In high school and college, I was in the woods of eastern North Carolina as much as possible, hunting whitetail deer.
Sitting alone at the base of a longleaf pine as the sun came up, or stalking between cypress knees and oaks in a swamp near the Tar River outside of Greenville was a source of great joy for me. It didn’t matter if I bagged anything or not. To simply be in the wild, in nature, mattered every bit as much as harvesting deer for the freezer.
It was good for the soul.
Then life got complicated, and other things became priorities in my life. I went to grad school, met a wonderful woman, got a job, got married, had kids, and somehow eighteen years slipped by in a flash. I didn’t even realize how long it had been since I’d been in the woods until Trent Marsh of Hawke Sport Optics asked if I would be interested in going on a deer hunt in Maryland.
I jumped at the chance.
The hunt was guided by Rob Fryer, who manages wildlife herds on numerous properties in Maryland. The properties we were hunting had dense deer populations, and were desperately in need of culling.
My colleague Katie Pavlich of Townhall.com would be the featured hunter, and to was to be filmed by Chris Hermans of Deer & Deer Hunting. This was to be a slug-gun hunt, and we were using shotguns topped with the Hawke Sport Optics Endurance 3-9×40 slug gun scope. The Endurance 3-9×40 has a bullet-drop compensation (BDC) reticle that is calibrated for shots out to 200 yards.
Katie and I were both using 12-gauge Mossberg 500s, and our guide Rob was using his 20-gauge H&R Ultra Slug Hunter.
The property we hunted on the first day was an island on the eastern shore of the Potomac River, accessible only by walking through a marsh from a nearby residential neighborhood.
The walk in was at low tide (the lower Potomac is a tidal river), and we could see plenty of deer tracks both in the sand on the shore and through the marsh itself. The upper end of the island was a pine thicket, while the middle and lower part of the Island was a mix of oak forest and dense underbush that was perfect for hunting with slug guns.
Rob dropped Katie and cameraman Chris at a stand surrounded by dense underbrush near several intersecting game trails, and then took me to a stand several hundred yards away, near the middle of the southern end of the island.
I’d forgotten how much at peace I felt in the woods, and the sounds and smells of the oak forest so close to the river reminded me of a simpler time. I wasn’t on the stand more than 20 minutes when I saw my first deer deer of the trip, when a does and fawn materialized out of woods near the marsh about 60 yards to the east of me. They slowly but surely kept picking their way through the brush, coming in my direction.
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