DRIFTWOOD OUTDOORS: Memories of past trips valuable during pandemic
Before I had my driver’s license, I took my parent’s car for a joy ride. They were supposed to be gone overnight. But when the bag phone rang and I saw my home number as the caller, I knew I was in deep trouble. It was early June. I stayed grounded for the rest of the summer. Work and football. That was it. Right now, I feel like I am living that summer over again. This is like adult onset grounding.
Restlessness is really starting to get me. My job heavily involves traveling to conferences, tradeshows and conventions to represent my company. Everything has been canceled. I am displaced in my professional duties. South Africa, Iceland, California, West Virginia, Northern Michigan, Nashville; all destinations I was headed to. All canceled. Every time I get off a video conference, I swear I can’t do one more. Then I remember I have another one in an hour.
Relief is on the way. Deer season opens in less than a month. Dove season is in only a couple of weeks. The temperatures will become cooler and fish will get busy putting on weight for the winter. Fall has always been my favorite season, but this year, it can’t get here soon enough.
Thankfully, I have a lot of great memories to draw on. One of the best trips I ever took was to the Milk River to bowhunt for whitetails with my Uncle Tom. I was living in Montana at the time and the Milk River Region was part of my sales territory, giving me ample opportunity to explore the river bottoms. Outdoor television had recently brought whitetail fame to this desolate land. I was able to scout regularly, to develop our plans for a camping and bowhunting trip.
Uncle Tom had never hunted in the West before. I was excited to bring him out, somewhat as a repayment for all the years he took me hunting. The original plan included comfortable accommodations in my fancy camper. Air conditioned, fully contained, a couch and two large beds made this baby plush. I enjoyed relaxing inside its upscale walls. A strong windstorm and a large cottonwood tree changed those plans. Tom refused to tent camp and I didn’t want to stay in a hotel, so I bought an old a 1979 pop-up for $950.
While waiting on him to arrive at the Billings airport, I reflected on some of the great times my uncle and I had shared over the years; canoeing the Buffalo River in Arkansas, fishing Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, learning how to ski behind his boat, not to mention all the breakfast feasts he’d prepare after our morning deer hunts. I was determined to make this hunt special for him.
The first couple of evenings, we basically hunted the same stands. In the mornings we’d explore other areas. The Milk River is loaded with whitetails, and while the excitement of just encountering so many deer is enough to keep any hunter interested, sooner or later you start to get trigger happy. We knew our time would come, as each afternoon we were getting closer and closer to perfecting our strategy.
With so many deer on the Milk River, one would think their timidity would have waned, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. These deer are by far the most skittish I have ever been around. One slight whiff of scent, one caught movement, one sound out of place, and your hunt is seriously fouled.
My moment came on the last night. A buck stepped out of a cattail bog and began to close the distance. Within seconds, my arrow was off its rest. The quick flight ended with a loud thump. The buck spun and trotted 50 yards. He stopped briefly before disappearing into the thick cattail bog. The buck’s wobbly legs gave me confidence.
It was a beautiful 10- pointer. Not quite as big as I had originally thought, but I still mounted him. He hangs in my office. We took photos, then loaded the deer onto the top of my camper and headed back to town. Tom may not have shot one, but together, my uncle and I got a deer. More important than that, we created memories that are making me smile 15 years later.
See you down the trail…
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