We walked slowly along the embankment in the dark. The pond to our right was smooth and silky in the soft moonlight. The air was cool and clean. At the cotton field, we stopped. There was no detectable wind. We spoke softly then moved on.
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The stand was about 50 yards to the left, along the woodline. Clayton went ahead and at the stand turned around and handed me his rifle. He climbed the wooden ladder and crawled through the camouflage flap on the side opening. I reached up, handed him his rifle and mine - then climbed up the ladder and into the stand.
The orange moon hung just over the tree line to the west. It wasn't quite full and looked somewhat lopsided. We could sense that the sky was lighter now and that daylight was coming soon. There were two comfortable chairs to sit in. Someone had left a can of wasp spray on the floor. I hoped those little devils weren't still around.
The stand overlooks an agricultural field that is planted in cotton. A large section that was too wet to plant, in front of the stand, stretches the length of the field to the far woodline. I had put a corn pile out in this open area the week before.
I knew that the timber company was cutting the adjoining tract to the south, but I didn't expect to hear anything out of them until later in the morning. I was wrong. We heard a vehicle bumping along the access road just as the light was beginning to reveal our surroundings. Then, a few minutes later, a logging truck roared down the road. I was even more surprised to hear the cutter start dropping trees. It wasn't even broad daylight yet, but I know the deer get used to those sounds, so I wasn't too worried.
There was a slight breeze now, and it was out of the north, blowing across the field toward the timbering operation. Those sounds diminished, and I told Clayton about some of my experiences regarding how the wind and weather can affect our ability to hear. It seems odd to me that the wind can move sounds so efficiently.
We sat and talked for a while, and eventually I noticed a small metal name plate on the inside wall to my front. It was about the size of an ordinary index card. I leaned closer and read "This stand built by William and Bill Hall, August 2014."
Mister Bill had called me that fall and after a few minutes of chit-chat told me that he had put a tower stand on the Rhodes property near the pond. He wanted me to hunt the stand whenever I could. It was a club stand, and anyone could hunt it on a first-come, first-serve basis. But he wanted to be sure that I knew it was there.
Bill Hall is one of a kind. He is of an older generation that is fading away. He is quiet, kind and considerate. A true Southern gentleman. I got to know him as a fellow turkey hunter. Now, I know him as a friend. I've hunted the stand when I could.
The stand is a handbuilt wooden tower stand. The floor is about 10 feet from the ground. It's closed in with a narrow opening around three sides. A sturdy ladder gives access to an open side that is covered with a camouflage cloth flap. It has a roll of camouflage material across the front that can be lowered for concealment or rolled up for better viewing.
Mister Bill's son William had helped him with the stand. I met William at our club meeting back in early March, and he and his son Will came to hunt turkeys this past spring. Will and William are good people, too.
By now, Clayton and I had been sitting for about two hours. We had started out whispering softly but had gotten louder and louder without realizing it, as the morning wore on. Then a sound caught my full attention. Clayton heard it at the same time. It was the unmistakable sound of a deer walking in the woods, crunching the dried leaves, directly behind the stand. It stopped, and we sat in silence.
Clayton leaned over, rummaged around in his bag and pulled out a grunt call. "Easy," I cautioned. The deer was close. He made two soft grunts, paused, then one more. The deer turned and walked directly toward the stand. I looked over my shoulder at the wall of green vegetation behind us. I could feel a soft breeze on the back of my neck, and I knew the deer couldn't catch our scent.
We looked at each other with expectation, but nothing else happened for several long minutes. I expected the deer to walk out into the field, but it had no intention of doing that. It had heard what it thought was another deer but couldn't see one from the security of the thicket.
We sat silently for another 30 minutes. There was no other sound in the woods. The deer had either hunkered down in place or slipped away silently. We climbed down and walked back to the truck. We will try that stand again - soon.
Reach Dan Geddings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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