I've just come back from an amazing trip to the US where I managed to double my tally of deer grassed from one to a whopping two! A while back my father in law kindly arranged a large family Christmas holiday in Florida which was going to put me in the rough vicinity of a forum buddy of mine who lived in Georgia. After a couple of quick emails and a pass out from the wife, my trip was extended by a few days so that I could head north after the family holiday and catch up with my mate.
The trip was more of a social visit and wasn't intended as a hunting trip per se, but there was talk of maybe getting a few outings in whilst I was over there, and also getting to shoot some kit that we can't get our hand on over here any more.
So I left sunny Florida in a balmy 20 degrees C and drove north some 300 miles to step out of the car into a baltic blast caused by the polar vortex thingy that hit the States last month. I must point out that when I say car, I must point out that it was the most ironic vehicle that a car hire company could hire out o a bloke heading off to play with guns - my cherry red fiat 500 was possibly the smallest, campest car on the interstate, it looked even more out of place in the parking lot of a gun shop full of dodge rams all being driven by red necks with pistols on their hips.
Anyway, back to the hunting. Prior to this trip, my stalking experience has been limited to a fantastic accompanied hill stalk for a red stag on the west coast and a couple of deer-less but thoroughly enjoyable trips to the Argyll area. I had no Idea what to expect or see. The terrain and scenery in that part of the world is truly stunning and the images of some of the landscapes will stay with me. The huge pecan trees swathed with masses of ghostly blue green Spanish moss, or sitting in a high seat watching and listening to the swamp come alive first thing in the morning were especially memorable. Just being out in that type of countryside was enough, let alone the added bonus of maybe getting a deer.
The extremely cold weather had, according to my host, caused the deer to ''bunch up and stick into the woods'' so he suspected things might be slow. He was right too, for the first few outings we didn't see anything, and this guy was putting me in spots he'd been actively observing deer the week before. Time between outings was occupied with a variety of eating amazing southern barbeque, visiting some truly outstanding gun shops and shooting a vast array of guns that we have long since had no access to over here.
As part of his own management plan for the forest and swamp we were hunting, he was keen to thin out the does but preferred buck to be left to grow on - the exception to this was if there was a big trophy buck that I wanted to have mounted then game on. As I wasn't planning on taking one back, I was over the moon when on my very last outing of my trip, it was a good sized whitetail doe who stepped out of the forestry into the clover field maybe 60m from my deer stand. I had to slowly ease myself out of the leather recliner seat (I kid you not!!) to quietly get into the best shooting position from one of the four sliding glazed windows in the most palatial stand I have ever seen. The doe had a good look round as she stepped out of the forestry so I gave her a couple of minutes as she settled down. She presented me with a great broadside shot, or 'gut shot' as my American mate calls it. I took the shot which was spot on, the doe ran on into the woods so we gave her 10 minutes then, as the light was going, collected my mate's dog from the ruck before going to look for her.
Eli the dog found her straight away, maybe 40m from where she'd been standing, she was in fantastic condition so the cold weather hadn't done her too much harm and I'd say that she weighed in at maybe 140lbs. My friend had a buddy who had a wife and 5 kids to feed and was down a little on his luck at the time so the deer was duly dropped off at his house in a fine display of southern hospitality.
If any of you ever get the opportunity to visit Georgia, I would urge to to go, the landscape, the people and the atmosphere of the place are truly something else.