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Big bucks in the river bottoms

November 16, 2013

G. Sam Piatt


Outdoors Columnist


With an ailing back hampering my movements of late, I mapped out no definite plans for hunting deer during Kentucky’s gun season, which opened Nov. 9 and runs through Nov. 24.


I knew I’d never be able to negotiate the rough terrain of the hollows and flats and ridges. Level ground I could handle but not the hills and thick brush of the woodlands. Not this season.


I’m not an avid deer hunter to begin with. November days are better spent on the water casting for muskie and walleye and sauger, to my way of thinking – although I’m sure there’s more than one reader right now accusing me of wrong-headedness.


ARROW HEADS

One day before the season came in, with the aid of a walking stick and with a leather pouch slung over my shoulder, I spent a few hours traipsing across a friend’s acreage in the Ohio River bottoms searching for arrowheads.


He had harvested one field of soybeans and already put the disk harrow to it. Some soybeans and a field of corn remained to be harvested.


At one point, I was startled to see the size and the depth of a set of deer tracks visible near the edge of the beans. And not one set of tracks, but several.


And at the top of the first rise, where the willows and maples and sycamores grow on the slope of the riverbank, there were fresh scrapes and rubs.


I was there on opening day, all to myself. And I did see a fine buck, but not until after he’d seen me.


I haven’t been back, though I hope to be before the season’s out.


The experience left me wondering if any Kentucky and Ohio deer hunters hunt the river and creek bottoms, or do they all take to the deep woods?


Even though Kentucky hunters kill about 120,000 deer a year and Ohio hunters kill about 200,000 a year, it seems the herds continue to grow in numbers. And in years when the mast crop is down in the woods, it would make sense that deer would rely more and more on the crops in the bottoms to satisfy their hunger.


The evidence points to some big bucks traipsing around in those bottomlands.


With Ohio’s seven-day gun season for white-tailed deer set to open Dec. 2, now would be the time to be lining up landowner permission to hunt those bottomland bean and corn fields.


You younger guys could even locate a tree stand near the top of the first rise.


THE TREE HOUSE

If you get to read my upcoming novel, “Oh, That Summer of ’45,” you’ll learn that it was in one of those big tulip poplars on the riverbank that the Hooperville Braves built their tree house. That clubhouse, built 30 feet up in the branches of the tree, would have made an excellent deer stand. But the problem was that there were few deer in those days anywhere in northeastern Kentucky or southern Ohio.


The Braves were more interested in an amphibious invasion of the sandy beachhead across the river just downstream from the mouth of the Scioto River (called the Charles River in the book).


On a crude map of Okinawa drawn with crayons and spread across the top of an orange crate in the tree house, Vince Royalton (the “Major”), the undisputed leader of the Braves, drew up plans to liquidate the horde of Japanese soldiers who had taken possession of that island in the Pacific.


Then the six 11- and 12-year-old Braves turned U.S. Marines, armed with wooden rifles and empty tin can grenades, would climb into the Reuben James, a 10-foot red, wooden john boat rescued from the flood waters earlier that year but turned into an LST for the invasion, would row across the river to land and hit the sand on their bellies as machine gun bullets zipped over their heads and artillery shells exploded all around them.


The Major, leading the charge, of course, was machine-gunned twice and somersaulted by a hand grenade, but they couldn’t stop him. He was like one of these cartoon characters – mash him, bash him, riddle him, he sprung right back.


They must have killed a thousand enemy soldiers before the battle was over.


But…whoops, I’m getting slightly off the subject here.


HARVEST TOTALS

Results of Kentucky’s deer kill, through the first five days of the gun season and including the bow, crossbow and muzzleloader seasons thus far, show the total at 87,529, with 56 percent of the harvest being bucks.


In northeastern counties, the results show Boyd 560, Carter 1,937, Elliott 407, Greenup 832 and Lewis 990.


The statewide average of 56 percent bucks/44 percent does held about the same in each of those counties.


But in Rowan County the harvest of 934 deer showed just the opposite – 57 percent does to 43 percent bucks.


Of the state’s 120 counties, Owen County reported the highest kill with 2,398 deer taken.


The statewide total of 87,529 includes 14,666 by bow, 63,804 by gun, 7,119 by muzzleloader and 1,940 by crossbow.


CHICKEN FRIED DEER

Here’s a quick meal you can fix up with those odd pieces of venison left over:


1 pound deer mat scraps


¼ teaspoon salt


¼ cup milk


½ cup pancake mix


¼ cup cooking oil


1/8 teaspoon black pepper


Sprinkle the deer meat scraps with the salt and pepper. Mix the pancake mix with the milk to make a smooth batter, then dip the meat in to coat it.


Next, heat the cooking oil in a skillet, then add the pancake battered deer meat to the skillet and brown it on all sides.


Now reduce the heat to low, then cover the skillet with a lid and let it simmer 10 to 15 minutes.


G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (606) 932-3619 or Gsamwriter@aol.com.