Chasing Bucks in the Francis Marion Forest
As 2020 continues to toss surprises our way, we are all relishing in those moments where we can find our normalcy. This year one of those normalcies appears, as it does every fall, for me in a good old-fashioned whitetail hunt. The only thing changing this year is the location. We will be chasing bucks in the Francis Marion National Forest. You heard right--we are chasing our trophy in the blackwater swamp once home to Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox himself!
Who is Francis Marion and why is this incredible place named for him? He was born in Berkeley County in the year 1732. Francis Marion was an American Revolutionary War officer. Marion was given the nickname “Swamp Fox” due to his ingenuity when leading his troops through the swampy makeup of the forest. He used what we now call guerrilla warfare to successfully stop the British in this area. Knowing these lands inside and out gave him an advantage in this wild forest. Marion is considered a hero of the American Revolution, as one man who not only fought against tremendous odds, but was indispensable in securing America's freedom. He was laid to rest on Belle Isle Plantation in Berkeley County in 1795.
As I drive down the gravel road, I am eager to begin my own adventure. I park my car on what seems to be a dry patch of red clay dirt. Before I set off on the adventure, I take inventory of my belongings one last time. I open my gun range bag filled with my brand new box of Hornady match grade 140 grain 6.5 Creedmoor, as well as my vortex binoculars and range finder. Carefully stored in the side pocket I have put away some snacks and water to get me through the day. I grab my rifle and my gun range bag. I lock up the truck and begin my journey to the stand.
Many of us in the South Carolina Lowcountry have visited or driven by here hundreds of times. Truthfully, the magic, mystique, and serenity can only be experienced once you are well inside the forest. The terrain is loaded with history among a lush landscape of pines, swamps, and marshes with towering cypress trees. As we navigate our way into the forest, the crunch of fallen branches mixed with pine needles carpet the forest floor. Your walk is serenaded by the wildlife inhabitants that call this forest home. The Francis Marion Forest is home to incredible wildlife, small and large creatures, from ones that swim to those that soar above. As I walk, the birds hidden away among the trees announce my presence in their home. I am amazed by the beauty within this incredible forest.
As my tree stand slowly appears in the distance, I know I am in for a stunning hunt. As I climb into place, I start clearing my mind, focused only on the hunt in front of me. Every experienced hunter has their own routines. Mine is to clear my mind and focus on the nature. I tune out everything but the beauty before me. I listen intently to the sounds of the forest. I take in every last detail the forest allows me to see. As I scan the tree line beyond the opening, I watch carefully for any movement in hopes of spotting my whitetail trophy.
As I sit and wait, the only things I hear are the occasional drip of recent drops falling from the large tall pines crashing to the soft ground below me. In the distance I hear the hammering from a red-cockaded woodpecker playing its majestic song against the large pine tree. I realize I am alone in nature and have left the busy noises created by people behind me.
Now we sit and wait.