Thursday, September 2, 2010
Tale of the Green Flagging Tape
Hunters get awfully peckish when their honey-holes are trampled upon by interlopers. I’ve been in the game long enough to witness a few unfriendly interactions. Know of once great campmates refusing to speak to each other when one person or another did not respect a buffer zone. It’s childish, sure, but like any large land predator that’s staked a hunting area, trespassers that aren’t immediate kin of the pride are treated with hostility.
Upon entering my favorite oak hammock last Saturday, Dad and I were greeted with disgusting, foreign ribbons of green flagging tape, marking a trail back into “my” spot. When we got in there, someone had also wrapped this ribbon exactly where I sat in a ground blind the previous year. This person was probably thinking the same strategy when he or she toilet-papered the tree with ribbon. I was incensed.
Let’s backtrack, though. We are talking about Duette Park in Manatee County. They lotto hunts to the citizenry every year. I would call it semi-public land. The hunting is good. For the last five seasons, I had been hunting this particular hammock – Dad before that.
Now, there’s nowhere on any map that names this locale “Nance Hammock.” In fact, I have for years avoided putting up flagging tape for fear of drawing attention to the area. I know how to hunt this spot and have spent hours and hours and hours and hours in its warm embrace.
I hung my lock-on stand near the creek bottom where the deer typically travel in the morning. I hung a ladder stand – only allowed two stands on this property – near the palmetto flat under the live oaks that drop the acorns that fuel the evening feed. All this time, annoyed that the problem of this other person may interfere with a long-standing and successful plan. Assuming we drew the same weekends, I can assure you there’s no room for a third stand in between.
Let’s backtrack once more, lest you think I am a filthy pig for obviously and fragrantly trampling upon another’s rights. Duette Park allows hunters to hang stands a few weekends before the season starts. This year it was Saturday, August 28th. Gates opened at 8 am. We showed up at 7:45 and dutifully waited our chance to enter. Given the number of people there and the logistics of the property, there was no conceivable way another person could have driven all the way out there, walked the ¾ mile into the woods and hung tape without us seeing that person or finding fresh tire tracks leading that direction.
No, what happened was, dollars to doughnuts, is that person went out some time before us on a day that was not permitted to hang stands and wrapped their presence in hopes of warding others off. If this were allowed, I can assure you I would long ago have erected a barbed wire fence with a wooden Ranch Sign at the entrance called, yes, “Nance Hammock” along with “No Trespassing: Ye Has Been Warned” notices on the fenceposts.
Of course, that can’t be done. I will concede, though I abided by the letter of the law, hanging my stands was a bit of a buster move. Clearly, someone had the intent of hunting there. I don’t know why I am having this ethical personal conflict, but I am. I can’t rush to judgment on who this other person may be, but I am not willing to cede to an individual circumventing the rules.
Maybe the sickest feeling, and I am compelled by Redneck Nature to consider this, is the inevitable retribution. The very least – an angry phone call (contact information must be attached to the bottom half of any stand, another rule he or she committed to violating). Worse, maybe I will have to kiss those stands goodbye, though they are locked onto their respective trees. I was tempted to de-ribbon the oaks, but decided against this, not wanting to ignite an obnoxious tit-for-tat.
Worse still is that I climb my stand one morning and fall into my pre-dawn snooze and am awakened by Elmer ratcheting a climber up the tree next to me and the inevitable problems there. I don’t like these conflicts. I am there to hunt and enjoy peace in the woods.
Maybe, just maybe, things will work out OK. A few years ago, I hung my stands and returned to hunt and discovered someone put a tripod not 30 yards away. We apparently didn’t draw the same weekend because I never saw that hunter. The same could happen here. Out of like ten weekends offered, I drew three hunts, all primitive seasons. Better than a puncher’s chance I don’t cross paths with this individual.
Better still would be what happened two years ago. I broke the rules. I had waited out a thunderstorm before heading to my hammock to place my stands. I saw vehicle tracks when I arrived, but no stand or flagging tape. A couple weeks later I was in Gainesville for a Gators vs. Hurricanes tilt and received a phone call from a gentleman wondering why I had so egregiously violated another hunter’s space.
He and his grandson wanted to hunt there. He had fought the rain and placed a climber on a tree before I arrived, but had hid it in the palmettos where I did not see it, concerned, and rightly so, that someone would steal it. We exchanged civil discourse and explained what weekends we would be there. The hunts that overlapped, I sat in one of Dad’s stands. All went well in the end.
When you share the woods with others, things like this happen. I do feel pangs of ethical guilt. Again, though, by rule I was in the right.