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Vandiver: Enjoy the magical moments hunting outdoors with family, friends
From left, Josh Vandiver, Jackson Vandiver and Russell Vandiver pose with a deer shot during a recent hunt. - photo by For The Times

Every hunting season I am reminded of just how magical the hours spent in the outdoors can be, especially the first hour of daylight and the 30 minutes before and after sunset.

During hunting season, you are never sure what the weather is going to be or which direction the wind is going to blow.

The one constant is there are going to be those magical hours every day when the outdoors come alive with wildlife.

Once again this year, we have experienced some incredible deer hunting during those magical hours. My grandson, Jackson, harvested his best two bucks during those hours while hunting with his dad the past two Saturdays. These were special deer which we had trail camera pictures of for the past couple years.

We had named one ‘Shovel Head’ because the palmation of both sides of his antlers made it look like the shovel-shaped rack of a moose.

The other one was a large 10-point buck we named ‘Lucky’, as he had evaded us for the past several years. He even dropped his antler sheds this past year just where we could find them in front of one of our deer stands.

Starting with the primitive weapons season on Oct. 10 through the second week of gun season, we have had about every weather pattern possible, except snow. Fog, wind, rain, hot days, cool days, cold mornings and everything in between have all been part of the first few weeks of deer season.

Perhaps the one constant has been that deer movement, for the most part, has been excellent.

The acorns have been dropping since early October on our property and continue to provide a daily food source in addition to the food plots we planted back in August.

Surprisingly, the deer have eaten several of our food plots down to the ground, creating a need to replant for winter grazing. Typically deer will not eat the greens mixture of turnips, radishes, kale, etc. until the first frost. However, this has been an exceptional growing season with abundant rain to accelerate the growth of tender greens.

I am looking forward to watching the growth of the greens, oats, wheat and rye I planted last week. Somehow, replanting is not such a chore anymore since “Every day is Saturday.”

My son Josh took my granddaughter Taylor on her first deer hunt during primitive weapon season.

They saw a lot of deer but none she wanted to harvest. Taylor got to watch deer playing and feeding on one of our food plots from a two-man ladder stand. She did really well at being quiet and still in the stand, until two young bucks started sparring right in front of her.

She started to giggle and couldn’t stop as they put on a real show for her. Fortunately we had a blind around the seat of the stand and they could not see her moving, but I understand she put on quite a show herself.

What a memory for them.

Jackson took turns hunting with his dad and I during the primitive weapons hunt using his new Browning X- Bolt 308 rifle.

Georgia youth 16 and under can use any legal firearm during the primitive weapon season and it turned out to be a great opportunity for him to get used to hunting with a rifle prior to opening of gun season.

He harvested two does during the week, which provided us with some excellent venison as we had almost run out by the start of deer season. Dorminy’s processing in Carnesville does a great job with the best jerky, summer sausage and cubed venison I have ever tasted.

We have taken deer and elk to Vernon and Ann Dorminy for the past 25 years from as far away as Ohio, Oklahoma and New Mexico.

Opening day of gun season was Oct. 17 and the cooler weather made for an excellent time to hunt. Jackson and Josh hunted a stand of white oaks from a ladder stand and saw a few deer, but no shooters.

I decided to stalk hunt, and was able to get within 20 yards of a spike buck, but no shooters. After a great lunch of elk tenderloin and baked turkey sandwiches we planned the afternoon hunt by reviewing the past weeks trail camera pictures.

We decided to hunt food plots in the afternoon as the bucks seemed to be coming to the fields during that last magical hour.

Josh and Jackson decided to hunt a field in which we had pictures of Shovel Head, and I chose to hunt another food plot where we had several bucks on camera.

We all had a great hunt with a good wind out of the west that is perfect for our stand locations. The sun was setting in the west and we had all seen several deer, including some decent bucks, but not shooters.

I was lost in my thoughts about how great it was to have my son and grandson with me in the outdoors deer hunting on food plots we had prepared, when I heard a shot.

I was overcome with anticipation, but gathered myself thinking that it may not have been them but rather someone on adjoining property.

Suddenly my phone vibrated and it was Jackson, and his message was simply, “I got Shovel Head.” I am not sure that I touched half the steps on my stand before I hit the ground. Shovel Head was a 9-pointer with heavy palmation on both main beams, great brow tines and weighed 180 pounds live weight. What a great buck for an 11-year-old, and to harvest it with his dad was awesome.

After taking some great pictures, we loaded up and headed home with another day filled with wonderful memories of another magical hour in the outdoors.

Oct. 24 is a day we will all treasure for years to come. We awoke to a cloudy cool morning with an east wind which is absolutely the worst wind possible for our property as we have set all our stands to accommodate the normal west wind.

Josh, Jackson and I discussed where we could hunt an east wind on the drive to our property and decided we would be better off still hunting rather than force the issue of stand hunting with the east wind.

Josh and Jackson decided to hunt the south end of the property to possibly get between Lucky and where we thought he was bedding. I hunted the north end where we had trail camera pictures of Lucky and several mature 8-pointers.

We had deer all around us as we sat down to hunt, but no bucks as daylight broke in the east. I was entertained by squirrels, turkey, deer and also a pesky skunk that fortunately avoided walking to me by turning right at 10 yards. I was getting settled in hunting a creek bottom when I heard a shot in the distance and assumed it was on adjoining property.

Suddenly my phone started vibrating and it was Jackson, who said “Papa I missed Lucky” and my heart sank; then he screamed “No, just kidding, I got him and I am holding his rack.”

I was overcome with excitement and relief that after three years we had finally closed the deal to harvest Lucky. Our preparation and planning had paid off. After a long 1 1/2-mile hike to get to Josh and Jackson, I was amazed at just how big he was.

He was a massive 10-pointer with an 18 1/2 inch spread and live weight of 210 pounds. Lucky had walked down a faint deer trail through hardwoods on his way to bed down and had stopped a mere 25 yards from Jackson when he took the shot with his Browning X-Bolt 308, dropping him in his tracks.

Jackson has taken four shots this year and harvested four deer: two bucks and two does. Having filled his buck tags for the year, he will be the guide for Josh and I the rest of the season. What a blessing for the three of us to share the magic hours in the great outdoors.

Food plots have been replanted and are starting to sprout. They should be perfect for the upcoming deer rut in November.

We are still getting trail camera pictures of Hightower, a tall 8-pointer with long brow tines as well as several mature 8 pointers, but most all of them are after dark which will most likely change as the breeding season starts.

I am approaching November with great anticipation of what promises to be more magical hours in the outdoors since “Every Day is Saturday.”

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

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