the hollow and hillside on the other side. I could see up the hollow about 250 yards and down the hollow about 100 yards. I was looking up the hollow and started to turn my head -- and there he was.
The first thing I thought was, "Hello, where did you come from?" He was about 50 yards to my left, quartering away. I guess he didn't even know that I was there. I still don't know where he came from.
I raised my Remington Model 700 .30-06 and placed the crosshairs behind the deer's shoulder, and fired. I dropped the buck in its tracks, but when I shot he flipped up and fell over on his right side and slid down the hill about 50 yards before stopping against a tree.
I was using my reloads that I had made a few weeks before season. The reloads consisted of Nosler 150-grain Spitzer ballistic tips, with 50 grains of IMR-4064 powder and Remington brass and CCI primers. These were my first real reloads that I had made after some reading and loading of lighter powder charges. I am really proud of this deer since I took it with my own loaded ammunition.
Jerod called for me on the radio and asked if I got him. Then, Alvin called and asked me how big the buck was. I told him I thought it had four points, but I would let everyone know when I got to the buck. Jerod came over to assist, and he saw me already over the hill. He picked up my pack and brought it down the hill to me. When I got down to where the deer was, I saw that it was a 5-point buck. I radioed Alvin back and told him that I had gotten a 5-pointer.
I looked up to the heavens and gave the Lord my thanks for allowing me to harvest this deer. I emptied my gun and tagged the deer. After working the deer I tied my rope on it and was going to take him up the hill and out the ridge to the old fire trail, but the hill was too steep. Jerod offered to help me get him to the road, but I told Jerod to continue hunting and that I would take him up the hollow. After Jerod went back on top of the ridge I started to drag the deer up the hollow but was having a difficult time. I radioed him and said that I was going to drag it down to the main road and wait there until Alvin and he were finished hunting. Jerod again offered to help, but I again said that I wanted him to hunt.
It took me two hours to drag the buck down the hollow. Most of the time I was in a creek bed that was swollen from all the rain. I was either dragging or falling and dragging. Several times I fell backwards on the slippery rocks. Luckily, I didn't hurt myself. I finally made it to the road and radioed Jerod that I had made it. Jerod called back and said that he was walking back down the mountain to the truck to come and pick me up. I told him that he didn't have to, but he insisted. He said that he didn't want me just sitting there. Boy, I was glad he did, because the drizzle had turned to snow showers now and the temperature was in the low 30s.
He picked me up at 11:55 and took me to check in my deer and then to camp. After hanging my deer, Jerod went back to the mountain to hunt. His uncle, Alvin, was still there hunting. Around 3 p.m. they both showed up in camp. Alvin had killed a spike buck. Jerod had just got back to his spot when he heard two gun shots and then he radioed Alvin to see if he had gotten one. Alvin told him yes, so Jerod went and helped him to the truck. Jerod's hunting was done for the day.
Friday was partly cloudy and the temperature was in the lower 30s. We got up and went out again. Alvin and I had our extra buck stamps, and we wanted to get Jerod back into the woods to get a chance at a buck.
We sat in the woods again all day and didn't see any deer. We went back to camp around 3 p.m. because Jerod was frustrated. He did have a big black bear come within 3 feet of him, he said. It might have been farther away than that, but seeing one of them coming toward you would get you all flustered. He was afraid he would have to shoot it, but after a few good whistles the bear took off.
Saturday arrived and Jerod told me that he only wanted to hunt half the day. So back to the mountain we went again and stayed there until noon. Still no deer.
We packed up that afternoon and came home. Jerod has hopes to go to our club property before season is out to try to get a buck there or maybe even a doe. On private land during our buck season, you can take a buck or doe if you have your doe tag. I am keeping my fingers crossed that he will get one.
The Lord blessed me with a nice deer and with a very caring son.
Juddie David Burgess
Fayetteville, West Virginia