Recollecting one big local hunter

Published 7:23 pm Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The picture today is a little scraggly, but it’s mor’n 60 years old. That’s Ol’ Thomas with my first deer, and my nine-year-old brother looking on. Turns out Billy had shot down a deer the same day, and we found him the next day. That was the beginning of many successful hunts for my brother, which continues ‘til today when he’s a mind to hit the woods.

Billy and Daddy were the sho nuff hunters in our group, but they liked to have me along to tote out the deer they shot. They had the patience that I lacked. Hey, any of y’all ever been on a deer stand or anyplace where you needed to be quiet and still, and you commenced to itching?

First off, you’d feel an itch down on your foot, and then you noticed you were itching all over…on your nose, on your right arm and your left hand. ‘Til you stopped to think about it, you never itched that many places at one time before, and that deer or turkey would be looking right at you, waiting for you to scratch.

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Now, Billy…there are so many wood stories I could tell about the “Dan’l Boone” of the Twentieth Century, from his hunting, trapping, and even mounting the stuff he bagged, based on a correspondence course he took when he was about 12. I told y’all the other week about his mounting that Jack-a-lpe that I chased down on foot out in Nevada one day, and brought back to Alabama.

Let me use most of the rest of this column to tell you a s tory about Billy that will give you a pretty good “flavor” about him and woods lore.

Many years ago, he was over on Owensby Plantation hunting, and he had three or four young folks tagging along to learn some stuff about deer and whatnot.

Billy was giving them advice at every turn, and I think they even had a note taker appointed. The group came up on a pile of deer droppings, and for you uninformed, those are little dark brown, round pellets. The great hunter commenced to explaining to his enchanted young audience that there were several ways you could determine where deer had been feeding, and one way was to take a nibble on some of the deer pellets.

With that, he reached down, and picked up one of the pellets, and as he brought it up to his mouth, he palmed that deer do and substituted a hidden chocolate covered raisin in its place. He chewed on that raisin, made a face, and went on to tell the awe struck group of kids that this deer had been feeding on acorns because of the bitter tannic acid in the poop. He explained further that if the droppings had a sweet taste, that would indicate the deer had been grazing in an oat patch. He then invited any of his patrons to try the experiment, and actually had to stop one of the boys before he actually popped a deer pellet in his own mouth.

I learned a lot from my younger brother, and one day I decided to get him to teach me how to mount a squirrel. Well, my first…and last…attempt at taxidermy resulted in my squirrel looking like a drowned rat.

We walked a heap of miles with shotguns slung over our shoulders, and always managed to find our way home.

He, you ever been down in a sweet gum or cane thicket and found yourself kinda turned around as to just where you were? You’d wander around in there, and then, all of a sudden, you’d find yourself walking right out in one of those wide open spaces? You didn’t know how that opening got there, but you were always mighty dang glad it did.

Yep, one could do worse than get raised down in a briar patch that Brer Rabbit called home, and being raised with the likes of my brother, William.