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


The Jagende Hütte

On Labor Day 2003 I was in the barn, priming sheets of plywood for the soffits on the house. It was pouring rain out and after I got the priming done, I realized I still had vast amount of time to kill, and the rain was showing no sign of letting up. At that point I realized I was leaning on the remains of a 5’X5’ plywood packing crate I’d snatched from work 4 years ago—a hunting blind I’d never built. I started priming and painting and by the time I left the farm that weekend, I had the crate and a bunch of T1-11 scraps ready to put up. The crate sections themselves were 1/2″ plywood rimmed with 2X4 laying flat.

I’d targeted the top of Gobbler’s Knob for this project. It would overlook a pasture that is frequented by both the deer and the turkey. It’s also in sight of the house, so I could do all my scouting from Dorf’s Thoughtful Spot at Pooh Corner while I enjoyed Happy Hour.

Design for the blind was more conceptual than anything else. I knew I wanted something bigger than just 5X5. I figured I’d add 2 feet (that was the size of my biggest siding scrap. There were several scraps of that size or slightly larger, so I painted them all up and figured some would go for walls and some for roof.

A month later, I took all the painted pieces out in the yard and cut windows, affixed hinges, and then had Cousin Tim haul the whole kit out. Two hours later and with a few handful of deck screws of varying lengths, I had a shell. I just started with scraps of 1X6 decking as a short stilt making ground contact. I set the first corner up about 6 inches and used a level to keep it about the same all the way around. When the dust settled, I measured and had a 9X5 footprint.

For a floor I threw in some old skids and then put plywood on top of that.

For the roof, I took a bunch of 6 foot skid runner and some 38 “ skid runners and built some trusses with scrap bits 2X6 for reinforcement. That made a nice saltbox-style roof with the peak just right for standing up with a bow and shooting out the windows. I ate up some more scraps of plywood and old planking to finish out the roof, and then threw on some tarpaper and roll roofing.

There is a window on each side that tilts in and forms a solid shooting rest. If you only open up two of the windows at a time, it stays fairly dark inside. The window dimensions are about a foot high and I think something like 40” wide in the front, 32” wide on the sides, and 18” out the back. The finish paint job included some dark tree trunk forms that are intended to be where the breaks in the curtains come. Hopefully, with the proper color curtains, an animal will be less likely to see the shooter. There are also tan-colored areas along the bottom that make the house blend in with the tree line in back and the tall grasses in front. Next summer I’ll have the guy give me an extra 5 feet all the way around when he’s haying, and this house will disappear from sight. As it is, you can only see it from 400 yards away with binos or a good imagination.

For curtains, I had the Girlfriend sew me up 2X2’ panels of some buck-a–yard stuff I got from Walmart. The color fit the paint I first put on, but later I switched to a different color scheme to make the house blend in better. Now the curtains stand out like a sore thumb, but I’ll go back to Walmart and blow another $3 and try again before turkey season. They’re put up with clothesline and eye hooks. It may look really clunky, but everything you see was done with scraps from the receiving dock at work and leftovers from residing the house. No fresh dimensional lumber was consumed in the completion of this project.

The door is just a scrap of siding with hinges and a hasp. Seating is 5 gallon buckets with a $10 swivel seat top from Walmart I had to suspend work to give all the critters time to get used to it. Work ceased on October 1. Angus, the five-year-old and I bagged a doe from it on 11/9. At 2017sundown that evening, the blind was surrounded by a herd of 10-12. We bagged the doe just in front of the barn.

Read:  Angus’ Doe

Pros: Roomy enough for my 6’4.5″ frame to stand and stretch, with 2 kids and a dog along. The perfect house for the perfect site. The windows are great for shooting from– a rock solid rest. This is THE place to be when it’s pouring down rain (or worse), or you have a fidgety kid. It will also be a place I can totter out to when I’m 95.

Cons: The barred windows are great, but a bit noisy to open and close. I may put up a simple latch to use while hunting. The next set of curtains will be weighted at the bottom with lead shot so they don’t blow around. If I had it to do over again, I’d put the door in the front.

Other ideas: I’m going to bring out some concrete blocks and build a place for a one-burner propane stove. Then I can have my coffee and soup hot. I am going to experiment with a couple of ideas for a gun rack. I may steal a cue from a program I saw on the Outdoor Channel and hang loops of rope from the ceiling so that rifles can be held at the ready. A funnel and a piece of garden hose run out to the field would make a fine urinal. This site did not require a raised platform. I may duplicate this design on 8 foot stilts in at least one other location If I plant Morning Glory or Virginia Creeper around this blind, I can cover it in a year or so with natural cover.



Angus’ Doe

Opening weekend of 2003 was one of those times when it seemed nothing could go wrong. Angus’s hunt began with still hunting up on Gobbler’s Knob and working down into Pity Creek. On the way down, we nearly got a doe that had come to drink at the stream. We found a huge scrape at the bottom of the hill. After banging around Tinkerbell Wood for a while, we headed back to the house, changed clothes and took off for the Jagende Hutte. We arrived about 3PM and settled in for the wait. At sunset, I told Angus, “This is it. Watch out.”

Looking back at the farmhouse at sunset, I was suddenly taken by the enormity of the changes in our life these past two years. Our lives now center around the farm. For me, the center of my world is theThoughtful Spot, overlooking the Hundred Acre Wood. We’ve taken a wreck of a house unoccupied for 20 years and turned it into a vibrant household. There it all was looking back at us in the sunset, a whole new life.

“Dad!!! It’s a deer!”

You know, KYHillchick keeps saying that Angus must be genetically just mine—he has inherited very little from her. Physically, he’s my clone. Temperment and tastes are identical. Well folks, I’m here to tell you that at least one gene slipped in. There we were back in ’97 on a moose watching adventure in Canada. Two days out from the nearest bit of civilization, two hours canoeing from our camp and KYHillChick spied a pair of moose watering some 600 yards away.

” It’s a moose!” echoed out over the still waters of that dawn. The moose were gone in a flash. Some things never change.

Well, some things change. In this case, the little buck stayed around a little bit, eyeing us, as he nibbled around. Soon another doe came in, then another, then I heard noises coming from the back of the blind, and I knew we were surrounded. After bagging one monster on Saturday, the last thing I needed in life was another dead deer. I couldn’t shoot a buck. It would have to be a doe, and I made sure that it was going to be nothing less than a perfect shot.

“No, son,” I said. “That one is in the tall grass. The shot will deflect.”

“No. We can’t shoot the buck. I don’t have the right tag left.”

“No. That one’s too small. That one’s too . . .”

“Dad!” he yelled again.” Look!”

“There was another nice buck coming by. As my eyes followed him, a doe turned and stared at us. The buck trotted off. The doe kept watching.

“Any second,” I whispered, she’ll turn and run.

“Shoot her!”

“No, she’s giving me only a brisket shot. I don’t want to shoot her in the brisket.”

With that, the deer turned and presented a perfect broadside, put her one leg slightly forward and dropped her head into the grass and began to graze. I was without excuse.

“Okay. Here goes.”

The blast sent deer flying everywhere. The doe was struck in the heart and fell dead. Several other does fled. A chocolate colored buck with a nice rack suddenly appeared and leaped back and forth around the dead doe before fleeing.

“Wow!” I said. “That must have been his girlfriend.”

We waited a while before calling KYHillchick for a pickup with the truck. I wanted the deer to all get away before the vehicle came in. That way they might be a bit less spooked and we might still get some action from the blind over the next few weeks. Before it was total darkness we radioed in. Angie came out, and we locked up the blind and went to retrieve the doe. The buck had stayed in the brush less than thirty yards away from the carcass. He snorted and thundered off when the truck pulled up.

The moon was still nearly full as we pulled out onto the highway, driving to Brooksville to drop off the deer, I turned to Angus and said. “You know, that’s kind of your deer.”


“Yeah,” I said. ” I sure didn’t need another one this weekend, but we just couldn’t pass that one up. It seems like you’re not only a good hunting buddy, but you’re a lucky one too. We were just meant to have that doe.”

“I’m pretty handy to have around.” Said the strange confident voice beside me. I knew then my son had grown.


The Savage Spoke and the Monarch of the Forest Fell

The Savage Spoke

The Savage Spoke

. . . or something like that. It sounds kind of goofy when you put it that way. Saturday morning started out colder than most, and definitely quieter. There was the constant drone of ATV’s and an occasional truck gate slamming, but this year it was much further off. A lot of the landowners had been cracking down on slobs, so it was just us and the families out for opening morning.

I took a slightly different way to the stand, across a fallow field. Although it was only about fifty yards away, the road would have taken me through the dense cover of the cedars, and this way I was walking almost directly downwind to the stand. That left the cedars to the deer, and most mornings I had bounced one or two does on my way in.

Halfway across the field, I realized I was starting to crack a sweat, so I stopped and took off my hat and dumped some heat to the wind. There was no big rush; it was over an hour early. I dropped my duffel, doused the flashlight and knelt. Instant solitude. If someone had been watching, they would have been sure some overly precious refugee of the New Age was performing his makeshift hunting ritual. As it was, I looked up and saw I was facing Orion. Yeah, I probably am a refugee of the New Age, but I don’t wear crystals, and I generally leave my antlered headdress at home. It still is good to see that friendly tableau. The Dog, the Hunter, the Bull. Some things never change. About that time I felt the first bit of chill, and I knew it was time to keep going.

If the constellations above had been looking out for me, they certainly did not do a good job. I muffed it in the dark and missed the corner of the field by about 65 yards. I ended up about 50 yards from my stand going the wrong way, and probably walking over a couple prime trails. A lone deer busted me and took off without snorting. My season was rapidly beginning to swirl. A rotting ladder stand on a cedar finally showed in my light, and put me back on track.

Campground Stand

Campground Stand

Campground is a tube steel ladder stand down the way from the oak grove where we camp in the summer. It overlooks several white oaks all squatty with age. My attention was drawn to this site by the profusion of rotting wood nailed to the sides of the trees. As best I can tell, at least two generations of hunters had spent their seasons here. It is prone to a lot of midday movement, and most deer don’t show up until at least two hours past sunrise. I had mistakenly hunted the area the first year as an afternoon stand and seen nothing. The biggest asset to Campground is that it overlooks the lee side of a saddle that interconnects two large creek systems. My site allows me to look to the bottom of the saddle on one side and out into the field on another. It made a good rifle stand and after sweetening the spot with a salt lick it has become a passable early season bow stand.

After early Youth and Muzzleloader seasons back to back, the deer fled a lot of the surrounding land. It is always heartening to listen out among the surrounding ridges and hear ATV’s burping along on their single-minded and determined goal of chasing deer onto my land. I loaded up, slipped the rifle sling over the peg, slipped into my bibs and coat, zipped up tight and sat back. I had been treated to a lot of good times at Campground. A few weeks earlier, a perfect ten-pointer had followed in a herd of does. He stayed out at sixty yards crosswind to the stand. After the does had walked through, I gave him a single snort-wheeze. He responded by staring, stamping and grunting for several minutes before walking over and menacing a small oak sapling.

We’d met up a week later at The Dump. He’d come up after sunset, and I had misjudged his distance in the gloom. My arrow had sailed under his legs, and I had been treated to a real show as he challenged the arrow, and then a neighboring stump before finally huffing off into the dark.

It was shortly after first light, but you would not have known it where I was. Out of the blackness came a distant scritch. . .scritch scritch. . . of hooves on fallen oak leaves. Shortly thereafter a shot rang out on a neighboring ridge as someone decided to get an early start on the season. Silence, then the steps continued, over the top of the saddle and down the gully. Crunch. A large branch had broken. The gentle hooves quickened their pace. Crunch. . .thunk. . . and then the darkness erupted. A drunken hunter had come up the front side of the saddle, and was fumbling around in the darkness. The deer were fleeing in front of him. I was so mad I could just spit. Staggering, moaning. At one point I thought I heard cursing as the git fought his way through the cedars towards me. The first thing I saw was a couple of white tails flitting down the gully below me in the moonlight. It was still too dark to shoot. I put my back to the tree and hoped the dim-bulb didn’t decide to open up on one of them with me in the way. I wasn’t sure if he passed out or finally found a stump to sit on and let the cold sober him up. It finally got quiet again.

About fifteen minutes later, the light had come up. I turned around and looked for the orange hat passed out down the hill. That’s when I heard the first real grunt. I’ve heard tell of guys who try to put their stand up on the towers beneath high-tension wires. I’ve seen squirrels make contact on transformers. That grunt had about the same effect. As my own lightbulb lit, I realized that I hadn’t been hearing a drunk at all. It had been bucks fighting at the top of the saddle. The looser had been one of the white flags I’d seen bounding down the hill. The winner was now camped out in the cedars behind my stand.

I found my hands clutching a rifle in a death grip. How it got off the peg I am not quite sure. I was shaking with buck fever for which I had thought myself immune. I was frozen.

“Settle down.” I said out loud, and in hearing it, I relaxed. The buck must have heard me too, for he started slowly moving my way. I cupped my hand to my mouth and threw one short contact grunt towards the largest of the oaks, downhill from me. Although you cannot see it, there is a well-traveled trail that comes out of the cedars and runs from one of the great white oaks and runs downhill to the other. It is exactly 42 yards from my stand to the closest approach to that trail. With a bit of grunting as he went, the winner of the match emerged from the curtain of cedars. He plodded past the first oak and then turned downhill towards the second.

My Savage 99 came up on the far side of the tree and leveled on the deer. The largest rack I had ever seen through that scope appeared beyond the crosshairs. When he made his closest approach he was broadside.


He froze. My right eye was blinded in the muzzle flash through the scope, but my left could follow him as he leapt once and then turned towards the bottom of the gully. I heard three bounds, a crash of brush, and then silence. It was 0650 on opening day. Twenty years of work had come to fruition, and a great buck had finally fallen to my hand.

I found him collapsed under a dead cedar next to the gully. He’d taken it through the lungs and heart; taking ribs on both sides. I did not want to disturb the area any further, so I decided to drag him up without gutting. The buck and I spent the better part of two hours tied to each other. As the morning wore on, a dozen deer took turns crossing the saddle. They would stop, snort a salute and thunder off. It was as though the whole neighborhood was coming to pay its respects. We’d get a few feet and then I’d stop to rest on a stump or a rock, and I told him stories.

“I hope this isn’t going to be a ‘Old Man and the Sea’ thing.” I said to the glazed eyes. “That’s all I need is a pack of coyotes to fight over you. Oh well, where was I? Oh yeah, so now there’s me and the dog and I’m waiving this Coleman lantern and yelling for the guys to stop, and then I get this funny feeling that – hey wait a minute, maybe these guys actually ARE trying to shoot at me and . . you ever have that feeling?”

I gutted him out on the front porch. It took forever to get the deer back into the truck for the trip to the processor. I’ve got a crew cab with a short bed and he just would not fit once he stiffened up. We stopped at the grocery and also rolled over to Roosters to show the guys there. When we got to Lennoxburg, they dragged him out and put him on a hook. It had been a slow day-—only 25 or so had come in. Normally there would be five times as many, stacked like cordwood, but everyone was saying how the full moon and cold weather had kept the deer bedded down.

Lennoxburg 2003

Lennoxburg 2003

Up until then it had just been a personal thing. I knew I had not bagged the biggest deer ever, but he was the biggest I’d ever had in my sights. He wasn’t going to be a state record, but he had undoubtedly been the biggest up on the Saddle that morning. Somebody came up puffing on a cigarette and started talking to the guy that was caping mine out.

“Slow day, huh? Any big ones?”

“Big ones?” said the guy with the knife. “We just got this one.” With that, he lifted the hide and showed the local my deer.

“Yep.” said the guy. “That sure is big.”

The shaman and his Monarch, 2003

The shaman and his Monarch, 2003


The Monarch, 2003


Update April, 2004

The “Monarch of the Forest” is back from the Taxidermist. The Taxidermist did an excellent job except for a minor flaw in positioning one eye. When viewed from the right angle the deer looks drunk. Oh well, I guess that’s sort of fitting, considering the story behind him.


The Monarch, back from the Taxidermist

Read:  Remembering the Monarch



Coyote, 2002

Coyote 2002

Look what came out at sunrise on Sunday of Week 2 of rifle season.  He hopped around a bit and then sat with his back to me at 180 yards.

30-06 Winchester 670

165 Gr Hornady SPBT on top of a hefty load of H4895

coyoteb2002.JPG (236279 bytes)DSC00094.JPG (181110 bytes)


Ode to a 30-30 Pt 3 — Like A Dog Returneth

13699: Ode to a 30-30

11/12/02-10:41 AM Posted by: shaman from

ODE TO A 30-30


by Shaman

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool to his folly.

Or at least that is how it felt. There I was, up in the stand at Heartbreak Ridge. The 30-30 was on the peg, loaded with 150 Gr Hornady. I had Dr. John’s autobiography open. I wasn’t particularly worried about hunting at that point. I just needed to cool down.

I’d had the perfect spot picked out for opening day-a barn overlooking a scrape at the edge of a field at the top of Cheezy Hollow. I’d patterned the buck and does and watched them come out into the field and graze at sunrise and sunset. The night before, the buck had come out at sunset, stalked regally around the pasture and then gone down the hill to check his scrape.

My wife had watched him with binoculars. At 150-200 yards from the barn, the shot would be too long for a bow or muzzleloader, but I had an excellent chance with my 30-06. We’d toasted the buck from our back yard with full assurance he’d be on the pole by noon.

I’d been secretly piling boards and such across the old barn’s entrance since early in bow season. I did it slowly, so as to not arouse the deer and telegraph my plan. On the days I did not hunt, I sat in the backyard and watched the deer browsing in the pasture with the cows, unaware of my preparations.

Now it was opening day. A two-fisted front was due through. I had the morning to hunt, and then it was likely that there would be bad storms by late afternoon. As sunrise drew nearer, the wind came up. It was howling now, and banging the old sheet metal as the old barn creaked. I was looking down at my watch, marking the time of the first shot I’d heard, when I was hit from behind and then from the side.

A sudden violent gust had caught the makeshift blind. It had been there that way for over a month, but one gust had made it all come undone. Wham! Thud. THWAP!, as an airborne piece of sheet tin, picked up and hit me square, and knocked me off my seat. I picked myself and the stool from the dirt and sat back down. In that instant I realized I was now sitting out in the open with boards and sheet tin scattered about me. It was also less than a minute after sunrise. I heard a noise in the distance, and couldn’t tell if it was deer snorting or laughing. About 20 minutes later, does started peeking from the low cedars at the edge of the field. They’d stick their heads out for a moment, look my way, and duck back into the bushes. From my new vantage in the shadows, all I could do was look through my binoculars and fume.

At 8:30, I came back in and sat on the front porch. My wife listened to my sad story, made me some pancakes and left me to my misery. I stashed the ’06 and brought out the Marlin 336 in 30-30. I just had to get out of there and unwind. It was Opening Day, and I’d had my chances of a nice buck blown–quite literally. The 30-30 was lighter, and less of a burden. I did not need a burden. Heartbreak Ridge had been a phenomenal stand the year before, but the deer had left the top of the ridge during the drought and stayed down in the bottoms along the Licking River most of the Summer. The oak mast had failed.

No acorns meant no deer. I’d hunted Heartbreak several times that year already, but to no avail. That was fine for right now. I just didn’t want to be inside on Opening Day. I also didn’t want to be out stalking around. I just wanted to go somewhere and sit. Heartbreak Ridge was the perfect place to go and not be disturbed.

If I wasn’t going to seriously hunt. I might as well read. Reading in the woods has always been one of my favorite activities, so I sat and read. Mac Rebeneck ( AKA Dr. John, the Night Tripper) had an autobiography that was both engrossing and repulsive–just what I needed. An hour went by. When the wind rose and rolled the stand, I’d look up and behold the beauty of the Fall and the raw power of the rising autumn wind. When the gust faded, I’d go back to the book and dive deeper into the jungle of the New Orleans music scene in the Fifties. Occasionally, I’d blow a few doe bleats or a couple of grunts. Like the 30-30 beside me, it was more of a show that I was hunting than anything else. It was now 11.

After the third time I blew a series of bleats, I’d settled back down into the book. Mac was recounting a time he saw Little Richard put a bag of money at some dude’s feet and beg for romance. A fight had ensued, leaving men shot, stabbed, staggering into the alley-

Meee. Meee. Meee.

Wha? I turned around and saw a doe leaving the cover of some cedars. She seemed a bit lost in the wind. Meeeee. Meee! Meee.

I put the book down and reached for the Marlin. Hammer back, crosshairs on her chest.

BLAM! I had the impression that hair flew from a spot just above and behind the attachment point of her foreleg. It was a perfect shot. The doe looked around, jumped back and hid for a moment behind a cedar. As I shifted to jack in another round, the Mac Rebeneck autobiography slipped out from under me and fell to the ground. That got her peeking out and stamping her foot.

BLAM! On the second shot, she bolted towards my stand, closing within 20 feet of the tree before veering off and slowing to a slow walk. As she began to turn, I saw a finger-sized stream of blood pumping from her side. I grunted once. She stopped.

Lil Angus and the doe, 2002

Lil Angus and the doe, 2002

BLAM! I watched her wander off slowly. Unfazed by my fusilade, or Mac Rebeneck falling from on high, she appeared to be out on a stroll through the fall woods. Twenty yards down the trail. She stopped and fell over like a plastic lawn ornament in the wind. When I got to her, I was amazed to find that I’d shot through basically the same hole on at least two of the shots. There was an elongated gash, where I’d smashed through her ribs. One round had taken out a lobe of lung.

Another had taken out the diaphragm. Another had taken off the top of her heart. All three had exited through a gaping hole in the bottom of her chest. She’d died relatively unaware. In the space of about 30 yards were three sure signs of a hit, and a good blood trail, but from watching that doe, you would have thought I’d been shooting blanks.

the shaman, the doe and the 30-30

the shaman, the doe and the 30-30

I pulled some spent brass and Mac Rebeneck from the multi-flora bush beneath the stand and started up the hill, dragging the carcass. Opening Day was over; it was time to hunker down and wait out the storms. I had meat for the winter, and somewhere along the trail, the sting of the fiasco at sunrise had faded. The Marlin had drawn its first blood, and I could walk into Roosters with my head held high. Rolling around my mind now was the gravel of Dr John’s voice:

“Yeah, here in the Jungle,

You be ready to die.

Some monkey like me,

Gonna shave yo’ ass dry!”