Sunday, September 25, 2011

DEER: Opening Day

DEER: Opening Day

       Opening day of deer season comes only one time per year for each state you hunt; therefore, to be successful in taking a whitetail with a bow on the first day of season can be a challenge.  Yesterday, September 24, 2011, was the opening day of Tennessee deer season with a bow and I took a large fat whitetail doe that will provide some excellent eating and replenish my freezer that was empty because of the power outage caused by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes.  While my hunting buddy and I were setting in our trees yesterday, we saw 21 deer walk past our stands.  Since I have harvested a deer with a bow on the opening day of season for four times in a row, I have decided to share some common facts that may increase your chances for a first day bow kill.

       Of course you need to get out about a week prior to the beginning of deer season and do some intensive scouting of the area you are planning to hunt.  Be sure to look for large oak trees with an abundance of fresh acorns falling to the ground.  Many trees may have a few acorns on the ground and you may see a few deer tracks, but you need to scout until you find that special oak tree or group of oaks that have lots of activity and sign that deer are coming to the area on a regular basis.  Do not climb a tree just because it has a few acorns and looks like a good area.  Do not hunt a trail just because it is well worn since many times these trails are nocturnal routes of deer moving from bedding to feeding areas and are used mostly at night.  Remember, this article is about the opening day and deer are not spooked from many hunters being in the woods; therefore, they will use open woodlands at the first of bow hunting season in search of their favorite food-acorns.

       So what do I recommend for you to harvest that whitetail with a bow on the opening day of deer season?  I have already mentioned that special oak tree and now for the specifics.  Find an oak that has an abundance of acorns and you will probably see a bunch of squirrels who also zero in on the food source.  In addition to acorns, the ground should show sign of several deer using the area and the ground will be trampled up with many many deer tracks.  But the most important thing to look for is fresh droppings that indicate the deer are bedding nearby and coming to the area prior to taking their daily dump.  If you can find five or six piles of fresh droppings and maybe more old piles, you can bet that your chances of seeing a deer are magnified by the number of piles you find.  Again, the following is what you should look for:  1) an abundance of acorns, 2) ground pulverized with tracks, and 3) five to six piles of fresh deer droppings within twenty yards of the tree.

       What oak trees should you look for?  My all time favorite tree is the white oak, but at this time of the year they are not dropping acorns very consistently; therefore, look for other oaks that are supplying food to the deer.  In Tennessee, the northern red oaks have big acorns and are dropping acorns on a regular basis now.  Another oak that are also being used by whitetails are the mountain oak that have the largest acorns in this area, but at the first of season are somewhat bitter.  I watched a buck bust and eat the big mountain oak acorns yesterday.  Also the yellow chestnut oak (chinkquapin) is also dropping acorns and these are relatively small acorns, but the deer love them.   White oaks are best in the middle of October.  In the late part of the year, shumard oaks, post oaks, scarlet oaks, willow oaks, and water oaks are good for late season forage.

       However, you are not yet assured of killing your whitetail deer on opening day of season.  The tree you select to climb is the next task at hand.  Usually in this area, the best stand location is to the east of the special tree you have selected to hunt.  The wind blows more from the north, south, and west in our location, but always be aware of the wind direction because a deer's best defense is its nose.  Most of the times deer will approach a tree they are feeding on from the area of most dense cover where they bed; therefore, be aware of the most likely route deer will take to pass by your stand.  In addition, be sure you select a stand location that has some cover that will hide your outline.  The second best defense of a deer is its eyesight; therefore, do not climb a tree that makes you stand out like a flag on a pole.  Also, be very cautious of your movement in the tree which can give away your location.  Deer are very in tune with the movements around them even 20 feet up a tree.  Your motions should be slow and deliberate when a deer's head is behind a tree or leaves.

       Yesterday, as I set in my tree stand watching a bunch of squirrels constantly knocking big red oak acorns out of a tree, I knew it would not be long before I would see a deer.  As I looked under the big tree, I saw a six point velvet buck limping toward my stand.  His front right leg was hurt probably because of being hit by a car.  The only problem was that the buck was coming straight to my tree and not offering a good shot.  At ten yards, he smelled me and bolted right past my tree but stopped 10 yards on the other side of my stand.  In my excitement, I just plain missed, but it was not long until six more deer would come to the tree and none offered a good shot.  A very special moment did occur when a large spotted fawn came to the base of my tree and smelled where I had climbed.  I took a picture of the deer with both my tree stand and the deer in the picture.  However, the best moment was watching that young deer eat a large mushroom.  It took him three bites to consume that white mushroom.  The morning was over, but the afternoon hunt was just as exciting.

       Late in the afternoon, two bucks walked past my stand but did not offer a good shot.  They fed under the acorn tree and finally walked off.  Next a big doe came toward my tree but smelled me and turned in the other direction.  I was a little sleepy and not paying attention when another big doe came up within 10 yards to my extreme left side.  When I herd a slight noise and looked around, we were looking eye to eye.  It did not take her but a second to figure out that I was not suppose to be up that tree and she took off in a flash.  In a  few minutes later, two more deer approached the big red oak.  This time I waited until the deer fed and turned in the right direction for a clear shot.  After the shot, the big doe ran some 50 yards and expired.  This was the end of another successful opening day of deer season.

     Yesterday, I saw five small bucks from my tree stand and had a great time watching the wildlife and being in the woods where I always feel at home.  Bow hunting is my heritage.  It has been a part of my life since I was a small boy following my great grandpa George Curtis to the woods to make my first bow out of a white oak tree.  I plan to write that inspiring story later, but for now I hope you enjoy your opening day of deer season as much as I have.  Remember, find that special oak tree and I know you will be successful in your bow hunting adventures!!!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Chake Thlocko

Chake Thlocko

Chake Thlocko was the Indian term used for the river crossings of trails fording the Tennessee River at the Muscle Shoals.  These crossing were extremely important to Indian people and many of their larger towns were located at these sites.  My soon to be released book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief gives more details about the Chickamauga Indian towns along the river in north Alabama.

Governor William Blount referred to Doublehead as the principal chief of the lower Tennessee River Indian towns along the Muscle Shoals.  During his time in the Great Bend, Doublehead helped establish several Chickamauga towns along the Tennessee River with the help of the Creek, Shawnee, Yuchi, white sympathizers, relatives, and his loyal mixed bloods of Scots-Irish ancestry.  With this motley mix of warriors, Doublehead ruled the great crossing place of the Muscle Shoals known to the Indians as Chake Thlocko, Big Ford, or Great Crossing Place.  The Great Bend of the Tennessee River is the southernmost loop of the river where it turns south out of Tennessee into Alabama and runs east to west across the northern portion of Alabama before turning north back into Tennessee and through Kentucky to the Ohio River.

Numerous Indian trails, basically unknown to the white settlers encroaching into Chickamauga country, crossed along some 37 miles of the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River.  The trails crossed on a series of shoals which included:  Elk River Shoals, the most upstream; Big Muscle Shoals; Little Muscle Shoals; Colbert Shoals; Bee Tree Shoals; and, Waterloo Shoals, the most downstream of these rapids.  The shoals were created by a geologic feature consisting of layers of chert (flint) outcroppings that were very resistant to erosion.  This resistant rock formed stretches of rushing waters cascading over sharp rocky defiles which created very hazardous conditions for water travel. These shoals also had numerous sand bars and islands that only experienced Indian guides were able to safely navigate during high water levels and rainy seasons of the year.  The Tennessee River at the shoals dropped 134 feet vertically within some 37 miles from Elk River Shoals to Waterloo Shoals and created corridors for trail crossings.

The trails that crossed Chake Thlocko were used for hundreds of years by Indian inhabitants and were well known to Doublehead and his Chickamauga people.  These trails and roads provided easy routes east to the main Lower Cherokee towns, north to the Cumberland settlements, west to the Chickasaw towns on the upper Tombigbee, and south to the Creek towns including the Atlantic and Gulf Coast.  The routes also connected Indian towns to each other and to sacred hunting grounds that sustained Indian people for centuries.  In addition, most of these Indian trails were established along old animal paths that were initially used by huge herds of buffalo, elk, deer, and other wildlife for thousands of years as they migrated back and forth across the Tennessee Valley.

It was mainly the north-south routes that Doublehead’s Chickamauga warriors used to conduct raids against the Cumberland settlements from the Muscle Shoals.  The major northern routes to the French Lick or Big Lick (Nashville) included:  1). Mountain Leaders Trace crossed the Tennessee River at the mouth of Bear Creek at the Mississippi-Alabama state line and became portions of the Natchez Trace; 2) Old Buffalo Trail ran from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and became portions of the Byler Road.  After Doublehead upgraded the northern portion of the trail to a road, the Old Buffalo Trail became known as Doublehead’s Trace and portions of present-day highway101, to present-day Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, then to Nashville; 3) Sipsie Trail was made into the old Cheatham Road through Moulton, Alabama and was known as the Lamb’s Ferry Road after establishing the ferry crossing of the Tennessee River to Rogersville, to Minor Hill, Tennessee, then to Nashville; 4) Black Warriors’ Path from St. Augustine, Florida to Nashville, Tennessee was later called Mitchell Trace after a post route was established from Fort Mitchell in Russell County, Alabama to Fort Hampton in Limestone County, Alabama, to Elkton, Tennessee then north to the French Lick; 5) Old Jasper Road lay along the present-day corridor of highway 41 from Jasper, Alabama, crossed the Tennessee River at Rhodes Ferry in present-day Decatur, Alabama, and followed portions of highway 31 to the French Lick; and, 6) Great South Trail crossed the Tennessee River at Ditto’s Landing and became the Old Huntsville Road from Nashville to Tuscaloosa.

Doublehead and his raiders were not noted for taking prisoners unless he was accompanied by the Creek faction of the Chickamauga that would take captives deep into Alabama territory along the winding routes.  During most of the raids made by Doublehead's warriors, scalps and horses were highly prized items to take and bring back to the shoals along these numerous trails that crossed Chake Thlocko.  In addition, the rough Appalachain terrain to the east, Warrior Mountains to the south, and the Cumberland Plateau to the north of the Muscle Shoals added a protective but difficult barrier to access the Great Bend towns of Doublehead’s Chickamauga.

For more information about Doublehead and his Chickamauga people of the Muscle Shoals, be sure to sign up for your copy of the book today.  Also if you want to receive all the articles I write, become a member of my blog. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Standing Turkey

Standing Turkey

       In my new book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief, you can read about all of Doublehead's brothers and sisters.  Standing Turkey was one of Doublehead's older brothers that fought with him and the Chickamauga Confederacy.

       Standing Turkey (Gvnagadoga) was born about 1738 and died about 1785.  He was the great nephew of Old Hop and succeeded his uncle as chief of the Cherokee Nation for a brief period.  Old Hop, also known as Standing Turkey, died in August 1761 in Chota, the Overhill Towns Cherokee Capital, on the Little Tennessee River in Monroe County, Tennessee.

Standing Turkey-Doublehead's brother

       The young Standing Turkey was chief of the Cherokee Nation for only a short period in 1761.  It was the young Standing Turkey who led a four day assault on Fort Loudoun on the Little Tennessee River in 1760.  He went to Loudon with Henry Timberlake in 1762-1763 and signed the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which was an agreement with the Crown of England to allow no more white people or settlements west of the Appalachians.  In 1782 he was one of a party of the Chickamauga on a diplomatic mission to the Spanish at Fort St. Louis in Missouri to get arms and to receive permission to emigrate west from the Governor of Spanish Louisiana.

       Standing Turkey, also known as Cunne Shote or Kunagadoga, succeeded his uncle, Kanagatucko, or Old Hop, as First Beloved Man of the Cherokee upon the latter's death in 1760.  Pro-French like his uncle, he steered the Cherokee into war with the British colonies of South Carolina and Virginia in the aftermath of the murders of several Cherokee leaders held hostage at Fort Prince George at the edge of the Lower Towns of the Cherokee in what is now western South Carolina.  He held office until the end of the Anglo-Cherokee War in 1761, when he was deposed in favor of Attakullakulla. 

       He was one of three Cherokee leaders to go with Henry Timberlake to London in 1762-1763, the others being Ostenaco and Pidgeon.  In 1782, he was one of a party of Cherokee which joined the Lenape (Delaware), Shawnee, and Chickasaw in a diplomatic visit to the Spanish at Fort St. Louis in the Missouri country in seeking a new avenue of obtaining arms and other assistance in the prosecution of their ongoing conflict with the Americans in the Ohio Valley. The group of Cherokee by Standing Turkey sought and received permission to settle in Spanish Louisiana, in the region of the White River (Tanner, 1978). 

Standing Turkey, Ostenaco, and Pidgeon

       Standing Turkey, the brother of Doublehead, and members of the Chickamauga Confederacy were accompanied by factions of the Lower Cherokee, Delaware, Shawnee, and Chickasaw to seek arms and ammunition to carry on their war against white settlers encroaching on their ancestral hunting grounds and homelands.  According to the above reference in the year 1782, Doublehead’s Chickamauga Confederacy was still strong and contained factions of all the tribes even though Chickasaw Chief Piomingo had signed a peace agreement in 1781 with General James Robertson of the Cumberland settlements.  It is not sure how many rifles and the amount of ammunition, powder, and military supplies the Chickamauga Confederacy received from the Spanish.  Standing Turkey died within three years after his meeting with members of the Chickamauga and the Spanish.  The circumstances of Standing Turkey’s death are not known, but for sure he was fighting with his brother Doublehead against the Cumberland settlers.  

       If you want to read more about Doublehead and his family, be sure to sign up for your copy of my Doublehead book now.  Just let me know and I will add your name to the list.  If you have not become a member of my blog, please do so and you will automatically get all the stories I write.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Scrape Hunting Black Warrior Bucks

Scrape Hunting Bucks:
Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area
Rickey Butch Walker
Nearly 100 years ago, northern whitetail deer were stocked in the Black Warrior Wildlife Management Area of Bankhead National Forest in Winston and Lawrence Counties of Alabama.  They were trapped and shipped from Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Stocking efforts came after most of the last Alabama deer in the Bankhead Forest were killed out in 1903.  Today, the deer in the Black Warrior Management Area are a combination of a northern subspecies and a southern subspecies that were stocked some years ago from south Alabama; however, the rutting activities still appear to be earlier than other deer in Alabama. 
I killed my first whitetail deer with a bow in the Black Warrior Management Area in 1969 on the old Bunyan Hill Road that is now a part of the Sipsey Wilderness Area.  I still love to bow hunt the management area and the surrounding forest property.  For the last few years, I have been able to take a deer on opening day of bow season around acorn trees; however, hunting a hot scrape is still the most exciting time to be up a tree waiting for a big buck to make his visit.     
Two weeks ago in the middle of August, I found a huge territorial scrape with fresh droppings and a small twig over the scrape that was blackened with hormones.  However, the period of rut in the Black Warrior still begins by mid-October, which is usually the opening of archery season.  The first cold mornings stimulate the buck deer to begin increased rutting activity.  Scrapes and rubs in close proximity are a sure sign the rut is well under way.  The first good frost in Bankhead greatly increases scrape making and visitation which continues through the second week of November.  The rutting and scraping activity appear to be at its peak on Veterans Day (November 11) and makes a decline by the third week of November and appears to be about over by Thanksgiving.  Therefore, the best time to hunt scrapes in the Black Warrior is between October 15 and November 15.  After mid November, Black Warrior’s bucks forget scrape making and visitation and move more randomly in search of unserved does.  In late November, the scrape hunting method is no longer of great value because the buck becomes inconsistent in scrape visitation. 
From mid-October to mid-November, buck deer in Black Warrior will consistently visit a major scrape three to four times a week.  The best time to hunt a major scrape is very early in the morning especially after a rain.  Bucks usually visit scrapes during the first and last hours of daylight.  When hunting a scrape, it is important for the hunter to be settled into his tree stand at least 30 minutes before first light.  Access to the scrape you plan to hunt should be direct as possible. The hunter should avoid walking in or crossing the route which the buck is most likely using.  Human scent which is two hours old can spook even a rutting buck and cause him to leave the area and/or change his daily pattern. 
When climbing near a scrape early in the morning, the hunter should be extremely quiet.  I have had several nice bucks attracted to the noise of the tree stand rubbing against the tree while climbing.  This puts the hunter at a great disadvantage especially when your bow is on the ground, and the buck is under your tree looking up at you. 
Bucks in Black Warrior like to visit a major scrape shortly after a rain in order to fresh their scent markings.  During rainy weather, scrapes close to heavy cover are an ideal situation for an all-day hunt especially during the peak of rut.  Major scrapes located along creek banks seem to be attended later in the morning than those on the ridge tops.  However, the scrape hunter should remain in the tree stand until lunch time or later, especially during the peak of rut.  I have left major scrapes around lunch and run off some nice bucks that were waiting near the scrape. 
Major rutting scrapes in Black Warrior are sometime used for several years by the same buck.  The major scrapes will usually be four to six feet in diameter and will have signs of urine, dropping, and tine marks of the antlers.  Bucks will also bite, fight and entangle their antlers into low hanging limbs.  They usually have a twig over the scrape that is used as a sent marker, and the twig will be discolored from the hormones. 
Dogwood and beech trees seem to be the most preferred trees under which bucks make their major scrapes.  Beech trees used by bucks for making major scrapes are found along flat valleys or creek banks.  These beech trees are usually young and have many low hanging limbs.  Young beech trees are highly desired by bucks and the same tree may be used for several years.  Most dogwood trees which have a major buck scrape are located on ridges which have some cover nearby.  Both trees provide excellent areas for major scrapes, especially when their low-hanging limbs spread across an old abandoned log road. 
For the best hunting results, major scrapes should meet the following requirements:
1.      The pawed area of the scrape should be large, some four to six feet in diameter.
2.      The scrape should have signs of urine, droppings, tine marks, and a signature hoof print.
3.      Limbs over the scrape should be twisted, broken, and/or bitten off. 
4.      One twig hanging over the scrape should be blackened with hormones.
5.      Be sure to look for a bed near the scrape where the buck or a doe has waited for a visitor.
6.      Many major scrapes are located along an old abandoned log road.
7.      Major scrapes are usually located close to acorns or food with cover and water nearby.
8.      To be a successful hunter, the scrape should be well isolated from human activity.
In conclusion, scrape hunting in the Black Warrior can be an interesting and exciting experience for the hunter.  However, carefully and thoroughly scout the buck’s territory one time, make mental notes of his scrape line, select the hottest scrape using the criteria above, and then stay out of the buck’s area several days before planning your hunt.  I hope that over 40 years of my bow hunting Black Warrior will help you harvest that trophy whitetail buck of a lifetime.  

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Yuchi (Euchean)

In my new book-Doublehead: Last Chickamauga Cherokee Chief, you can read about all the tribes that were part of Doublehead's confederacy.  The Yuchi were occupying the area of north Alabama prior to the first Spanish invaders coming through Alabama. 

Many people in north Alabama are not familiar with one of the most historic tribes to inhabit our area; however, the Yuchi were here at the time Desoto traveled through our part of the country in 1540.  They consider themselves the “First People” and are some of the most pure traditionalists among Indian people.  According to the Journal of Muscle Shoals History, “...the Cherokees were not the first Indians to live at the Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River.  This honor belongs to the mound builders, who were followed by the Euchees (Yuchi), a tribe having a unique language and no migration legend.  They may have lived at the Shoals in pre-historic times.  The Euchees were probably living at the Shoals when Desoto (1540) came through Alabama and were definitely there in 1700 when discovered by some traveling Canadians... Shortly after they were discovered by the Canadians in 1700, the Euchees departed from the Shoals and moved to the mountainous regions of what is now East Tennessee” (Watts, 1973).  Another contigent of Yuchi migrated south along Black Warriors’ Path and settled near the mouth of Euchee Creek and the Chattahoochee River in present-day Russel County, Alabama.

John R. Swanton in his book, The Indians of the Southeastern United States, shows the Yuchi (Euchees) living along Elk River and the Tennessee River at the mussel shoals in the early 1700’s.  For some reason, part of the Yuchi migrated to the Hiwassee River in east Tennessee and the rest migrated south to the Chattahoochee River on the Alabama-Georgia border.  After fighting the Cherokee in east Tennessee, many of these northern Yuchi also migrated south to the Chattahoochee River Valley; however, a few Yuchi remained in the Tennessee Valley maintaining friendly relations with Doublehead and the lower Cherokee, who sought the alliance of all regional tribes.

According to Tom Hendrix’s book, “If the Legends Fade”, his great great grandmother was Yuchi and was born in the Tennessee Valley about the time Doublehead and his people were controlling the area. “Her name was Te-lah-nay, which means Woman with Dancing Eyes.  She was born above the shoulder bone in the valley of the Tennessee River in the 1800’s.  Her tribe was the Yuchi, and she was my great-great-grandmother” (Hendrix, 2000).  The shoulder bone Hendrix refers to is now under the backwaters of Wilson Lake about midway between Wheeler Dam and Wilson Dam on the Tennessee River.  This shoulder bone is now an underwater island about four to five feet below the backwaters of present-day Wilson Dam, and lies slightly north of the middle of the river and just east of a line drawn from Gargis Hollow to Four Mile Creek.  The underwater island is in the shape of a shoulder blade bone with the small end facing downstream.

 Some of the Yuchi intermarried with the Cherokee and assisted Doublehead in establishing his domain and Indian alliance along the Big Bend.  The Yuchi were considered the “First People” of the Muscle Shoals area of the Tennessee River.  They were known as the "Children of the Sun".  As recorded by Terra Manasco in the book Walking Sipsey (1992), “It was the Uchee, who called themselves the Children of the Sun, who first used this site to Walk the Rainbow.  Inducing themselves into a trance of blue-blackness formed by a series of sacred number patterns, a cord of white light would shoot out from their navels and arc out into the universe.  It was upon this cord that they Walked the Rainbow and visited many worlds.  The symbols carved on Kinlock’s rocks are the magic symbols used in the trance as well as recreations of spirits encountered beyond the Rainbow.”   The Kinlock Rock Shelter was sacred to the Yuchi and Chickamauga and today is still considered sacred by those mixed Indian people that still call north Alabama home. Kinlock was part of Doublehead’s territory located in the Warrior Mountains some 30 miles south of his home on the Muscle Shoals in present-day Lawrence County, Alabama.

If you want to read about the Indian people who helped Doublehead establish his domain in north Alabama, sign up for a copy of the book today.  Just let me know and I will put you on the list to get a copy when it is published.