We couldn’t hunt because we didn’t have licenses.  Technically, we could have hunted on our own land, but we weren’t really ready anyway.  I am a terrible shot. We just went along instead with the other hunters.   Technically, we couldn’t even go along with anybody toting a gun except that the guy we went with was a “disabled hunter.”  Ostensibly, we were there to help him.  If he shot a deer we would carry it out of the woods to the truck.   No deer jumped by, so our hunter didn’t get one, but we had a good talk.

Below is Alex at the new farm. 

There are several types of deer hunting in Virginia with different weapons and different practices.   Bow hunting is mostly a solitary pursuit.   The hunter usually waits in a tree stand until the deer comes by.  You get one shot and there is not much range, so bow hunting requires a lot of patience and preparation.  The hunt is the culmination of a year-long study of the deer ecology and habits.   Similar preparation is necessary for black powder.  In both these cases, the older technologies require more effort and understanding.  Those who hunt with these tools usually just like being in the woods more than hunting.

Below are my 13-year-old loblolly pines along with Alex to show the point of comparison.

The guy we went with knew the woods and the animals very well.  He had been stalking these woods as fields for more than a half century and his family has been doing it for centuries.  As a boy, he told us, his family had to hunt to put food on the table.  Years ago, deer were not as common as they are today, so they had to know the land better back then.  He showed us how the bucks paw up the along a path.  They lay scent there to attract does and scare off other bucks. Solitary hunters can call the bucks.  Very often the deer are nearby, but out of sight.  If you imitate the buck snort, the dominant local buck comes running to drive off his rival.  This is a fatal mistake.  But we didn’t try to lure any bucks; we were not doing that kind of hunting.

We did a third kind of hunting common in the south.  They send hunting dogs into the woods.  The dogs chase the deer out to where hunters are waiting at strategic points along the roads and paths.   We heard the hounds howling, but neither dogs nor deer came our way.  We heard the shots from other hunters.  One got a nine point buck in the first minutes of the hunt.   Our guide explained to us how the dogs communicated with each other.  One kind of howl mean “I’m lost,” he said.  The other dogs respond and the lost dog rejoins the group.  The dogs follow the deer by scent, not sight until they are right close, so on a windy day the dogs are actually following some yards to the side of the deer. 

Some hunters just like to train the dogs and some of the dog handlers don’t even participate in the actual hunt.  They just take care of the dogs.  I see them running the dogs during the summer.  I don’t know for sure, but the dogs seem to be having a great time too.  I suppose running freely and jumping is what dogs do in their dreams. Two summers ago when I was working on the farm I heard some plantive shouts.  I thought someone had been hurt and went to investigate.  I met a guy in the brambles looking for his lost dog.   The dogs almost always can find their way home.  Besides, the dogs usually have tracking devices on their collars, but the dog lovers worry nevertheless.  The dog wasn’t so dumb.  He had already found his way back to the truck and was waiting there.

Below – hunting dogs waiting for transport.

The hunting is mostly a social event.   About thirty guys take part.    My main reason to go down to the forest was to talk with the Reedy Creek Hunt Club re buying about five acres of my land.  They want it for a clubhouse.   I am willing to sell it to them.   I worry a little re that my new forest because it is along the electrical lines easement, which makes it easily accessible.  The hunters’ presence near my trees will help protect them from dumping or vandalism.    

Since Alex and I were down there anyway, we stopped off at our other forest too, where ran into members of the McAden Hunt Club at the gate.  They are the hunt club that uses and takes care of our land on SR 623.  They were in a good mood because one of the kids got a nice looking deer.   Successful hunts are more likely these days, since there has been such a population explosion among the deer.  It was deer day all over Brunswick County.  We heard the dogs and saw the guys with the bright orange hats at the gas stations and convenience stores.  The Second Amendment is a big deal in Southern Virginia.

Many of the hunt club members are farmers and for them hunting is almost a necessity.  They told us re the damage the large deer numbers can do.   They can eat up whole fields of beans.   They also eat peanuts.  I never would have guessed.  They cannot really eat enough of the peanuts to make a difference, but when they make the harvest difficult when they paw up the plants.

Changing the subject a little, I have a small problem with one of my streams.  It is draining under the road, but no longer going through the culvert pipe.  I cannot see exactly where it sinks in, but it come out underneath the rocks on the other side.    I suppose a sink hole will develop.  There must have been a truly bodacious storm in the last couple of weeks.   There were sticks and debris five feet above the usual water level and east bank was severely undercut.   I wouldn’t usually care much, but my only surviving bald cypress is on top of the bank, so Alex and I shored it up with some rip-rap and sticks.    I don’t know what to do about that potential sink hole.   Maybe it will be self limiting as the dirt falls into it.  I built up some rocks on the far side to avoid erosion, although it has not been a problem so far and the water is coming out clear and clean.  One of the hunters told me that many years ago his had put down a bed of broken concrete to stabilize the road so they could drive across.  My guess is that the water if flowing through that.