Scouting is hope. You can pore through aerial maps, ride the roads, and ask others where to look for your chosen quarry, but the real excitement doesn’t start building until you do some actual snooping around. Sometimes the things you find aren’t exactly what you went seeking, but are certainly thrilling.
This last weekend I finally burned calories wandering around Chassahowitzka (Part I, II, III). Emerging from a swamp bottom off the North Road, Dad and I cut a set of large hog tracks. Really large. One set of hoofprints led up the hill, and a corresponding set led back down the road to the swamp. We followed the tracks for a hundred yards or so to a skinny pine sapling in the middle of a burned scrub flat, far from the cover of the cypress. The poor tree had been rubbed raw by the hog. Teeth marks were gashed into the bark. The most remarkable aspect of this find was the height of the rub – up to my hip, and I am six feet tall. This was a bad boy, the Darth Vader of swine.
He had obviously been using this tree for some time. Why he chose this particular one and wandered all this way to it is beyond me. On a place that runs dogs throughout a good portion of the season, this pig had obviously been pretty smart or pretty lucky to avoid capture, though I will say I pity any mutt that decides to latch onto his ear. Heck, maybe he has slashed one or two in his time. Again, I’ll never know.
On a hiking trail through the thick black-water, mosquito-breeding cypress swamp off Rattlesnake Camp Road, we found a couple of old boards nailed into a tree. You’d be excommunicated these days for doing such a thing. Dad remarked it was possible some boy killed his first deer off that stand. I thought the stand was so old somebody may have killed their first bear off of it. No telling.
And I guess I should be excited by the turkey potential, too. We jumped a flock of a dozen hens in one swamp. Following the old fire trail into the dark, we heard the rushing noise of stampeding critters through the head-high vegetation. Only when they took flight did I realize it was turkeys and not some blood-thirsty beastie.
We found tracks in a burned flat and up and down the roads. Wish we could have spied a gobbler or some strut marks, but no. Identifying roosting trees? Ha! They are all roosting trees at this place. The continuous swamp is a repeating cartoon background of tall cypress and pines. The two of us walked many a mile down hiking paths and trails and identified some promising spots. From there, it’s a gamble of where to set up.
Sorry, but I’m gonna play coy for now on the location of these places. When I lay a bird low, I’ll share these spots as my chances of drawing this hunt again are slim. Hopefully though, I’ll leave a blueprint for another lucky hunter needing some advice.
There’s nothing left to do now. I won’t have any more chances to scout. The weekends are getting busy again. I have a general plan of how to proceed. The birds will gobble or they won’t. If they do, I can go to my woodsmanship and calling “skills.”
I’m crossing my fingers the birds and weather will cooperate - it all comes down to hope.