I have had some pretty exciting hunts in my life, but the hunt I was on last week has to rank up there with my favorites. It wasn’t the furthest I have ever traveled, the longest hunt, or the most expensive to say the least. This hunt was surely one for the hunter’s scrap book. I was taken aback by the way this hunt went down.
You see a friend of mine, Jon Harris, called me around the first of November to set the hunt up with me. We were going to hunt the backwoods of the Ouachita Forrest. I told myself, "no problem", just how big can one forest be. Well the Ouachita Forrest might be bigger than one thinks. The Ouachita Forrest is an area of 2,788 square miles. It starts to get big in your mind when you consider that it contains 1.8 million acres, I would hate to have to mow that. According to the directions I was given, the map indicated we were going to be hunting pretty much on top of one of the mountain ranges in the forest. I packed up what I thought was going to be adequate clothing for the hunt. I anticipated that we would be out all day on the hunts so I packed plenty of bananas, jerky and cheese for food. I decided to take my Ruger M77 .270 with 130 grain bullets. I chose the lighter grain bullets because of their speed and longer horizontal flight. Hunting between all of the trees in a national forest gives one several narrow shooting lanes to deal with. Your reactions have to be fast and your ammunition reliable.
The evening I arrived at Jon’s house was a very comfortable one. The temperature was somewhere in the high 50’s or low 60’s. I contemplated what the weather was going to be like in the morning and started laying out my clothing accordingly, I thought I was ready. Then Jon came into the room where I was staying. He had some information for me that I had never heard before I packed my gear. Now Jon was the guide, so we did things the way he wanted his deer camp run. Right off, (after his explanation of how we were to prepare for the next day’s hunt), I knew I had not brought enough clothing. Jon had given me a black bag that was lined with a charcoal filter. We would be hiking about three miles into the forest to reach his hunting spots. When we reached the hunting spots, we were to take off our cloths we had worn to hike in and put them in the black filtered bags, then put on clean unscented clothing out of our backpack. He said the deer would be able to smell the heavy odor of human sweat and would avoid the area. That is why we had to change clothing and put the soiled clothing in the bag to mask the smell of human odor. When you hike into a place going up and down hills, through creeks and briar patches you can get a bit sweaty. Jon tells me, "The sweat production is compounded when you are carrying fifty-five pounds of gear on your back. You are carrying your full backpack, climbing stand, rifle, ammunition and food." It’s at this point I ask, "What have I got myself into?" Jon then hands me a p-bladder and tells me that a Whitetail Deer’s nose is extremely sensitive; I am not to use the bathroom on the forest floor because it would ruin the hunt. Hey, Jon has shot over five hundred deer out of the Ouachita Forrest over the last forty years; I decided I better listen to him because he is doing something right.
So after Jon left the room I started setting up for the next day’s hunt, according to the Whitetail master’s instructions. The next day we hiked into the hunting spots. I had worn a pair of jeans, a long sleeve shirt, along with a short sleeve shirt. It was thirty six degrees outside. Granted it was a bit nippy out. Once I got my gear on and started walking up the hills I did warm up considerably. I was actually comfortable! It is tough walking through such a huge forest at four a.m. in the morning with just the illumination of a headlamp. One could see a lighted circle about a foot in diameter on the ground. On that overcast morning the rest of the forest was pitch black. About halfway to our location the winds started blowing and the temperature started dropping, it was getting cold fast. By the time we reached our hunting spots the temperature was a crispy fourteen degrees. You know, when you are dripping wet with sweat from hiking three miles into the forest and come to a dead stop in a twenty mile an hour wind, you can get pretty cold pretty fast. It took me about three minutes to change into my hunting cloths. Getting into the climbing stand was pretty easy in the dark. Jon could put those things together blind-folded, he didn’t need any light. Reaching to a height of twenty-five feet in the climbing stands can be very exciting for people. It is simply majestic to be so high above the forest floor. Once you are settled and all the noises have ceased from you getting set up, you become part of the forest landscape. The birds start chirping again, the squirrels are running around, and business is as usual again for the animals in the forest. Then the loud boom-thump from my .270 ring out across the forest and down the canyons. The thump noise tells me I hit my target. Then Jon comes up and tells me, "You realize anything shot this deep in the forest has to be quartered and packed out?"
Ummm, I never thought of that. Well the long story short is when I headed back to Greenwood after three days of hunting I had an ice chest full of deer meat and had the experience of a lifetime learning how to hunt the elusive Whitetail deep in the in the Ouachita Forrest.