Shamanic Guide to Whitetail Deer Hunting

I got up early this morning and something got me to thinking of my first deer season. This was not exactly a memory to be proud of. While I sat with my first cup of coffee, I got to thinking how goofy things were those first few seasons. Despite honestly trying to learn all that I could and devoting an incredible amount of effort, I could never quite get the hang of it all. Those hunts are now treasured failures.

Besides getting a laugh out it, I resolved that I would try and spend some effort in trying to pass on what I have learned. There are blessed few of us deer hunters out there, and we are getting older. Maybe I can do something to ease the way for someone else and give an aspiring hunter a better chance. I will therefore devote a sizeable part of this forum to passing on the few shreds of wisdom I have gained in twenty-some years of deer hunting.

Who are you?

I am going to make some guesses. I am going to guess that you grew up in the suburbs, you are a young adult with a little time on your hands, and you have very little hunting experience. You got the idea for deer hunting from either a magazine, or a TV show, or one of your buddies has invited you on a trip to go deer hunting and you located this site find out what it was all about. You have a longing for the outdoors, but taking a walk in the county park has ceased to do it for you. You are looking for something more. From the looks of things, whitetail deer hunting appeals to you because it is cheaper than hunting elk. Whitetail deer are plentiful and accessible in your area. This is a great way to get into hunting.

I am also going to tell you up fron that I am an Eastern Whitetail hunter who come from Ohio and has hunted all of the surrounding states. My current main concentration is Zone 1 of Kentucky. However, what I have to say goes for all of the greater Ohio Valley and most of the rest of the world east of the Mississippi. This is not about hunting Western whitetails, mulies, etc. However, there is a lot here that will apply to the Northeast, the Southeast, and the Northern tier.

Let me give you some basic facts: First off, you have a 1 in 4 chances of bagging a deer in the next year. Second, the average deer hunter tries for 3 seasons and quits. Third, this is all just averages of state-compiled statistics, and includes a lot of successful deer hunters who have been at it a long time and normally harvest one or more deer per year. Your actual chance of bagging a deer through fair chase in the next year without spending $3000 for a fully-guided hunt like you saw on TV is about squat, with or without my advice.

Still reading? Thanks. Not many people do. I don’t think it is because I am a bad writer; I make that part of my daily affirmations. I think it is because no one likes to be told they are trying the impossible. Actually, you are not. Killing a deer is very easy. What makes this sport so hard is:

1) Finding the right place to hunt.

2) Making a commitment to hunt until you are successful

3) The overall long-term hardships of deer hunting.

Your chances are going to improve if you have friends or family that are willing to fulfill the role of the guide for you. If this is the case, treasure this relationship. If you are like me, you had encouragement from friends, but you found their enthusiasm flagging about the time you actually decided to go for it. Sooner or later, you decided to go out on your own, and at this point you realized there was a lot more to this sport than what you originally thought.

They know something you don’t: deer hunting is hard. Deer hunting is demanding. Deer hunting requires a commitment. Deer hunting is not like golf. You cannot just go shoot a round of deer. It takes the whole year to prepare properly, and you will find that it will swallow up a good deal of time. While others are sitting at home watching football or out raking the leaves, you will be hunting or scouting or out at the range sighting in. Your friends that are encouraging you already know this; that is why you will quickly find yourself alone. In three years, you will find yourself joining them around the TV on Sunday and that will be that.

Anytime you sit down to a venison dinner or see a nice rack on the wall, chances are the hunter has made a terrific sacrifice of time, money, and personal comfort. If you were the hunter, that is something to be proud of in a way that few people that have never hunted will be able to understand. I have dedicated myself to getting you to that understanding, and getting it done on the cheap.


Scent Reduction

The first batch of clothes is out of the washer and out on the line. The timing was a bit off– it’s supposed to rain tonight and there’s rain in the forecast until Thursday. However, I don’t think I’ll have too much of a problem.

Although I agree with those who say hunt the wind, and you won’t need anything else, here’s what I do additionally to cheat:

1) I wash all my clothes in nothing but baking soda. Nothing. Ever. When I’m washing, I run the washer once with nothing but baking soda to clean out whatever stink has accumulated in teh machine.

2) I wash the outer camo layer separate from the inner layers (underwear, etc.)

3) I air dry all my stuff– almost always on a clothesline outside. Nothing ever sees the inside of a dryer.

4) I pack it all in a trash bag or plastic bin with a handful of baking soda thrown in. I do this sparingly, so there’s not all that much to shake out. Inner and outer layers get packed seperately.

5) When I’m hunting, I shower before going out with baking soda. I also use an unscented deoderant.

6) I hunt with an outer layer of camo that never sees the inside of the house.

7) When I’m done hunting, my clothes go back in a separate bag for dirty clothes.

8) I never hunt in the same clothes two days in a row.

9) In warm weather I change the outer layer between the morning and afternoon hunts.

When I’m meticulous in this method, I can be within 20 yards upwind of a whitetail deer, and they won’t bust me. If I screw up and wear the same shirt two days in a row, I can be busted from 70 yards down wind or 20 yards upwind of my stand. The deer always let me know when I’ve screwed up.

It is my belief that UV is a non-issue. A mammalian eyeball built to use the UV spectrum effectively would be useless at visible wavelengths. The UV hype of a few years ago was pure bunk.


More thoughts on the Opener

So here is what I want to know: the low body count in September—is it me or is it the deer? More precisely, is it the lack of hunters or a problem with deer behavior that causes the September’s low take?

If I am any example, it’s mighty hard to get things going in September. Cold is a lot easier to deal with than heat (my hats off to you guys down South).

On the other hand, it’s hard to see deer in September. You see lots of sign, but no Bambi.

When you have a whole county of prime whitetail in Zone 1 having a harvest record of 18-45 for the whole month of September, something is wrong.

KY DNR has got to be looking at the big picture and scratching their heads. They expand the season and the deer herd keeps exploding in the northern counties. They increase the bag limit to a doe a day and the herd keeps exploding. My take on it is that they are looking at this all wrong. What they should do is:

1) Increase the number of hunting opportunities. Make it easier for hunters to hunt. We need some incentive for private landowners to allow hunting.

2) Make it easier for out of state hunters to hunt by lowering license fees.

3) Make it easier and affordable to donate excess doe.

They need to get more creative. How about a Zone 1 only, 1-weekend antlerless shotgun, pistol, and muzzleloader season in late December with a 3-day out-of-state license/tag for $65? You’d have Buckeyes flocking into the state in droves. You would have 10’s of millions of out of state dollars flowing in . Lastly, all you would need is to park a reefer truck at every Walmart to take in the excess carcasses for free.


Thoughts on the Opener

So here it is, two days to the season opener for archery in Kentucky. I haven’t got my gear prepped. I’m still not practicing with my bow the way I should be. I’m just not into it yet. I’m getting away this weekend for some hiking and to visit some in-laws. Why?

For years, I hunted only Ohio, and the opening of bow season was and is the first weekend in October. That is what I lived for. That is what drove me. That is what still drives me. Like the bucks, my neck does not swell until the leaves turn. I don’t start knocking over saplings or raking my ears against bushes (ouch!) until there is a bit of a chill in the mornings. It just is that way, and I realize I cannot help it.

Labor Day weekend was always my time to get out and prep the stands, clear brush, prune a shooting lane or two, then hightail it out and wait for a month. Now that I own a place to hunt in Kentucky, that work was done clear back in June and July.

Next week I’ll get out the bow and start shooting a few shots in the evening. Next week, I’ll start washing the clothes and sorting the gear. By mid month I’ll be sporting a nice bruise on my left forearm from taking that one last shot when my concentration is beginning to flag. The family room will be coated with a thin film of sodium bicarb settling on large plastic tubs of freshly washed clothes.

That still does not answer why I’m not hunting the opener. I could have done all this back in August.

Here’s a few ideas:

First, looking at the harvest numbers for September for my county, there seems to be about as much chance of bagging a deer as finding Bin Laden in my bathtub. Harvest numbers jump by a factor of ten in October. I’ve hunted September in Kentucky—short sleeves and mesh baseball caps and and lots of liquids. It’s hard not to work up a sweat and it’s hard not to work up a stink. The deer act like kids in school—barely moving in the classroom, chafing in their new fall clothes. They stay inside and do homework and do not come out to play until the sun is down.

Second, this is the time of year when I need to be plowing something back into the sport. It’s Squirrel Season and #2 and #3 son need time afield. This it when I pull down the .410 and my big floppy hat we go and sit in the big oak groves and listen to the acorns fall. This is when I drag out Grandpa’s Winchester 1897 for its annual trip to the woods and Old Whitey and I go hunting together and I try and listen for him amongst the trees. This is the time of year when fathers hand the gun to their son and tell them to take this one themselves.

Third, it just ain’t the right time. No, not yet. The processor is not answering his phone yet. There is no one in camo at the diner to greet. There are no posters for big deer contests. I haven’t yet caught a high school football game—gotta watch the boys lose at least once, so you won’t feel bad missing the rest of the season. (For those of us in Cincinnati, that includes the Bengals) . No one has put up a sign for a single bond issue, and I have not seen the Halloween stuff in the yards yet.

No, this part of season is unnatural to me. I want to watch the golden maples glowing in the sunrise. At the end of the day, I want a carcass that steams and I want to warm my hands in a body cavity instead of swatting away flies.

There is another reason still. As I delve deeper into the psyche of this cervid serial killer I see in the mirror, I realize that I am slowly passing from being a bow hunter that does gun to a gun hunter that does bow. There was something lurking deep within me, that was awakened hunting with a rifle here in Kentucky, and now it has grown and matured. Bow and muzzleloader has now become merely a prelude to modern firearms. I am loading up some more of the light 308’s. I’ll probably do another batch of 30-06 in 165 grain. I’m working with a new crimp die for the 30-30. It would be a shame to take anything but the largest buck before the Savage 99 had a chance to speak again. I need a day or two out with the Remington 742, and the Winchester and the Marlin. So much to do, so little time until November.


How still is still?

They always tell you to be as still as you can when you hunt.

How still is still? Hmmmm.

I’ve been so still at times that a squirrel once climbed up my leg. On the other hand, I’ve taken a buck from the ground at 10 feet with a bow, while his sister stood and watched me draw from 3 feet away. I shot my first deer after standing up in plain sight to take a whizz, but I’ve also been busted sitting in a 25′ tree stand with a stiff wind blowing in my favor.

It has a lot to do with the deer’s expectations. If deer know they are being hunted, then no amount of stillness or concealment will work perfectly. On the other hand if their guard is down, they are relatively blind to your activities. The trick is being where the deer don’t expect you, and striking that balance between concealment and being able to shoot.

It started to rain around 10 AM one morning of luckless Spring Turkey hunting. My buddy and I sat down against the trunk of a large oak and he lit up a cigarrette. A few minutes later, a deer came by and started eating next to me. I tried to get my buddy’s attention, and he finally crawled around the tree and laid over my lap with the lit cigarette to see this doe that was completely at ease with our presence.

“Oh that deer,” he said.

Some basic tips:

Use your eyes rather than your head and body to survey the terrain– Look first, then move your head.

Avoid all quick motions.

When you have to move, don’t change your silhouette. Keep your hands close to your body.

Hunt from within shadow, or edge,where the shadows move and are confusing to the deer.

Hunt with the sun at your back, but try not to cast your shadow direct and unbroken on the ground.

Stay warm. If you get cold, you’ll be unable to keep still. If you find yourself getting cold use isometrics to warm yourself up. Isometrics are exercises that pit one part of your body against another or against an immovable object. These can be done effectively without much movement, and are far better than shivvering. I lean hard against the tree and push with my whole body, or grab my seat and pull. Done right, you’ll warm up quick and silently.


Shamanic Guide to Survival (short form)

A while back, a bunch of us over at the were musing over how to find north without a compass.

Well, let me see.

I had a buddy who lived through the Bulge. He said the Big Dipper and the North Star were usually obscured, but that Orion was usually fairly visible, being higher in the sky. He regularly navigated using Orion’s belt when it was too dark to do otherwise. The trick was keeping track of the position of Orion every night, and what time it was. If you’re outside for 6 months, that isn’t a problem.

There’s the stick method:

That only works when the sun is casting a shadow.

There’s a watch method that I don’t have a link for, and I’ve forgotten since I started using a digital watch. It only works when the sun is up.

If the moon has points, drawing aline between the point and extending it points N/S.

The toughest is fog and dark and heavy rain, and all those times when you’re really screwed, and hypothermia is setting in, and you know you’re going to buy the plot if you don’t get out.

At that point, if you’re that far in and you didn’t bring two compasses, my suggestion is that you open up your coat and expose yourself to the elements; we didn’t need your genes in the pool anyway. That sounds a little harsh, but cheese and rice! I’ve been places in this world where I was the first vertebrate. I did it with less than 5 lbs of gear. It isn’t that hard to take a few things you might need.

BTW: I’ve done adventuring in Canada, the Northeast, the South, Florida, the Smokies, Appalachia, and the Northern Midwest. I haven’t adventured in mountains like the Rockies or in hot deserts. Keep that in mind.

I’ve gotten lost, yes. I’ve also gone out with only two compasses and found out one was no longer pointing North. I’ve gone out with a compass that I couldn’t remember which end of the needle pointed North. However, I don’t ever go out of sight of camp without something, and if there’s any question of getting lost I bring two somethings. That goes for compass, knife, matches, whistle, writing tablet and pen. I may be stupid at times, but I am not suicidal. I expect to get lost. For the most part I’ve enjoyed getting lost. There’s nothing in this world quite exhilarating as coming down the hill to the road taking you home and suddenly finding a 200 ft cliff in the way. That’s when I know I’m really alive. That’s when I reach into my mental bag and pull out Plan B. If I don’t have a Plan B, I’m not going in the first place.

Having been there and back on a few occasions, I feel inclined to offer some advice. I realize that it is useless; if you don’t know this already, you probably shouldn’t be out. On second thought, go for it: we may be losing a weak link in the evolutionary chain, but the world will be gaining much needed mulch. The difference between mulch and mastery is simple: planning.


(short version)

Planning makes these sorts of things as looking for moss on bark unnecessary. Study your topo. Study your road maps. Make note of where you are going in relation to roads, habitation, and other bits of civilization. Plan what to do if you get screwed ahead of time. For each leg of the trip figure out what you’ll do if you get screwed. Let other people know your plan. If nothing else, leave a brief description of your plan at your car. That way the authorities won’t waste a lot of time looking for the corpse in the wrong place.

The best plan for getting unscrewed begins with a call to a person you trust saying “If I don’t call you by Tuesday, tell them to look for me . . .”

I once boogered my leg on a simple overnighter. I knew I had 8 miles to the next nearest road that had regular rounds by a ranger. I walked 1 mile in 4 hours, and the charlie horse I thought I’d walk off kept getting worse. Faced with an estimated ETA at the road long after dark, I pulled Plan B out and went back the way I came. Based on my calculation, I arrived back at the car with a half hour of light left, and drove myself out to medical treatment for a ruptured cyst that might have cost me the leg if I’d tried to go on.


(short version)

1) Don’t rely on your senses if you’re that screwed. Something is wrong. I once had the heat get to my head on a simple 5 mile hike and almost ran the party off a cliff. I had a compass and a GPS, but stopped believing both of them. Sit down and rest. If it’s cold, build a fire. Get a grip on yourself, you’re going to need it.

2) Forget North. If you don’t know where you are and where you are going, any direction will do. Do two things:

a) Listen for traffic: A road!!!

b) Look for flowing water or signs of previously flowing water. Follow where it goes. Eventually you’ll end up at civilization. If nothing else, at least start heading downhill. Most people live within a thousand feet of sea level, most people go to the mountains to get away from the crowd. Gee. What a concept!

3) You will never find home as long as your head is in a place where the sun never shines. Turn over a new leaf and start being rational. As soon as all your emotional (excremental expletive) is in one sock, take a careful inventory of everything you have. Ditch the stuff you won’t need. Make lists, set priorities.

4) If you’re not absolutely sure you’re going to make it out before you assume ambient temperature, spend what resources you have holing up. That’s a tough decision to make. If you screwed up and didn’t leave word of your plans, it might take a few days of agony before the dumb clucks find you. However, if you concentrate on keeping your sorry self warm, dry, and hydrated you will make it out. Make fire, make shelter, and wait. When you get home, read what I’ve written and try again next year.

5) Make yourself as findable as possible. If you hole up in a cave, make sure you leave plenty of sign on the outside or you’ll be mulch. If you chose to walk out, start leaving a trail of notes, blazes, markers, etc. Build big fires. Make noise with anything you can think of except your own voice– you’ll be hoarse and worn out and you’ll die.

6) After a while it all starts looking the same. Even if you don’t have a compass, set a goal of getting to a specific landmark in the direction you want to go. It may be a tree 50 yards out, but dont’ go wandering in a general direction. Most people have one leg shorter than the other, and most people don’t know how to compensate. Hence, most people will walk in wide mile-and-a-half circles if they have no other offsetting stimuli. Setting intermediate goals will also keep you from panicking. Walking through an endless Northern landscape of cedars on flat swampy ground taught me this. You may be down to 10 feet per leg, but once you give up and start stumbling around, you’ll know what screwed really means.

7) Do not attempt to travel at night. I do a lot of adventuring in the Big South Fork region of Southern KY. If you’ve seen “Last of the Mohicans” you know the kind of terrain, I’m into. I’d done quite a bit of caving when I was younger, so I assumed hiking in the dark with a flashlight was similar. For years, my belief held up. Let me tell you that there are 60 ft cliffs in these United States that don’t show up on topos. There are also sink holes. I’ve run into both in the dark. In fact once I went out deer hunting and almost walked off a 60 ft cliff, and the only thing that saved me was falling in a sinkhole about 10 ft from the edge and getting stuck up to my waist.


Listen to your old Shaman. Get a good survival guide and start taking what it says to heart. Start small, work up. Make every walk in the county park an bit of training for the big trail. Start making plans. Start working plans.

If none of this has sunk in, and you still want to know how to find North in a pinch, go out on a snowy night and look up at Orion. Admire the beauty of the Hunter and his dog chasing the great bull Taurus. Remember these words from my buddy John:

“You know, there are times when I look up at that sight, I think back to those dark times after fall had given into Winter. We were just up north of the Ardennes. At any time, we’d start catching fire from the eighty-eights. The Krauts would aim them to go off in the trees over our heads. Being in a foxhole wouldn’t save you. There was no where to go. You had to just sit and take it.

“One night, I went into a snow covered field; it must have been about 10 below. There was Orion. It suddenly occured to me that if I opened my jacket and laid down, I could be home in a matter of minutes. I’d had enough of being cold and being shot at, and I’d heard that before you went, you’d feel warm.

“I started to undo the buttons on my coat, but my hands were too cold and I just couldn’t do it. I was angry at first, and then I realized that either way didn’t make much of a difference. Finally I gave up and walked back to my dugout. To this day, I still remember that moment fondly, and whenever I’m out on cold frosty night, I look to Orion for comfort and solace and peace of mind.”


What’s the strangest animal I’ve ever seen Hunting?

That one is easy. Back in ’97 I was doing a lot of hunting in the Big South Fork region of southern KY. Buddy Joe Taylor was a local folklorist and storyteller, and we’d taken a shine to each other and Joe took me around a lot, showing me good places to hunt.

Joe was an odd mixture of things. He talked about the practical, the whimsical, and the absurd with equal conviction. He could discuss the intricacies of ginsenging in one breath and in the next start in on hoop snakes.

One of Joe’s favorite rants was about how there was a secret plot by the government to introduce rattlesnakes, cougars, and other exotic species into the BSF as well as Beaver Creek and the Boone National Forest. He claimed he’d seen black helicopters dropping snakes. He claimed he’d seen all sorts of things. One of the most bizarre was black panthers. He claimed it was all part of a major conspiracy that the government was introducing black panthers into the region while denying their existence.

One morning during deer season a terrible fog decended on the county. It was lucky I got held up leaving to hunt, because the fog descended right about the time I was set to leave. On those mountain roads, there’s no telling what might have happened. As it was, I stayed with Joe until about 11 sipping coffee and discussing scripture until the fog lifted a little. Joe said he knew a good spot and took me out in his car.

Up around Flat Rock we got off 27 and went back a few miles to a cliffline that came about 50 yards from the road. Joe had me bring my rifle along. There was a good herd of deer that would feed along a gulley running away from the cliff. Joe though they might be up and around in the fog. We took off hiking down through a hidden trail that wound down to the bottom of the cliff. We followed it. In and amongst the mud puddles we pased were a lot of deer tracks, a few bobcat, and one set of large cat tracks.

“That thar’s painter tracks.” Joe said, pointing them out to me.”Too big for bobcat.”

Joe explained that we were going to hike along the cliff face and get to a small cave he’d been coming to for fifty years. It would take close to an hour of hiking, even though the cave was only about a hundred yards from where we’d parked the car.

The fog had only lifted a little, and it made the hike seem otherworldly. We finally got to the cave and we got a fire going and we ate lunch. The cave was a vertical slit in the rock that went back only about 10 yards. It was bone dry and the tall slit made a perfect chimney for the fire. After an hour in the fog, we were chilled. The warmth of the fire felt good.

After lunch Joe tended the fire and I sat outside with my rifle. The smoke from the fire was being carried to the top of the cliff, and it created a bit of a draft inward, that I could watch sucking in swirls of fog. I was overlooking a gulley that ran downhill from an overhang in the rocks to my right. In most other states, this place would have been a tourist attraction. However, it was just one of many nameless places of incredible beauty Joe had taken me to over the years. I stayed there for while until it got dark and nasty and Joe came out of the cave and said the weather was changing and we’d best get out.

We had just left the cave and were turning a corner when Joe stopped.

“Get yur gun up.” he said. ” I smell cat.”

“I don’t think I can shoot bobcat today.” I replied.

“This ain’t no bobcat.” he hissed. “This is panther. He’s close too. I don’t like it none.” I caught the hint that we were being hunted.

I followed Joe’s lead and we ducked down behind some rocks. About this time, a young doe that had been walking up the gulley towards the overhang suddenly showed herself. She was walking along looking for bit to eat. The last thing I wanted was to bag a doe and have to schlep it up the cliff. However, if a nice buck had showed up I would have capped him. About 50 yards from us she stopped dead in her tracks and started staring up the cliff. In a flash she was off, pounding down the hill away from us.

“What did I tell ya?” Joe whispered. “Good place, ain’t it?”


“I just am wonderin’ what got her so spooked.” he said, inching his way back up and cranning his neck to see what she had seen. “THERE!”

I stood up and looked to where he was pointing. There was a thick pocket of hemlock rooted into the cliff about 50 yards away and about 60 feet up the side of the cliff. Underneath was a coal black patch of fur. Just as I realized what I was seeing, the black patch exploded and a cat bounded up the cliff face and disappeared. It was too big for a housecat, too small for a full-grown mountain lion, and black as night.

“I guess we interrupted his lunch.” said Joe. “Be careful now, they like to hunt in pairs. The other one’s bound to be around.”

The fog was rapidly becoming a drizzle and the afternoon was rapidly turning darker. At Joe’s request, I left one in the chamber on the way out, and we made more noise than usual.

The big pourdown started just after we got to the car. On the way back, Joe repeated one of his tales about how a black panther had been killed a few years back and the mate had been trapped and sent to the Cincinnati Zoo.

I called the zoo when I got home and no one knew anything. I contacted a few mountain lion experts I found on the web, and they said the whole idea of mountain lions east of the Mississippi was pure hokum.

Joe’s dead. I haven’t hunted the Big South Fork in years, and we hardly ever get down that way anymore. However, I saw the Outdoor Life article on mountain lions this year and it made me think. I really started thinking when we were down a few weeks ago for some hiking and ran into a park ranger over by Yahoo Falls. We talked for about a half hour. He remembered Buddy Joe Taylor well, so I asked him about Buddy Joe’s black panther stories.

“I can’t say for sure,” he replied. “All I can say is everyone who claims to have seen one has no reason to lie. My daughter’s seen one. I haven’t.”

So is there a small black variety of mountain lion roaming the Kentucky/Tenessee boarder? I have no idea. If there is, I saw one.


My Confession.

I am a cervid serial killer.

I plot and plan my next victim all Winter long. I stalk them thoughout the Summer. Just seeing them gives me a thrill. Then, when the Fall comes, I go out and shoot them. I disembowel my victims. I take trophies, I feast on their flesh. I take pictures and hang them on my wall, to help remind me of my past episodes.

When I can, I get together with like-minded cervid serial killers, and we boast of our past episodes and plot and plan future forays. I frequent websites and chatrooms that service my needs to share my experiences. I even buy magazines that glorify my lifestyle. I do all this to satisfy some ineffable feeling that keeps driving me on incessantly. I am indoctrinating my children into this lifestyle and encouraging my friends and family to join me in consuming the flesh of my victims.


The Floating Hole Maiden Voyage

The maiden voyage of the Floating Hole has ended with a somewhat qualified success. There was no loss of life. No major loss of property, and a good time was had by all.

In the driveway, wearing rabbit ears, the motor had started easily. At the dock, however, it took over 30 minutes to get it to turn over. The real fun started about 100 yards from the dock, still at idle. We were approaching the edge of no wake zone when the boat decided to begin a lazy turn to port on its own. I turned the wheel to compensate, but there was no response. If anything, the turn got a bit tighter. We were heading towards an island.

“Turn the boat!” my buddy Matt yelled.

“I am.” I said.

“Turn it the other way!” yelled Matt.

“It won’t work.”

“Turn the boat!”

“I’m cutting the engine!” I yelled.

“Don’t! We’ll never get it started again.” cried Matt.

The boat missed the island by about 30 yards and continued to turn in circles. At this point, I reached under the console and was met with a tangle of steering cable. My best friend from high school, Matt, was aft, listening intently at the motor.

“Matt, there’s a birdsnest under here!” I yelled.

“Well, throw it overboard!”

“No, I mean the cable– It’s #@$@#$ed!”

“Well get the birds nest out of the way and steer the boat!”

“I can’t steer.”

“It’s only a birds nest. Throw the bloddy thing out!”

“No it’s hosed. It’s a birds nest. It won’t steer!”

“If you talk like that to me again, ” said Matt, “I’m going to throw you overboard. Now throw the @#$@#$ birdsnest overboard.”

“It’s the steering cable. The steering cable is totally hosed. It is tangled. There is zero response to the helm! It has formed a knot resembling the nest of a bird. There will be no steering from this helm today.”

“Oh,” said Matt. “I thought you meant –”

“Yes, I know what you thought.”

“Well, I guess I’d best attempt to steer from back here.” said Matt. ” I was having trouble hearing you over the engine.”

Matt steered by holding the motor with his feet and I brought up the throttle and headed out across the lake. The idea was to get the motor warmed up and shake out any problems. We got across the lake, and left Matt’s kids and mine to swim at the beach. I got down under the console and redid the steering cable as best I could.

The rest of the trip was rather uneventful. We never got it up past about 2/3 speed due to a problem with the throttle. However, I’m fairly certain that can be straightened out. After about a half-hour’s running, the motor would start on the first try. After 4 hours of motoring about the lake, we went back and got the boat back on the trailer. Matt and his crew took off for a wedding. We went back a bit more slowly.

About 20 miles from the house, the clouds really started to build up. I called ahead to my Mom’s house, and she said a thunderstorm was about to hit. From the sound of it, we’d make it back just in time. Another 5 miles down the road I started seeing black bits of stuff flying up in the air. The left trailer tire was coming apart. I continued slowly to the next exit and ducked into a county park. The tire had not deflated, but about 2/3 of the tire was without tread. The nuts were rusted stuck on the spare and rusted stuck on the wheel. Liberal amounts of force applied by jumping on the star wrench got the show back on the road. With loud thunder and a sizzling cloud to ground strikes close by, I threw the wheel into the boat and rolled back onto the expressway just as the storm struck.

The rain ended just before we pulled into the drive. I sent the rest of the family inside, while I unhooked the trailer and got it turned around in the drive. It just so happens, that if I park the boat about halfway up the drive and then unhook it, I can use the slant of the drive to my advantage. With one hand the boat does a 180 and comes to rest just behind my truck. I can then back around it and re-position for the next trip out. My son caught the act.

“Dad,” said my son, as we walked into the house, “That was amazing! I’ve never seen anything like that!”


“This whole thing! The boat. The motor. The trailer. The storm.” he said.

At this point I realized my son had been totally blown away by the adventure, and the topper was seeing his Dad slap a boat trailer around in the driveway with seemingly magical forces at work.

“Yeah well,” I said. “Just keep your mind on what you want to get done, and the rest will work itself out.”

Yes, I’d say the boat was worth it. Thanks, all of you, for helping out on this project.


Don’t Say My Kid Can’t Shoot . . .

Faulty Towers

Faulty Towers

Faulty Towers is the first of two 150 year old barns that lie between the house and our new hunting blind. It got its name from the partially collapsed north wall, giving it a rather jaunty if not wholly eccentric look. Over the past couple of years, We have modified the walls to provide several blinds. Two overlook a pasture slowly being consumed by young cedars, a prime bedding area. Another overlooks a tree line, and if you are brave enough to sit under the collapsed roof, you have a protected view of a massive white oak, and all the paths leading to it.

The previous night, #2 son and I were at another blind and a herd of 6 does came out of the bedding area and came up towards Faulty Towers. They were over 300 yards away–no shot was possible, but they made for an hour of excitement as we watched them loiter for a while around a cattle pond and then move into the woods. We vowed to come out to Faulty Towers to catch them as they came out to browse in the morning.

John is in his second season of deer hunting. At 11, he’s a fairly decent shot and a motivated young hunter. His main fault is his tendency to fall asleep in the blind. Is isn’t the sleeping as much as the snoring, which sounds a bit like gut-shot hog or a chainsaw in heat.

Late Youth Season was a bonus the Kentucky DWNR gave us this year-two extra days of rifle hunting for kids under 16, no license required. John had missed the early season, and it had been a lousy modern weapons season for him. This was his last chance for a deer.

We checked into Faulty Towers just before first light, we chose the venue that gave us the best view of the bedding area. In five minutes, John was sound asleep and killing hogs with a chain saw. I kept trying to wake him up, but it was a losing battle. In between the bouts of snoring, I could hear the sounds of deer walking past in the dark; their hooves were making a crisp crunching on the frozen grass. It was still too dark to see. When the sun finally made it far enough up that we could see, the deer had moved away.

After about half an hour, I got up to stretch and move around in the barn. Peering out through the cracks, I saw a doe come out some tall grass in the pasture between the barns, and stand broadside to me at 80 yards. I called to John and had him bring over his 30-30 Marlin. John saw the deer just as it turned towards us and stood giving nothing more than a brisket shot. He carefully poked the barrel out through a crack and got a good stance, as I moved in behind him to spot. I was just about ready to tell John to be patient and wait for a good broadside shot when the gun went off.

The view from Faulty Towers

The view from Faulty Towers

The doe whirled around and did an athletic leap into the air. Her white flag joined several others bounding down the hill and the whole herd disappeared into the mature cedars below. John was sure of his shot, however. So we set about looking for sign.

We searched a wide swath between the tree line and where the doe had been standing. There was plenty of sign, but no blood. This looked like one of those all-day affairs, hunting up and down a steep ravine for a wounded doe. John, decided he needed to go back and retrace the shot, to better pinpoint the exact spot. He went to the barn and called to me.

“Come here, Dad.” He said, “I know what happened.”

“Can you tell me?” I answered.

“No, it’s easier if I show you.”

The Blind at Faulty Towers

The Blind at Faulty Towers

I trudged back to the barn. John pointed to a board I’d nailed up between two trees, forming the top rail of a blind I’d built beside the barn. About and inch from the top was a fresh bullet hole. John had just learned the concept of parallax. He’d been shooting at the doe from inside the barn, just over the rail. He couldn’t see the rail in his scope, but at 10 feet away the barrel was pointing right at it.

Oh well, finding the bullet hole saved us a day of slogging it out in the ravine. There are worse trophies to be had in this world. John may sleep a lot on the blind, but going back to check every detail of the shot was an astute move. We had a good laugh over it and headed back in.

One thing is for sure: if anyone ever says my kid can’t hit the broad side of a barn standing in it, he can just take him to this website and prove them wrong.

Proof: My kid can hit the side of a barn

Proof: My kid can hit the side of a barn