The dull blue-grey of early dawn had already begun to illuminate the surrounding woods. But there would be no sunshine on this morning . A thick, wet fog was beginning to settle in and everything was soon soaked by its subtle misting. Though the day was truly beginning, the woods seemed suspended in a dark twilight under the shadow of the fog. It took longer than usual for the birds to start chirping and squirrels to begin chattering. It was a peaceful morning under the fog, and even the wildlife seemed reluctant to wake. That was, at least, until a long, terrifying growl echoed through the twilight…
The rumbling in my stomach hadn’t been going on for very long. In fact, it felt fine as I was busy attaching the climber to the base of the tree. But now, three quarters of the way up the tree, it hit me:
I think I have to poop
Situations like these are all mental games. Most of the time you can overcome the urge by just ignoring it or even telling yourself “You do not have to poop”. So I climbed on, inch-worming my way in my tree stand, all the while muttering to myself that I didn’t need to climb back down and take care of business.
It wasn’t long after I’d settled into my stand before my gut rumbling shifted gears to full blown emergency. Reluctantly, I admitted defeat and with a great amount of frustration, I got ready to descend the tree to answer mother nature’s call. But I was quickly reminded that when mother nature calls me, she actually screams. And I hadn’t made it six feet down the tree before I realized what was about to take place.
There’s a real “Come to Jesus” moment that occurs when we, as adults, realize we’re about to crap our pants. It’s a humbling experience when you’re forced to make a snap decision based solely off of your inability to control your bodily functions. How you react in a moment of crisis defines who you are, and I had almost no time to think beyond the quick thought: “How does this even happen?”
Three days prior to this emergency, I found myself sitting in a Southwest Georgia hospital patiently awaiting my meeting with an orthopedic surgeon. I’d spent the entire night before in the emergency room for a very different emergency from the one happening up the tree. After nearly cutting off my index finger (a story that I won’t get into yet), the nurse who stitched me up flatly told me “Oh yeah, you’re gonna have to have surgery. You went right through the tendon and artery. I’ll schedule you an appointment with the surgeon”
So when the surgeon finally came in, I was fully expecting the worst news and that I would indeed need surgery. But in a bizarre twist of good luck, he looked at my finger, made me move it around some, and said “You’ll be fine without surgery. Here’s a prescription for some meds”. He then sent me on my way.
I was on a hunting trip after deer on some of the plantations that I used to work on. I’d already missed my first morning hunt thanks to the finger fiasco, so I was excited to finally get some hunting done. This year I put away the bow for the time being. I darted deer enough. I was ready to blast one with the rifle, and I quickly set about doing just that.
Just a few minutes before sunset later that evening, I lined the crosshairs of my 30-06 on a fat doe’s chest as she stood broadside, and squeezed the trigger. I was, however, shocked to see her kick, stumble, and run off. I was using the same 175 grain VLD bullet that took down my monster boar earlier this summer. It was almost expected for her to just fall over. So I climbed down and immediately found blood, but as soon as I did, the overwhelming smell of guts hit me. Looking down, I also saw half digested corn.
I’d never gut shot a deer before. Ever. And I couldn’t believe I’d done it to this doe. My rifle was sighted in earlier that afternoon. So how had I shot so far back? And why was there SO much blood on the ground. Seriously, it looked like someone had dumped buckets of red paint on the ground.
Once my buddies showed up to pick me up, we began tracking her. Luckily, the blood trail was heavy, and we found her piled up about 100 yards from where she was shot. The entire time we were trailing her I was nervous and honestly kind of embarrassed to have gut shot a deer. When I shined my light down on her, it was obvious that the bullet exited the guts. But what about the entry wound? We flipped her over to discover a hole right in the shoulder. Exactly where I was aiming.
So how did I manage to shoot a deer, perfectly broadside, in the shoulder and the exit wound come out mid rib cage? The only thing I can imagine is the bullet. The VLD is highly frangible and honestly not made for hunting. The bullet must’ve hit the shoulder blade, fragmented, and simultaneously ricocheted through the animal. Regardless, it got the job done, but I’ve stopped using VLD’s for deer hunting. Attempting to clean a gut shot deer one handed was enough to make me switch rounds.
With meat in the freezer, I set about looking to shoot my first nice buck. Unfortunately, nothing aside from a spike and a little 6 point made an appearance the rest of the weekend. But my final day was anything but dull.
Years prior to this day, me and my buddies had a long, drawn out conversation about peeing out of a tree stand. Some of us did it regularly, others (like myself), considered it a mortal sin. I know there’s tons of data explaining that deer can’t tell/don’t care, but it’s still a rule of mine. One of my friends, however, admitted that he’d had to poop from the stand before; a statement that we regularly ridiculed him about afterwards. I don’t know of a hunter who likes to poop in the same zip code as their tree stand, much less OUT of it. So we all gave him hell for years afterward about being the one guy we know who’s done it…
At least, until, my emergency 30 feet up a pine tree. I won’t go into detail as to how I managed to take care of business out of a climber. All that matters is that disaster was averted. I shamefully climbed the six feet back to the top, and sat down feeling extremely thankful that such a terrible outdoor experience was over. I’d made it 13 solid years of hunting without that ever happening, and I prayed that was the first and last time I’d ever have to do something like that again.
Until 10 minutes later when round two kicked in…
Later that afternoon, I felt infinitely better and with a freshly restocked toilet paper supply in my bag, I deemed it safe to return to the tree stand. While walking down to a creek bottom with a lock-on stand, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned to see what looked like a small possum. Suddenly another one appeared. And another. I wanted a closer look so I walked within just a few yards of them. It was then that I realized what I was looking at. They weren’t possums. They were tiny little piglets. And that only meant one thing: Momma was nearby.
It took me a second to figure out exactly what I was looking at. The stump that was only 4 yards from me suddenly moved and I realized momma pig was staring right at me. Now I’m still not entirely sure why she didn’t run, or charge, or anything. But I had time to take my rifle off of my shoulder, flip the scope covers off, turn the power from 9x to 3x, flip the safety, find the pig’s head, and pull the trigger without her moving. And as if that wasn’t enough, I heard a snort and looked to see a second sow just 10 yards away. Also not moving. I chambered a new round, found the pig’s head, and squeezed the trigger. Almost immediately I heard more snorting through the brush as a THIRD sow moved in close. This one, however, never stepped out, and just grunted at the piglets as they ran to her through the brush.
I left the pigs on my path to grab them on the way out and went ahead to climb my stand. I was hunting over a scrape line and there was a nice looking scrape just 30 yards in front of my stand. The evening was pretty uneventful. I saw a bunch of turkeys, and a bobcat carrying a dead squirrel walked directly underneath my tree. It wasn’t until about 45 minutes before sunset that I saw brush moving just beyond the scrape.
I raised my rifle and waited. The entire time I was envisioning what this buck was going to look like. Would this be it? My opportunity to –finally- kill a noteworthy buck? I’m generally very slow to excite, but I began to get a little excited with anticipation.
All I need is for him to step out
But to my EXTREME disappointment, what stepped out was not a buck. Rather, a giant boar. Frustrated that my hunt was over without a buck, I flipped off the safety just as the boar stopped to sniff the air, and I put a round right behind the eye. The boar did a front flip, and as if to really prove to me that my chances of killing a buck were gone, he flopped down DIRECTLY on the scrape.
As I was busy dragging bacon back to the road, I couldn’t help but reflect on the whole weekend. I was grateful to still have my finger, it was amazing getting to spend time with some of my best friends, and I was lucky enough to not only take a deer, but also pigs. It was my first and only chance to hunt this year, and with the exception of a few hiccups, the weekend couldn’t have been more fun. I got to spend some much needed time in the woods, and even did something out of the tree stand that I’ve never done before.
That’s right. I’ve never actually shot a pig from a tree stand before.
What? Did you think I was talking about a different tree stand experience?
The question “what in God’s name did I eat?” actually did bother me for a while. And it wasn’t until a week later that I solved the mystery. Out of sheer boredom, I flipped over my prescription bottle to read the back.
That explains a lot.