Deer hunters in the Lowcountry of South Carolina follow a proven formula for New Year’s Day success. Gathering friends together for a man drive produces memorable action, and also serves as the only way to hunt thickets known to hold deer. Hunters can seize this day as the final opportunity to harvest some venison for the freezer, or in this case, to harvest a trophy doe with some unique hoofs.
Any driven hunt begins with careful instructions about skirmish line protocol, the wearing of blaze orange and thinking safety first. Drivers walk side by side hollering, while standers await their quarry. One never knows whether they will have better luck as a driver or as a stander, but everyone will rotate duties.
Plenty of these man drives are executed without a shot being fired, and close encounters with a deer can leave a lasting impression. The dwarf palmettos are dense in the swamp and offer great bedding habitat for deer. During the first man drive of the morning my stand location was in a likely spot for success. Due to windy conditions I could not hear the drivers yelling, and the woods were alive with movement.
Then at 9 a.m. a blur of a deer came right at me from seemingly out of nowhere. It was a doe and it was not too big, but it was compact and running in a straight line. Getting the shotgun off my shoulder in time to make a quick shot, I was woefully behind this moving target. Keeping the gun swinging I got off another round of buckshot, shooting through a dwarf palmetto frond, and watching to my dismay as the doe kept going. Almost out of view, she fell over and expired, and I felt very fortunate to have made good on this sporting shot at a great memory.
Now sitting on red alert for more deer trying to run by me at warp speed, the woods remain unchanged for the next thirty minutes. At 9:30 another large doe shows up trotting by my stand, giving me what seemed like all day to fire. She literally came to a crashing halt with all four hoofs sticking up. I could see that the hoofs were elongated and curved upward at the end, almost like the shoes of an elf?
I suddenly became aware that I harvested something very unique, since few things in nature are as uniform as the hoofs on a deer. With a bit of research I found that the condition is called ‘foundering.’ Whatever the reason, these unique hoofs make a great way to start the 2013 deer season and a taxidermist is preserving them in the form of a gun rack. Man drivers are often happy in their work of walking the woodlands, and the memories these hunts create help to validate the outdoors as a worthy part of holiday traditions. I am already looking forward to the man drive for deer on January 1, 2014.