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Chapter 63

Deer Season

An article in today's Star-Telegram triggered a memory. Way back in 1962, we had a deer lease in Jack County between Jacksboro and Bryson, Texas. Pretty rough country with mesquite, cedar, scrub oak and a number of pump jacks and storage tanks. We didn't see many deer in 1961, the first year we had the lease but things picked up in 1962 with several sightings before the season officially opened.

Four us decided to hunt together opening weekend. Bill McDavid, my brother-in-law, "Philo" Jordan, and J.T. Watters. We drew lots for the stands and I was lucky enough to draw the only spot where a deer had been killed. It was a meadow, about 30 acres of thigh high broom weeds with woods on the west and east. A creek ran along the east boundary. I had scouted it and seen deer sign in the soft sand near some pools.

At least an hour before the sun came up, I lugged a sleeping bag, thermos, flashlight, rifle and binoculars a quarter mile from the road. I had been there the evening before and cleared off a spot for my sleeping bag on the edge of the clearing. I opened the bag, poured a cup of coffee and lit my last cigarette until I was ready to leave the blind.....with a deer!

I snuffed the cigarette, crawled in to the bag, positioned my rifle and promptly went to sleep! When I awoke, the sun was just peeking through the tops of the trees that grew along the creek Between me and the creek was the biggest six point buck I had ever seen in that part of the country. I pulled the gun in to my shoulder, looked through the scope and all I could see was gray! I had borrowed a 7 mm Magnum with a 3 x 9 Redfield scope. It was set to maximum magnification and all I could see was deer. I had enough sense to raise the rifle until I could see the cross hairs , lowered it to the point where I thought...hoped his neck would be and squeezed the trigger. There was a huge blast, a large orange ball of flame, dirt and leaves went everywhere, mostly in my eyes. When I gathered my wits, wiped the dirt out of my eyes, I peered out over the meadow. No deer. I knew he couldn't have been more than fifty yards from me but I couldn't see him. Kicking myself, I walked out through the weeds and lo and behold, shot clean through the neck was my buck. And he was big, even larger than he had appeared in the scope. I was shaking like a leaf but managed to field dress him and start thinking about moving him to my car.

I started out trying to carry all my junk and drag the deer. That proved to be too much so I started carrying my gear forty or fifty yards ahead, then returning for the deer. I kept this up for over an hour when I remembered we had all agreed upon a signal. That if we needed help, we would fire three rounds in quick succession. I hated to fire that gun again. It was loud and kicked like a mule but I needed help. I waited and waited then decided to carry drag my stuff a little closer to the car. When it came in sight I saw my hunting companions standing around the bed of a pickup, drinking beer and laughing. Me, I got mad as a hornet and demanded to know why they had not come to help me. McDavid replied, "Froggy, we thought you had missed a deer and were just trying to shoot him."

That was the last year we hunted in Jack County. By this time Bill McDavid had deer hunting fever bad. He scouted around and found a lease near Junction, Texas that we could afford. I have to admit, when we drove down one weekend in October, we saw deer, turkey, quail and javelina hogs. Game everywhere we looked. To make it more affordable, we added three more hunters to our group. Herb Fowler, Charlie Johnson and Charlie Kemp.

The two Charlie's were Laurel and Hardy personified. Herb was a good camp mate as long as he didn't lose his temper. We also added a cook, Willie Green. I had hired Willie as a shop porter but he soon attached himself to McDavid and I lost control. One of the requirements put forth by Philo Jordan was that he must be a good bartender. McDavid assured him that Willie could mix anything he wanted to drink. We had only been in camp a few minutes when Philo asked Willie to make him a Bloody Mary. Soon a tall frosted glass, the lip ringed with salt and a celery stalk poking out the top was placed before him. Philo took a healthy gulp, made a face and told Willie, "It don't taste just right." Willie picked up the glass and returned to the kitchen. A few minutes later he set the glass down again. Philo took a sip, made a face worse than the first one and said, "Willie, it still doesn't taste just right." Back to the kitchen and then back to the table. This time when Philo took a sip, he almost spit it out. "Willie, this thing is terrible. I can't drink it!" "I don't know Mr. Jordan, said Willie. "I put mos near a fif of Scotch in it." Next purchase when we returned to Fort Worth was a Bartender's Guide.

We had been in camp a couple of days, had deer hanging and Willie had driven in to town with several nice ones for the meat locker in Junction. It was pretty dull, the weather had turned warm and the two Charlie's announced they were going to the river to bathe. No one tried to stop them as everyone knows, "Cleanliness is next" in deer camp. They had been gone about fifteen or twenty minutes when we heard shotguns blasting down by the river. No telling what those two were shooting at and we didn't bother to ride down for a look see. Pretty soon they returned and started yelling for us to come look in the pickup. We walked outside to see the bed of the truck full of turkeys. They were all excited telling us how dumb the turkeys were, that they didn't even run after they started shooting. Something didn't look right and when I picked up a turkey leg and saw the band, I knew what was wrong. They were domestic turkeys, they had shot the ranchers wife's flock of tame turkeys. In for a penny, in for a pound so we all started hauling turkey carcasses to the far regions of the ranch. We just hoped the rancher would blame it on coyotes or wild dogs, anything but two dumb deer hunters.

I didn't make the last hunt of the season. McDavid, his wife Barbara, Jordan and his wife Nancy and Willie of course. I had started calling Willie by a new name by now, "Friday." He quizzed me a couple of times about the name but I didn't have the heart to tell him the story of Robinson Crusoe. Willie and McDavid drove in to the shop just before quitting time. We all gathered around the pickup as Willie was encouraging everyone to "Come see, come see!" As I recall there were bout six bucks in the bed of the truck, a couple of them decent racks. People started asking Bill about the deer and Bill was telling them, "Yeah, that deer was running about two hundred yards away at full tilt when I shot him. That other one was just going in to the woods when I nailed him"..and so on with each shot more difficult. Willie was standing next to me and would agree with McDavid by saying, "Tha's right, tha's right." In a moment I asked Willie, "What were you doing all this time?" "Holden' de light," he said without missing a beat. More stories from the deer patch next time.

More pot shots. One hunt that was fun occurred on the infamous turkey ranch. Cousin Dan Boone joined us for a weekend of hunting and general carousing. Now Dan considers himself just a cut above the rest. Everything he owns is the finest, his kids the smartest, a gourmet diner, you get the picture. Still a good Ol' Boy and a lot of fun. Dan had sworn he would never eat "Bambi," that he just couldn't imagine anyone eating wild game of any kind. Early Saturday Morning, he left with McDavid for a tour of the ranch. I drove about a half mile the other direction and shot a young spike. I boned the meat, carried it back to camp and chicken fried some of the hams and tenderloin. (Back strap.) About two the hunters returned and we had a nice meal prepared with a large platter of venison as the centerpiece. Dan speared two pieces, wolfed them down and picked up another piece. "Did you send Willie in to town for round steak?" he asked. "Yep," I replied. Pretty good huh? "Very tasty Bullius Froggius. You have done it again." About two the next morning, I heard a noise in the kitchen. I looked up to see Dan rummaging around in the icebox. I watched as he constructed a huge sandwich using left over venison. I waited until he had a few bites and said, "Daniel, you must really like that meat." "Yes I do" he said, "I was laying there thinking about it and just had to have a sandwich. Best round steak I have ever tasted." McDavid rolled over in his bunk and said, "That is venison you dummy!" Real quiet for a minute and then Dan said, "Do you think you can get another deer before I have to leave? And can you butcher it like this an give me the recipe?"

Several years later we moved to the Franklin Ranch between Llano and Marble Falls. One of the prettiest places with lots of deer, turkey and quail. Quail were a tasty treat. On the morning hunt we would take a shotgun because we almost always jumped a covey of quail. There would be enough to fry up with eggs, bacon, ham, cream gravy and hot biscuits. Did I mention I had given Willie Green and his new helper Charles Robinson a crash course in cooking? I still made the cream gravy as neither one of them ever mastered a roue'. The gravy would either be too thin or too lumpy, more like wallpaper paste.

We had invited Bob Allen, an account executive with Channel 11, KFJZ. Bob, known as "Bobbin Bob" because of his energetic behavior, was an accident looking for a place to happen. He asked me before the trip what kind of firearm he should purchase. I told him I would purchase a Winchester 30-30 for the kind of hunting we would be doing. If he wanted to think about hunting with McDavid in Colorado or New Mexico, to pick up a .30-06 with at least a four power scope. You can always find ammunition for those two calibers just about anywhere. When he arrived, he broke out the two guns, both in the boxes and still covered with a protective coating of grease. He was all for loading them up and shooting right away but I convinced him that would be a bad idea as the grease in the barrel just might cause the gun to explode. He thought about that for a minute, decided I was right so I broke out my gun cleaning kit. The .30-06 was drilled for a Weaver scope and we mounted that after firing the guns with open sights. Bob couldn't hit the side of a barn but I found them to be as true as Winchester and Remington could make them. We mounted the scope and I calibrated it for fifty yards.

McDavid had volunteered to take Bob out to get his first deer. As they got ready to leave, I saw Bob stuffing both calibers of shells in one pocket on his coat. I told him that was a bad idea, that he ran the risk of mixing them up in case he had to reload. He sluffed me off and roared off for his big adventure. All the jeeps were equipped with CB radios and it wasn't very long until we heard what sounded like a war about a mile from camp. McDavid got on the horn and announced that Allen had indeed shot his first buck, a nice nine point.

The rule is, you shoot it, you field dress and we didn't want to miss that event. Six or seven jeeps surrounded the spot where Allen had dropped the deer and it was a fair deer for Llano County. I looked but didn't see and entrance or exit wound. (We found out later he had shot it in the neck and for some reason the bullet didn't enlarge the wound.) I asked McDavid about the wound and he said, "Hell, he never shot it. The deer died laughing!" It is not a pretty sight to watch someone field dress a deer the first time. If you want to know how, there are web sites you can Google up. After about forty-five minutes Allen finally had a semblance of a field dressed deer. He was still so excited he couldn't open his hand to release the huge hunting knife he had a death grip on. He chugged the obligatory shot of whiskey with beer chaser (We just made that rule up.) and we headed for camp. Later on, Hook Wade, a visitor from another camp came by and was admiring Allen's deer. "Nice deer Allen. What did you field dress him with, a jeep?"

Allen only made the one trip with us. Not that he was a bad guy but he broke two rules. The first one was the footlocker rule. Everyone brought an Army style footlocker to camp with them and placed them at the foot of their bed. This left a narrow aisle and we all agreed to keep the footlockers closed and the hasps out of the way. The hasps could be bad for shins if left open. Allen left his open and Philo Jordan really took the hide off his shin. The next sin was even worse. Allen borrowed Dick "The Dirty Rat" May's jeep to drive around while Dick and McDavid played mean games of gin rummy. A little later I decided to take a turn around the pasture in my jeep. A half mile from the cabin I saw Allen and he was in a heap of trouble. He had driven down in a wash, tried to come out the other side and now had the jeep on high center with front and rear wheels spinning away. I said, "Allen, there are two things Dick May loves in this world. One is his wife Dotty Mae and the other is that jeep you have wrecked." "Oh Froggy, you got to help me. May will kill me if he sees this." I let him sweat a few minutes, looped the tow chain around both bumpers and gently pulled Dick's jeep up on solid ground. Jeeps are tough and the dirt in the ravine had been soft so no damage was done. But, being the big mouth I was, I told Dick May what I had seen. I thought Dick would take it as a joke too but I misread him. He got so mad he left camp. He said he wasn't staying in camp with anyone who mistreated other people's equipment that way. So, when it came time to vote on the new members, Allen's name was not even mentioned.

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