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Vandiver: Beauty of a winter's day
Russell Vandiver and his son Josh pose for a photo with an 8-point white tail from their trip to Oklahoma in November. Josh also took a 5x5 elk that month in New Mexico. - photo by Russell Vandiver

Windy, cold and wet are typical winter days in North Georgia. I believe as outdoorsmen get older, these days seem less dreary and are in fact a time to realize the intrinsic beauty of those days!

Perhaps because we are glad to have another day to reflect on the past hunting or fishing season and look forward to the birth of a new spring that is soon to come with more hunting and fishing opportunities.

I am looking out the window as I write this and watching the wind blow about 20-30 miles an hour after an all-night rain, which makes trout fishing impossible for the next several days. The weather also prevents me from scouting for the upcoming turkey season or tending the feeders we have placed on our deer leases as it is just too cold to be outside.

So what does someone who is retired and is an avid outdoorsman do on such a day? Typically maintenance on fishing and hunting equipment is a great way to spend these days. Keeping a warm fire going, planning a wild game dinner and looking back on successes and failures of the past season.

I love to take this time to evaluate what went right and what went wrong and how to make the next season better. It is very important to reflect back on mistakes made or you will most likely make them again, and as for the successes, it is great therapy on a winter day to remember those days when it all came together.

Reflecting back on mistakes from the past season is often difficult, as none of us like to acknowledge a missed opportunity.

Sometimes it is as simple as poor timing, such as getting an opportunity to go on a late-season elk hunt when the peak of the deer rut is occurring in Georgia.

More difficult to analyze is reviewing trail camera pictures. Choosing a stand that is a sure bet for a nice buck, except the deer didn’t realize he should have continued the same pattern as he had the previous several days, and receiving a texting camera picture on your iPhone of the same deer at another stand while hunting in the one you chose! That is why it is called hunting.

Keeping a journal of pictures and weather conditions and changes in deer patterns will surely help avoid some of those failures from the past year.

Then there is the problem of trying to hunt a weather pattern, only to find that the deer are more tolerant of the changing weather than we are.

I have failed to hunt numerous times because I felt it was too windy or too hot or wet, only to realize I had passed on a day I could have taken a great buck that showed up on the trail cameras.

These missed opportunities are tough to accept, but getting a plan together for the next season helps to ease the frustration.

Reflecting on the successes of the previous season is a lot more enjoyable and serves as an excellent way to spend a typical winter day. Taking your trophies harvested the past year to a taxidermist is also a great way to recall those special moments.

We typically make that visit in January after all the hunting seasons are closed and we know which trophies we are going to mount. One of the most memorable moments was my son Josh harvesting the “Vandiver Buck,” a massive 10-point Georgia white tail, last November.

The mount should be ready later this March and replaying that special hunt while driving home after dropping it off at Woody’s Taxidermy in Baldwin was very satisfying. Woody’s has been mounting deer for us for more than 40 years and they do a great job.

Another great success was our trip to New Mexico in late November to elk hunt and then coming back through Oklahoma to hunt white tail deer during their rut.

I was not able to harvest anything on those hunts, but Josh took a huge 5x5 elk in New Mexico and followed that up with a solid 8-point white tail in Oklahoma. I don’t remember a hunt that I enjoyed more despite not harvesting an elk or deer.

The elk was taken at a distance of 375 yards with his 7 magnum rifle, more than 6.5 miles from any roads. Josh actually had to go in with the guide on horseback to get the huge elk out the following day. This was his first time to ride a horse and it was quite an adventure.

We brought back some 450 pounds of excellent elk meat that we are eating this winter and the antlers will make a great European mount.

Next we were on to Oklahoma and hunted the rut for a week.

The wind blows all the time in Oklahoma and we experienced it firsthand. Thankfully, we had some good permanent blinds to hunt out of to break the wind. I passed on several smaller bucks, but on our last hunt Josh took a solid 8-point white tail.

We headed home afterward in order to get home in time for Thanksgiving with the family. What a wonderful experience to spend that time with my son in the outdoors.

Perhaps the highlight of successes this past hunting season was turkey season, with both my grandson Jackson and son Josh harvesting trophy turkeys that we took to Andy Nimmons Taxidermy in Lexington.

Recalling the hunts on which the turkeys were harvested made us even more excited for the upcoming 2015 turkey season in Georgia, which opens March 21.

We have trail camera pictures of several gobblers since turkey season last year that are as large or larger than the ones harvested last year.

We will do a lot of scouting and planning for the upcoming season in hopes that this year will exceed the successes from last year.

Trout season is just around the corner, including the 26th annual trout tournament in Helen. The tournament will be held March 28 and looks to be the best ever, thanks to an increased number of tagged fish and some great cash prizes for the largest tagged fish caught.

Last year, in spite of rainy weather and cold temperatures, a record crowd of almost 400 participated in the tournament. We look forward to competing in the tournament again this year and hope to see another record crowd participate. Check out the Helen Chamber web site for information.

Winter has cold, wet and windy days, but there is also an intrinsic beauty in those days if we just look for it in the wonderful outdoors and reflect back on the successes and failures from the past season.

What a blessing that we have four distinct seasons in North Georgia and to be able to enjoy each of them in the outdoors. Think about your memories from the past year and perhaps you will see the beauty of a winter’s day since, “Every day is Saturday.”

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