Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from the new book “Aunt Sister,” a collection of humorous columns by Anniston writer Julia Segars. The book takes its name from the pen name Segars uses for a column she writes for The Talladega Daily Home newspaper. Segars, who retired in July after 31 years with Alabama Power Company, describes Aunt Sister as “a Southern Lady who was raised right, but overcame it, bless her heart.”
The jackalope lost its place as the strangest trophy in our home office when Max arrived. Mythical creatures first “sighted” in Wyoming (think Bigfoot), jackalopes are jackrabbits with antelope horns. Ours is an eBay find from an enterprising taxidermist. On the other hand, Max is the real deal. I should know. I shot him.
After moving to East Alabama, I wanted to earn a little “street cred” — or, more aptly, “dirt-trail cred” — from my brethren at work. I beseeched my buddy Jabbo, a state-champion bow hunter and expert marksman, to teach me to hunt and help me snag an eight-point buck.
I think Jabbo was honored to serve as missionary in the conversion of a life-long manicured suburbanite whose Cro-Magnon meals depended on the butcher at the Piggly Wiggly. And so began the Great Deer Hunt of 2008-09.
First step was target practice on Jabbo’s land, a woodsy paradise complete with a cozy cabin he hand-built for his family — wife, Markel, and 12-year-old daughter, Katy-Bug. Markel and Katy-Bug are both crack shots themselves, each with more than one trophy buck watching over their family room. Markel graciously offered up her Remington 700 7mm-08 rifle for my use in pursuit of The Buck.
We got down to the real business at hand Christmas week. First day, Jabbo instructed me to wash my hair and lather up with Dead Downwind shampoo. If your teenager needs an acne astringent, look no further.
Garbed in camo overalls, jacket and Muck Boots, cap covering my straw-like hair, I looked like a sovereign-citizen wannabe trekking around the Alabama woods that are my birthright. Well, sorta. I was born in Georgia. I’ll strive to keep the facts straight in case any birthers read this and see a false claim for what it is.
Always a gentleman, Jabbo declined to expose me to his hunting club and associated conditions. So, the first day he took me to a claustrophobic shooting house in a nearby wood, where we sat on our haunches for several hours with nary a deer in our sights.
I think Jabbo was more disappointed than I was. “Miss Sister,” he said, “I’ve seen dozens of ’em down this way in the last few weeks. I can’t believe our luck.”
After another pre-dawn start that led to naught, we called a holiday truce to focus on the Immaculate Birther and then New Year’s festivities. But when all the dead spruce trees went curbside, out came the camo and the scent-stripping shampoo again.
This time, we tried a late-afternoon approach. Before dusk on Jan. 9, we hit the trail again, deer scat (droppings) as our guide. Jabbo had talked a neighbor into letting him hang a tree stand on the outskirts of a virgin hayfield, where the deer roamed free and plentiful. I needed all the handicaps I could get.
Jabbo waxed philosophical as we trekked to our perch about “the peacefulness of being one with nature,” yada, yada, yada. The air was colder than a frozen turkey. I was just ready to feel my toes again.
Once in the stand, though, Jabbo was all business. Silently, he scouted the edges of the field through his rifle scope, signaling when he spotted several deer out of range. He showed only slight irritation when his radio crackled to let him know Markel was in position at another prime hunting spot nearby.
I finally caught the spirit of the moment, but I also felt guilty that my bucket-list quest was interrupting Jabbo’s family time and his own hunting season. Bless his heart.
I was soon thrilled to see two doe scamper into the open, playing a while before retreating. Then out came my buck. His profile was majestic, rack impressive. (Insert cleavage joke here.) I knew he was mine from the start, and I carefully took aim and fired. The bullet whizzed above his head. Not recognizing the sound or its origin, he just looked around, confused.
“Miss Sister, you might want to wait a minute to see if it’s a trophy,” Jabbo cautioned when the buck looked our way. Too late. Blood lust won out and I fired again, this time hitting the buck right behind the shoulder. Down he went, and Jabbo and I stared, amazed. Then another shot rang us back to the present, and Markel radioed that she thought she had hit something.
Jabbo drove his pickup as close as he could to my buck, grabbed its back legs and, with a grunt, tossed the 175-pound carcass onto the tailgate. I hopped into the bed, held up the deer’s head and posed for a photo with my trophy — a mutant specimen that sported one full antler and one nub. I had thinned the herd and improved its gene pool.
Jabbo spared me the ritual smearing of blood on my face, partly out of respect, but mostly because we needed to beat a trail to find Markel and help her track her wounded prey. Once we rendezvoused, I wimpishly accepted an offer by Jabbo’s father to tote me back to my car on his Gator while Jabbo and Markel stayed on the trail.
I later emailed the prize photo to my friend Shannon, mostly for shock effect. It worked.
“Oh my goodness,” she replied. “You shot Max!” It took me a minute to get the reference to the animated dog in “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” The Grinch strapped one antler to Max’s head before he hitched him to his sleigh and carted off all the presents from Whoville.
Yep, Shannon nailed it. I shot Max.
Jabbo later delivered to me a freezer-load of venison and a European mount (skull and antler only) of my trophy, which Fred hung on the wall by the jackalope.
It’s about time to hang a Christmas ornament on Max’s antler and raise my annual toast to Jabbo, who made me appreciate the art of the hunt, the savory goodness of deer sausage and a warm home in winter. Oh, and hair conditioner.
Copyright 2016 Julia Harwell Segars. Reprinted with permission.