By Dana Denton
-- Back in the day, there were but a few deer in Kentucky. By far, the largest population was around Mammoth Cave National Park. My dad, James Denton, and his buddies hunted religiously. According to my dad, they typically hunted within spittin' distance of the park's boundary. Hunting on the park was prohibited.
Photo: James Denton with his wayward buck.
One afternoon while bowhunting, a spike ventured out of the park and under the tree that Dad was in. It was nearly dark when Dad took his shot, only to see the deer retreat into the park.
After the gang gathered at their vehicles, they decided to trail the deer. Dad thought he had made a clean shot and expected they would find the buck close to his stand. It was about 6 p.m. when Dad and his five hunting companions started their hilarious journey to find the deer.
They trailed the deer down into a hollow and spotted it bedded down. One of the guys, who only had one eye, said he would sneak up and subdue the deer. They had three flashlights, so they put all lights on the deer's eyes to sort of blind it. One-Eye crawled up to the deer. As he came around a tree, they said his glass eye was shining in the lights like a lighthouse beacon. When he got close to the deer, it trampled him like a rag and left him bloodied and bruised.
They trailed the deer for a while longer and found it lying down again. This time, two of the larger guys said they would try to overpower the deer. They snuck up on the deer from opposite sides. Rather than taking the deer down, they successfully clobbered each other, which resulted in both of them having bruised ribs.
Upon seeing the weakened state of the deer, they decided they could catch it and then subdue it. So the chase began (Keystone Cops music in the background). They chased that deer up and down that hollow like a bunch of kids chasing chickens. At one point, Dad had it by the tail, but it got away from him. After chasing the deer for about 4 hours, they decided it wasn't that weak after all, so they agreed to wait a bit longer.
After a short rest, the trailing continued, and the group again found the deer bedded down. However, this time they could tell it was about done. They turned their lights off and let the spike expire. After the deer was field-dressed, Dad asked which way was out.
Each person in the group pointed in different directions. One person convinced them he was sure he was right, so off they went with Dad's trophy. After hiking for a while, they decided to take a rest. Dad looked down, and there was a cigarette butt on the ground. They had been walking in a circle. At this point, they knew they were lost. One-Eye decided that he would yell as loud as he could. He reasoned that dogs at a nearby house would bark or howl, and the group would head in that direction.
He let out the most awful scream you ever heard, only to be answered by something that sounded very big and very bad. They were sure it was a Puma, a bobcat at the very least. And it was close. One of the guys said, "You make another sound, and I'll field-dress you."
Finally, one of the guys said they should follow the North Star, and they did. Miraculously, it led them directly out of the park to their vehicles at 12:30 a.m. As they neared the edge of the woods, flashlights hit them, and they were surrounded by park rangers.
The rangers searched them and discovered they had no weapons. One of the rangers went to Dad's church. Dad told him the story, and the rangers decided to not give the group any kind of citation. However, the ranger told the group to get a ranger to accompany them in that situation in the future.
All of them caught it from their wives, since none of them had a clue where they were. The whole ordeal was so comical that Dad had that spike mounted. It was on our den wall until I went to college in the early '80s. It always made me smile when I looked at it.
Bowling Green, Kentucky
The suspects identified in Dana Denton's story are: Junior "One-Eye" Payne; Les "Shut Up One-Eye" Toms; Leonard "North Star" Rogers; Bobby "Missed Anniversary" Wade; Stanley "Bruised Ribs" Polson and James "Ringleader" Denton.