By Dennis Adams, © 1999. Do not reproduce.
A friend of mine named Jim, has to have every new gadget that comes on the market for hunting. He is of the mind set that if he has all the latest and greatest new toys that they will make him a better hunter. I have hunted with him for fourteen years and in all actuality, nothing can make him a better hunter. His ability to collect any game at all only supports the principle “that even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every now and then.” However, there is great humor involved in watching him master his skills as a hunter with his new toys.
When Jim goes into the woods deer hunting you can always plan on him having to make at least two trips. He is dressed similar to “Rambo” and with so many different gadgets hanging off of his body; he looks as if he is going to make the first space walk on the moon. In fact, I doubt if our first astronauts carried as much stuff. He has a pack on his back that you could put everything inside required for a six-month trip to the North Pole.
In an effort to reduce his load he uses a lock on tree stand but carries at least two dozen screw in climbing steps. Attached to a rope tied to his boot is a drag rag that looks like a dust mop covered with some type of new attractant scent. He always wears rubber boots which, by the way go above his knees because of his fear of snakes. I have even seen him attach various parts of a deer to this drag rope that to my amazement, I found out he had actually paid money for. All of which smells so bad that if you are hunting with him you must always walk up wind. At times during the early morning darkness when we are walking into our stands I walk in fear of being gang raped by a herd of lustful bucks. My only hope being that they will get to Jim first and during the confusion I would be able to escape and avoid being violated.
Along with all the other stuff he carries he always has rattling antlers, grunt calls, bino’s, rifle, at least forty rounds of ammunition and a knife that you could hack your way through the Burmese jungle with. He carries enough coffee to open his own breakfast diner and a five-cell flashlight that could be used as a searchlight. When completely decked out he looks like a “Ninja Turtle” with antlers and one headlight.
Dressed in this manner, early one morning deep in a North Carolina swamp a problem presented it’s self. We came to a log bridge over a creek that had to be crossed. Prior to the deer season the landowner and I had cut a tree across the creek to make a crossing.
The creek was not more then twenty five feet across but was quite deep because of the recent rain and the many beaver dams further down in the swamp. It was dark but a full moon gave off enough light to find your way without much effort. I picked up a tree limb about twelve feet long that I had previously left there to poke into the bottom of the creek and balance myself during the crossing. I made my crossing without incident and waited for Jim to cross.
Jim approached the log bridge with both caution and apprehension. He took his searchlight and began to look around for a suitable stick to assist in his crossing the log in the same manner as I had. At last he found one that showed some age from being on the ground for a few seasons but he felt was adequate. The log was wet from the recent rain and since I had not used a light for my crossing I had not noticed a pile of scat left by a raccoon during the night to announce his passing.
Jim moved out onto the log with extreme caution with all his gear on his back and his rifle and searchlight in one hand and his balance stick in the other. Attempting the crossing in this manner, he was unable to shine his light on the log but did manage to illuminate most of the swamp as if were a county fair. Realizing he was carrying to much stuff and unable to see what he was doing, he asked me to shine my flashlight on the log so he could see where to place his steps.
Jim had proceeded six or eight steps out onto the log when he poked his balance stick into the creek bottom and the stick broke off about a foot above the water. He bent forward violently in an attempt to regain his balance and salvage the remainder of the stick. However, the events of the tragedy were already set in motion and as he realized this a look came over his face that can only be described as one of pure terror. It is at this point that he claims that I shined my flashlight in his eyes. Still attempting to regain his balance, he raised back up and attempted a few quick steps forward. His rubber boots making squeaking sounds on the wet log with every step he took. That is when he came upon the pile of coon scat and stepped in it. Jim stopped all forward motion and it sounded as if he was using some type of loud predator call due to the squeaking noise his rubber boots was making on the coon scat and wet log while he was attempting to regain his balance. He also began to swing his arms around in circles as if he was attempting to take flight. He was even beginning to make a noise that sounded like an engine of some type. His arms were going so fast that they became a blur and still to this day I feel that if we would have had a little wind for lift that morning he might actually made it and taken flight.
Jim realized that all was lost and it was his intent to minimize the damage. In one final effort he attempted several quick steps forward and made a leap for shore. Leaping through the air with his tree stand and pack on his back and silhouetted against the full moon the only thought that came to my mind, was how much he looked like a Ninja Turtle.
I would like to say that Jim made the jump safely to shore but that was not the case. His gallant leap fell short by several feet of gaining the safety of the shore. As Jim was flying through the air the look on his face was one of both desperation and hope. He hit the water feet first in mid stride and quickly disappeared beneath the stained black surface. I must confess that I was laughing at this point but managed to get control of myself long enough to search the surface of the water for any sign of Jim. He had been under for quite some time and I remember starting to have concern over the loss of a good hunting rifle that he carried. At last I noticed what appeared to be a light under the surface. At first the light was just barely visible in the black stained water but quickly began to grow brighter. It surprised me when Jim exploded through the surface like the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” and with a scream that raised the hair on the back of my neck. He swam and splashed ashore and not wanting to get in his way, I moved away from him.
Of course, to hear him tell his version he claims to have reached out to me for help and that I jumped away from him. To this day he venomously states that I not only shinned my flashlight in his eyes but that I left the rotten stick for him to use which made him fall.
Jim acquired his latest newest gadget when he was looking through one of the many outdoor equipment catalogs he gets and he saw that they had Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on sell. He just had to have one and planned to use it during turkey season. While out scouting for turkey he could be seen programming coordinates in the GPS for any turkey sign located to include droppings. I guess he figured that if a turkey had left droppings in an area that it would come back to check on them in the future.
I should point out that during the fourteen years that Jim and I have hunted turkey together he has only managed to kill one small Jake. Which supports the principle “that if you hunt turkey long enough and hard enough that sooner or later you will find a stupid one.”
Jim showed up the opening morning at our chosen location and got out of his truck with more turkey calls on him then was on sell at the last Dixie Deer Classic. I mean he had everything you could imagine to include a store bought turkey wing. He opened up his gun case and pulled out a new ten gauge shotgun that he claimed would not only kill a turkey at fifty yards but also clean it. Of course, he had his GPS.
We walked down the road in the darkness and Jim was looking at his GPS. I guess the GPS screen showed him that he had arrived at his point of debarkation because he turned and moved off in the woods. We agreed to meet back at our trucks around ten o’clock.
When daylight was peeking through the tree tops I was just preparing to start my first series of calls when I heard what I can best describe as a turkey riot coming from the swamp to my right? Jim and I were the only ones hunting this area but it sure sounded like another hunter me. I did not think it was Jim because he should have been over a thousand meters to my left. I just knew that with his new GPS that there was no way he could have lost his way in the dark. I remained silent but the calls continued non-stop for about twenty minutes after daylight. I was sure now that the hunter to my right was Jim but I had no idea why he had moved in on top of me.
I got up and changed my location to the next ridge over. At about nine o’clock I called in a nice gobbler, which I took at twenty-three steps. My hunt was over for the day so I collected up my bird and returned to my truck. When I got to my truck, the Game Warden whom I knew well was setting there drinking a cup of coffee. He asked if I knew who owned the other truck and I told him it was Jim’s and that he should be coming out of the woods soon. The Game Warden finished his coffee and said he would check back later to see how Jim had done.
I watched the clock and noon came and went with no sign of Jim. I decided that I would drive around to the other side of the swamp and see if any turkeys were out in the fields feeding. I had no sooner stopped my truck and was scanning the fields with my binoculars when I noticed a human figure at the far end of one field. Upon closer examination through the binoculars I noticed it was Jim.
When Jim got to my truck he explained how the battery had gone dead in his GPS during his trip into the woods that morning and he had gotten disoriented. He said he had moved into what he thought was the area he was going to hunt but when daylight came, nothing looked familiar. Once he thought he heard a hen yelp but heard a shot from a couple of ridges over and moved toward what he thought was the direction of the shot. He soon realized that he was not only disoriented but also “LOST”! He had just found his way out into the field when he saw my truck.
I asked him that with all the modern technology that he carried how could he have become disoriented (a hunter never gets lost)? He did not answer my question and only asked which way his truck was and could I take him to it? I told him that his truck was straight due west of us. He asked how I knew the direction was west? I pointed up at the sun and said it’s in the afternoon and the sun sets in the west and that just happens to be the way your truck is. About three miles to the west and you’re lucky I came to look for you! Once again, my concern was not for Jim; it was that I had sort of taken a shinning to that new ten gauge he had and that soft little cushion he used to set on.