Last weekend, I fulfilled a long-overdue promise to take my friend Jim deer hunting in the swamp.
"I don't care if I shoot anything or not," he said nonchalantly. "I just want to enjoy a few hours in the great outdoors, without any ringing phones."
We met an hour before dawn at a gas station in Beech Island, S.C. He wore pointy-toed cowboy boots and unsheathed a smartly sporterized Mannlicher carbine from a sheepskin case.
"Haven't shot it much," he confessed as he piled his gear in my truck. "But I did get out to the range, and got her zeroed in."
He reiterated, over and over, that he cared little - almost nothing - about shooting a deer, even if he were to see one.
"I'm all about sitting and enjoying the woods," he said. "It's the fellowship."
I took him to a place we call the Big Oak Stand-where he could sit among falling acorns and gaze across a crescent-shaped slough filled with flooded cypress trees.
"It's a beautiful place," I told him as we headed into the woods. "You might see deer, ducks, even a gator."
Three hours later, I hiked in to escort him out. Having heard no gunshots, my presumption was that he found just what he wanted: a quiet morning in the autumn woods.
"See anything?" I asked as I approached the stand.
"Uh, yeah!" he said excitedly. "A buck - a NICE buck."
His voice was uneasy, his bearded face flushed. "Long, tall tines, and they sort of pointed forward," he said. "And the antlers were out past his ears!"
I was delighted he had seen a shooter buck, and impressed that he opted not to shoot.
Then he told me how the buck had ambled toward him, moving parallel to an overgrown logging road that offered a perfect shooting lane.
The buck, of course, stayed out of that shooting lane, loping within 10 yards of Jim's stand, but staying concealed in a tangle of young saplings.
"OK, I wanted to shoot," he said. "I REALLY wanted to shoot. It looked like he was gonna cross up the road, so I had my scope there."
Instead, the old buck made an abrupt U-turn in the saplings, came back toward Jim's stand and darted almost beneath him. Then it splashed through the slough and vanished.
By the time we got back to the truck, Jim was already planning his next hunt. This time, he had a new purpose in mind.
"To heck with fellowship," he grinned. "Now I want to KILL something!"
I think he learned a lesson most whitetail hunters already know: a tranquil morning in a deer stand is a great stress reliever - as long as you don't see deer.
Unwelcome guest: We already have coyotes, armadillos, fire ants and other creatures that aren't supposed to be in our forests, and now it appears that North America's largest tree frog has made its way to Georgia, too.
According to wildlife biologist John Jensen of Georgia's Wildlife Resources Division, the recent discovery of a Cuban tree frog near Savannah is bad news.
"This is an invasive exotic that has been pushing rapidly north through Florida and was always a possibility to reach Georgia," he said.
Cuban tree frogs reach 5 inches in length and were introduced to Florida decades ago by hitching a ride in produce imported from Cuba. They are dangerous because they will eat anything they find - including native frogs.
Georgia authorities hope the lone specimen found in Chatham County isn't an indicator that the unwanted amphibians are reproducing here, but if anyone should find one, they should contact Jensen at (478) 994-1438.
Cuban tree frogs differ from common, native species in that they are much larger, have bronze or gray, rough-textured skin and unusually large toe pads on their feet.
CROSSBOW RECALL: Horton Manufacturing Co., which markets a popular, mid-priced line of crossbows widely used during Georgia's archery season, is recalling many of its models over a safety defect involving the limb mounting system.
According to a news release circulated Friday by the Ohio company, the affected models include some - but not all - Legend XL 175, Hunter Max 175 and Explorer TR 175 crossbows and bow packages. A specific description, with serial numbers, of affected bows is available at www.hortonmfg.com.
Reach Rob Pavey at 868-1222, ext. 119 or firstname.lastname@example.org.