A Fight To the Finish

The quail season in Georgia opened the Saturday before the opening of deer season and John Walton, a hunting buddy, Mark Greenberg, a church friend and also a hunting buddy, and I had arranged a hunt south of Jonesboro. Supposedly this was a good place.
In their kennels Rooster, my Brittany Spaniel, and Crystal, John’s German Shorthair were bouncing up and down with excitement as we let them out and began our hunt. We started patrolling around the edge of a large, cut, soy bean, field.

Not a hundred yards into our hunt Crystal froze and Rooster “backed” her point. We spread out and walked in on the birds and “whirrrr”, a big covey of twelve or fifteen came rocketing out of the brush along the edge of the field. This was classic! Our guns exploded simultaneously and several birds fell. Both dogs began to “hunt dead” and we collected four quail. To us it looked like it would be a good day!

We continued around the field and within three hundred yards, both dogs come down on point and we collected two more. So far our hunt and the selection of this place was definitely looking good as we cut through some swampy woods on our way to another bean field.

Ahead in some honeysuckle I saw Rooster on point and picking up the pace toward him I shouted, “Point up here,” as John came up on my right and Mark on my left. Crystal, honoring Rooster’s point froze next to John’s right leg. Right behind Rooster, I stepped past him into the honeysuckle expecting the customary “whirrrr”, and, of all things, up jumped a buck!

All at once, literally all “hell” broke loose. Crystal rushed in between John and the deer; the buck lunged at me and I unloaded three number eights at a three, foot distance, straight at the deer’s head, in the excitement obviously missing! Rooster charged the deer and the deer hooked Crystal and threw her to the side; James yelled “Crystal,” and as he moved to his right to reach for dog, the deer hooked him with his horns and ripped his left pants leg.

Then, the deer turned toward Mark and tried to hook him. Quickly searching through my pockets, I found the two double ought bucks I always carried and finally fumbled them into my twenty gauge pump as the deer, head down, lunged at Mark. Mark, all five foot seven of him, calmly “high ported” his Browning Superposed, right into the buck’s horns and the deer began shaking him like a rag doll.

While the deer’s attention was focused on Mark, John drug Crystal away. Rooster was now posted strategically behind me as I finally got my shotgun loaded and up to my shoulder. The buck was still shaking Mark like a rag doll and my two double oughts at three feet dropped the deer in its tracks.

Whew! This battle lasted for less than thirty seconds. The longest thirty seconds imaginable. As we loaded up Crystal and hurried to the nearest Vet’s office, we took stock of our situation. Except for John’s torn pants, no hunters hurt; one dog down and seriously injured, Mark “all shook up”, one dead deer, and deer season was still one week off. In fifteen minutes we pulled up to a Vet’s office in Jonesboro and ten minutes later we found out Crystal was dead. John was crushed!

Returning to the scene of the battle and looking closely at the deer, we saw that it was a nice, seven pointer, probably close to a sixteen inch inside spread, that, at least three days before, had been shot by a poacher in the left hindquarter. The wound was festering and gangrene, or the deer equivalent, had set in and the buck must have been in great pain. Checking out the area, we found a large quantity of corn spread around the honeysuckle patch. At least two game laws had been broken. One, shooting deer in Georgia over bait was illegal and, two, the deer had been shot at least ten days before deer season opened.

We found the local Game Warden and told him what had happened, but don’t know if any action was taken or if the perpetrator was apprehended. Three weeks later we returned for another hunt at this spot and discovered that someone had come in and cut the deer’s horns off.

As a sidelight, some may not know what “high porting” is. It’s a term applied to hand to hand combat training with a rifle, expensive shotgun in this case, where the weapons weight is evenly balanced in both hands at shoulder height and used to block and parry an opponents thrusts with a bayonet or butt stock. Mark, a Viet Nam veteran, former Air Force Officer and Navigator in a B-52, had used the technique perfectly!