Last Wednesday afternoon, I drove to my two-acre woods in Henry County. With wind gust up to 60 mph, I didn’t expect to see deer. Heck, in three years I’ve only seen two deer there. However, three years ago a real bruiser passed by my trail cam one time.
Last year, the surrounding crops rotated to beans. Nothing but raccoons on my cams and no deer tracks. Without the security of standing corn through early November, the little woods was just too naked.
The area itself is shy of cover. Narrow gully strips in the field in front of my stand and a tree-lined ditch a half-mile further is about all. While not an attractive area for hunters, it is a good place for a buck to grow old. It is also the only place I have to hunt without driving 100 miles.
It was not my purpose to hunt but to see if a recent rain softened the soil for a certain large hoof print, I had seen way back in early October. I needed some encouragement. Thanksgiving Day would be my last chance to harvest a buck during the Indiana firearms season.
The strong gusting wind pushed me down the long farmer’s lane to the wood edge. Slowly I walked and looked, stopping three times to dab a little Code Blue Doe Estrous Gel above faded scrapes. I knew this was not the old buck’s home territory, but hoped my periodic salting of the mine might get him to linger should he pass through again.
On the last rub, I took off my gloves and put them under my arm to apply more lure. That stuff really stinks and I did not want to wear it. I turned into the picked corn without seeing a single track. My gun was left in the truck for this was nothing but a 20-minute recon for fresh sign. When a rabbit jumped out of some corn stalks I raised my arms pretending to shoot.
I noticed, when I got to the lane, my gloves were missing. I went back knowing leaving my scent would discourage any deer from sticking around. Camo gloves at last light are difficult to see. I did not find them.
My plan was to be in my ladder stand before daylight, sit until 10 am, and find my gloves; then make haste to one of two Thanksgiving dinners. Outside of taking a state park doe and a big coyote, my luck, in general, has been pretty bad this hunting season. Once, I forgot my crossbow. Another occasion found me calf-deep in a swamp I perceived it as a shortcut.
Falling asleep quickly did not happen and when the 6:30 am alarm rang, I rolled over and went back to sleep.
No tracks, not even seeing a deer on this property, no worry. The reality was: my early rise would have been a waste of time. I just needed to go back for my gloves.
Instead of parking my truck in the farmer’s barn lot, I drove to the end of the lane. I grabbed my Mossberg Predator .450 Bushmaster and made haste to find my gloves. It was 10:47 am. I took about five steps and noticed something dark about 400-yards across the next cornfield. Most nimrods have “The hunter’s eye” and this object caught mine. I cranked up the magnification on my scope for a look-see.
A deer with its nose to the ground was walking at a fast pace headed south. “Buck on the scent trail of a hot doe,” I hoped. The animal was too far away to see antlers. It seemed way late for a doe to be in estrous and too early for the late rut, but who am I to question Mother Nature?
I hurried along the north edge of the woods then turned south. The two rows of shaded unpicked corn gave me some cover as I moved close to an old fencerow that ties into the southeast corner of this little plot of cover.
I expected the buck to turn when he came to the fencerow. If he came west, I would be waiting. Through the scope, I marveled at the body size of this animal. The excitement was building as he did indeed, turn my way. I could now see antlers.
What good fortune. Had I been in the stand behind me, at first light, I would have already found my gloves and been gone. Two minutes, either way, I would have missed seeing this deer. I would have been in the field looking down.
At about 70-yards, the buck turned broadside. I had a good rest on the side of a tree. I was on him, but the temptation was strong to let him get closer. The little man on my right shoulder was telling me to wait. The one on my right shoulder said, “You are on him-shoot.” Patience is not one of my virtues. At the report of my gun, the buck turned and jumped the fence. I missed, I just felt it. I ran across the old fence row hoping, against all my bad luck to see this buck down. About 40-yards away, I saw his white belly and my thanksgiving surprise was down.
The landowner, Conley, drove his tractor to the buck. We slid this big ole boy into the front-loader.
I told Conley, “Hope I didn’t interrupt anything important.” He replied, “I was taking a pretty good nap until the doorbell rang.”
On our way across the picked corn, Conley looked down and said, “There are your gloves.” I had forgotten what I came for.
By 1 pm I had delivered the buck to my butcher, 26-year-old Jessica Gridley. She processes the meat and gives me a portion back. I met her four years ago through the DNR GiveIN Game Program. This her fifth deer to process this season. She butchered eight last year.
I taught this young mother how to skin and butcher her first deer. With each deer, I donate, Jessica gives me a back strap, Jerky and some deer burger. Her six-year-old daughter will grow up knowing how to process game.
The old warrior had been in a fight. His lower jaw was broken with some teeth missing. He was a big healthy deer but, that was about to change.
The buck’s rack had regressed to eight points. I estimated the field-dressed weight to be about 240-pounds.
Thanks to the forgetfulness of an old hunter, this is a Thanksgiving surprise, I will never forget.
Vine Ripe Tomatoes for Thanksgiving
By this time last year, we had had a killing frost. I took a big chance that wouldn’t happen this year and the benefits thereof I’m about to reap.
My goal was much different, last spring when I got an early start on the tomato growing season. My dad could usually produce a ripe tomato by July 4. His record was June 28. I was growing two tomato plants in large pots. They sat out during the day. At night, I would drag them into the garage if there was any danger of frost or freeze. My reward was three ripe tomatoes on June 21, 2021.
Unfortunately, the bean field next door was sprayed with a herbicide and the drift killed my tomato plants. At the end of June, I pulled the dead plants and planted a pack of seeds. While my dad was the king of early tomatoes, his brother, my Uncle Carter was the stalwart of late tomatoes. Uncle had the advantage of living but five miles north of the Ohio River which usually added a couple of weeks to the growing season.
I don’t know what uncle’s record was, but he covered his plants to protect them from early frost. When all hope was lost he wrapped the green tomatoes in newspaper where they ripened slowly but never tasted like a normally ripened fruit.
Last Thursday, September 30, I picked my first ripe tomato. A whopper weighing 1.5 lbs. This weekend, three more will be ripe. I transplanted those seedlings in an old stump bed and in a raised bed. Five plants are in pots. Twice a week, I feed them, Miracle Grow. My plants are robust with many tomatoes coming on. October is looking to be warm with temperatures in the mid-80s this weekend. When the first frost comes, I’ll be ready. The potted plants can come inside. The others I can cover. I can possibly fight off a freeze or two with a couple of electric heaters. Another edible treasure that is sure to benefit from a warm and wet October is the hen-of-the-woods mushroom. It looks like a hen backed against an oak tree.
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