Stories in the life of a seasoned deer hunter
Feb. 15, 2002
Though it required reaching far back in an immense stockpile of memories, 89-year-old Ethel Creel believes her first deer was probably bagged in Clarke County "down on Julius Slay's place, probably with a 30-30 rifle." Her latest was a buck taken last month near her home in southeast Lauderdale County. She brought in two deer during the 1999-2000 season, one with a muzzle loading rifle.
Creel was grown and raising a family when she saw her first deer in the county. But ever since her youth she had hunted other game animals and caught fish, "anything that would bite", from the rivers and streams of East Mississippi and West Alabama.
This exceptional lady's life is a precept that we all should heed to remind us of what favored lives we live today. Ethel Creel fished most of her life with cane poles and bank hooks instead of high-tech reels and graphite rods. She hunted small game with inexpensive.22 rifles and paper shotshells, marginal weapons compared with today's. And the fish she caught and the game she bagged were necessary main courses for meals the other dishes of which were planted, cultivated and harvested just outside her kitchen door.
Comparatively speaking, her deer hunts these days are a snap. Her children and their spouses take her to a covered deer stand and she waits for a deer to come by. If the deer is one she wants, she levels her 7.62 X 39 rifle and sights through her red dot sight and shoots the deer. "When they hear me shoot, they come and get the deer for me," she says with a smile that says hunting used to be a lot harder.
Her daughter, Lois McCary, tells of a recent phone call from her mother. "She said it was such a pretty day there was no reason we shouldn't be out in a deer stand." Lois beckoned her husband, Austin, and said, "Get your boots on. Mama wants to go deer hunting." Before the afternoon was over, Ethel was in the woods enjoying the sights and sounds of the wild and waiting expectantly for a buck.
As she waits, it's a good bet her mind often drifts to harder times in Lauderdale County, where she has lived all her 89 years, when just seeing a deer track was reason to call in neighbors for discussion. A patient wait on a comfortable stand is little price to pay for a hunter who has looked up from her bed while bearing one of her 8 children to see snow sifting through cracks in the roof.
The Great Depression years are just part of a history lesson to many today. But Ethel Creel remembers that a slice of butter for your bread used to come from somehow getting a cow and feeding it with feed you raised from the soil and milking by hand and churning the milk, skimming off the butter and molding it and struggling to keep it cool with no refrigeration. No doubt her knowledge of how tough hunting, even life itself, can be contributes to her success as a deer hunter. If patience and a keen shooting eye is what it takes to harvest deer these days, this lady comes well prepared.
Despite hardships, life in the old days was enriched by some fun times. Ethel was squirrel hunting one day with her husband, Horace. Toward the end of the hunt, she went on ahead, probably to prepare lunch, while Horace hunted a bit longer. When he stepped into the kitchen later, he was drenched head to toe in some mysterious wet, smelly crud. "What happened to you?" asked Ethel. Her husband had stepped into a camouflaged barrel of whiskey mash. "I went into one barrel and my gun went into another one," he lamented. Ethel explained how the numerous moonshiners hid their mash barrels. "They would bury the barrels, stretch corn sacks across the tops and cover them with pine straw and leaves," she described in detail. "You couldn't tell they were there."
The writer hopes to listen to more of Ethel Creels stories soon. I want to hear about her early coon hunts, rabbit hunts and squirrel hunts with a feist dog named Jack. I want the details about her proclamation that her family's fishing runs on the Tombigbee be up river instead of down river after an outboard motor quit and they paddled miles upstream with a two by four and a dip net.
Thanks, Miss Ethel, for sharing your stories.