Velvet Dreams

South Carolina’s deer season opens August 15, giving hunters the rare opportunity to take a whitetail buck in velvet. A … Continued

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Aug. 20: Quite a welcoming committee greeted us at Bang’s Paradise Valley Hunting Club (www.pvhc.net) in Ehrhardt, South Carolina. We’ve been hunting turkey, deer and hogs at Bang’s since 2007, but this was our first try for a buck in velvet. I was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2006. This incurable neurological disorder robs the body of muscle mass, strength, balance and coordination, but it will never diminish my passion for hunting.
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A sign on the door announces our arrival. We call ourselves The A-Team because I can no longer hunt solo; it takes a group effort to get me ready and out in the woods. Standing behind me, left to right: Jenny Wagner, my wife Ligia, and my good friend Ron Wagner. Friends since age 6, Ron and I grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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Our friend Matt Lindler, who works for the National Wild Turkey Federation, arranged for us to borrow this Huntmaster elevating blind made by Carolina Growler. The company donated it to the NWTF’s Wheelin’ Sportsmen program. A battery-powered hydraulic system can raise the 6×6 blind (750-pound capacity) to a height of 20 feet.
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Ligia calls Ron “our angel.” I need assistance with everything from eating to bathing to getting dressed, and Ron does all the heavy lifting. He gets me out of bed, helps me in and out of the truck, positions me in the blind, aims the rifle for me…and then thanks me for letting him “be a part” of my hunt.
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We use a ScopeCam from Matco (www.mat-co.com) to aim the rifle. The battery-powered camera attaches to nearly any scope and displays the scope’s-eye view, crosshairs and all, on a 2.5-inch monitor. Ron steadies the rifle while we both watch the sight picture and I decide when to shoot. I squeeze the trigger via a cable release made by BE Adaptive (www.beadaptive.com).
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Our view of a beanfield from inside the elevated Huntmaster. During several scouting sessions, lodge owner Bang Collins had seen two mature 8-points feeding here. We hunted the field for four evenings but saw only a doe and a fawn.
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We saw a buck every day. Last year Bang adopted the orphaned fawn of a road-killed deer and named it Rusty. Now about 15 months old, Rusty sports a small 8-point rack.
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Flashback to December 2008: Ron and I met Klay Elixson when he was in camp with his grandfather Rick Hires, another regular visitor at Bang’s. We became fast friends and the kid earned A-Team status during this squirrel hunt.
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Rick and Klay drove up from Gainesville, Florida, to spend a few days with us in camp. Klay’s easygoing manner and quick wit keep us all smiling.
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The A-Team acquired a Marlin bolt-action .17HMR and topped it with an Alpen Kodiak 6-24×50 scope. Ron (who volunteers as a firearms instructor for Women in the Outdoors programs) helped Klay dial it in and nail ping-pong balls at 100 yards. This squirrel season we will be every South Carolina tree rat’s worst nightmare!
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Don’t make the mistake of challenging Bang to a game of ping pong. He speaks softly, swings a mean paddle and rules the lodge’s table.
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Bang manages certain tracts of his properties to allow deer to reach trophy size. In some areas, hunters can only shoot bucks carrying antlers with a minimum outside spread of 17 inches; in others, the minimum is 15. Hunters can also opt for stands in “open” areas where they may take bucks of any size. Justin Tozier, of New York state, chose to hunt in a 17-inch area and was rewarded with this tall, wide 8-point.
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Ron and I took a day off from hunting to visit Matt Lindler at the National Wild Turkey Federation headquarters in Edgefield, South Carolina. It was well worth the trip. The facilities include a museum full of impressive, highly informative displays about turkeys and turkey hunting.
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That evening we attended the NWTF Aiken Chapter’s Gun Blast. The fundraiser featured a BBQ chicken dinner and raffles for 13 different guns. With such a persuasive sales team, raffle tickets went quickly. “Reach for your wallet, but keep those hands where I can see them, mister!”
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Bang discusses shot placement. Legal shooting hours in South Carolina extend to one hour after sunset, so savvy hunters rely on scopes with large objective lenses (50 or 52mm) to help identify targets in low-light conditions.
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Billy Osceola makes the trip from Florida to hunt at Bang’s several times each season. This 8-point, taken in a 15-inch area, had broken the brow tine on its right antler. A piece of velvet still held the tine to the main beam. Billy asked the taxidermist to preserve and mount the rack as is, instead of repairing the tine.
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We hunted on the ground on our next-to-last day. Ron cut a shooting window through the brush so we could watch a food plot. Soon a group of deer emerged from the woods: two does, two fawns and three bucks. Ron held our crosshairs on the largest, a 6-point. I squeezed the trigger release and…
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We hit a freakin’ sapling six feet in front of us! No worries. Just a few minutes later, three deer came back out. Not wanting to blow another chance by getting too choosy, we drew down on the first buck that presented a broadside shot.
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It may not look like a trophy to you, but this fuzzy spike represents a major accomplishment for The A-Team. I encourage all disabled sportsmen to pursue their dreams. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do; focus on what you want to do, and then work hard to make it happen.
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On the final morning of our stay, Tom Collins (left) guided us on a hog hunt. We took this 160-pound sow on camera for Tyler Clifton of Struttin’ N’ Ruttin’ Outdoors.
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The A-Team takes hog hunt’n camo to the next level. (You decide if that’s a higher or lower level.)
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It’s never easy to leave, especially when our hosts, Bang and Tom Collins, try to convince us to stay a few more days. We’ve already made plans to return the last week of December to hunt deer, hogs, squirrels and coyotes.

South Carolina’s deer season opens August 15, giving hunters the rare opportunity to take a whitetail buck in velvet. A disabled sportsman, with help from his friends, enjoys a Low Country adventure.