Sunday, November 6, 2011

3 Days In The Woods

For the past three days, I was in the beautiful Blanton Creek WMA in Georgia living without modern conveniences and loving every minute of it. Jesse and I were selected to participate in two deer hunts at Blanton Creek WMA for their opening and closing weekends. I had been looking forward to going on this trip since I found out we were selected a few months back. It was going to be great. We would camp out, I got us set up to camp and we'd rough it for a few days, go out and hunt for deer, come back to our campsite and bbq and make s'mores and it would be awesome.

Then, last week Jesse found out he wouldn't be able to get off work. My plans of us in nature went a-foul. But that's ok, I wasn't about to let Jesse's absence ruin my hunt. Because after all, I was far more excited about this than he could ever imagine. I spent weeks working on zeroing in my rifle and practicing my marksmanship, reading up on deer info, even getting a book on how to field dress, quarter, and prepare venison. No one was thrilled that I was going alone, but as it got closer to the time coming, I was. It would be me all alone in the woods, camping out. Being at one with the world around me, exploring the woods, chilling back at camp and quietly reflecting upon life. My coworkers, somewhat concerned at the thought of me alone in the woods, offered me wise words of wisdom, "If you hear a banjo, RUN!" to which I was laughing hysterically.

Jesse and my mom were more of the school of thought I should be careful and it probably wasn't the best idea. But what can I say? I'm definitely an outdoorsy person and I hadn't been camping since I went with Lori, Craig and Rene at Leo Carillo when we did the night fishing and had all kinds of fun.

Anyway, I left straight from work on Wednesday night. I had to stop off at Wynnton Hardware to get a Hatchet, who I later named Molly... and it is a boy. Har har. When I got to Blanton Creek WMA, there weren't any rangers around so I drove around in search of a place to camp. The back campground was completely full, so I wound up pitching my tent under a little tree between the ranger station and the dove field. It was just me out there so everything I had to do was done alone. This included pitching the tent, cooking, making fires, you name it! And it wasn't none of that pansy trailer camping, either. Long story short, once my tent was pitched, dinner was made and I went to bed to get a start on an early morning hunt.

In the morning, I met up with the ranger to find out if there were any good leads. If I had more time, I would have done some scouting, but I didn't, so I just had to go wherever. He gave me a map with some random pencil scribble notes about places to check out so at that, I ventured off in ye old Ford Focus up hills and off into the wilderness (and looking back I have to say my car is a pretty hearty little guy as he trekked through the woods like a champ!) Pretty much every spot the ranger told me of was taken. To make matters worse, I was thrown off as to when I could go because of the fact I wasn't sure what time zone I was in. (I'm dead serious, parts of the park travel back in time to Central time, but because it's all on Georgia land, we're Eastern time. So I kept going back to the future and past at various points in my trip. Yes, time travel was involved! That makes it even more of an adventure!)

I'm not sure what this skull was from but it felt somewhat promising to see a dead animal body part somewhere.

The location was pretty but there just wasn't any luck there despite sitting there for a long time, so I moved on to another location. I found a nice little cover behind some trees and sat...and sat...and sat. Alas, nothing. But after some wandering I found a neat little stream.

I felt like I was in a Bob Ross painting. "Here's a little stream... I wonder where it goes...?" Hehe. On my way back out, I found some really neat ruins and according to the Rangers people used to live in the area and there's a bunch of ruins from old homes. Here I thought I was leaving my ghost town ruins behind when we left Nevada. I was wrong. This made my day. On a tangent about rangers, they were super helpful and I got the feeling they were looking out for me because they were telling me how a guy brought in a 10 point buck near where I was hunting. Dang. That should have been my buck!

Walking around the woods that day I found all kinds of interesting things. I found a cross in the woods that was made of some sort of shadow and a piece of tree bark...

Some really cute looking toadstools...

I broke for lunch when I got back and headed to my favorite BBQ place about 15 or 20 minutes away in West Point, Rogers BBQ. I was in a very happy place because I had a Super Que bbq sandwich plate with a side of turnip greens in front of me.

I went back out and was trying to find more places to hunt. It was unsuccessful again. I came back to camp early as it was starting to rain. I wasn't so concerned about it as it was just a light drizzle, but when you're in the woods when there's rain, and it happens to be in Georgia, where rain is usually paired with thunder and lightning, and you just walked by a tree that was knocked over by lightning at some point in it's lifetime, you kinda want to go back to camp, deer or no deer. I'm still green to the state so sometimes storms can scare me.

On my way back into camp, I saw two does running across the road. I decided to try going out and waiting to see if they came back, but there was no luck. Driving back for real this time, I saw a swarm of buzzards. I never knew how hideous they are nor how huge they are. I was fascinated by them!

When I got back to camp, I started to make dinner in case the rain got too heavy. And it did. Fortunately, by that time, I had a new neighbor, Brian, who invited me to hang out during the storm under the cover of his Easy Up, or as he called it, "The best purchase of the day." I definitely foresee one of those in my "camp supplies" in the future. His girlfriend, Jennifer, was on the way with pizza and beers. No one wanted to be out during the storm. It's a little hard to find Blanton Creek if you've never been there before, but throw in a monsoon, the sun setting, and that's just a good time. She made it safely and the rain let up. By that time, I was hiding out in my car trying to defrost, put on warm clothes, and dry my sleeping bag and clothes which got wet due to the wind literally pushing pools of water through the walls of my tent. For whatever unknown reason, I brought several towels with me and they all were soaked and came in very handy. 

Brian and his girlfriend invite me back to their camp as they have a fire going and the rain stopped. I drove over and we were all hanging out talking and what not. Meanwhile, we notice a car pull up in front of his camp and next to mine and they got some head lights on their hats and look like they're excavating for something, but we notice just like magic, they start a fire. These were our other neighbors, John, Benny, and a few other guys I can't for the life of me remember their names because it's enough that I was able to remember 4 names. I had to be a little snarky at first because they were all ex-Marines and one of them who I will not mention missed the shot on a 10 point buck and was kicking himself in the ass for it. I asked how in the world a marine missed a shot since every Marine I ever knew prided themselves on their excellent marksmanship. Several beers and a bottle of alcohol passed around later, we were all joking around the campfire about everything and anything you could imagine. Not sure when it was, but around the point I was peeing every 5 minutes like clockwork, I called it a night. Actually, everyone did.

I was also super happy I was the only one in my tent and I brought my red bucket that doubled as a toilet. I kept it in my tent and peed in there at night instead of having to get out of my sleeping bag, out of my tent and pee outside. It was a life saver considering it was 10 degrees colder from the humidity and felt like it was 30 degrees outside that night. Granted I came from cold Reno, but I also didn't sleep outside in Reno when it was cold. My sleeping bag held up really well and would have been a lot warmer if the top of it wasn't wet, but I was able to squish into the middle and was just fine.

Day two we all woke up. John's camp was making breakfast. They cooked up eggs and sausage with biscuits and cheese and invited everyone over. This was way better than the oatmeal I was planning on having. I kid you not when I say I ate 3 sausage egg biscuits. By the morning, John's dad came in because they always hunt together and camp at the same spot. I told him if we draw again next year we'll return there too. It was a good spot and they're great neighbors. We sat around devising a plan of attack for the day and after breakfast, Benny and John went one way, Brian and I went another and we had plans for deer. There were a few location changes here and there and I came back for lunch to find Benny and John each shot a doe. At this point, I had to sit and watch them quartering them as I had never seen it done before and wanted to learn badly. It looked easy enough. A book can tell you all you want to know, but having someone doing it in front of you is a lot more helpful. Add to this equation the fact another neighbor down also had a deer, so for the total of 5 different tents in that area, 3 had deer, we were looking rather successful. I thought, "OK, I'm next!" Everyone else did, too. They were all hoping I'd get a deer because it was my first big game hunt and first deer hunt and it would have been really cool, but, it was what it is. SPOILER ALERT: I don't get a deer.

After hunting some more, I came back in for a bite to eat only to notice the heavy winds blew my tent completely over. The stakes the tent came with didn't keep it down quite as well as I was hoping they would have. That was fun to deal with. I added some aftermarket stakes and made sure everything was held down securely. After all of that, hunter fever got worse and I headed back out. I don't remember eating lunch because of the tent ordeal and add to that I was still tired from staying up late the night before, I zonked out in the woods. I'm not sure what was around me, I kept thinking there must have been squirrels or something but now I'm certain it was chipmunks.

A cold front woke me up around 5 pm and I headed back to camp to meet Jesse, who was on his way. Before that, I did the inevitable pooping in the woods, in front of my car. I kept worrying the trucker next to me was going to come out and it's not like I could just go in the trees because it was pretty thick at the front of that trail and I'd totally poke my butt with a pine needle or something! So it happened to be one of those poops that doesn't want to come out all the way, or does come out but feels like it didn't. I said, to hell with this, wiped and left. I wasn't about to get a hemerhoid out in nature over some turd. It would come out when it was ready.

Jesse let me know he was running a little late and that was fine. When I got my campfire going, Jennifer came back with her daughter. They also got some firewood, a tent, and s'mores supplies. They were going to spend the night too, but go home the next day because spontaneous camping adventures are awesome. Jennifer's daughter kept following Jesse around and probably driving him crazy but he didn't seem to mind. He put her to work and made her pick up pine needles and small sticks for the fire and she liked having a job to do. Meanwhile, I was at John and Benny's camp oogling over Benny's 8 point buck and getting some hands-on experience on how to quarter meat. Probably one of the most valuable lessons I'll take home from this trip because it's a lesson that will save me $65 at a meat processor! Despite swearing I'd go to bed earlier, I still went to sleep fairly late and didn't go down till after 10.

Finally, Saturday morning was the big day. It was the day I'd get my deer. Plus Jesse was hunting too, only he had with him his M1 Garand and the whole forest could hear when he chambered a round. He didn't seem to care.

We tried out one spot and had no luck so we moved on to the place near where I saw the house remains two days earlier. I found a cute little tree stump covered in moss around three trees and a branch that fell that would make the perfect bench rest. I set up the blind and hunted from there, which was the most comfortable seat of the trip. Not sure if you've ever sat motionless on your butt on the ground for hours but it hurts bad.

After no luck there for a few hours, we broke for lunch at Rogers again and upon returning to camp, Brian had left, and John and Benny's camp were breaking down to leave. We said our goodbyes to them and swapped numbers so we could meet up again one day if we ever did another deer hunt in the future there. Then Jesse suggested we pack camp which was fine. I helped him break down and then he wanted to go home. I told him it wasn't over until it was over. If I left with him now, I would forever wonder if I'd ever see a deer and miss out because I wasn't there. If I stayed till it was over and left after I don't see any deer, I'd feel better knowing I tried, but just got skunked. After explaining this to Jesse, he said OK and went home and I went back out hunting.

I ventured to where Benny and John got their deer but had no luck and thought I'd give the South Loop another go. Again, I had no luck. I finally came back in and called it a trip. So even though I didn't see any deer while out on the field, I got stuck in a monsoon, my tent leaked and blew over the next day, I still had an extremely fun time, made new friends, and got some valuable information about hunting, field dressing and quartering meat. We may go with our camp neighbors on another hunt down the road some time. So in the end, I enjoyed my time in the woods and probably think as much as I love Jesse, hunting for me may be very much like hunting with the guys at camp: one of those things where the better half stays home. Hahaha!!!

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