Hunting With Trips4Trade For The Buck Of A Lifetime
Ben Cole 01.29.19
Hunting whitetail deer in Alabama is something I’ve done for most of my hunting career. Over the years opportunities to harvest stellar bucks have been few and far between but their memories are fresh and stand out the most. Deer hunting in Alabama can be very challenging at time due to the sporadic weather patterns, furthermore seeing a mature buck while afield doesn’t happen often.
Recently I received a call from Slade Johnston, asking if I wanted to accompany him for a guys weekend with Trips4Trade in Ward Alabama. After giving it some thought I gladly accepted the invite to join. Upon arrival Slade and Jake Gillikin were waiting to discuss the upcoming hunts. After talking for quite awhile about different bucks that were shooters and non shooters I had two beautiful bucks on the list that were fully mature and sported a very nice rack. Now this was Jakes first hunt so he was allowed to shoot whatever buck made him happy if it were to walk by.
After a quick nap we loaded up to head to our designated stands that were a short drive from the camp house. I walked down an old road leading to an open flat of fruit trees planted by Gary Fortenberry, Slade’s Late grandfather, who had a pure passion for the outdoors as well as hunting. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing Mr. Fortenberry but his legacy lives on through Slade and Grand Slam Outdoors. As I situated everything in the blind a young buck stepped out feeding along the road way. He fed for quite a while as other deer filtered into the opening of the trees in search of food. It wasn’t long until a doe stepped out at the end of the shooting lane, looking a little distressed I decided to take a closer look with my Voretex Binocolars to see what she was doing. I soon realized, as a giant buck stepped out, why she was so jumpy. With a single leap she dissapeared into the brush as the giant made his way across the opening. He was all bristled up in hot pursuit but stopped long enough for a clean shot. I settled the crosshairs, steadied the Remington Model 783 chambered in .308, controlled my breathing and squeezed the trigger. With the shot being made and watching the buck drop I thought the shot was delivered perfectly.
After a short celebration, thanking the Lord and unloading the 783 I exited the blind to look for blood. Unfortunately blood wasn’t located where he was standing, thus bringing on a little panic. I backed out waiting for Slade at the UTV in hopes of finding him without bumping him. With several hours behind us we took a walk in different directions looking for any signs of blood amongst the leaves. My stomach was in a knot thinking I had made a poor shot on such a magnificent buck. Just before we met again blood was spotted and the track began. This was a track of the century, leading us through thick swamp mud, water and thick pines.
Despite our hopes of finding him quickly the blood trail was lost after walking 500 yard shot or so. We marked the last blood with an orange vest and decided to bring in some dogs to help locate the deer. Slade made several phone calls ultimately resulting in a group of guys willing to meet us after dark with some outstanding tracking dogs.
All afternoon the shot played over and over in my head. Time literally stood still as I waited on darkness and the arrival of the hounds but there was great joy that afternoon as Jake harvested a beautiful buck, which was his first! While Jake and James Johnston cleaned his deer, Slade and I set out to find this buck with the help of Morgan Jenkins, Nic Boykin, Wade Mcilwain, and Brannan Doggett. The plan was to set their tracking hounds free at the last blood. Taking the path on the the GPS created by the dogs let to more and more blood but no sign of him yet. Thoughts of losing this buck ran through my head due to the fact our chances of finding him were growing slim with each passing minute. While listening for the dogs to sound off, we all talked amongst each other about hog hunting as well as other things to pass the time.
Out of no where the hounds made a deep bellowing bark signifying their find! Everyone jumped to action sprinting to the location on their trackers. Although wanting to keep up, I fell behind realizing that I hadn’t ran that far in a long time. Breaking through the brush and seeing this buck laying merly 50 yards from out truck emotions of joy flooded out like a waterfall. This buck was special, not only for Trips4Trade but for me on a personal level.
Three months ago I lost Corbin Davis, who was a best friend and hunting partner for the last 15 years. Every time we hunted together he would always come out with a deer and I wouldn’t see anything. He knew the woods very well, patterned deer well and watched them for years. After the funeral I made a promise to harvest a buck in his memory, thus why it was such an emotional experience locating this deer. From now own it will be called the Corbin Davis Buck to honor my dear friend as well as be a constant reminder of him every time I look at the mount.
Cherish your friendships, love the Lord and be thankful for every day spent afield despite being successful or not. I am forever greatful to Slade, Trips4Trade and everyone else involved in making this come together the way it did. This was an experience of a lifetime that will not soon be forgotten!