This west Alabama deer manager has his own way of doing things and it’s working!
Text by Mike Handley
I’d been watching a young buck stretch his lanky adolescent frame in the pursuit of a willing girlfriend all afternoon. He had worked himself into a lather, stopping only occasionally to sniff the scented air before charging toward whatever doe happened to be nearest. Pencil-necked and shallow-chested, whenever he faced my hiding place, he’d curl his upper lip a la Jack Nicholson and point his nose skyward.
Observing the 3-pointer’s comical antics in a field full of does and yearlings was the only thing keeping me awake. I’d just driven three hours from Montgomery to Gilbertown, Ala., where I barely had time to inhale a couple of pieces of fried chicken before it was time to dress, grab my rifle and hop into the Suburban with four more guys who had arrived at Water Valley Lodge the previous evening.
After the others had been dropped off within walking distance of their stands, the guide, Gary Doggett, asked if he could sit with me. Our destination was a power line, portions of which had been planted in clover, and he wanted to bring a video camera. A week earlier, while hunting in South Texas, I shared a deer blind with another adult for the first time. Since I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, I was more than happy to have Gary accompany me.
My expectations were not high for that mid-December hunt, although Gary and I saw several deer en route to the shooting house and even more already grazing in the distant food plot when we arrived. Another hunter had sat there the previous afternoon, and he’d asked to see a different part of the property. December is midway into Alabama’s long season, and the deer in most places have a way of disappearing until the rut peaks in mid-to late January.
During our vigil, Gary captured several does on film before the 3-pointer stepped out into the open to pester them. He was filmed, too, even though he was probably 400 yards distant. Three hours into the huntand perhaps a half-hour before dark, the camera was turned off and I was hoping that Gary couldn’t see me straining to keep at least one eye open. I kept thinking that if I closed the eye hidden from his view, I might get half a nap without embarrassment.
When my overworked right eye swiveled to the left, the other one popped open. A barrel-chested buck had just stepped out of the pines almost 200 yards in front of us and was watching the youngster’s unsuccessful attempts to romance the ladies. After blinking maybe once, I whispered, “Buck … to the left!”
About the time Gary focused his camera on the buck, I started counting points. To be legal at Water Valley Lodge, a buck must have at least eight points around a 15-inch spread. He fit the bill, even if I couldn’t see the kicker that made him a 9-pointer. When I fired, the buck fell to the ground like a stone, which made for some awesome footage. I had just bagged the second largest Alabama buck of my long career and my fourth trophy in a wonderful 1999 season!
I was hunting Jeff Utsey’s Red Roof Farms near Lisman, a portion of Water Valley that is pressed into service onlcrack