By Brandon Williams
As I woke, the first day of the hunting season is finally here. I slipped on today’s suit, not the typical hospital scrubs I don most days, but the pattern of tree limbs, leaves, and wood bark to disguise myself in these familiar woods. As I make my way to the tree I am going to scale, I walk softly as to not give away my presence in this serene place. Once at my tree I quietly unpack my climbing stand and scale the tree high into the air. Finally settled into my stand, it seems as though I have slipped into the forest unnoticed.
As I prepare for the duration of today’s hunt, I am shrouded in the glow of the morning’s moonlight. The forest provides the typical night life sounds, small mice scurrying around, opossum and skunks foraging. As night fades and gives rise to the first rays of the sun, the hunt is underway. The dew is raining down, creating rustling of the leaves, birds awaken to collect this morning bounty for their chicks, the squirrels come alive chattering at even the slightest unfamiliar sounds announcing their annoyance.
The sun light gives the forest a life only experienced by those who dare to venture in. My eyes, which were acclimated to the moon light, now views the woods differently. Whereas before, I could make out certain stumps, trees and ground foliage, now I am able to see the forest in its entirety and beauty, nestled in the trees, with the Conasauga River at my back, the sounds of flowing water relax me into almost a slumber.
The night prior, it was hard to fall asleep with the anticipation of this season’s first hunt. Thinking about all the preparation that went into the hunting season, countless hours of target practice, sending hundreds of arrows into a target, imagining it was a trophy buck or a state record black bear. Hunting new areas, scouting for game trails, bedding areas, learning the new fora and fauna this new area has to offer. The chance to score a northwest Ga whitetail buck, black bear, or maybe a feral hog or two. In the woods, for the first time in more than a decade, was a new experience, yet felt familiar.
The familiarity experienced was limited to the smells, sounds, and trees. As a boy, I hunted the flat lands of South Georgia, mostly on Double Eagle Hunting Club. This land was mostly planted pines, a few low-lying swamps, and dirt roads for miles. Whereas here, in northwest Georgia, hunting the mountain was a completely new experience.
My first scouting efforts pushed me almost past my physical abilities. The mountain I attempted to climb was Elder Mountain in Tennessee which at its peak is more than 1800 feet above sea level. The land was divided into a lower and upper section, separated by power lines. The lower section provided three major ridges ascending more than 450 feet from the base. The upper section provided a rock outcropping with views of Lookout Mountain. These two very different landscapes provide hunters a unique hunting experience where one has to traverse the ridges and valleys and the other is walking at an incline watching every step to ensure not to slip on the rocks.
There are other facets of the mountain hunting experience one needs to contend with, such as the wind flowing up the valleys carrying your scent, which valley the animal will run into, and how the mountain can aid in your ability to remain hidden. The wind gusts or updrafts can carry your scent up the mountain to give away your presence long before you see your prey.
While hunting uphill from the truck may seem like a great thing, the hunter has to remember the game may be in the next valley over. This means they have to carry or pull the game animal up the valley to the ridge then back down. There are stories that tell of 20 men, carrying one black bear on a ridge pole out of the woods.
Lastly, the mountain can provide significant cover for the hunter in places where there is only one way down through the rocks. This leads to a perfect spot to take your shot. There is a steep learning curve for hunting in these mountains, with a tremendous amount left for me to learn and I am excited for the next opportunity for me to venture out into the mountains of northwest Georgia and southern Tennessee to experience the natural beauty these places have to offer and pursue the game animals of this area.