Many of my Christmas trips to Clarks Hill involved shooting deer. I say shooting since no hunting was involved.
Back then, deer season was the month of November, with a bonus season from December 26 to January 1, with most of that week either sex days. I kept my Marlin lever action 30-30 in the boat, just in case I got a chance to shoot a deer for the freezer.
One year after eating Christmas dinner in town with my folks I went back to the lake, got in the boat and headed over to “Broken Rod Cove to fish until dark.
As I idled into the cove I saw a spike buck walk out of the woods and lie down in the warm sun.
It did not move and I got within 50 yards of it before turning off the motor. I got up front on the trolling motor and got within 50 feet of it, examining it with my scope. I didn’t shoot, season didn’t open until the next day. Although it was just a little over 12 hours away, I did not want to break the law.
I went back and fished around that cove every afternoon the rest of the week but never saw him again. But one afternoon, as I eased along casting a crankbait to a clay bank, I saw a doe standing 50 feet back in the woods looking at me.
Boats on the water were so unusual back then they really did not spook the deer. This one watched as I picked up my rifle, made sure the boat had stopped moving so I would not break the law by shooting from a boat under motor power, and shot it.
Another day as I fished into “Sunk Boat Cove” I saw a deer standing about 25 feet back in the trees. I picked up my rifle and shot and it dropped. I caught a flicker of white, saw another deer and shot it. Then I looked closely – there were five more deer still standing there looking at me!
I didn’t shoot again since I had my two deer limit.
The next day as I fished a long narrow point nearby, dogs started barking back in the woods. I heard splashing on the other side of the point and cranked up and went around there. Five deer were swimming across the creek, getting away from the dogs. I am sure they were the same five from the day before. I watched as they safely made it to the bank and ran off.
My Uncle Adron invited me to hunt with him one year. I didn’t see anything and got back to my trailer about 10:00 AM. While sitting on the picnic table drinking coffee, I saw two does across the cove, just standing there.
I guessed they were about 150 yards away, a long shot with my 30-30, but I had to try. I got it out of the van, braced against a tree, aimed at the top of the doe’s back to allow for bullet drop, and fired. The doe stumbled, got up and walked slowly back into the woods.
I quickly got in the boat and idled across the cove. When I got to the bank I saw the doe standing there looking at me. I shot again and she dropped. When I got to her, I could see my first shot hit her in the lower front leg.
A couple years late when the lake was very low and the cove almost dry, I stepped off the shot distance. It was 250 yards! No wonder I hit her in the lower leg on my first try. I have no idea why she didn’t run off rather than waiting on me to shoot her again.
The fifth and last deer I killed at the lake at Christmas was the most unusual. Linda, our dog Merlin and I were fishing the long narrow point where I had seen the five swim a few years earlier. That point is a long narrow island when the lake is full but in the winter it is connected to the land.
I saw several deer up in the woods about in the middle of the point. I cranked up and went to the clear gap between the main bank and island and got out. I told Linda to take the boat to the other end, get out and slowly walk toward me, hoping to drive the deer to me at a walk.
A few minutes later I heard noise and looked up to see five deer running toward me. I shot and one fell, then emptied my gun at another one but missed every shot. One of the deer almost ran over me in its rush.
Linda got there and said when she got near the bank
Merlin jumped out and took off toward me. She spooked the deer and they ran rather than walked my way, headed to the narrow gap and the main bank. My plan almost worked.
By the early 1980s I started seeing lots of people going hunting in boats. They would beach their boats and walk into the woods to hunt. That stopped my hunting up there, deer got very wary of boats and people around the lake. Now they are more likely to take off running as son as they see a boat rather than stand and look at it.
Things change with time, not always to my liking.