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"Ole Ozarks"

Growing up in Fulton County, Pa. was a wonderful experience for any country child to have. There was so much for a boy to get into, other then just the work around the small farm. I suppose I had more then just a normal amount of super- hygienic push, as do normal people, because I was always getting into something, building something or tearing a tractor apart just to see what it was made of and how to make it better after putting it back together. Daddy always said that I was either going to be a genus or blow myself trying. Just to prove he was wrong, neither happened. However I came close, on both calls, on many occasions. "No cigars, please".

The fall of the year was what I looked forward to every year. In my very early years my daddy would travel, with friends, to "Potter County", to hunt what they referred to as, "Big Game". Meaning "Deer Hunting". There wasn't any deer, in Fulton County, in the early forties, so they went to where there was supposed to be. The Pa. game license, that was puschased in any county, was good in any part of the state. Their intentions were just as expectant as any hunter, that travels to other lands, in search of and bagging game of choice. However, I don't recall that they ever brought any game home. But, it served as a base for story telling, that I never grew tired of.

As I was herding the milk cows across the country road, that we lived on, I looked both ways for traffic and to my wonderful supprise a large buck was crossing just a couple hundred yards up the road. I was so excited at seeing, for the first time, a real live deer, that I could barely get words out to my father and brother who were in the barn We watched in amazement as he slowly proceeded across the open fields and into the woods beyond. From that time on I was completely absorbed by the thoughts of that scene. Soon after this sighting, the state started issuing deer hunting license, buck only, for Fulton and other southern counties. My uncle, "Glenn Mellott" was young then and had an enthusiasm for rifled guns, and had started his collection, which in later years numbered way up there. He, my dad and some others got together on the very first Fulton County "big game" hunt. For the times, they were very successful because they bagged a buck or two almost every season for the next several years. Although the season was two weeks long, they never seemed to hunt more then a few days of the first week and of course the very last day, saturday, of the season. My older brother,"Dean", joined then a couple years after the first hunt, my brother," Roger", a couple years after that , and I just couldn't wait till it was my turn to get in on that fun of toting a gun, in the expectation of seeing a big buck bound out of the thicket and into my sights. Daydreaming, nightdreaming. I sure done my share, closing my eyes and imagining all sorts of visionary seines, where that old "moss horns" would make his appearence to me.

My dad didn't consider it proper and safe for anyone under the age of fifteen to be carrying a gun, when in the company of other hunters. I respect this view and endorse it to this day. It is also the view of the Pa. and the state in which I live in today, W.Va. , because a valid hunting license is only issued to those that are fifteen years of age or older. However, I couldn't wait, "forever". While Daddy and my brothers were hunting, in their party one year, I decided to venture off to the woods, on my own, with an old military rifle that was still at the house and belongs to my brother "Dean". It was a 8-MM Mousier with all the wood still intact. All the ammo that was with it were a few rounds of standard military issue. With these loaded into the gun, I entered the woods. I suppose luck was there with me that day because it didn't take more the ten minutes for me to come upon a big buck, at least to my judgement of youth, crossing my path within 40 to 50 yards. In the excitement and lack of experience I made a bad shot and the deer ran off to suffer death a few hunderd yards away. But that was my first deer kill and the beginning of a lifetime of deer hunting pleasure which has provided many a hundred pounds of eating enjoyment for me and the my whole family.

I married "Marion Mellott" of "Needmore, Pa., in 1961and moved to Berkeley Springs, where my employment was located. Although I moved into another state from the great state of Pa., I did not leave my love for deer hunting behind. The story I'm about to tell is one of many hunting storys of my hunting career.

My wife and I had lived in W.Va. for a few years, after we were married, and all the while I traversed back to my home state each season, a few days each year, to hunt deer with the "Douglas Gang", which was near to the home where I grew up, and the gang I hunted with before moving to W. Va.. It was in 1964 or 1965, I'm not real sure about the year now, I decided to go to my grandfather, " Charlie Mellott's" farm, on the first Saturday of Pa's buck season, to see if I could get a "crack" at ole Ozarks, an elusive old buck that had evaded hunters and hunting gangs in that area for many years. I loaded up the family in my old 1953 Chevy half ton pickup and set out for Needmore, where I would drop my wife and two children off at her home, "Pete and Henrietta Mellott's", before going on the hunting grounds of "Ole Ozarks". To get to the farm I had to go through Needmore, where granddad now lived. As I was going by I noticed a light on in the kitchen and figured someone to be up and around, even though it was at an early hour. I backed up into their driveway, went to the door and knocked. When my granddad answered, and invited me in, he imediately wanted to know if I was going hunting. I replied that my intention was to go up to his farm and if he felt up to it, going along. He said that ma. wasn't feeling to good and he would have to stay with her. He then suddenly got the deer hunting fever feeling, that all deer hunters get, and excitingly starting telling me to go after "Ole Ozarks" and how to get to the best location to bushwack him. Coincidentally, that was the plan I had already conceived, knowing the lay of the land there.

I hadn't been at my stand but thirty minutes when the first gang of deer hunters came through right where I had set up. It was the "Gorden Gang " from Needmore, just a mile, or so, from there. As the drivers were approaching my stand I saw a couple does bounding through the woods, away from the "war hoops" that they were making. I talked a little to one of the drivers, "Mose Gorden", just some small talk, asking me if I had seen anything and the like. When they had moved on I picked up and moved to another location on the other side of the same backbone ridge. I hadn't been there quite an hour when low and behold another deer hunting gang, "The Doc Mellott Gang", was driving it in yet another direction. None of them saw me as I was pretty much conceiled this time. Well, by this time I'm pretty much discouraged at what has happened. One gang maybe, but two?

I'm still stewing about the situation when I started realizing that these hunters hadn't jumped or seen this deer in many hunts through these woods in years. He surely is a real deer because hundreds of people have watched him, in the surrounding fields, as they made their nightly runs through this country side just to get a glimpse of the one deer that so many were talking about. I too had been on several of those spotlighting excursions to see if once more he would be there. My brother-in-law, "Herman Mellott", and I would go out spotlighting often to see where the best deer were located in that area. Herman was my "best buddy". We had so many of the same interest that it was uncanny. He passed away in 19-- and I miss his so much.

My reasoning was, that I should not be so discouraged, at those gangs going through my hunt, because they never saw him by using the driving method anyway. It was a special feeling because I was thinking now that it was me and my single hunt strategy that may do the trick. This ole boy wasn't used to this type of pressure and maybe let down his guard if in a different scenario. So now, I must figure out the next distinctive action and do it swiftly before he got ahead of any of my plans and therefore have the upper hand. Of course I'm predetermining that he is in these woods and that, is how I always hunt. That way I manage to limid my mistakes.

My plan was to get off that ridge and move quickly across the hollow to another ridge to the east toward what was known as the "Beam Place". And I wanted to do it as fast as possible, after the drivers had going through, so I didn't make to much of a separate noise as I was making my move. I dropped off the side of the ridge, toward the hollow, stopping often to survey the surroundings. The air was competely still and the sun had come up over "Dickies Mountian" shinning now where I was walking. I was looking down at my path and even looking ahead, to pick out the best route for travel, when right there in front of me were fresh deer foot prints in the very fresh thawed ground. They were so fresh that the very next prints, before these that I was looking at, were in the frost where the sun line was. I don't need to tell you that there was some fast thinking going on now as I studied this new situation of some very large deer tracks. I didn't know he was there nor hear him as he bounded away, at a ninety degree angle to the south, down the hollow toward the creek. But appearently he saw or heard me. Should I break out, off the trail and try to get around him? No! He was already wise to me and would be very watchful and attentive to that. I would get right on his trail directly behind him, following very slow and with soft feet. Right away it was difficult to see a trail in the heavy leaves, on the route he started with. Fortunately for me he decided to cross to the east side, where the frost still remained and made following easier. But, pretty soon, however the sun was up and had melted the frost, where he had traveled, long before. I picked my way along looking for what ever may be a clue as to where he had walked. A leaf turned up by his hoof, an branch turned back and stuck behind another branch and maybe a hair rubbed off on whatever it may have been that he rubbed against. I followed his trail for about three hours covering maybe two and one half miles. He led me to the bottom of that hollow, to where it met the creek, and then along the creek to a point that was almost down to the "Joe Everets Place", which is where I lost his tracks. I made a small circle around that point and didn't see anything except the trail I was now standing on. I made a larger circle and still a another larger one when, as I was nearing the trail again, suddendly, to my right a deer sprang from the top of a downed tree. I couldn't make out if it was even a buck. I ran over to where he jumped up and as soon as I saw the track I new it was the same deer. He had done the same as he had done so many times before. Lying down and let us walk right on by. But this time it was not a driver of a gang but, a single hunter on a mission for one particular deer, namely, "Ole Ozarks", and I figured that this was him for sure, when he tried to pull this stunt.

I hunted in the woods behind our home place for many a year and knew every stick and tree. One of the things I learned was that an old buck is smarted then I. But I had something to prove because this wasn't just any deer. Many a time an old "moss horned", anthered species of the wild, eluded me in those "Speer Woods". But the continual chase had been beneficial for me in that with every failure I learned one more thing about them. Now it was my turn, to turn the tide.

I decided very quickly that I would run up the ridge to his right, out of his hearing, at a parallel, on the "Beam" side. I had quite a ways to go but I was young then and could run forever. I had a thought that I knew where he was going and would try to get ahead of him, drop off at a revein that run perpendicular to the hollow that he was following, which was directly across the hollow from granddads pasture field. I believed he was headed for a couple of walnut trees in that pasture, that were conceiled from the sourroundings by higher ground all around. On many an occasion I had seen deer gather in that place, to lollygag and graze. He was retracing his path, of earlier, back to where we had come from. But I was bent on staying with the plan and if it worked out, well. But if it failed, then try something new. I followed the revein from the top of the ridge and approached the area where it met with the hollow, very slowly. But I was just a wisper to late because we both got there at the exact same time. However he didn't see or hear me because he had already crossed the hollow and I heard him in the leaves as he moved toward an old sawmill set that my uncle "Kermit Mellott" had used several years earlier, which was just inside the woods at the end of the pasture field. I let him get out of hearing before making my way there. I crawed under the thick growth of greenbriers following the tracks to the center of where the sawdust pile used to be, which was clear of any growth. When I was finally was able to raise up and take a good look at the tracks, I let out with shout. "I got you now". I caught myself so suddenly that I clasp my hand over my mouth so quickly that I cut off the last word. He had picked up two other deer and I supposed them to be does. This was the mistake I was hoping for. This was the advantage I needed. Now his attention was not on me in pursuit, but on his love life, which took precedence. I was still sure that his destination was the walnut trees and they were not far away. The problem was I could not approach them directly and be inconspicuous. I made a dash up the fence line, just inside the woods where I still had a view of the field, over the top and around to the north toward granddads barn. I then could belly down to the earth and craw military style back over the top and get a look at them walnut trees. "No deer". I'll wait a little while. Nothing. Maybe they are in the woods just beyond. There were a few small pines, that had grown in the corner of the field, just past the walnut trees, where it hadn't been farmed for some years. I done a fast walk and got into those pines. They were small and very thick, which made it hard to get through. However, they were not very wide. Maybe ten or twelve feet. Looking through the last couple trees at the edge, at the open area in the woods, reveiled nothing there either. Just then the sun faided, as the cloud cover darkened the area and a snow squaw started. At about the same time I heard pounding of hoof beats behind me in the field. I turned around to see the outline of a deer run past at about twenty feet beyond the pines I was hunkered down in. I got my gun turned and moved in that direction to where I could see what was going on out there, for while I was making my move, he ran past in the other direction, and I was thinking, "what kind of deal is this"! The pines were so thick that I couldn't maneuver my gun to follow him because he now was coming back toward me again. I now was in position to see everything but could not get a bead on him. He again turned so abruptly, on my left, that he slipped before straightening out for the trip past me again. He ran past me, before I could do anything again, leaped into the air somewhat, turned his head to the right side, and slammed into one of those does with his shoulder, knocking her compeletly to the ground, kicking his hind legs skywards, while shaking his head, and starting the whole routine over again. This time I had it all figured out cause "Ole Ozarks" was going to meet his "Waterloo".

A couple years earlier I had taken an old 8-MM Mouiser, the same one I shot that first buck with, removed the old stock compeletly, turned the barrel, to take those steps out and make it a smooth transition from front to back and turned the bolt, to accept a scope. I got a piece of walnut lumber, from "Seeleys Furniture Factory", behind the apartment where I lived, cut, shaped, scraped and sanded on that thing for months, until I had a new gun stock. I purchased a butt plate, fore arm piece and a scope, from "Hendershots Sporting Goods", in Hancock, Md. Although this gun did not group to close it had the perfect feel in my hands. I could snap shoot very quickly. This was probably the best deere cartridge I ever used. I hand loaded them and used a 150 grain , 308 bullet. I've had people tell me that isn't possible but it worked great for me. I wouldn't advise someone else to do that, however.

The W.Va. season is a week earlier then Pa. and I made a shot in that season that made news in the Berkeley Springs area. My three hunting companions and I were coming back from a hunt in Hampture Co. when a buck jumped up from a tree top, just to our left side, and was seen by the guy sitting behind me. At the same time we were coming to a high bank, which concieled our view of him, before I could stop the 67 Galaxy, four door we were traveling in. While the rest were shouting to stop, I speeded up to get to the other side where I was hoping he would be in view, which turned out to be the right move. I was the driver, so I had to make all the neccessary moves, on the controls of the car, before I could exit the vehicle. By that time all the rest had the doors open, before the car came to a stop, and were out and sighting in the direction of the deer. I had to get out, load the gun, look for the deer and so-on. The deer was angling upward away from us and was over a 100 yards away when I first sighted him. I immediately and automatically dropped to one knee, found the deer in the scope, pulled ahead to an open spot between the trees, and when he showed himself there, tripped that 8-MM. He piled up in a ball right there. The next day someone said that he heard I was "quicks-draw MacGraw". That was a popular cartoon on the TV then, in case that was before your time. When I got the first shot off, before the others could, my hunting buddy, "Mr. Gill"said, "you hit that deer". My response was. "That was the plan.

When "Ole Ozarks" went past me I was in position to bushwack him when he made his turm at the end of his run. He done exactly what I supposed him to do except, instead of lowering himself like before, he just turned naturally. My bullet went under him and threw dirt up on the other side. I compeletly missed. It scared him so bad he slipped his front feet and went to the ground before regaining flight. He was outta here and right now. By now it was snowing harder and when I ran out to the open field to get better shooting conditions it was hard to see, looking into the snow as he went up and over the hill, at the same location I had walked down just a little while before. Again I found myself down on the one knee shooting position. I had only a split second to get a shot off as he went over the top and out of sight. I started to run up the hill, holding my hand over my face, to shield from the blowing snow, and ran right into one of those old does. I didn't see her and I guess she didn't see me either. We were both on the ground kicking each other. She kicked my gun out of my hands, knocking it onto the ground, filling the barrel and scope with snow and dirt. This was another one of those, "what kind of deal is this", things. I recovered the gun, cleaned it as I went. When I reached the top it had competely stopped snowing and the sun was back out again. The squaw hadn't lasted to long but it had put down an inch of new snow. I looked everywhere and didn't see my buck anywhere. My heart had dropped down to the bottom of my stomach by now and I was kicking myself for letting him get away after so much hard work. Well, I thought. I'll go get something to eat and drink, from the pickup, since I'm so close and resume the search afterwards, from this spot.

The pickup was parked at the barn, which was just over the hill from where I was. When I approached the big old cherry tree, standing on top of the hill beside the barn, I turned to have a last look before breaking my view to the rear before going over the top. The ground was very bright with the fresh coat of snow and the sun glistened, almost blinding me. "What's that down there that looks like a small bush", I asked myself and started back in that direction. I didn't see it there before, when I was down there. The closer I got the more it looked like a deer anther. My heart started coming back to its proper place in my chest as I neared my prize.

When I shot, he only went maybe 50 feet, hit the ground dead, slid imto an old drainage, which I couldn't see from my vantage point earlier. I don't know if I done a dance or not, but I sure did have a sense of pride and success. I took off my Woolrich coat, my hooded sweatshirt, put them on the ground and layed my gun on them. Got out my knife and went to work dressing out this fine animal. I put my cloths back on and slung my gun, grabbed a horn and attemped to drag it, like I'd done so many times before. He didn't budge, like he was froze to the ground. It was only then that I took a look and realized what an enormous animal he was. I again took off the same cloths, layed my gun on them, planted both feet in front of him and with both hands winched him backwards, one pull at a time, to the fence about 40 yards away. The farm road was on the other side of the fence where I could drive the pickup. I recovered my cloths and gun and went for the pickup. The old 50's chevy pickups had a tailgate that only lowered to about a 45 degree angle, where it layed against the bumper. I lifted his head up and onto the back portion of the bed but couldn't get the back of him up before the front part fell off. I tried until I tired out. I was wondering how to get him loaded, when I realized that I had a rope behind the seat. The front of the bed had what was referred to as a "headboard". Just two 2"x 2" stakes in the front standard pockets with a board joined to them. I raised the headboard up enough to get the rope under, tied one end to the deer's horns, to hold the deer's front part on the bed, brought the other end back over the headboard and tied it to bumper. I then could raise his back portion onto the truck without the front falling off.

With my prize deer loaded, I headed for Needmore to show Granddad. I again backed into the drive, beside his home, and stopped just at the concrete walk, that comes around the back, from the back door that they use mostly. I again knocked at the door and he answered by saying, come in and have some ice cream with us, as he was dipping some from a contained when I knocked. "Yea, I think I could eat a little", I replied. He then continued dipping and at the same time asking if I had seen anything. When I said that I had got one, he stopped quickly, turned toward me with a look of, "Ozarks"? "Yep". I think it's him. He yelled into the other room, where Grandma was lying on the sofa, to come see what Dale's got. "He got him". He was so excited that he plumb forgot that she couldn't even get off that sofa, without help, because she had her leg taken off, because of diabeties infection. He didn't wait anyway. With one arm in his, "coat of many colors", as I called it, out the back door, down the couple of steps there, rounding the corner and looking directly at the back of my pickup, still with only one arm in his coat. He never did get that other arm is his coat, for when he saw what I had lying on that tailgate, he went competely to pieces. Such shouting of joy I had never seen before. He slapped the left leg with his right hand saying, "that's him - that's him - that's him", still standing in the same spot at the other corner of the house, from where the pickup was parked. After going over to the deer, he petted him with a love that was almost as if the deer were one of his children. He and that deer had become such a twosome, over the past years up on that farm, that the joy of putting his hand on that critter was the same as someone at a funeral of a great friend. We sportsmen realize that an animals life is very short, in comparrison to humans. That many times it is a blessed thing to harvest them, instead of them getting weak to let other creatures pull them down to suffer a slow death, or just to suffer death by starvation or freeziing. Grandad was so proud that his grandson had collected what he was unable to do. A sense of family pride. This was a tremendous event that broke the stillness of his old age and caused a thought process of memories to raise within and last through the rest of his short life on this earth. After I left his place that day, he went all over Needmore telling everybody about me getting "Ole Ozarks" and how I tracked him through those woods to get him. He told them that I was just like an Indian. Thus; I got the name, "Indian Hunter", for a while.

After leaving Granddad's place, in Needmore, and just up the road, past "Geno's" grocery store, the "Doc Mellott Gang" of hunters had stopped at "Docs" home to get a bite to eat before going on to another hunt somewhere. As I was passing, it was to good for me not to stop and do a little gloating. I backed up into his driveway, right up to where they were standing. "Where did you get him" , someone said. "Right where you were driving this morning" , I replied. Of course they wanted to know the whole story of how I was able to do that. "Doc" and I have had a friendly running deer hunting battle over the years, and I won't go into that now. It involved this deer that I got after his hunt didn't even see him and a deer that he got, from off another of my deer hunts at exactly the same location.

Back at my wifes home, all the guys were out in the woods hunting when I returned. Pete showed up, after a while, and we hung him up on some butcher poles. We attemped to weigh him on "stilyards", that only went to 200 pounds. By moving the weight farther out the beam, where there were no markings, we guessed that he would field dress 210-215 pounds. He was so long that after hanging him on the spikes, by the hocks, his front shoulders touched the ground and his head and neck strecthed out to the side.

He was a heavy beam 8-point but not a large rack. He green measures 18-1/2 inches to the outside. His rack was much bigger in years gone by and probably was in his very last years to be seen by anyone. Somebody asked me, if I could stick my fork in the gravy. I really can't remember that far back. It is true, however. A deer of that age probably would be very tough to chew.

I don't have a single picture of that deer. I didn't even have a camera or access to one, in those days. It was enough to get into the woods, smell the wet leaves and match wits with the greatest of them all. The whitetail deer, and, "Ole Ozarks".

Dale Truax

(bucktail2@earthlink.net)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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