~ from the Mississippi Delta~
By Doug Green
The things I've seen and done with my huntin' buddies through the years have been a source of much laughter and great memories. Now that I'm older I realize, when it's all said and done, that laughter and memories are the only true riches this life has to offer. These two things are what have kept me sane through the ups and downs of life. And I have been way up and way down, believe me! I hope my stories will bring a smile to your face and or a tear to your eye.
I have a good number of friends who are also my hunting buddies, and they all have their own ways of doing things -- despite the fact that their thinking can sometimes be, shall we say, different from what might be considered normal. I would like the world to know that I truly love each and every one of my buddies, no matter how crazy they might seem. Maybe that will keep me from being sued!
Most everyone who hunts has a close huntin' buddy he spends most of his time with and with whom he shares most of his secret information. Notice I said MOST of his secret information. The reason I say most is because hunters are basically a tight-mouthed, selfish bunch when it comes to the whereabouts of a nice white tail buck. Remember, we are a friendly sort. "Yes sirree. Hunt all you want to, just don't kill nothing!"
I've found that my close huntin' buddies have changed during different stages of my life, but the fun and the laughter never does! My stories are accounts of the different buddies who have filled my life with laughter and outdoor fun in the Mississippi Delta at Itta Bena Hunting Club.
When I first started hunting around 8 years of age, it was with my daddy, Jimmy Green. Now, my daddy was not a hunter. He loved being with me, and we had a great time building campfires and listening to the dogs run, but he was not a hunter. Killing a deer was something that probably was not going to happen. Seemed we both had this problem with sitting still. I guess it's a good thing because he didn't mind my moving, talking, and just having fun. And that's what it's all about. I have to keep reminding myself of this fact when I take my grandchildren, Jimmy and Mary Lauren, hunting.
The early 1960's at Itta Bena Hunting Club meant early morning breakfast, prepared by the club secretary, Tut Patterson, and his sons, Clark and Bob. Tut also had some expert help and advice from Mr. Van Richardson, Mr. Red Barbour, and Dr. Shelley Phillips. Being a little on the heavy sot side, I liked this "good eatin'" part of huntin' best! And we did eat good! I can still see those fried eggs staring up at me to this day!
On an average day, there would be 30 to 50 hunters all eating, laughing and having fellowship together. It was truly a remarkable sight and a great memory. Because of the number of hunters, we all had to "draw stands." Drawing stands was a good thing for those who got lucky and drew a good stand but a long cold wait for the unlucky ones who drew so-called "bad stands." The number one rule was you had to stay on your stand until 11:00 a.m.; the good news was there were very few "bad stands." That's one thing about running dogs at Itta Bena Hunting Club; deer went in every conceivable direction.
The most intriguing method of hunting white tail deer to me was hunting off of horses. The cowboys had the best seats in the house, without a doubt. I knew early on that this was how I wanted to hunt. Yes, sir! Chaps, boots, spurs, saddles, cowboy hats and chewing tobacco! Man, oh, man, huntin' off a horse was the only way to go. At 8 years of age, I was still a little young yet, but I knew my time was coming!
I remember this one morning Daddy and I had drawn a stand on Flat Bayou. Now Flat Bayou was and is a good place to hunt. I could tell my father was excited. We got into Mr. Harlow Pittman's Jeep with his youngest son, Freddie, and off we went. Driving to a stand with Mr. Harlow before daylight was an adventure in itself. I still don't know how that man knew where he was or where he was going, but he always knew.
Soon Mr. Harlow pulled the old green Jeep to a stop and pointed out to us where the stand was located. Stands at that time were simply a tree with an old car tag with all the numbers blacked out except the stand numbers. Daddy found the tree and we settled in. I wanted to build a fire right off the bat, but Daddy said we should wait to see which way the dogs would run.
So, with his arms around me to keep me warm, we settled in to wait for the Walker hounds to start their music. I can close my eyes today and still see the way the bayou looked with the sun coming up, shimmering on the icy water. The mist of fog and darkness slowly and silently lifted to reveal the giant oaks that made up the Murphy Woods. Off in the distance we could hear the eerie sound of the horsemen blowing their horns and the Walker hounds striking a hot trail. Just the memory takes my breath today.
This particular morning it seemed like those dogs were running a beeline straight to our stand. I remember Daddy folding his hunting coat over his stool and laying that old Stevens pump down on top of it. He moved me up behind that 12-gauge and told me to be quiet.
Sure enough, I heard the breaking of ice and saw three ghostly shadows suddenly appear, moving ever so slowly through the morning fog. I could see the steam rising up from their bodies as they stopped and listened to the dogs that were coming closer by the second. The trio started to move toward our stand, and I was sure the beating of my heart would send them running, but it didn't. I could see their hot breath in the cold morning air, and when they got maybe 25 yards from us, I saw the last deer was a buck. He was probably a 17- or 18-inch, eight-point! His rack was dark with white tips and he looked like a king the way he stood.
I heard my Daddy whisper, "Shoot." So, with my heart pounding, I laid my cheek against that cold shotgun stock and looked down the barrel. The buck moved up between the two does and stopped. All three were looking back toward the sound of the dogs barking across the bayou. I took the safety off, I put the front sight on that buck's shoulder and I heard my Daddy whisper, with urgency in his voice, "Shoot!"
I took careful aim and tried to pull the trigger . . . but I couldn't. He was just so beautiful standing there flanked on each side by those two big does. I looked up into my father's eyes and said, "I can't, Daddy."
Daddy just smiled. He understood. I was still a little young.
I can see that smile on his face to this day, and I love him for giving me that moment. My father had only killed two deer in his whole life, so he eased the gun up to take a shot and the deer bolted out of sight in the blink of an eye! And that . . . was that.
We built a fire, ate apples and oranges and enjoyed the rest of the hunt. I'm still enjoying that hunt. God bless Jimmy Green.
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