A light mist was rising from the warm ground into the cool gray sky. The woods were silent, with a new day just awakening.
I was standing alert, with my shotgun ready, scanning the open piney woods to my front.
Golden beams of sunlight were just now pushing through the scattered clouds to the east, illuminating little patches of wooded terrain around me.
Straight out front, but a good way off, I heard a pack of hounds open into a full cry. They must have bumped into a deer that was on the move, as there was no trailing. It was a good-sized pack, and they were running strong. Two shots were fired, but the dogs kept on going, out of hearing.
Then over to my right front I heard a driver release his hounds and start to holler and shout encouragement to his dogs. Other dog men released packs at different locations out in the drive. Hounds were opening and barking on several trails - following the scent of our elusive quarry, the white-tailed deer.
The chilled morning air seemed to be charged with excitement. Soon, several big packs of hounds were running, and one of those packs was headed my way! All my senses were strained, listening for the breaking brush of a deer in flight or the glint of antlers coming through the pines.
My heart was beating, my pulse racing. Buck fever? I should be too old for that. I've hunted for more than 50 years, but the excitement was still there. The thrill of the chase is in my blood, and I hope it never wavers.
Those dogs out front started to veer off to my left. They couldn't have been more than 150 yards away, but I didn't see the dogs or the deer. I knew there weren't any standers posted in that direction, so that deer was going to get out of the hunt and take a huge pack of hounds with him.
By now, the big piney woods were ringing with the sounds of the hunt. Another pack was headed away - out to my right front. Those dogs went almost out of hearing, then they turned around and started back into the drive. They were drowning out the pack that had just passed to my left. This was a very big pack, with a cornucopia of hounds. There was music in the pines.
Walkers, with a chop "tongue," or bark, others squealy tongued or yappy. Redbones with a deep, heavy baying bark. Black and Tans, and Beagles all mixed together. There must have been 20 or 30 dogs. They were rolling through the thickets, pushing a deer. It was hound music!
Dog drives need plenty of room to operate, and this Lowcountry club has plenty of room. The club has thousands of acres of timber company land and some privately owned land. Our neighboring clubs also do dog drives.
I never saw a deer on that recent hunt, but it was a great day in the outdoors. I don't need to shoot something every time I go hunting. Just being there is enough. I don't get to go as much as I would like, and this might be my last year in a Lowcountry club, but that's OK. I know things change.
Similar scenes are played out in the wildwoods of our state every year. The methods will vary some, but the basic traditional hunts have been around for more than 200 years. I grew up deer hunting with dogs, and I love the experience.
Our forefathers rode horses to the hunt. The thrill of the hunt, and the love of hounds, is still with us. Dog drive hunting for deer gets harder to do every year, for a variety of reasons, but I hope we can keep it going for a long time, for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.
Email Dan Geddings at email@example.com.
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