I was in Atlanta back in 2000 for Super Bowl XXXIV when Tennessee came oh-so-close to being crowned champions in a thrilling finish. Certainly, those days were the highlight of Air McNair, who has since passed. As the clock struck midnight after the game, I realized three things simultaneously:
- It was January 31, closing day of the Alabama firearms season and I still had a tag from a hunt earlier in the month hunt that proved non-fatal
- I was only 2 hours from Cusseta, Alabama, an area I had hunted before
- My boy Vance Kilgore, a total deer junkie and hunting pal of mine, was bound to still have his crazy Alabama butt wide-awake. The dude has crazy Energizer Bunny energy like me, so it’s not wonder we get along so well for a Yankee and a southern boy.
I dialed up Vance and gave him my 20 and told him I wanted one more shot at that big old 8-point I was after earlier in the month with my bow. He said in a Vance-like way, “Alllright Farbz, getcho Yankee ass over here and I’ll put you along a cut that sits right up on some X-mas trees. We saw that buck out in the cow pasture right by that stand 2 mornings ago chasing tail. I’ll drop you and you can make your way to it as the sun rises.”
Upon receiving this exciting news, I decided to cut the partying short and retreated to the hotel room and fell into bed to snag a few hours of shut-eye before getting up at 4 am to drive to ‘Bama.
I popped out of bed like a morel mushroom does out of the ground on a perfect spring day and jumped into the rental car and hit the road. As I made my way towards Alabama, I started thinking to myself “One of the key things to do in life is to take action”. I mean, here I am in Atlanta for the Super Bowl and the partying but I’ll be damned if I can pass on a chance to get after old “Freak Nasty”, as my Bone Collector homies call the “monarch of the woods”. I have always believed that to miss a great morning hunt, unless the excuse is your health or a pressing family matter, is a crying shame.
The weather was stellar, the roads were a little frosted over and the temperature was a chilly 28 degrees. I had “the feeling” on this day and I just felt that the old 8-pointer and I had a date with destiny this morning. I pulled into Cusseta and to the parking lot where Vance and I meet up and he started laughing at the little Toyota rental car I was driving. We jumped in his maroon Chevy Silverado that has been to hell and back several times, drank some coffee, ate a couple of biscuits and drove to the land lease that held the buck I was after. Vance pointed in the direction where the stand was hung and just like that I was on my way.
Dressed in a green trench coat, a pair of loafers with the warmest socks I could find and not much for layers, I set out to find the stand. As I was walking I thought to myself, “Farbz, this is pretty damn cool. I feel like it’s going down today.”
The sun was starting to make its way up into the sky and I had to stop for a moment and breathe it in to admire its beauty. It was one of those surreal sunrises, and with each breath the air was filled with smoke and I just knew this was a morning where I was not confusing activity with results. With Vance’s .30-30 in hand, I made my way into the cut to where I guessed the stand was hung based on his directions. Much to my pleasure, I was right on the money and I climbed up into the ladder stand. I had no gloves other than a thin gardening pair Vance loaned me. I also had an old school grunt call and a pack of chips. I started giggling to myself as I looked at my mustard-colored socks that stuck out like a hunter’s sore thumb. There I sat on the stand, looking ridiculous but positive the big 8 was coming to me on that morning. I felt it and I knew it.
In life, we have times where we decide not to act on something that we feel deep inside of us. I believe these are the moments where we run a risk of having regrets in our future. When it comes to hunting, business, family, you name it, I always trust my intuition. I trust that there is a certain perfect order to the world and it will guide me in fluid fashion when I trust it. This morning was a perfect example of trusting my gut, trusting that this random treestand in Alabama was the perfect place for me to be. As the sun rose it was bitter cold and I was literally shivering. Even though I am a Michigan boy with cold-blooded loving threaded through me, it was undeniably cold on this morning in Alabama of all places. I have since surmised that the damp cold of Alabama can be downright bone-chilling in late January.
I glanced down at my watch and noticed it was 7:48 am. As I looked up, a doe heavily in heat came trotting past my stand. Another doe following her came to a screeching halt and stared straight up the tree at me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw his rack sticking out above some tangle to the north. As he came closer, I saw his neck was massive and his rack was bone-white. There was no doubt about it, this was him.
My shivering from the cold instantly converted to hard core buck fever shaking. I had to remain as still as I could as the second doe and I were in a deep stare down; she knew I was there but couldn’t prove it with her eyes. I kept thinking what I wouldn’t do to have camo on, as I felt so darn naked up there in my cheesy J.Crew trench coat and exposed mustard socks. Nonetheless as the buck made his way behind the does, he pushed Miss Suspicious on her way. The white-horned 8-point was a mere 40 yards away. I shouldered the .30-30 and put the iron sights behind his shoulder, turned off my safety and BAM. The buck kept moving as if nothing happened so I racked another shell and let it fly and he kept on chasing with his head down.
Reaching into my trench coat pocket with my near-frost-bitten hand, I grabbed my old grey Motorola Nextel jumbo size phone and called Vance. “Dude, I think I smoked that big 8-point but I am not sure. It all happened so damn quick man.” Vance replied, “Coooool man, real cool. Sit tight, Farbz, and I’ll be there fast as I’m just down yonder. I am bringing Buddy with me in case we need some help with the blood.” Buddy is a bad ass yellow lab that is beyond loyal to Vance and he also is one heck of a dog on blood. Years later I would name a dog after him, another yellow lab and my Buddy is loyal like Vance’s Buddy.
Fifteen minutes later I heard the bed of Vance’s truck rattling and within no time Buddy was out on the prowl. As I was climbing down the tree I heard Vance yell out, “Oh yeah buddy this is him alright. Nice shooting Farbz. You put both shots in him man!” Few things after shooting at a big buck that you do not see fall are more relieving, exhilarating, and awesome then being told your buck is down and recovered. Forgetting I was in loafers and a trench coat, I sprinted into the X-mas trees and red clay-covered ground, completely trashing my clothes.
Walking up to this awesome Alabama creature I was admittedly choked up. I looked at Vance and said, “man, this was fate today bro. I mean something inside me said get out there and make this happen. Sometimes you have to call an audible and follow your gut. You know what I mean Vance? I got to see a Super Bowl and I even got to harvest a Super Bowl Buck, hell yes man!”
Vance nodded his head put his arm around me as I embraced Buddy and gave him mad praise for his recovery of this beautiful animal. I caped the buck out and we ate a back strap for a late morning brunch. As the air warmed up and the sun began to take its course, I cracked a PBR and to this day that was one of the best cold beers I have consumed. Sometimes in life we have to follow the advice from the movie Risky Business and just say “what the heck” and go for it. This was one of those days. The old white-horned 8-point Alabama monarch will always be “The Super Bowl Buck” to me!