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Vandiver: Creating memories with the colors of fall
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I have always loved the four seasons we have in Georgia, but fall is my favorite with all the colors that belong exclusively to the season. The brilliant colors of the turning leaves on trees, the glow of an open fireplace with an array of colors from different wood as it burns, fallen leaves meandering down a trout stream that tangle my bright yellow fly line, and seeing your breath on cold mornings while watching turkey, deer and squirrels search for white oak acorns are just a few of the colors of the fall I enjoy daily.

I have said for many years if we could somehow connect a camera through our eyes to capture these colors it would be amazing. I am enjoying this year’s fall the most of any in my life because “Every day is Saturday” since my retirement.

The months of September and October have been very special to me this year. I was blessed to be with my grandson, Jackson, on his first Ohio archery hunt, hunted elk with my son, Josh, in New Mexico, and of course enjoy hunting whitetail deer in Georgia with both of them.

Special times for sure, to be able to share the colors of fall with those you love. The weather has been spectacular for hunting with cool mornings and warm days.

We have enjoyed some success in harvesting some nice deer and elk, but perhaps the best harvest is the memories of being together and sharing the fabulous colors of fall at our camp.

Jackson harvested two nice deer — a buck and doe — with his crossbow on Sept. 28, opening day of hunting in Ohio. The thrill of being beside him in a ground blind and watching his concentration in making two perfect shots in spite of both of us being so nervous we could barely breathe was unbelievable!

Naturally there were high fives and hugs after the shots, and then the work of getting the deer out of the woods and processing them back at deer camp.

Neither Josh nor I was able to harvest a deer on that hunt, but you would never have known it because Jackson had enough enthusiasm for all of us, which more than made up for the 480-mile drive back home.

The bad news is that I lost one of my favorite spots to hunt in Ohio, as Jackson has now claimed that it is his hunting spot in the future!

Josh and I headed to New Mexico on Oct. 4 for our elk hunt. The journey was 1,660 miles each way and gave us time to be together and share some time reflecting back on the years we have hunted together.

The trip was long, but the scenery was very unique with the massive agriculture fields of sorghum, wheat, barley, sunflowers, cotton, alfalfa and many other crops.

Honestly, we both agreed we missed the trees and mountains of Northeast Georgia, but when we started seeing antelope, mule deer and elk, we quickly gained an appreciation and anticipation of the upcoming hunt in this vast part of the United States.

Having never seen an elk in its natural habitat, we were amazed at the size and beauty of these animals.
The hunt was with Old West Guides and Outfitters with a no- frills, rustic camp which was all about elk hunting. The guides had a true team effort trying to make sure every one of the eight hunters in camp got a shot at a mature elk.

I was able harvest a very large 5x5 bull weighing approximately 800 pounds live weight, which provided us with 450 pounds of elk meat for this winter. My elk came in bugling, and I honestly thought my heart was going to explode as I tried to get the cross hairs of the Browning 30-06 with a Leupold 3.5x10 scope on the chest of this majestic animal.

I was able to collect myself and make a 250-yard shot that stopped him in his tracks. I am sure my guide, ‘Chili Pepper,’ thought I was going break his hand with the high fives and I suspect there might have been some words I said that were not easily recognizable.

The thrill continued when Josh and his guide came to help with loading the elk, but not before taking a lot of pictures and sharing some hugs with Josh, my hunting partner for 30 years.

Josh hunted really hard all week but was not able to harvest an elk even though he had several close encounters, as close as 75 yards with some 6x6 elk, but there always seemed to be a tree or elk cow in the way of taking a good shot.

He did manage to get a shot at 375 yards at a 6x7 monster elk right before dark on the last day and last minutes of the hunt, but was not able to connect. We headed back to Georgia on Oct. 12 with a lot of memories and resolution to go back to hunt elk in New Mexico again next year, perhaps taking Jackson with us.

We arrived back in Georgia on Oct. 13 in time to hunt the muzzle- loading season after traveling more than 4,500 miles in 16 days and hunting in three states.

What an adventure! I was able to see some good young bucks during the muzzle loading season but did not take a shot, as we had several mature bucks on our trail cameras that just never showed up during the hunts.

I also passed on several mature does during the either sex harvest days of muzzle-loading season. The deer are definitely eating white oak acorns but have a lot of options as to which acorns they are feeding on since there are a lot of acorns on the ground.

Georgia gun season opened Oct. 19 and Josh, Jackson and I were able to hunt together once again.

Jackson and Josh decided to hunt with their bows, but I chose my 30-06.

Opening day was damp and cool with light rain on and off all day, and the deer did not move very much.
We were able to see a few deer, but not what we wanted to harvest.

We will be hunting a lot in Georgia the next few weeks, before heading back to Ohio for the whitetail mating season, or rut, which normally occurs Nov.1-10.

I am looking forward to getting back up there, as there are some tremendous bucks that we have pictures of on our trail cameras.

There are also some terrific gobblers to hunt during the fall turkey season on our lease in Ohio. The colors of the gobblers in the fall are spectacular, and I am going to attempt to take my first gobbler with a bow on this hunt.

Trout fishing is beginning to pick up as the water temperature is getting lower and, except for the falling leaves tangling the line, this is a great time to fish between deer hunts.

The fish we have caught the past few weeks are very healthy and the colors are brilliant, which is typical of the mild summer we have had.

I usually turn to fishing with night crawlers this time of the year with my spinning rod in hopes of catching a mature brown trout, which has been one of my goals for the year.

The colors on the trout stream this year are amazing with clear streams, the brilliant foliage changing daily, and the occasional flushing of colorful wood ducks or a whitetail buck crossing the stream, which can make it difficult to concentrate on fishing.

The colors of a fire in my open fireplace have always signaled to me that fall is officially here. Nothing compares to a warm fire at the end of the day after hunting or fishing and watching the mesmerizing flames of hickory, white and red oak wood dancing across the fire.

Eating fresh venison or elk with homemade vegetable soup and reflecting on the memories created that day in the woods or stream while sitting on the hearth of the fire place are unbeatable.

The colors of fall are very special to me, and taking the time to really see them has given me a new appreciation of how wonderful nature is. Get outdoors and enjoy the colors of fall with your family and friends and make your own memories.

“Every day is Saturday.”

Russell Vandiver, recently retired as president of Lanier Technical College, has been an avid fisherman and hunter for 50 years. His column appears monthly.

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