Outdoors with Ed - Classic Stories
Beck's 1st Fishing Trip
May 30. 2003
I had wanted to take Beck fishing and limbs
lines sounded better than a bunch of casting
with a two year old. Plus, the pictures at the
marina of the fish the DNR had shocked up
because they were nibbling on the flippers of
the divers who were working on the train
trestle had me motivated. Beck and I headed
down before Tamatha and planned to try and
catch some bait fish. I was excited and hoped
to have a good picture with Beck for my
journal. We got to the cabin, unpacked,
turned on air conditioners and marinaded the
steaks. We tried to catch some fish off
the dock but had no luck. I decided to go
ahead and put the boat in and fish our way back,
knowing Tamatha would be there in about 45 minutes. I loaded Beck in the truck, barely remembering his life vest. I knew the DNR would probably be out and I wanted to be legal. In no time I had the boat backed in and we were out in the lake. I found a little spot close to an island and tossed in a cricket. I got a bite and it was a perfect size bluegill. I only had 6 lines so I didn't need much bait. I thought to myself, "If I can just get 6 baits I'll be happy". I caught several more and each time Beck would scream and clap. He was crawling allover the boat and play casting every once and a while. I caught a couple of small catfish and one nice bream. Beck
was leaning his head out over the boat splashing his hand in the water. "Watch out or you'll fall in" I said as I caught my 6th bluegill. I knew Tamatha was waiting at the cabin, but I also wanted some extra bait so I could check and rebait the lines after we ate that night. I cast again and just as the cork started to bobble up and down, I heard Ker-Splash. I looked quickly and sure enough Beck was overboard. He had done a somersault right over the side of the boat. He was spread eagle under water with his breath held and his eyes shut. Thank goodness for the life vest because he shot right back to the surface where I quickly grabbed his arm and pulled him back in the boat. He was scared a little but I grabbed the ba-ba (pacifier) from my pocket just as quickly as I grabbed my son out of that lake. I held him close and he cried for a short while. A pontoon boat
with several older couples was passing by. I waved that everything was alright. I could see the women shaking their heads talking among themselves and it reminded me that Tamatha was waiting at the cabin. I wondered what she was going to say when I showed up with Beck soaking wet. I didn't have a towel so I shook him off and we headed back. He had quit crying when we got in Fort Early Branch and I slowed down to idle speed. I could see Tamatha rocking on the porch as we approached. "He fell in" I blurted out as I docked the boat. "He fell in?" she gasped as she jumped to her feet. She gasped again and with that Beck started crying again. Tamatha was quickly down on the dock reaching for Beck. "He's soaking wet" she said with her head
shaking similar to the women on the pontoon boat. "You're not taking him any more, you don't watch him". "I was catching baitfish and I told him he was going to fall in right before it happened. It was a good lesson, I'll bet it doesn't happen again" I answered. She grabbed Beck, out of my arms and headed back in the cabin. "I was watching him and he had on his life vest" I said as I tied up the boat. We all went inside and changed Beck into something dry. "Let's go put the lines out before it gets dark" I said. Beck acted a little scared about going, but Tamatha agreed the best thing to do was put him right back in the boat. He was grinning ear to ear before
we were out into the big water. I found some stumps across from the cabin and tied up a couple of lines. It was getting pretty dark and a boat was heading over to us. "Maybe its Dean and Marci" I said. We got to the first line and I gently pulled it up. Conner handed me the net just as the fish made a hard run. It stayed on and came to the surface and we were all surprised to see a 7lb. largemouth. We finally managed to get him unhooked while Deen held the boad in the wind. I eased the 16 ft. tracker to the next line and Deen grabbed on and gently pulled the line. "There's something on here. It feels big" Deen said as he handed me the line. I grabbed for it and started gently pulling. It was big! I got the net ready and continued to gently pull in the line. When I got to the swivel, I thought there were only about 2 more feet to the hook...windy and difficult to do it all with no help. My line got caught on an old trout line and was now hung up. I pulled as hard as I could as the boat drifted away from the stump. I had a mess! "Is that the DNR ?" I heard Tamatha ask. "Hit that light switch" I said as I looked up to see a boat with a big black stripe and blue light definitely headed to us. I stood up and just threw my whole limb line and bait into the water. They did a "safety check" and everything was fine except my fire extinguisher was old and rusted, although it was charged. They scolded me for not having my running lights on and told me some people knew this lake so good they could come runningfast through here and would not see a low profile boat like mine. "Yes sir, yes sir" I answered, thinking to myself, I'm tied to a stump here buddy, if they know the lake they won't run fast through here. "Yes sir, yes sir" I continued as Beck waved bye-bye. We finished putting out the lines and headed back to the cabin. Deen, Marci and the boys had been cruising in their new 21 foot runabout. They arrived soon after dark and we fired up the charcoal. After a steak and potato, (Deen couldn't have a potato -full of carbs), Deen, Conner and I went to see what we had.. We fished dock lights on the way out and caught a few small crappie at one dock. We noticed it had pvc pipe fish feeders and decided we needed some of these at our dock. We finally got over and started checking the lines and on the 2ndone we had a 5 lb. flathead. Although that was all we had, I was excited. We had us a nice fish and all five line were baited ready to check in the morning. The next morning I don't know who was more excited, me or Conner. We had Griffin and Beck this time and there was a light chop as we crossed the big water. We got to the first line and I gently pulled it up. Conner handed me the net just as the fish made a run. It
stayed on and came to the surface and we were all surprised to see a 7 lb. largemouth. We got him in the boat and all could see was the bait fish's tail down the largemouths' throat. I finally managed to get him unhooked while Deen held the boat in the wind. We were exited as we headed for the next line. I eased the 16 ft. tracker up to the stump and Deen grabbed on and gently pulled the line. "There is something on here. It feels big" Deen said as he handed me the line. I grabbed for it and started gently pulling. It was big! I got the net ready and continued to gently pull in the line. When I got to the swivel, I thought the there were only about 2 more feet
to the hook. . . and fish. I tried to net to the hook as I pulled a little harder on the line. Well it was about 4 feet to the hook and I ended up hitting the fish in the head with the net and it got off. We didn't even get to see it. I was upset but at least I had learned how not to net a fish on a limb line. It was also a good lesson for the boys, "the big one always get's away". We went to the next line and as I pulled it up I knew there was something on it. I got it to the surface and it was about a 4 lb. flathead. He was all tangled up in an old trout line and a stick. I tried to net him and he spit the fish out and swam away. I had missed another one. Conner, Deen, Griffin and
Beck all stood there looking at me. "He got off' was all I could say as I lowered my head. We checked the next two lines but had nothing. We headed back across the chop of the big water and I was a little upset, but thought to myself, a 7 lb. largemouth and a 5 lb. catfish isn't too bad for only 5 lines. We went back to the cabin and showed Tamatha and Marci our catch. All I could think about all day were the ones that got away, especially the big one. If Beck and I keep
Brad Shot Gene
Saturday. November 30, 2002
Brad, Gene, Ray, Joe and myself planned to shoot ducks on
the small pond on the back of the farm. I knew it was going to
be crowded so I decided to scout out the creek. I arrived at the
trailerjust after 6:00 am and Ray and Joe were ready. Gene was
next door waking up Brad. He soon made his way out of his
trailer and started discussing the plan. I told him I was going to the
creek because it was going to be crowded at the pond. He told me to drop Ray and Joe off and assured me that he was in charge. I dropped them off and was soon standing next to the creek waiting for the sun to rise. It wasn't long before I heard the whistle of wood ducks overhead. Then boom, boom, boom coming from the others. The first couple that came in on me were so fast I couldn't get a bead on them, but after repositioning myself for a better shooting angle I finally managed to knock one down. I winged another that didn't fall and new I should have easily had my limit. Boom, boom, boom I heard and within minutes woodies would be circling.
I picked up my duck and looked for the other, although I knew it had got away. I went back to the truck and headed to pick up Ray and Joe. When I arrived there were ducks on the tailgate and Ray had a gin from ear to ear. He must have really got them I thought as I climbed out of my truck. "It was a great hunt," he exclaimed, "Brad shot Gene!" "Brad shot Gene?" I echoed back as I looked at young Joe who stood there also grinning ear to ear. When I finally looked at Gene I realized he wasn't grinning at all! His hands were both bloody. He was taking off layers of clothing and feeling in his hand and thigh counting the number of # 9 lead shot that had
punctured his skin. "There's another one" he said as Brad stood next to him with his head hung low. We decided Gene had to go to the doctor even though we remembered when Bob Moore shot Keith Dent in high school that Keith had come to school with pellets still in him. Brad's head fell lower when he realized that he and Bob Moore were the only people we knew who had shot someone. After discussing what to do about Gene, we then discussed how to tell Tracie about her sons hunting trip. Carefully, if at all, we decided as we began to load their stuff in my truck. As Gene and Brad were getting in his truck headed to the hospital I asked about the 5 wood ducks in the back of the truck. "Brad got them all" Ray said, still with a smile on his face.
I figured Brad nor Gene would pose for a picture for the journal, but I knew it would make a great story.
Picture not available.
NOVEMBER 12, 2002
It had been raining a lot lately and Coot couldn't pick
his cotton. He was spending a lot of time at the trailer,
where I was supposed to be working. This Tuesday he
was getting the brakes on his truck done at Tires Plus.
On the way back to the trailer after dropping his truck
off I checked the mail and found a letter from Ray with
the pictures of a nice 8 point buck he and Joe harvested
in South Carolina. Coot had just said he needed a buck
mount for his new cabin at Hickory Springs and Ray's
picture, along with me going to the courthouse to work
was just the motivation he needed to go sit on a stand.
He commentedhow he couldn't listen to Ray discuss
how he had mastered deer hunting and would soon be
"guiding"him on their duck hunting trips. I commented
if he would just hunt behind the trailers for a couple of
days he would get a nice 8 point. I put him on the new
Interstate Stand that Ray, Joe and I built and headed to
the courthouse. At around 4:30 p.m he had been on
the stand for a couple of hours and I had put in a full
day, so I went to pick him up. As I crossed the wash
area heading into the Interstate field of planted pines
(soon to be a green tree duck pond!), I saw a small
buck and I knew that Coot could see him too. I eased
on down and found Coot still on the stand. He told me
of the nice 6 point and several does he had seen in
addition to the smaJlbuck that had just passed. Since
it was almost 5:00 p.m he fixed a cocktail and I had a
Bud Light. We got back in the truck and drove on
disscussing where we should sit until dark.. We made
the turn at 1-75 fence about 150 yards from where Andy had been sitting. I saw a doe standing between two pine rows just as he grabbed for his gun and said, 'here's one". I said "a doe", and he replied "no, back up, a buck laying down". I slid the F-150 Super Crew in reverse and eased back to see a huge buck bedded down between the next row of pines. "Shoot him!" I said as I watched Coot take perfect aim. He pulled the trigger and the "click" I heard concerned me as the massive buck looked right at us. Coot almost fell out the window of the truck expecting the recoil of the 30-06. I wanted to grab for my gun when I realized he had no shell in the chamber, but held off and had confidence in him as he pulled back the bolt, and again took perfect aim with the buck still staring. This time I heard the "bang" as the buck's head fell to the ground. The smoke was clearing when Coot asked, ''Did I get him?". ''Hell yea you got him!" I answered as I jumped out of the truck and we walked to over to the dying buck. Coot said "he's big!". ''Hell yea he's big!" I said as we admired the buck and his massive rack. We went back to the truck and called Ray to let him know who would be "guiding" most of our upcoming hunting trips. Ray was happy to hear that in 2 hours and 17 minutes we had a picture to send back!
Gettin it Done at Keaton Beach
March 7 -9.2003
Larry and I had hopes again as we headed to Keaton Beach for the beginning of 2003 trout season. We had a bunch of Rookies with us and knew we would be “guiding” throughout the trip. We planned to leave early. Larry had studied the tide chart and had a plan. I swung by Coot’s and was happy to see the lights on and John Grey standing in the driveway. “Hurry Up” I yelled as I drove by headed to the trailer. Kyle and Jerry were waiting there and Larry soon followed. We met Coot and JG at the store and were soon headed south. There was a steady rain when we left, but both Larry and I had watched the weather channel and hoped the storm would pass on through. “Speedy” led the way as the Rookies followed as best they could. When the rain picked up, Larry would speed up. Around Tifton we were in downpours and Larry never let up. At times the steering wheel would jerk to the side but Larry handled it like he would a 3 foot swell in gulf. Despite the weather we made Valdosta right on time and stopped for gas.
The Rookies all showed up shaking their heads
talking about the heavy ram and taJking even
more about Larry's driving in the heavy rain. "I
wish I knew the way' I heard them say as Larry
reminded them of the directions and phone
numbers he had given each of them before we
left. I drove from Valdosta on and the.pace slowed,
but everyone was still tight gripped on the wheel due to the rain. Ditches were flooded everywhere, but Larry and I knew we were due for a good fishing trip. Plus, we had to show them "how its done at Keaton Beach". We had the experience, the fastest boat and knew what we were doing. The others had been asking all week, ''what do I fish ~ will my boat be alright". Larry really hoped all the "guiding" would not get in the way of our fishing.
In Madison, FL the car phone rang. It was Coot and JG sayjng Kyle and Jerry were not there. They turned around to search while Larry and I pulled over and waited. "Costing us time" we discussed as we sat in the rain. We finally got Travis at Peachstate who gave us Kyle's car phone number. We finallygot Kyle and he said they had gotten behind and went another way. They were fine and had a map and were now ahead of us. Larry shook his head as he called the others to turn around. We waited another 10 minutes for Coot and JG and were soon passing Pouncy's just after 9:00 am, and sure enough, the rain was letting up. As we headed down the
road to Keaton we.could almost see blue skies. We swung by the marina and Kyle and Jerry had just arrived. They had gotten lost and gone to Spring Warrior. We know this because they saw the single wide on stilts. We drove to "Larry's Florida home" and everything was in order. We watched the weather channel briefly and it looked like we had driven right through the worst of the storm, but it would be passing through in a couple of hours. "Good thing we left at 5:30" we heard as we discussed the plan. Little Jerry had a cough and fever and decided to lay down. . Larry wanted to go ahead and hoist his boat in. Coot decided he would put his in at the ramp down the street after we figured what was going on with the weather. I rode with Larry back to
the Marina and helped hoist his boat in the water. As I headed back to the house the rain picked up a little more. I was wondering should we have just waited for a while before putting in. Then I thought how we would be way ahead of the others when it was time to fish. They would be scurrying everywhere as we idled out of the channel. Larry had the plan, he’ll show us how its done! When I got back to the house the others had unpacked and decided it would be awhile before we fished. Since we were at the beach, some decided to have cocktails and we all relaxed and stretched out watching the weather channel and waiting for the storm to pass.
It wasn’t long before Larry came around the point. It was low tide and he had the Black Max 150 on the Sea Lion trimmed all the way up. As he swung to the outside of the little island, I remembered how he and I had almost beached it there. "Its pretty shallow right there" I told the others as we stuck our heads out the sliding glass door trying to see but not get wet. Just as I said that Larry stopped moving forward. The wind quickly turned him around towards the little island. He punched the gas and threw a rooster tail as the 18 footer pushed on into the shallows. Then the boat stopped again. Larry was stuck! "Larry's stuck!" I said as Kyle jumped up to see. "He's stuck?'' they asked with puzzled looks. "He's stuck!" I answered confidently, not sure of what we could do about it. We quickly had radio contact and confirmed the obvious, Larry was stuck. I looked at the tide chart on the Timex Reef Gear and realized it would be 2 to 3 hours before the tide started to come back in. We could see Larry from inside the house and even better from the porch, but it was still raining pretty hard. We peered out every once and a while and radioed advice and support, but there was really nothing we could do. John Grey was worried about his brother. We knew the storm was passing through in about an hour and a ha1f and the weather channel showed lightening was coming. We watched _Larry fish a while and then make a sandwich. After a short while he was walking around the boat in circles and looking at the bank closest to him. "Should you swim" I asked over the radio. "That's what I was thinking" Larry answered back. I put the radio down and headed to Larry's aid just case. (I just happened to have my camera.) Larry stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt and was soon knee deep in muck... and then waist deep. He huffed and puffed as he waded through the quick sand like mud. He finally crawled his way to deeper water and was swimming for shore. He was out of breath by the time he hit land, but managed to make it to his feet. He bent over with his hands on his knees. ''1 didn't know if I was going to be able to get out of that stuff' he said still out of breath. I just stood and smiled happy I had missed that ride. As Larry entered his Florida home, he was soaking wet and still a little winded. ''That's how you do it at Keaton Beach!" he proclaimed to the Rookies as he walked in the door.
Larry showered and we decided to ride to Steenehatchee to find the oyster bar. Kyle stayed with little Jerry who had been in bed the entire time we had been there. (Except to see Larry swim.) We found no oyster bar, but did find a deserted Tiki Bar. We found the Dollar General so that Larry could get some sandals and were soon headed back to Keaton. Blue skies were ahead and we were all ready to fish. Little Jerry was still feverish and the skies were still a little cloudy so Kyle decided to hold down the fort. Me, Larry and JG and Coot finally got out fishing around 3:00 pm. We all caught a few legal trout and the weather had tuned for the better. When we got back to the house Kyle was excited to see our catch. We grilled steaks and turned in early. It had been a long day.
The next morning we were up early. Jerry's fever broke during the night and the weather was fine. We loaded up and headed out. Kyle and Jerry had to change out a dead battery so Larry and I held up a little to make sure they were ok.. "Rookies," Larry said as he turned his boat around. They soon had the Bomber running and we were headed for the gulf. We fished hard into a steady wind and 2 foot swells. I missed several fish early and by lunch Larry and I had 2 or 3 keepers and thrown back several short fish. We made sandwiches and continued to fish, occasionally taking to the others on the radio. "What's the limit," Coot asked shortly after 2:00pm. Five each Larry radioed back. "We going to head on to the house" Coot answered. Lucky son of a … I thought as Larry and I decided to head in for a while too. We Caught Coot and JG at pole #3 and followed them in to the dock. "I like this trout fishing" Coot bellowed as we tied up the boats. Jerry and Kyle showed up as Coot and JG unloaded their cooler. They had at least their limits. We dumped all our fish and head back out. The day had been slow for me, but Larry boated three 19 inchers around 4:00. He wanted the big fish to go along with his limit, but we headed for the house just after five. This time at the dock Jerry and Kyle had the creel, including a 24 incher and a 21 incher.
Beginners luck I thought as I remembered Larry and mine’s first couple of trips. We all high-fived as we took pictures and soon Coot and Larry were cleaning fish. They were soon in the grease which Coot burned, but with Heinz ketchup it couldn't help but be good. We ate and after John Grey became the Speaker of the House, we went to bed. We were again up early, but the rain was back with us. Larry wanted to try to fish and I was willing to go with him, but luckily the rain and fog were so bad even he gave up the idea of Sunday morning fishing. Coot and Kyle got drenched as they loaded their boats. We all made it back alive, although Little Jerry was still not 100%. It was a great trip and we're ready for Larry to take us back and "show us how it’s done!"
Larry Walker, III showing how its done at Keaton Beach
Satilla River May 3, 2002
I woke up early and started calling
Will because I was ready to get on the
way. He was a little late and just
before he got to Perry I realized I did
not know where the keys to the
Leprechaun were. What a mental
lapse! It wasted a couple of hours
but we finally were on the road. We
sputtered our way along and almost
burnt up in the heat but we made it in
just over 4 hours. Ray got there shortly
after us. We put the boat in the river
and headed to High Bar. The water felt
great and the treble hooks and chicken
livers worked great on the limb lines for
catfish. That night after dark we made
another run to check the limb lines. The river was low and we kept running the boat on sand bars. I had to jump out and pull the boat along because it was so shallow. Ray and Will just sat and talked and as I drove the boat, jumped out and pulled. They were not paying any attention even as I yelled at them to pull up the motor because the foot was dragging in the sand. It is quite difficult to pull a boat up river with two grown men it, especially with the foot dragging. One time I jumped out of the boat to pull and the current of the river tuned the boat around. None of us realized we were now heading downstream although it was a lot easier pulling the boat. As I pulled the boat downsteam we saw a loon swimming in the river ahead of us. I told Ray and Will I was going to catch him. They laughed and told me what they would do if I caught the loon. I dropped the rope to the boat and made my way towards the loon in the shadows of the river. Ray kept the spot light on the loon as he swam away from the boat. He was swimming closer and closer my way and could not see me for the spotlight. When he got about 3 feet away there was only one thing I could do, I jumped on the loon. All I had was a wing when we went under the water. I could feel his beak biting my arm but I felt no pain. I finally got my balance and came up from the river with the loon held high in the air. Ray and Will watched silently as I slammed the loon back under the water and was able to get my grip. The loon was mine!!! Ray’s eyes were as big as silver dollars as I walked back to the boat carrying the loon. Will was upset that he had not had such an opportunity. We let him got and he swam off not sure exactly what had happened. It took us a little longer to figure out we were heading downstream but we soon turned around and checked our limb lines, which had a few more catfish. I was proud of my capture and was sure I had impressed my friends. The rest of the night they congratulated me on my heroics. Ray did not think he could have done it, of course, Will could have done it
better although he was still impressed. The next day we
swam in the river and checked the limb lines, cooked
hamburgers and fished. Ray caught a nice copper head
bream and we had the makings of a nice stringer of catfish.
We saw a member of Douglas Fish Club and his young
boy. They were also doing limb lines and using shiners.
They showed off a nice 7 lb. largemouth bass. We
cooked steaks that night and stayed fairly cool in the
Leprechaun although the breaker flipped several times
during the night because the air conditioner was gong on
blink. We got up the next morning and went down to the
river to check the lines one final time. I took a machete to
cut the trail. I chopped away and just before we got to the
river I felt a tremendous pain my bottom lip. Will ran out
of the way as I swung the machete carelessly at whatever had attacked me. I had chopped a tree with a wasp nest and a wasp had made direct contact on my bottom lip. I put tobacco on the sting and the pain slowly went away, but then came the swelling. It kept swelling until I could see it sticking out. Ray and Will got as kick out of this and we all knew the wasp had won the battle. We worked along checking limb lines and had already boated a couple of catfish when we saw something up the river. An owl was caught in a limb line. Will went to the rescue. When he grabbed the owl by the feet its claws dug in to Will’s hand. Will cut the line and brought the owl back to the boat. Again, Ray’s eyes were as big as silver dollars. Will and I tried to cut the hook out of the owl’s wing but we couldn’t get it out. Will took the owl back to Atlanta to the Chattahoochee Nature Center where he made a complete recovery. The last time I saw “Hootie” was on a Georgia Public Television program about the Nature Center and showed him landing on a visitors arm. There is still an ongoing debate on which is more difficult, catching a loon in the wild or an injured owl.
Friday, January 27-29, 2005 A Roost is a Roost
Dixie Turf and Chenault Tract
It was the last weekend of duck season and I had been sick for a couple of weeks and not felt like hunting. We had not hunted much at Will’s place and although we had not “scouted” any this season, we figured a few would be there. Ray and I road down in my truck hauling all of our gear, Lucy, Jesse and a 4-wheeler. Bob had his 4-wheeler in back of his truck and his Golf Cart on trailer. Will had a motorcycle in the back of his truck. We had our toys and we were ready. We got to Dixie Turf and set up camp. Rick showed up soon after and we decided to head over to the Chenault Tract to see if there were any ducks. We took no guns as we were shooting there tomorrow and did not want to mess up the next mornings hunt. Rick, who had to leave after the morning hunt, went along with taking no guns, although against his better judgment. We got there and jumped 3 out while trying to find a good place to wade in and hunt the next morning. We all had good spots we thought as we discussed where we would all get. Suddenly ducks started dropping in from everywhere....roosting! They kept flying in…from everywhere. We figured we saw a couple of hundred ducks fly in and roost including 2 pair of mallards and some geese. “It’s a roost” we all said as we walked back to the truck. “Did you see all those ducks?” “Maybe we can shoot them coming of the roost” “Man, did you see the ducks” we chattered while walking back to the truck. We were all very exited and I was most exited about tomorrows afternoon hunt. We were going to shoot the roost! I have long studied ducks and duck roost. And although with much “scouting” a few ducks can be persuaded to stay in the morning and feed, and you may have other ducks show up in the morning to feed, most of the ducks are going to fly out in the morning just before shooting light. A roost, is a roost, is a roost! And there are only 2 things you can do with a roost. Stay at home or be prepared to pay the fine and shoot the roost. I was ready to shoot some ducks and was willing to take the chance. I figured I would not be alone. We swung by the lodge on the way back to Dixie Turf and there was a large crowd. We drove on by, down to the dog pens and fly pen. Will and Bob went in the fly pen and in no time Bob cornered up two sacks of quail. Some “put out birds” we could shoot after the morning duck hunt. We discussed the morning strategies around the campfire while grilling quail, dove and duck, all wrapped in bacon of course. The Leprechaun slept great that night. Rick had the coffee going and was waking us up around 5:45 am. We scurried to get ready and were barely late as we waded out into the pond. I finally found a spot and propped Lucy up in the best tree I could find. Ducks were leaving the roost but far away. Ray, Bob and Rick went to one spot and Will and I were trying new spots further back in the pond. Although we saw and heard many ducks, there were few shots fired. Three ducks did come in and Ray, Bob and Rick got a pair. We went back to Dixie Turf and cooked bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches and shot some quail that we had put out the night before. Rick left to go home and Andy, who always likes a good roost and was getting married the next weekend, would be arriving in the early afternoon. After Rick left Will got on his motorcycle and Ray, Bob and I got on 4-wheelers. We road to almost the other end of the Beadles property, which is quite along way, and came to a small creek that had blown out the culvert pipe. Will waited briefly as he looked back then punched it through the small creek. Bob followed behind and Ray bogged his way through. I followed Ray but bogged straight into the mud and got stuck. I got advice from others as I rocked from forward to reverse bogging the 4-wheeler deeper in the mud. I backed as far as I could come back to the side we had come from getting close enough to jump back to land without getting my boots wet. The others were watching and we were soon all formulating a plan. Bob had a rope and Will said there was a larger creek just up the road so we needed to turn around anyway. Bob was going to pull me out with his 4-wheel drive 4-wheeler, but first he had to cross back over the creek. He was behind Will who was putting on his motorcycle helmet and cranking up. Bob decided to go to the other side and check the crossing while Will was figuring which side of my 4-wheeler he should take to cross back over the creek. He decided on the steeper way and fell straight into the creek, did a front wheelie, rolled over the handle bars and fell into the creek with his motorcycle. He was quickly up straining to move his motorcycle but it was like the front wheel was sucked to the bottom of the creek. He continued to strain as I watched from the bank in my dry boots. I finally asked if he was hurt and he grunted out “no”. I let out a giggle and leaned as far as I could and helped pull the motorcycle. By this time Bob and Ray had discovered a very good crossing on the other side of the road and were watching from the bank. We tied the rope to both 4-wheelers. We pulled with me on the 4-wheeler and we pulled with me off the 4-wheeler and we finally got Bob’s 4-wheeler stuck. Ray and Bob were working on it while Will and I pulled on mine. Will, standing there soaking wet in knee deep water, finally pushed the accelerator with no one on the 4-wheeler and it jumped up out of the mud and onto the bank. We were soon all riding back to the Turf. We sat around the fire until Coot got there and then put out some more quail. Later around the fire the conversation agained turned to Will’s poor shooting on several of the past duck hunts. Coot asked which choke he was shooting and of course Will did not know. They took out the choke from Will’s shotgun and it said Full Lead, No Steel. Will had been shooting a blown and ineffective pattern. He had not had the right choke in since he purchased his new duck gun over 2 years ago. They fixed Will up and he was more confident than ever. We headed to the Chenault Tract. It was early and I waded out to find a spot. I tried to wedge a bunch of floating logs together for Lucy to stand on. I went back to get the rest of my stuff and realized everyone was out in the pond ready to hunt. I waded and Lucy swam out to our logjam blind, I leashed her to a tree and we waited. We were early and waited a long time but finally we heard the whistle of woodies as they started coming in. The first duck that flew over Will folded with one shot. I knew then it was on. I was determined to pick my shots and after missing my shot, I waited for even better shots. Lucy was whining as she tried to keep her balance with ducks coming in from everywhere. Will was located in the honey hole and was knocking them down. I knocked one down and released Lucy to fetch. She swam out brought it back and I helped her back up on the logs. Boom-Boom I heard as 2 ducks fell. “I got a double” Will yelled. Lucy saw them both fall and whined so I released her and off she went. I looked up and there was a duck right above me. I covered it up with the end of my barrel and fired. It folded and started falling straight down my gun barrel…right at my head. I can catch it I thought as I turned my head and stuck up my hand. “Wap” I heard as the duck landed in my hand. There’s one Lucy won’t have to pick up I thought as I threw it into the pile. Will kept shooting and Lucy kept bringing ducks back and soon Jesse was swimming up wanting to fetch. I motioned her towards Will hoping she would pick up some of his ducks and waded Lucy around picking up ducks I had seen fall. The others had gone back to the truck and I was now out in the pond at dark with the dogs. I waded back to the logjam and shined the flashlight at the dogs. They looked as if they really didn’t want to find anymore ducks, and I could hardly wade through the muck and carry my gun and all the ducks we already had. It took a while and I was hot and sweaty but I finally made it back to the truck. “Where have you been?” they said as they saw me walking up in the darkness. “Damn” I heard as they saw my load, “Damn” I heard again as I got closer and they saw how hot and sweaty I was. They laughed as I peeled my waders and jacket off. We loaded the dogs in the back of the truck and crept out to the paved road hoping no one had heard our many shot. We were relieved when we arrived back at Dixie Turf. It was the most fun I had duck hunting all year and Lucy had to of enjoyed it. Sometimes you just gotta take a chance!
Will rescues owl and takes to Chattahoochee Wildlife Center
Ray & Ed - Ed got stung on his lower lip by a wasp.
Friday Night, September 18, 2009
I have a friend named Will and he is an alligator hunter. Deer hunting, dove hunting and fishing are a little slow for Will. He does like to hunt quail and especially likes to duck hunt. But mainly Will is an alligator hunter, and to many he is known as Will, the alligator man.
It all started several years ago when Will told me and our friend Ray that he could catch an alligator. Almost every time we were on a river or a lake Will would start talking about how he could catch an alligator. He formulated a plan which included me getting the boat in just the right direction to push the gator forward while he jumped on the gator’s back. This went on for several years until one night when Will and I were on Lake Blackshear and saw a small alligator. He was about three feet long, and I positioned the boat perfectly as Will got ready on the front of the boat. I waited for Will to prance, but he never jumped. The gator went under, and I started giving Will a hard time. Now I will admit that we were in an old ski boat that sat high up and the gator was in kinda shallow water, and I don’t know if I would have jumped out
at night whether there was an alligator there or not. Will had several excuses as I continued to give him grief. “We are going to Lake Seminole” I said. “If you want to catch an alligator then you are going to get the chance”. If you have ever spent any time on Lake Seminole in the summer months, especially at night, you know that there are a lot of alligators. I think it was a year later when Will, Coot and I went to Lake Seminole and caught alligators. We filled the live well with 2 and 3 foot alligators and finished the night with Will catching a 4 footer. We tried to put him in the live well, but the smaller gators saw their chance and scampered out of the boat like a bunch of cockroaches running from the light. After a long night of hunting we released all of the gators and headed home.
The next year Will and I both applied for alligator licenses through the State of Georgia DNR. We were not picked for the quota hunt, so we headed back to Seminole for some alligator catch and release. We took Ray as our cameraman. I knew if we put Will in front of the camera he would push the limits of his gator catching ability. He managed his best live gator yet with a 4.5 footer. He needed a little help as he treaded water with both hands around the back of the gator’s head. I was glad to help. It was like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and I was Merlin and Will was Jim as Ray rolled the camera. The capture can be seen on You Tube under Gator Jumpin’.
We continued to apply for the Georgia’s alligator quota hunt and were finally drawn in 2009. We both put Lake Seminole as our first choice, but I got the middle Georgia area and Will got southeast Georgia. I was surprised at the research that Will did for the upcoming hunt. He studied the book Alligator Hunting in Georgia that is furnished by the GA DNR, googled other sources on the internet, and ordered us an alligator hunting kit. The kit included an 8 foot wooden harpoon, two muzzy gator points with wire leaders, two buoys and 100 feet of rope. Will continued to prepare for the hunt by talking with experienced alligator hunters and called me almost daily with new information. This was not like Will who normally leaves the planning and preparation to me and just shows up with his suitcase for most of our outdoor adventures. That is when I new for sure that Will is a true alligator hunter!!!
Will and his son, Christian, came down on the opening night of alligator season which was September 5, 2009 at 12:00 am. I had permission to hunt in a Houston County lake where alligators had been seen. We saw several gators that night but had no luck. Will had two opportunities with the harpoon, but had a clean miss and then experienced “buck fever” on the largest gator of the night. It was now a week after those misses and we were headed out again. I made Will practice throwing the harpoon into a hay bale at the farm and he was now pretty confident he could make the shot if we could get in range. As Will practiced throwing the harpoon, we talked about the mistakes we had made on our previous hunt and new strategies for the night’s hunt. We unloaded the boat and then went home and ate leftover pot roast and tomato pie, then waited for dark.
We started hunting around 9:00 pm. The first time we shined around the lake we only saw one set of eyes. It rained over 6 inches the night before and the water was about 2 feet higher than normal which submerged all the weeds and lily pads and allowed us to troll over much more of the lake than our previous hunt. We headed for the eyes but the gator went under as we got within about 40 yards. I shined around the lake again and saw the orange glow of more eyes across the lake. I headed that way as Will and I kept both lights on the glowing eyes. As we got closer I cut my light off and reached down to put the trolling motor in the lowest gear. I looked back up as we glided slowly closer to the alligator. Will was getting the harpoon ready and had turned his headlight just a little making the gator difficult to see. He finally zeroed in on him and said “there he is, he’s big”. I made out the right side of the gator’s head and picked up my q-beam and lit him up. He didn’t move, and I thought we might have a chance as I gently eased the boat closer. Just when I thought we were getting into range I felt Will lunge forward and saw the gator jump. “I got him” I heard Will say as I watched the rope slide over the front of the boat. “You sure did” I said as the gator turned and swam directly in front of the boat and then right along the side as he made his way to deeper water. He passed by a small cypress tree and I noticed the rope was getting tangled up. Will retrieved the harpoon and was now in the back of the boat reloading. I grabbed the buoy and the rope that remained in the boat and tried to untangle the rest from the top of the tree. I felt the rope tighten and knew the gator was about to make a run so I threw the buoy and rope as far as I could from the cypress tree. The line tightened and the buoy took off like a seen from Jaws and disappeared into the darkness. I pulled up the trolling motor and jumped to the back of the boat and started the 25 horse Mariner. I turned the boat and headed in the direction we had last seen the buoy. It took a couple of shines but we finally saw the buoy floating about 75 yards from where Will speared him. I pulled slowly up along side the buoy and cut off the motor. I lifted up the rope as Will stood ready with the harpoon. The boat eased along as I pulled harder on the rope. I pulled as hard as I could and felt the gator start moving with the boat. It was like he was swimming along beside us, and then I saw ripples beside the boat and knew it had to be the gator’s body. “Get him, he’s got to be right there” I said as I turned to see Will gig the harpoon into the water just by my side. I heard a “whack” as Will sunk the harpoon deep into the gator’s side. I felt a pull on the rope as I watched the alligator make one role on the top of the water. I threw the rope I was holding back into the water and reached down to make sure the second rope was not tangled in the boat. It was slightly around my feet, but I managed to pick them up out of the way and throw the second line and buoy into the water.
Will and I high fived as we now knew we had two lines in a wrapped up gator and both buoys were floating within 10 feet of the boat. The adrenaline was pumping and Will and I decided to take a moment to calm down and formulate a plan. We called Ray and our families to let them know we were hooked up. I checked my watch and it was 9:37 pm. We sat for a while and then pulled on the ropes a few times but it was like pulling dead weight. After about 45 minutes of keeping steady pressure on the ropes I decided it was time to take the fight to the gator. I pulled harder and harder on the rope leaving the slack line in the water so that it would not get tangled in the boat…or my legs. I kept pulling as it got heavier and harder to pull. Will was holding the other rope which still had a lot of slack, and he thought the gator was still well under water. “He’s way down there” Will said as I pulled harder and harder on my rope. “No he isn’t, there’s his mouth” Will said as I looked over the side of the boat at the top of the gator’s nose. It was the first time I could gauge the gator’s size, and I knew that Will and I would be proud if we could get him to the bank.
Will tightened up on his rope, and we both pulled harder and harder bringing the gator’s head higher and higher out of the water. After another 45 minutes or so and many pulls the gator’s eye finally appeared over the side of the boat. “Get the gun and shoot him” I said as we let go of the ropes dropping the gator back into the lake. Will got out his .357 pistol and grabbed a rope. I grabbed the other and we pulled the gator back up. “Are you ready for me to shoot” Will asked as he aimed for the gator’s eye. I turned my head and told Will to shoot. The sound of the gun was not as loud as I expected as I threw my rope back into the water. Will had on gloves and let his rope slide through his hands as he felt the gator make another run. The gator didn’t run far and both buoys sat still in the water right next to the boat. We waited a few minutes and then grabbed the ropes and pulled. We could not get the gator off the bottom of the pond, so I tied my rope to the boat and started the motor. I eased the boat forward and the gator’s head surfaced in a pool of bloody water. “He’s dead” I said as I cut off the motor and stood to high five Will.
We tied the gator up along side the boat and motored him to the bank. Will backed up his truck, and I wrapped the ropes around the hitch. “Ease up” I yelled as the 11’ 10” gator slid up on the bank. “He is big” I told Will as he parked the truck and got out to see our trophy. I checked my watch again and it was 11:47 pm. We high fived and celebrated and made several phone calls, including Brad who brought a trailer and helped us load him up. We all three pulled but could not even budge the 500 pound alligator. We unhooked the trailer and wrapped the ropes around Brad’s truck hitch. It worked perfectly as Brad eased forward pulling the gator onto the trailer. We hooked the trailer back up and drove to the farm. We backed the trailer under the shed and celebrated our kill as I relived the story with Brad and Will into the morning hours.
After a few hours of sleep we were up riding around town showing the monster to family and friends. We made several stops and then realized that killing a big alligator is like killing a big hog. They are too big to eat, no fun to clean and after showing it off you really don’t know what to do with it. We called Robin at Artistik Taxidermy and she took care of the rest. Will and I are looking forward to picking up a head mount and skinned gator hide to remember our hunt.
I’d like to dedicate this story to Will’s daughter Kaitlin who was injured in a boating accident just weeks before our hunt. We thank God for answered prayers as she continues to heal and recover. Kaitlin, keep up the hard work with your physical therapy and know that there are many folks praying for your full recovery!!!