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Vandiver: 'Vandiver Buck' a highlight of hunting season
Russell Vandiver’s son, Josh, poses with a buck he recently shot. - photo by For The Times

Thanksgiving is fast approaching. I traditionally like to look back on the outdoor opportunities that my family and I have been blessed to experience during the past year.

We have had many things to be thankful for in 2014. We experienced an awesome turkey season, exceptional trout fishing, exciting dove season and an unbelievable deer season thus far. We have a lot of deer hunting and fishing yet to come.

Reflecting back to turkey season, there is only one word that fits: Awesome.

My grandson, Jackson, harvested his limit of three gobblers, two of which he took with one shot and the other his largest bird with a 12-inch beard and 1 3/4 inch spurs.

My son Josh also harvested his best Georgia turkey which had three beards measuring 8 «, 9 «and 10 « inches, 1 « inch spurs and weighed 25 pounds. I was also able to harvest a mature gobbler, but as Jackson reminds me often that all three of his were larger than Papa’s. Unbelievably, since June, we have trail camera pictures of larger turkeys than we harvested this year.

We can’t wait until next March to start hunting them.

Trout fishing was very enjoyable this year, starting with the 25th annual Helen trout tournament in March.
The tournament was a lot of fun, in spite of some cold, wet weather. We are looking forward to the next tournament in March 2015. We caught and released some great trout during the spring, with my grandson Jackson and my granddaughter Taylor catching their personal best trout on some very special fishing trips.

I was able to catch and release my all-time best brown trout that weighed 6 pounds and measured 22 inches. I sure hope that fish is still there when we start winter trout fishing in December. Winter is a great time to trout fish the year-round streams in Georgia.

I have caught and released many big trout in the winter months, which provide limited fishing pressure and an excellent opportunity to catch a trophy trout.

Perhaps our most exciting season was dove season. Jackson enjoyed his first season hunting with his 20-gauge shotgun and experienced what I call a ‘barrel burner.’ Jackson got a firsthand definition of what barrel burner means when he touched his barrel and said it burned his fingers after a flurry of shooting.

He was able to shoot more than five boxes of shells in one afternoon hunt, harvesting a limit of doves. Together, our four hunters took a limit of 60 doves in about three hours hunting on a cut hayfield of millet. We also had several good hunts on the sunflower and millet field that we had prepared earlier in the year.

Dove season was also a very sad time for us as we lost our good friend Maurice Cash to cancer on opening day of the season. Maurice, my friend of 30-plus years, had provided the field and did a lot of the work that made the field an exceptional place where I introduced both my son and grandson to dove hunting.

We will forever be grateful for Maurice’s friendship and we miss him, as do all who knew him.

The highlight of the outdoor season to date has to be the harvest of the ‘Vandiver Buck’ on one of our deer leases in Georgia. I wanted to name this buck the ‘Vandiver Buck’ because of the commitment and work by all of us to
create an opportunity for one of us to harvest this exceptional deer.

The amount of time spent preparing for this deer season exceeds anything we have done in the past.

Reflecting back on the early part of the season, I was reminded of the highs and lows of deer hunting. Josh, Jackson and I had passed on some good bucks this year but we had committed to harvest the buck that we had dubbed the brow tine buck first. Naturally as the season went on we sometime questioned our decision and started to doubt we would ever get a shot at him.

Last Friday, Josh harvested his best ever Georgia buck that scored 150 inches with an 18-inch inside spread, 8-inch brow tines and weighed in at nearly 200 pounds.

Josh saw him on a sunny hillside on a beautiful cold fall morning walking straight to him and a doe that had appeared from nowhere. One shot from his Browning 7 mm magnum and the brow tine buck became the ‘Vandiver Buck.’

Harvesting this buck was the culmination of months of preparation by all of us that started last January; placing texting trail cameras on deer trails led to hours of studying pictures of different bucks, providing supplemental protein feed in the spring and summer and a lot of sweat equity in preparing and planting food plots that are lush green at just the right time.

Mother nature provided an abundant acorn crop that made for some difficult hunting early in the season as there were acorns everywhere and the deer could be anywhere. This buck was especially satisfying in that we had decided this past spring not to hunt in Ohio as we had done for the past 10 years and find out if we could harvest quality bucks in our backyard in Georgia.

The ‘Vandiver Buck’ brought those dreams to fruition. What a thrill to celebrate with my son admiring his buck as he beamed with pride and said, ‘the good lord had blessed us today’ which reminded me just how blessed I am.

Hunting and fishing have been a huge part of my life for more than 50 years but having my son, grandson and granddaughter share these opportunities has given me a greater appreciation for the outdoors than I ever experienced before I retired.

Take a child hunting or fishing, or whatever you love to do in the outdoors, and get a blessing yourself. I sure do every time. I just received a couple of pictures of really good bucks on one of our texting cameras so I am going to go try to harvest one since “Every day is Saturday.”

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