Deer Hunting: Deep South Style

I was working on a program at the picnic table today when the rain kicked up again.  It’s been raining here for about a day and a half and is expected continue for a few more.  We had a break in the rain and I figured that I would get out of the van for a bit, but got caught outside.

IMG 0186

We recently bought a tarp and some poles for our camping gear.  The tarp is mostly to let people know that there is someone already camped in this site when we are in town.  Today it kept my computer and me mostly dry.

You can’t really tell from the photo, but the rain was coming down in buckets.  I was really surprised to see the deer hunters out in this kind of weather.  I suppose they were probably surprised to see some guy working at a computer in it.  I felt sorry for the dogs the most though.  The hunting dogs that is.

This little girl had about had enough of it and was more interested in sniffing the grease drippings in my fire pit.

IMG 0187

One of the things that greatly surprised me was how deer hunting in the deep south was so much different than how we do it in the midwest.  Firstly, they almost completely hunt from their pickup trucks.  It isn’t illegal to shoot across a road down here or to have a loaded gun in the vehicle.  Heck, about half the pickups I see down here have a seat mounted in the bed of the truck to sit on and shoot from.  They look like some kinda 4×4 bass boat or something.  Oh, and everyone uses a high-power rifle.

The other thing they do is use dogs to run the deer.  Some of the more responsible hunters put radio collars on the dogs and track them.  You’ll see them with what look like old TV antenna’s, waiving them around the outside of their pickup trucks trying to track the dogs.  This is the same stuff we used to watch Jim put on a lion in Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.

IMG 0190

IMG 0191

Some guys don’t use the radio collars.  There are these cages about every other corner on the gravel roads that say “Lost Dogs” in them.  If you find a dog, you’re supposed to put it in the box and hope someone comes along and claims it.

The other thing I found surprising was how small the deer are here.  I hear that if you get one over 100lbs, you got a good one.  Maybe hunting small deer with dogs, pickups, and high-power rifles is more common than I knew about.  It was all new to me and I found it all a little strange.

Charleston and Osceola National Forest

We visited Charleston on our way south into Florida.  It was a beautiful city.  We parked the van in an overnight public parking spot and walked around the downtown area.  It was pricy parking spot at $30, but it is still cheaper than most camping sites, hotel rooms, and police station visits.

Most of you know that Nic and I like to go out and have a good time.  With trying to get into shape we came up with a new regimen that cut beer out of our diet.  Mostly that is.  We allow ourselves a night of drinking every other Saturday.  Our visit to Charleston landed on that.  Since we had permission from ourselves to party and a safe place to sleep, we walked around Charleston and bar hopped.

IMG 0169

IMG 0166

We checkout out the bay and saw the sites.  We didn’t take a carriage ride which seemed to be the big tourist thing to do in Charleston.  The carriages were so prevalent that the parking lot we were parked at reeked of horse piss until they hosed it down at the end of the day.

IMG 0171

No trip for Nic and I would be complete it seems without a stupid sign.  You couldn’t drown in this fountain if you were face down and someone was pushing your head down.

IMG 0168

We rounded out the evening at a fancy restaurant.  We weren’t looking for an upscale restaurant, but pretty much everything in downtown Charleston was.  It had been a while for us so we decided to treat ourselves.  The place we went to was so fancy that they even had their own cookbook.

IMG 0173

Yeah, the restaurant was actually named S.N.O.B. or Slightly North Of Broad.  The food was awesome and well worth busting the budget a little bit.

It seems Nic and I are finally slowing down a bit in our older age.  We were in bed by 10 and on the road the next day by 7.  Next stop, Osceola National Forest.

IMG 0176

We’ve been here for about a week now and really enjoying it.  The campsite is posh for a free one.  We have running water, a flush toilet, garbage pickup, and even an outdoor shower.  The shower is interesting, but we shower at the gym.  The campsite location is another win.  It is only about 25 minutes to the gym and Lake City, FL.  Lake City is big enough that you can get anything you want there.

It also is really quiet here most of the time.  Not on Thanksgiving weekend though.  The campsite filled up with people who brought in SUV’s to ride on the many surrounding off-roading trails.  They (and a bunch of other campers) were up late playing loud music, drinking beer, and shooting of both guns and fireworks.   They kept Nic up late, but I’m had no problem sleeping through everything.  The holiday weekend crowd trashed the place, but the forest service was out promptly and cleaned up the area.  It is back to peace and quiet now.

It looks like we are going to be here for a while.  The location, weather, and amenities are better than we would find anywhere else.  The usual limit for this campsite is 14 days in any given 30 day period.  This time of year it is unlimited days until Jan 6th.  The unlimited time is for hunters, but there aren’t really any of those around.  Until further notice, Osceola National Forest is home-sweet-home.

 IMG 0181

The Strangest of Campsites

Nic and I are still in the Francis Marion National Forest.  We’ve been camping at different campsite than I told you about in my last blog post.  This campsite is closer to town (and Planet Fitness).  It has a through hiking trail that runs along it.  I’ve been told that it goes for 450 miles.  I’ve hiked the trail for a few miles while listening to podcasts and it is very beautiful.  Enjoy this picture of a Smurf house I found along the trail (the house was about 5” tall).

IMG 0159

I think the fact that this place is free to stay at combined with the trail and how close it is to town has made this quite the strange campsite.  The strangeness was almost immediately apparent.  The first thing we saw when we got here was 2 boxes of generic hamburger helper and a package of spaghetti noodles propped up against a log.  There was also this bundle of flowers.  There were also some tents, but no one around.

IMG 0157

The tents themselves weren’t strange at first anyway.  People often put up tents and go do day hikes or visit local attractions.  It wouldn’t be until later that I realized that Nic and I were the only non-permanent residents.  Yeah.  We’ve been at this campsite off and on for almost 2 weeks and the tents don’t move.  At about 8 or 9 at night cars start to show up to spend the night.  Not every night, just most nights.

IMG 0161

Stranger still are the tents I saw when gathering firewood even deeper out into the woods.  Take the one in the next picture for example.  It has porch, laundry lines, and various junk scattered around it.  Hell, it even has a set of golf clubs as you can see in the picture.  The notice on the front is a warning from a forest ranger about it being abandoned, but its date is Sept. 18th.

IMG 0163

The inside was decorated with pallets and wicker furniture.  My guess is that the poor homeless person that lived here got arrested and didn’t have a chance to come back for their golf clubs.

IMG 0164

The strangest thing to me is this table that someone keeps moving around the woods.  We’ll leave and go to another campsite for a day or two and this thing will be in a different place.

IMG 0158

Nicole says she likes this campsite, but she does spend most of her time in the van reading.  The one time she went out walking by herself, she didn’t get out of eyeshot of the van before returning and swearing she wasn’t going out on her own again.

This is our last night here.  I’m not going to miss this place.  Tomorrow (Saturday) we go into Charleston, SC for a date.  The plan is to urban camp in Charleston after we have a night out on the town and then drive to Florida on Sunday.

Francis Marion National Forest

We left Croatan National Forest a couple days ago.  We enjoyed our time there, almost 2 weeks, but it was time to move on.

IMG 0144

We set our sites on South Carolina and hit the road.  Conway, SC looked good on paper.  It had some free camping sites near by and Planet Fitness in town.

Planet Fitness has become something of a requirement for Nicole.  She’s pretty serious about getting in shape and we work our at PF exactly 3 times a week.  I’m enjoying the regular showers and the workouts add some entertainment to our days.  We’ve been going for about 3 weeks now and are beginning to see some results.

But I was talking about Conway, SC.  We got there and checked out the camping site.  It was along another river though not nearly as nice as the White Oak River we had had been living next to.  In fact this place was a little trashy.  Broken beer bottles, cans, and other trash where everywhere.  Heck, one guy even forgot to pick up his boat when he was done with it.

IMG 0146

We decided to stay the night anyway.  It was hardly the worse place we’ve stayed at.  About midnight a pickup with open exhaust roared into the camping area.  They decided it would be funny to do a donut and splatter our van with sand and mud.  The racket they made woke Nicole up in a panic and she wasn’t able to get much sleep the rest of the night.  It was now the worse place we’ve stayed at.

Strangely the pickup got suddenly silent after doing the donut.  Then about a half-hour later it started back up and left quietly.  It wasn’t until the next day that I understood. I went for a short walk and found where they had lost control of the truck and slid off the road and into the surrounding swamp.  It looked to me like they had buried their front tires into about 2 feet of mud and water.  They got the truck out, but given how long it took them to get it into 4WD, I think that they spent some time knee deep in swamp mud getting the front hubs locked in.

This negative experience meant that we were only one night in Conway.  The next day we headed to Francis Marion National Forest where there are almost a half-dozen free campsites.  We’ve been here about 3 days now and are enjoying it.

We have between 25-40 minutes to drive to the Planet Fitness near by, but it seems worth it so far.  The weather is overcast, but it is warm and in the 70’s.  The biggest complaint I have today is that some jackass over the hill is blaring country music and some other jackass is firing off a 22 so fast that there obviously is no aiming involved.  Miles from anywhere and I have this shit to put up with.

In between workouts I’ve been getting some light reading done and quite a bit of coding.  While I consider myself retired, I don’t want to let my skills degrade.  Given the recent uncertainty in the stock market, it isn’t a given that I will never have to get a job again.  Besides, I enjoy programming again and it passes the time.

IMG 0149

56340049866 9108BD2C F937 4368 9F9A BCB1634C7951

Croatan National Forest

We’ve been in the Croatan National Forest for a couple of days now.  Nicole has been doing a bunch of reading and I have been teaching myself the macOS graphical API’s for an open source project I have been contributing to.

We are moving between a series of campsites along the White Oak river trying to see which we like best.  There are 5 of these total, but only 3 are in the national forest.  The 3 in the national forest are the ones we are looking at because they are the ones we can camp for free at.  Most of the sites have launches so that you can canoe down the White Oak and get picked up at one of the downstream sites.  There are also a couple of sites on the other side of the forest we will be getting to next week.

IMG 0137

Nic and I also decided that one of the things we should be doing with our free time is getting into shape.  We’ve started hiking a little more.  Yesterday we went and got a membership to Planet Fitness and did a workout.  We plan on going 3 times a week.  Pricing wasn’t bad.  We got Nic their premium Black Card Membership that allows her to any of their 1500 locations for about $25/month (including annual fees).  It also allows her to bring a guest when ever she wants, so I can get in for free.

Neither of us have done much working out lately, so we’re both pretty sore today.  On top of things it is raining all day and tonight, so today is a hang around inside the van and lick our wounds kinda day.