By Cody Fouts
-- My dad, Gary, and I have been hunting a place on the Pisgah Gamelands in Canton, N.C., for years. We’re in the mountain region of North Carolina where there aren’t really many deer any more. We are the only ones who hunt there, mainly because it takes about an hour and 30 minutes to walk to, and it’s all straight uphill on the very top of a mountain. Although I hadn’t seen anything all season, Dad had seen two does the last time he made the walk.
That gave me hope, so on Dec. 12, the day before our season ended, I decided to give it one more try. I left the house at 4:30 a.m.. It was 27 degrees, and the wind was howling. When I got to where I park, I immediately noticed it was about 10 degrees colder because of the change in elevation. I was beginning to second-guess my decision to head out.
I gathered my gear and decided to take my rattling antlers, even though I had never heard of anyone rattling one in up here in the mountains. As I started the hike, I couldn’t help thinking about what it would be like to kill one up there. I have hunted hard in the mountains all my life but never had the opportunity to see a buck.
When I got to where I had to cut straight up, I was already getting tired. But when I finally got to an old fallen hemlock Dad had told me about, I got out my scent bombs, hung them up and got situated facing straight up to the top of the mountain.
It finally started to get daylight at about 7:00, and I bowed my head and prayed, thanking my Savior for giving me the opportunity to live and experience such a majestic place. About fifteen minutes later, the grey squirrels came out, scurrying around, making noise and catching my attention every few minutes. There was also a bird that kept aggravating me, getting right beside me and whistling and chirping. I finally had to wave him off.
I got out my grunt call, my can bleat and my rattling antlers and put them aside. After an hour or so, I started to get cold as I lost my body heat from the walk in. I figured calling would warm me up a little, so I grunted and bleated every 20 minutes or so, hoping to draw a deer out of the thicket.
At about 9:14, I decided to give rattling a try. I tickled the antlers together for about 20 seconds and put them down. Not even a minute later I heard something coming. I looked up toward the top and saw it was a deer. It had a big body, so I got my gun up and concentrated on the only opening I could see.
The buck stepped out and stood there looking around like he was ready to brawl. I put the crosshairs on his shoulder and pulled the trigger of my Remington Model 7. He dropped in his tracks.
I was so excited that I think I levitated to my feet. I called Dad and couldn’t even talk without slurring my words, saying, "I got him! I got him!"
Dad had worked the graveyard shift and kept saying, "Got who? You got who?"
All I could answer with was, "Buck! I got Buck." He decided he would get my grandpa and come up and meet me.
The next order of business was to go check on the buck. During the walk, I almost collapsed from the excitement, heavy breathing and cold weather. I made it up to an old logging road about 75 yards below the top of the mountain, and there he was. When I saw the buck, I was so overcome with emotion that I bowed my head again in prayer.
After I admired him for a few minutes, I grabbed the rack and started the drag back down to where I was sitting. I then gathered all my stuff and started off straight down the mountain. I eventually got to an old logging road we use and had to take a break. When I got to a curve in the road about two hours later, I saw Dad coming.
When he got to me, it was unlike any other moment in my life. He was the one who taught me how to hunt and how to find deer sign. He always had faith in me no matter what I was doing.
We took a few pictures, gathered our gear and started on out. It took about an hour and a half to get to the truck, making the total drag time at just more than three hours. Dad, Papa and I admired the buck and talked for a while before heading home.
I have harvested deer in Georgia, South Carolina and eastern North Carolina, and none of those places compares to what it was like taking one in the mountains. It just seemed more fulfilling knowing I harvested a deer for which I had walked so far, hunted so hard and drag so long.
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