I woke up at 4:15 am and was in a Jeep bumping over a dirt road by 5:30 am. I was joined by our guide Josh, Joe Estenes, a former police officer and hunter from Sarasota Florida, and riding shotgun, our favorite Shooter, Paul Shoul.
We were headed to a shooting shack, a little plastic container that holds three people up on stilts near a dirt road frequented by white tail deer. We were there to hunt, but mostly, we waited. Great Southern Outfitters takes people out on their 6000 acres of woods and fields to hunt quail, deer, wild pig and for bass fishing.
I realized in that early morning darkness, just before the sun came up at 5:58, that I don’t spend enough time like this. Pure, unadulterated silence. Sitting in the shack, looking out over that road, silent for hours. At one point I was embarrassed by a tri-tone chime text message from my iPhone, damn! Turn that thing off! Silence resumed. We watched as slowly four tom turkeys emerged from the woods. “Be careful they have really good eyesight and they’ll spot us!” whispered Josh. We remained motionless with our cameras trained on the birds.
We maintained radio silence as the birds began scratching into the dirt, looking for spiders and bugs. Josh said he cut open a turkey’s stomach once to discover hundreds of whole spiders inside. They looked just like our chickens at home, scratching with a leg and pulling back the dirt to find the bugs.
But we were after deer, not turkey. In the distance, after more of this lovely silence, we heard two shots ring out, then another two. It was Joe…so Josh sent him a text to hear later that he had shot the first buck of his adult hunting life. There were two and he missed the bigger one with a six point rack of antlers.
I am not much of a hunter, but I do love that silence in the woods. I need more of that.