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NAW’s Favorite Fall Memory

by Gordon Whittington   |  August 12th, 2013 0

When you’ve been whitetail hunting for 52 years, naming your favorite fall moment is a challenge. But for me, one of the best occurred in November 2001, on a 29-acre tract in Atlanta’s suburbs.

The property was just 2.2 miles from my house in Marietta, but it seemed a galaxy away. It was the home of my late friend John Manning, whose family had owned the land since the 1800s. The home had stood since before the Civil War, which was in itself noteworthy; the bloody Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought nearby, and the Union Army razed many structures on its sweep to the sea.

During Reconstruction and for many decades after, the Manning place was a working farm. John told of childhood days spent clearing rocks from the fields and in the process turning up Civil War Minie balls in such numbers that he toted the projectiles to the hardware store and sold them for 25 cents a bucketful. There they were melted for plumbing lead, some of which no doubt still is in local homes. And so another long-ago event in American history lives on, even if hardly anyone today knows it.

Suburbia grew up all around the home place. Over time, a high school, subdivisions and apartment buildings replaced neighboring farms and woods. But in the midst of it all, that old farm remained.

And so did whitetails. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield, on which no hunting is allowed, lies within a half-mile of the farm, and its prolific deer would range onto surrounding properties to feed and breed. The latter of those urges ultimately afforded me a chance to take the widest-racked buck I’ve ever arrowed.

I saw him for the first time on Nov. 3. I was out casually glassing for deer when I spotted the 8-pointer trailing some does. He was easily the biggest buck I’d ever seen on the hoof in Georgia, and as soon as I laid eyes on him, I knew I’d be devoting every spare minute to his pursuit.

Cobb County, like several others in the Atlanta metro area, has no firearms hunting for deer. So while most other Georgia deer hunters were toting their rifles, I kept plugging with bow in hand, hoping the buck would return. But day after day of hunting produced zero sightings.

He finally gave me another look on the muggy morning of Nov. 24. At around 9:30, I spotted the buck cruising for does out in a fescue pasture. Shortly after I rattled, he walked to within 12 feet of my stand in a leafy pin oak. My arrow sliced through his right lung and liver. I’d shot the whitetail I’d singled out to take.

As I admired the buck’s inside spread of 21 1/8 inches, I realized that sometimes you don’t even need to leave town to find a great hunting memory. In this case, one starring a special whitetail, a special friend and a special piece of land.

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