Sportsman’s Corner: Alabama getaway

Published: 1/31/2020 9:17:12 PM
Modified: 1/31/2020 9:17:03 PM

This writer has just returned from a few days spent in Enterprise, Alabama. This is my third January sojourn to the “Heart of Dixie,” to do a little hunting. The trips began when my niece Kristine got married and I learned that her new husband, Andrew Sawyer, was a hunter. Since their wedding was in October, I made it very clear that the personal sacrifice involved in leaving the Northeast during the upland hunting season was significant.

Andrew and Kristine are both doctors. She is a pediatrician and he in an emergency room doctor. Before deciding on where to locate, they visited hospitals in New England and while they were here, I introduced Andrew to upland bird hunting. He was immediately taken with following bird dogs around and has returned three times. In return, he has hosted me at land that my brother-in-law, John Campbell, bought in Alabama and we have stayed at the cabin they built on the property. We have hunted deer, wood ducks and quail during my visits, and it is a great change from the frozen winter weather of January.

Last winter’s trip was canceled at the last minute when my wife was laid up after complications following surgery on her back. It took some time, but she is healed now, and so after Andrew’s fall bird hunt, which resulted in him taking his first grouse, it was my turn to travel. The flight to Dothan Alabama Airport via Atlanta was uneventful, and I was looking forward to seeing what habitat improvements had been undertaken on the two hundred plus acres of bottomland that is divided by a 20-foot wide creek.

The landscape in southeastern Alabama is very thick and quickly becomes overgrown if not cleared. On the Campbell property, a number of clearings have been created and planted with cover crops like winter rye and Alabama, like most Southern and Midwestern states, allows the use of feeders. For deer hunting, elevated stands, ladder stands or climbing stands are a necessity as you cannot see through the understory most of the time. Many properties have shooting houses and the elevated one on the neighboring property is over twenty feet wide with all the comforts of home.

Friday, my first morning, found me in a pop-up camo tent watching a road crossing with a lot of old tracks. It was comfortable and featured a great vista, but no deer showed themselves. Mid-morning, we left to do some errands as there was quite a crew coming in for Saturday’s festivities. Friday night was the warm-up with raw oysters and other snacks, washed down with adult beverages. The night was rather short and six of us headed out to stands pre-dawn. Like my Friday morning, it was quiet for all.

Mid-day, the cabin became the scene of a barbecue with burgers off the charcoal Weber grill and two slow cookers with chili and chicken stew. That was great and then there was some shooting with clay targets launched from a good target thrower that presented single, double and even triple clays in regular size, midi and mini targets. Everyone took turns and it was great fun. Around three PM, it was back to stands. Yours truly was on a platform stand in another shooting tent, watching three directions of fifty-yard-wide plantings. Since there was feeder, it required my purchasing a bait permit in addition to my Alabama non-resident license. With everything still green and a ton of acorns around every pin oak tree, the feeders were not the magnet you might suppose. It was also the peak of the rut.

A movement to my right caught my attention and it was a rack buck bounding across the planting. I reached down into my backpack top grab my grunt call to see if I could stop the buck and when I looked up it was like an instant replay. It seems a pair of mature bucks were either running from another hunter of after a doe. Despite my grunts, they were gone, not to reappear. When the six hunters got back to the cabin, everyone had seen bucks, but none offered a shot.

Andrew and I were obligated to attend a formal event that night in Enterprise. It was a night out to raise money for a downtown historic sight and the food was good, but we were home early as there was more hunting to do in the morning. There was a chance for me to take a nice doe, who posed at length in another planting, but we were only taking bucks. Andrew watched a “shooter” rack buck for a long time as it slowly passed by him as he waited in his Summit climbing tree stand but it turned left and never got close enough for him to take a shot with his bow. He is committed to bow hunting while a Weatherby Vanguard chambered for the Winchester .270 caliber sat on my lap. My options were out to 200 yards, but a buck never gave me a chance.

Returning without killing a deer is fine with me. It is the hunt that satisfies and sitting and watching is very enjoyable for this hunter. There was also my first encounter with an aardvark as one ambled under my ladder stand and squirrels were plentiful. Andrew also got to watch a group of wood ducks swim and walk around in the creek bottom for an hour, so he had highlights as well.

It was a most therapeutic experience for me and a great break in the New England winter. Battery is now charged, and we can get ready for turkey season!

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