RV’ing Blind by Gary Benton
I grew up in the Missouri Ozark Mountains and let me tell you we were, and some say still are, a clannish group when it came to hunting. All of our best hunting spots were kept secret from “outsiders” and we rarely spoke of what we knew. Oh, we might have shared a location with a family member, but that was about it. See, back in those days we used the game we got to supplement our meat for the table and it was taken seriously. More than once I was sent into the woods for meat with only a handful of shells and I was expected to bring back one animal at the expense of one shell. Now, that helped me become a better shot and over all a better hunter. I learned to get close enough or have the animal come near enough for a killing shot the first time. However, I’m getting off track here a might.
I can remember one hunting trip a few years back that was a lot of fun, but only for us and not our visitors. The snow was falling with big flakes, but the wind was mild, so it was a lazy kind of snowfall. We were in our deer hunting camp back in a thick group of cedar trees. Our luck had been so bad that only one small buck was hanging from an old oak tree.
As I added a log to the dying fire, I glanced around and asked no one in particular, “You see anything today?”
Bubba looked over at me, gave me a goofy grin and replied, “I saw some rabbits, a squirrel, but no deer. I think they knew the bad weather was comin’ and bedded down for a spell.” “Bubba,” Uncle Ben said as he raised his cup of coffee to his lips, “you don’t know fetch from come heah when it comes to deer. Son, you have to almost step on a deer to find one even in perfect weather.”
Bubba, deeply insulted by this attack from Ben, turned red in the face and quickly responded with, “Now, Uncle Ben, that jes’ ain’t true. I’ve got a deer every year, except back in ’68.”
Ben chuckled, glanced around at all of us, and then said, “You call that button buck you got last year a deer? Heck fire, son, I got dogs bigger than that deer you got.”
“Uncle Ben, a deer is a deer.” I quickly added because I didn’t want a verbal fight taking place with the bad weather moving in. All I needed was two men mad and I’d be forced to spend a hunting trip with their bad attitudes. These men were all relatives and difficult enough to spend a lot of time with without them starting a fight. Don’t misunderstand me I loved ‘em all, but my goodness they could sure stretch my endurance at times. I often thought they were like a bunch of kids when it came to hunting and “bragging” was the worst of it all.
“No, not all deer are created equal.” Ben stated as soon as he’d sipped his luke-warm coffee from his cup, “Now you take that eight point buck I got last year, now that was a deer.”
“Ben, you hit it with your truck and that don’t count.” Bubba quick erupted.
“Well, as Gary said a minute ago, a deer is a deer.”
“But, you said they were not all created equal!” Willy threw out quickly and I was surprised, because my man rarely ever spoke. I’d only seen him excited once and that was when the henhouse caught on fire.
“They ain’t all created equal. And, how I got that deer last year don’t matter, the fact is I got it.”
At that point a huge mobile home pulled up the road and drove into the grass. I was amazed at the size of the thing and wondered how much a big thing like that would cost a fellow. I knew it was not cheap and the television antenna alone gave me the hint, not to mention the pure size.
“Outsiders.” Ben said with disgust as he looked the mobile home over closely.
Now, I guess I should explain that an outsider was anyone who was not from our part of the country and one of us. I’d seen folks from the next town considered an outsider when it came to hunting. But, this mobile home had a big sticker on the front window that indicated it was from the big city of Saint Louis, and as far as we were concerned they were serious outsiders. I mean they were from the big city and all.
The door to the mobile home opened and a middle-aged man with a potbelly got out and walked toward our fire. I noticed right off he was a big man and he seemed as healthy as a horse. He appeared friendly enough, but he was dressed very well for a deer hunter. He was wearing camouflage coveralls, had a wide brimmed hat on, and was wearing some kind of fancy boots that looked lightweight and expensive to me. What surprised me was all of his camouflage all matched and was of the same design. Heck most of us had a mismatched bunch of gear on and I would have had to work hauling hay all summer just to pay for his boots most likely. He for sure stood out.
“Hello, my name is James and I’m looking for a good deer hunting spot.” The big man spoke as he introduced himself.
“Ain’t no deer ‘round heah.” Ben shot back and then quickly added, “James.”
“I see,” James said as he grinned and continued, “that’s why you have one hanging from that oak tree, huh?
“Fluke, that one was.” Ben added quickly and I knew he was getting defensive with the man.
“I think we’ll stay here and hunt this place.” James spoke and then turned back toward his mobile home.
“Doggone it! Now you’ve done it!” Ben spoke in an angry voice as he looked at Bobby Dale and quickly pointed out, “You’ve got your deer hangin’ in that oak!”
Bobby Dale gave a twisted grin and replied, “Uncle Ben, I’ve been using that tree for over twenty years and now you tell me I ain’t suppose to use it? What in the world is the matter with you?”
“Well, that feller saw your deer Bobby Dale and he knows there are deer in the area now.”
“Hill fire, Ben, any man with any woods sense at all would know from just one scoutin’ trip there are deer here.” Bubba said and then placed the coffee pot back on the fire to start a fresh brew.
We spent the whole afternoon looking at the closed up mobile home and dreaming of owning such a comfortable hunting shelter. See, we roughed it mostly. We used tarp for a tent, slept under some wool blankets (though Bobby Dale was rich by our standards he had a sleeping bag), and got by with very little gear. The snow continued to fall and by night there was a good six inches of it on the ground. The temperature dropped suddenly as the sun went down and I suspected it was well below zero by six that evening.
At about seven James walked up to our campsite with a bottle of booze in his hand and offered us a drink. Now, while most of us did a little drinking now and then, we never had a drink on any hunting trip. We knew it was dangerous and we had rules about no booze on our trips. If a feller wanted to drink, well, he stayed home and did his drinking.
“We don’t drink when we hunt, but thank you anyway.” Ben spoke as he wrapped his wool blanket around his shoulders tightly against the cold.
“Heck, son, a good nip is what you need on a night like this.” James added quickly and gave us a drunken grin.
“Thanks for the offer, but we’ll pass.” Ben spoke to end the conversation and he did.
As James walked back to his mobile home, Ben grinned and looked at all of us as he said, “They won’t get no deer, not if they’re up late drinkin’. Tomorrow is the last day of the season and I’ll bet you they get drunk tonight and sleep in come morning. If so, well, I have a trick to play on them outsider boys in that big mobile home.”
The next morning the sun was peeking over the cedars as we all moved toward our tree stands. Of course, Ben had been right and not a sound came from the mobile home. The weather had warmed up and while the snow still covered the ground, we all knew it would be gone by the next day. The deer, hungry from being bedded down during the storm, were up and moving, so my mid-morning we’d all filled our tags.
It was near noon before the door of the mobile home opened and out stepped James along with two other fellers. Now, them boys looked rough for wear and I suspected all three of them were nursing some serious hangovers, but I said nothing, after all it was none of my business.
The three of them walked to our campsite, noticed the new deer hanging in the oak and James said, “Looks like you fellers got lucky.”
Well, I knew there was very little luck involved, mostly good preseason scouting and a lot of backwoods skill, but I kept my mouth shut.
“Got ‘em right here and never had to leave camp.” Willy said with a grin as he poured himself a cup of what Bubba called coffee.
“What do you mean?” Asked James as he glanced around at all of us with his eyes full of surprise.
“Why them deer were all around your mobile home this morning as the sun came up.” Uncle Ben quickly threw out, though I knew he was lying about it, because we’d killed those deer a good mile from the camp.
“Really?” One of the men with James asked.
“Sure,” said Ben as he stood and then he continued with, “and if you’ll come with me, I’ll show you the tracks.”
We all made our way to the mobile home and all around the vehicle was deer tracks and there must have been a thousand of ‘em. I knew they were there, because we’d put them there as soon as we’d returned to our campsite. We had decided to keep them boys near their mobile home and away from our game. All it took was four legs from Willy’s deer and we’d made all kinds of tracks. I don’t suspect James and his men were very experienced hunters though, because they never noticed our footprints beside the deer tracks in the snow.
An hour later, as we loaded up our deer in the back of our pickup trucks, I noticed James and his men sitting on top of that mobile home waiting for the deer to return. The temperature had dropped once more and it began to look like more snow. As far as I know them fellers are still on top of that mobile home, waiting for the deer to come back.