G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors writer
When I was growing up, it was unheard of to see a wild deer or turkey in the woodlands of Kentucky and Ohio. Now they are everywhere you look.
Hunters last season harvested more than 200,000 whitetails in Ohio and more than 100,000 in Kentucky, helping to keep the numbers in check with the food and cover available.
The wild turkey harvest was 20,000 to 30,000 birds in each state, and still they are thick as the spring hunting seasons draw nigh.
And just 16 years ago there were no elk roaming the hills and reclaimed coal lands of Kentucky. Now a herd of about 10,000 browse free in the southeastern part of the state, thanks to stocking and management programs carried out by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
HIS LUCK CHANGED
The department holds a lottery-style drawing for permits to hunt elk each fall. Mike Stephens of Flatwoods had applied for a permit to hunt elk for the past 10 years, with no luck.
But that changed last year when he was one of the lucky applicants out of multiple thousands who applied. There were 904 tags available, 230 of them for bulls. His permit called for taking a bull with a firearm.
“I just made the deadline by applying next to the last day,” Stephens said.
He received his permit from the department in May and his hunt came in October. He used the four months in between for research and planning his hunt. He met guide Jerry Hall in Knot County and Hall agreed to share his knowledge with him, and show him where to go on the hunt.
“Jerry has access to thousands of acres and is a true mountain man. It seemed as soon as I talked to him for the first time that I had known him all my life. My wife Cheryl asked me if I would take her with me so we could share this moment together. Although she had never hunted before I was more than elated to experience the chance of a lifetime with the love of my life and best friend.”
They arrived in Hazard Oct. 12 and spent that last day before the hunt scouting with Hall. They saw 12 bulls and 11 cows.
SOUND THE BUGLE
The next day the elk were bugleing,
“If you’re never heard a big mature elk bugle you’ve missed one of the great thrills in life,” Stephens said. “They kind of scared Cheryl and she walked ever so closely by my side.”
Stephens was hunting on a mountainside so steep that he couldn’t set up the bipod to steady his 9 mm Weatherby. He said the bull he had in his sights was standing in an opening in the timber about 390 yards away.
“I tried to make a steady off-hand shot. The shot missed, and in a rush I wrapped my arm around a 3-inch sapling for support and fired off another round. I heard Jerry yelling the monster was down and heard Cheryl screaming with great joy. At that moment I started shaking and couldn’t wait to get down the mountain to see our bull. As we approached the bull Cheryl and I had such a rush and shared a moment together that neither of us will ever forget.”
It took them seven hours to get the huge seven-by-seven bull off the mountain.
The trophy is being mounted by Bruce Mercer of Greenup.
Stephens said the animal is expected to score around 350 inches, which will make list of the top ten ever killed in the state.
The year 2006 saw the first Kentucky bull elk to qualify for the Boone and Crockett Club record book. The typical bull, taken by Floyd County resident Franklin Scott, scored 361 4/8. The bull’s antlers, which measured nearly 50 inches across, had seven tines on either side.
A non-typical set of antlers, brought down in 2009, was also a 7x7 and scored 372 6/8 in the Boone and Crockett Club scoring system, besting the old state record of 367 7/8 taken in Harlan County in 2008.
THE LAST HURRAH
I still recall my last game of high school basketball with the South Portsmouth Tigers. Ironically, we had beaten Russell twice during the regular season, my senior year, and it was the Red Devils we drew in the first game of the district tourney. They beat us 12 points.
Even then, two months before my 18th birthday, I had a fetish for putting my feelings into words on paper. Recently, I discovered a musty, yellowed copy of The Scribe, our school newspaper, and in it was the poem I penned the night of The Great Defeat.
It may sound a little corny now, but at the time it reflected my heartache and disappointment. Here it is:
The buzzer sounded and ended it all.
His high school career was done.
He’d played his last game of basketball,
And it was lost, not won.
He bravely shook his opponent’s hand
And smiled and said, ‘Good game.’
Amid the cheers and toots of the victory band,
He bowed his head, though not from shame.
The locker room is silent now,
Where once echoed shouts of joy.
The tears come flowing down the cheeks
Of a confused, down-hearted boy.
His mind was set, but the goal not met;
And his dreams were dashed away.
Of all the sorrows and woes of men,
The saddest are these: ‘It might have been.’
‘Will it be like this in life?’ thought he.
‘Will our hopes be all in vain?’
And then he heard a small voice say,
‘If you fall, don’t give up, but rise and try again.’
THE MEMORY LOSS
Although I still remember that bitter defeat, the biggest loss I deal with now involves memory – of trying to remember day to day where I’m going and what I intended to do when I get there, of trying to remember names.
The other day a friend came by the house and I was telling him about a wonderful restaurant my wife and I had eaten at the night before.
“What’s the name of it?” he asked.
I thought and thought but could not come up with the name. Finally I asked him, “What’s the name of that woman in the song about, uh, my…somebody…lies over the ocean…lies over the sea…oh bring back my, uh, somebody to me?”
“Bonnie?” he said.
‘Yes, that’s it,” I said, then I yelled into the kitchen to my wife and said, “Bonnie, what’s the name of that restaurant we ate at last night?”
G. Sam Piatt can be reached at (606) 932-3619 of Gsamwriter@aol.com.