"HUNTING WITH OLD FRIENDS" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Setting in an elevated box blind on the edge of the Long Field at Big Woods on the Trinity, situated below Richland Chambers Reservoir in Anderson County, I enjoyed a bit of quiet time. Every hunter knows the period I am alluding to, there is just enough early morning light to illuminate the outline of trees but not enough to see deer, distant packs of coyotes open with their morning hello chorus to others of their species, the hoot of a owl tells the world day is about to break and its time for night roaming creatures to head to their dens. This is the time when I do my most introspective thinking. In my hands is an old Winchester Model 88 in .243 caliber. Its been in the family for almost a half century and for many years, it was my only hunting rifle. I remember my mother harvesting her first, and only buck with it back in the mid sixties. I thought the title of Hunting with old friends would be appropriate for this weeks column, the rifle was certainly an old friend, and I was hunting with two other old friends, Dr. Robert McFarlane, owner of Big Woods and his head guide Heath Burney. Waiting for shooting light, I began thinking about the time I was hunting with my son Mathew 24 years ago. Matt was 10 years old then and we enjoyed many days together, spending time in our little hunting cabin in Jack County, Texas, hunting and trapping. We had just taken a nice buck with the rifle and I asked Matt if he wanted to make a quick walk of about a quarter mile and see if we could ambush a turkey gobbler heading to roost. We spotted a flock of birds and the little .243 dropped a fat Thanksgiving gobbler at a distance of just over 200 yards. It was a very accurate rifle back in the day. About twenty years ago, it simply quit shooting straight. I cleaned it thoroughly; even put a new scope on it but to no avail, the old lever action wouldnt hit a 5 gallon bucket at fifty yards. I retired it to the gun rack, where it stood until last year when Buffalo, Texas gunsmith Wayne Chapman worked his magic and returned the rifle to its former accuracy. These days, I do the majority of my big game hunting with one of my Mathews bows or a TC muzzleloader. When the opportunity to spend a couple days at Big Woods hunting deer and hogs arose, I decided it would be a great opportunity to break the little rifle out of retirement. I was on a meat quest, a big meal of chicken fried venison at deer camp last week finished off my supply of venison from last year. There is a surplus of big eight point bucks at Big Woods and my goal was to hang one on the meat pole. Wild hogs are extremely plentiful on this 7,500 acre hunting paradise and I knew chances were excellent to procure plenty of fresh pork chops for the BBQ. Our annual sausage making day is coming up and I needed some pork to grind with the venison for the smoked summer sausage. Big Woods has never let me down. I live less than 2 hours from Big Woods and arrived at the ranch mid morning. Heath informed me deer and hogs had been moving well throughout the day. You can probably take a doe and maybe a hog during mid day. Weve got plenty of food plots planted and they are really hitting the green fields. You can hunt the stand on the Long Field this evening, there has been a huge 8 pointer sighted there recently. says Heath as we drive back toward Checkerboard Woods, one of the most game rich pieces of East Texas real estate Ive ever hunted. We parked several hundred yards back in the timber and eased up through the woods to the edge of the field, staying just inside the timber for cover. Sure enough, three mature doe were feeding on the cover crop of lush turnips. I took a good rest and settled the sights just behind the shoulder of the largest. Early into the hunt, we had some prime venison hanging on the meat pole back at camp. Heath took me to the Long Field and I took note how to return to the area later that afternoon by myself. The area was covered with deer and hog sign. I noted several big rubs along the edge of the timber and found a scrape under the overhanging limb of an oak. This looked good, REALLY GOOD! Early in the afternoon, I returned to the blind and settled in for the evening. The Long Field is appropriately named. The distant end of the field is over a quarter mile from the stand and through binoculars, I spotted several deer feeding. A couple doe and two young bucks came out near my stand, almost within bow range. Then, with an hour or so of shooting light left, I spotted a monster buck on the distant end of the field. He was with several does and I knew he wasnt about to leave, a well executed stalk could put me within shooting range. Fifteen minutes later, I closed the distance to 400 yards, only to watch the deer slowly work their way back into the woods. As I slipped along quietly in the direction of the stand I had left, I spotted eight black objects in the distance. Wild hogs had moved in to feed on the field and I needed some fresh pork! The stalk began anew and I watched the herd feeding slowly toward a distant fence line. I set up on the edge of the fence, downwind and with the protection of high weeds for cover. A fat little sow was moving a few yards ahead of the others, JUST what I needed for my upcoming BBQ! With pork hanging in the cooler back at camp, alongside the doe I had harvested earlier in the day, I was a happy hunter. Dr. McFarlane and I visited a bit at the lodge that evening and after reading a chapter of Death in the Long Grass, I slept the sleep of a tired but contented hunter. The next morning, only minutes after shooting light, a big, mature 8 pointer eased out of the brush into the field and the little rifle once again helped me put venison on the table. Its good hunting with old friends, and they dont always have to be of the human persuasion! Photo by Luke Clayton For more information on hunting at Big Woods on the Trinity, go online to www.bigwoods.net. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com We have a virtual library of Luke's stories here on the BOC; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!