The Warfords are a deer and turkey hunting clan and have been as far back as anyone remembers. All my life I have been hearing deer and turkey hunting stories. As a kid I tagged along on several deer hunting trips but was never present when a deer was killed. My father was in the Air Force and while we visited as often as we could we were rarely in Arkansas during deer or turkey season. We were in Germany from the time I was 13 (1973) until I was 16 (1976). I was home for only one deer season before my grandfather passed away in 1977.
In the winter of 1976 my Pappaw sat my brother, cousin and I along a fence line on the old Griffith place and then let the hound dogs lose on the other side of the woods we were facing. We all heard the dogs coming toward us and then we heard what we thought was a deer moving parallel to us out of sight just inside the tree line. David, Shane and I were cold and frustrated when we headed back to the truck. The day would probably have been forgotten entirely but for an incident on the way back to the truck when a flock of black birds flew too close to our little group. Without one word being said by anyone the sky was suddenly filled with buckshot. That day has since been referred to in Warford family folklore as “the day it rained blackbirds.”
Little did I know that my first deer hunting trip would be my last for almost 40 years. From 1976 until 2006 deer and turkey hunting stories were rarely part of my life. Then in 2006 my oldest daughter, Melissa, married Heath Freeman. Heath is a hunter and comes from a family where women as well as men were hunters. It was not long until he had both of my daughters not only in the woods but killing deer and turkey. It was good to hear deer and turkey hunting stories again. It was after all part of our family heritage.
The girls, especially Melissa have been after me to let them take me hunting. This past week I decided to make time to go hunting. I was counting on what my Pappaw called beginners luck and it showed up big time. We were on the deer stand about an hour when Melissa, who was acting as my guide, spotted a young buck that was not legal. I was watching the young buck when Melissa became very excited. “Dad, dad there is a big buck coming through the woods.” He is going to pop out. Do you see him, do you see him?” She was whispering but very excited and I was staring up and down the tree line, I could see nothing. I was breathing hard and my glasses started to fog up. I told myself, you better calm down or you are going to mess up. You know how to shoot, focus – sight picture, breath control, trigger squeeze. I was calming down but I still could not locate the deer. Finally I realized the deer was to my side almost behind me and my view was blocked by a cedar tree. There was a gap in the cedar tree’s branches where I might have a shot but the deer was going to have to move out a few more steps. He was an older deer and he did not get that way by being reckless. He looked back and forth before he moved as if he were about to cross a busy street. Finally he stepped from the woods right into the only spot where I could have taken the shot. Call it beginners luck if you like but everything went perfect. I squeezed off a shot and the deer bolted down the tree line and out of sight. I was sure I had hit him but he sure did not act like it. Melissa and I ran ten yards or so in the same direction he ran and then we heard a big crash. He had run thirty or forty yards, jumped a brush pile, a fence and fell. I had killed my first deer. It was a nice nine pointer. I think Melissa was as excited as I was. I know my Pappaw would be pleased and I sure was. It was a good hunt. When is turkey season?