Memories of Buckeye Deer Camp
As told to Herbert L. Lunday by Herbert H. Lunday in 1985
Comments and Epilogue by Dr. Herbert L. Lunday © 2017
Especially for Mom and Dad, Carol and Larry
THE EARLY YEARS
In 1947, representatives of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission released 27 deer in the dense woods in and near what is known today as the Henry Gray Hurricane Wildlife Management Area. Previously, no deer were known to inhabit either Woodruff County or White County. For five years, the transplanted animals were allowed to multiply and roam relatively undisturbed, with one exception.
Poaching was a problem during those initial years when the deer herd was being established. A number of Augusta men who would later band together to form Buckeye Deer Camp made efforts to monitor the progress of the deer and discourage individuals who hunted the animals illegally. Sunday afternoon rabbit hunting with beagles was a popular sport and gave us legitimate opportunities to be in the deer woods. We were always on the alert for signs of deer activity. Deer tracks, buck rubs, and other evidence caused us to enthusiastically anticipate the years of excellent deer hunting which lay ahead.
The swamp rabbits were plentiful in the White River bottoms. They were also quite heavy, especially when several had to be carried by a single hunter. A trick we soon developed was to let newcomers do most of the shooting and, therefore, carry much of the harvested game. Walter Jimerson was one person who fell victim to this tactic. Approaching the daily limit one afternoon, he became tired and weary because of the weight of the big swampers in his game bag. Though he was unaware of the trick we were playing on him, I recall Walter wondering aloud if perhaps we shouldn’t just listen to the beagles run instead of shooting the rabbits.
The first actual deer hunt by our group took place in November 1952, in the vicinity of Snow Lake near the community of Elaine in southeastern Arkansas. We camped in a tent on property owned by Burl Beeman’s brother-in-law. It was a very hot, dry fall, and the woods were even burning in places. No deer were taken during the hunt. Hunters in that first outing included Dr. Frank Maguire, Fletcher Davis, Tom Sullivan, Burl Beeman, Billy Martin, Dale Potter, Harv Ivins, and me.
Later that same November, several of us went down White River from Augusta in a boat to scout for deer signs. We ultimately decided that the area around Buckeye Bend would be the best location for a campsite. The bend received its name from an abandoned sawmill and railroad spur. During the early years of our camp, the remains of the old sawmill and railroad could still be seen. Large chunks of coal even lay around in the woods near the edge of the river.
Come back tomorrow for Part II!