In an overwhelming majority vote, Ted Nugent has been selected to receive the Appalachian Literacy Council's prestigious James Fenimore Cooper award. Nugent is being honored for his many accomplishments in the field of writing, and for his "enormous contributions in the promotion of our American hunting and outdoor heritage," stated Awards Committee Chair Lee Conlon.
Nugent's article Primal Instinct was singled out for particular recognition. In addition to a cash stipend and plaque, Nugent will be presented with a special piece of artwork in recognition of his untiring efforts in promoting the American way of life..
Nuge huntstory - Naked soul
Light, friendly rain and pitch-black predawn sky forebode one nasty, snotty swamprun. The steady blowing mist kept the big steel mallard weathervane on rock solid point due west, slightly aglow in a fogged barnlight. I had the Browning 12 and a box of thee inch steel 3's already tossed in the back of the truck with my patched LaCrosse waders and a heap of old, beat up decoys, excitedly turning to get the Labrador pack from their kennels when it hit me. This would be a great morning to ambush a buck on the mystical hogback ridge! Plan B, take five.
Luckily, the dogs didn't know I was thinking waterfowl, and they snoozed soundly in their insulated boxes while I snuck back into the house to swap shotgun for bow and arrows. I had a hunch. It's that hunter's 6th sense, an instinctual gift that us modern Gonzo rockers have to get back in touch with to maximize our primal moves. Hand to hand combat with the prehistoric spirit, not in conflict, but as one. Tooth, fang and claw in all its glory. And that primal scream erupts in me often. Uprizing. I have learned to appreciate it and always respond. A few precious minutes were lost in my change of plans, and now I would have to outrun the oncoming eastern glow to my favorite westwind set. It is times like this that the smile spreads uncontrollably, the adrenalin surges and an inner charge drives the hunter. It takes everything I got to keep from running into myself, to remain reasonably calm and collected in anticipation of the arrival of the beast. It overwhelms. As it should.
The familiar, wet forest floor helped me maneuver the dark timber by Braille, silently, for a stealthy arrival at the huge old white oak tree my preseason scouting had determined was the killer ambush hot spot for this wind. It was beautiful. High on a massive, glacier cut ridgeline overlooking an expansive sawgrass marshfield, my eagle eye perch was positioned to not only access any deer traveling the historical rutted trails on both sides of the razorback, but provide a panoramic view for nearly a half mile out into the impenetrable swamp to the river. Thank you God! You sure do grand work! It was still pitch dark, and I felt as if I belonged. Because I do.
Carefully, I tied my bow to the pullrope and slowly climbed aboard the elevated stimuli zone of the wild. This is how I have always gotten high. Nature surely heals but her preventive medicine is just what the good Doctor Wild ordered. With my full body safety harness securely fastened, I settled in the rock solid API treestand for what seemed to be my zillionth vigil of the season. This is very exciting stuff my friends. Us hunters are genuinely moved just to be out here. The mist in the face, the air you taste, the dark that envelopes, the smells that flare, the stirring sounds, the breeze that invigorates, and those runaway visions of things to come, all make for an elixir of sensual stimuli the likes of which ain't available outside of childbirth. Soul stirring Spirit of the Wild stuff for warriors in the game of life.
Only a wildlife addict would sit 20 feet up, strapped in and squggled by the gnarly embrace of a 100-year-old burr oak tree, gripping a bow and arrow with the cold rain streaming down his nose. But this is the hunter's life! Afterall, life is not a smooth pond upon which we gaze, but, rather, snorting whitewater rapids we oughtta be breaststroking wildly in, never missing an adventurous lick! Couches are for Michael Jackson fans. YOWZA! YOWZA! And pass the Tedstosterone in megawads. I was goin down for the third time. Again. I of the storm.
Sunrize never came to be. The sky went from black to a barely legal shooting light dark grey as the precipitation slowed down and the birdlife kick-started the reluctant day. The mental ponytail was at ritualistic fullmast on its own accord, and my predator radar breathed invisible fire all around. A hawk shared my airspace, a squirrel my supporting limb. Super sonic wood ducks whistled past my head, following the river course from a night of acorn orgy. Distant crowspeak soothed me. A doe with twin fawns cautiously picked their way deep into the bowels of protective tree rimmed puckerbrush hell for the day. A sea of gold, bronze and yellow grasses weaved artfully through black timber. Deep green tamaracks and hemlocks protruded up from off white dogwoods and willow, melting into the gunmetal sky overhead. The dark purple weaving ribbon of river smoked unreal fog, filtering into the whole picture. Walt Disney wishes. Ray Charles can see these graphics. Nature breathed life into our world. I counted my blessings again. Excuse me whilst I kiss the sky.
Then I felt it. Zero warning for mere mortal cityman senses. A mystical intuition, like a mother knowing a child's thoughts. And the manifestation for a reasoning predator with a soul emerged, fangs first. Could I perform like the pure predator, my brother, the cougar? Or would the "advanced" human brain get in my way? I dared not turn, but stretched my eyes as far left as they could possibly go in their sockets without moving my head. At first only a mini flicker within the screen of thick vegetation was maybe observed! The silence grew deafening. A peace blanketed the wild. A tufted titmouse landed in my face to provide a little comic relief, but I concentrated on the moment at hand. Time zoomed on but stood still. Then he was in the dangerzone. Grooming himself at 30 yards on the wide-open trail gave me a dynamic view of his majesty. His 7-point antlers were brown, with white, ivory like tips, crowning his handsome contrasting facial markings. He was bold. Muscled but dainty. Cocky yet alert. This trail had provided him secure travel for two years and he appeared relaxed and confident. The wind did not betray me. My Mossy Oak camo turned me into indigenous fauna. The Great Spirit accepted me and my thoughts, spurring me on.
We deserved each other.
I was well zoned. All I looked at was the crease behind his foreleg. As if Fred Bear called his name, the stag turned to look away. Perfect! My bowarm mirrored his headswing into shoot position and my arrow nock nestled tight into the corner of my pursed lips like a million times before. For a nanosecond I blanked like a zombie, the buck distorted at the end of a distorted, dreamlike tunnel. I forced my focus back to my bow, the arrow and the deer's armpit, pulled my back muscles to the max, leaned slightly forward at the waist, and the arrow was off. He nearly turned inside out trying to pivot, but the 600 grain zebra striped projectile was in and out of his vitals before his awesome defense mechanism could outflash the 250 foot per second aluminum 2315 arrow, white turkey feathers vanishing into the 12 ring of his heart, perfecto! A Motown snaredrum punched a beat like a Neanderthal heart's first thump.
The birds, the wind, my heartbeat, pulse and breathing, everything, stopped. The forest scrub devoured 200 pounds of venison on the hoof, pronto. I sighed. Breathing came back smoothly. A small bird returned. I could hear the river again. I rested my bow on my lap and leaned back against the damp bark in slow motion. A clockwork camo. 2001-a Nuge odyssey. My eyes stared at the point of his final departure and I pulled my facemask down around my neck, a long, deep sigh whooshing from my open, grinning mouth. I just sat there calm, yet anxious. Smiling, silent. My watch read 8:48. The hours had gone by quickly. I closed my eyes to say a prayer of thanx and replayed the shot. No doubt the mystical flight of the arrow was true. No need to wait. Slowly, very slowly and methodically, I reversed my morning procedure, lowering my bow and climbing down, taking it all in. My red-coated arrow was stuck deep in terra firma, feathers blood soaked and bubbly. Confidence soared. The leafy forest blanket showed clear sign of his exploding scramble, the bloodspoor accenting each deep, disruptive, cloven divot. His escape trail stayed right on the gamepath the whole way, but I had to creep on hands and knees, snaking through the lower multiflora rose brambles for a dozen yards here and there, giving up my Browning cap twice to the unforgiving thorns. Inches from the ground, the pungent, wet, earthly autumn smell was wonderful. I came to truly appreciate the role and joy of the lone wolf and his pack. Wolves and bloodhounds are truly my BloodBrothers. All senses were connected and on fire.
I nearly crawled on top of him, surprised by his presence in my face. He appeared as if sleeping on his side, peacefully. His deathrun of 50 yards must have lasted but a flash. No more than seconds. This made me happy. Fast food in its purest form. A flood of emotions, as always, poured over me. I just sat next to him, stroking his tawny winter coat, impervious to the straightjacket briar tangle that embraced us as one, lifting his antlers in my bare hands, counting the tines twice. I marveled as always at this awesome, perfect package of natural, hi-protein fresh flesh sustenance from the Great Spirit for my family. More than 45 year's worth of stirring memories of family hunts consumed me. Xtreme at its most intense. Ultra alive. Many missed shots flashed back. A small, happy boy with a longbow. A smiling dad. A walk with Fred Bear. A hunt with a son. Red dogs. A caveman at a circle of fire. A haunch roasting over fire. Paintings on stonewalls. A handshake. Buffalo. A footprint in the mud at rivers' edge. Red braves on horseback. Leather strapped hands, bleeding, bonding two BloodBrothers forever. Black hunters dancing. Antler tips protruding from a snowbank. Wind. A circling eagle. Naked soul.