PARIS, Tenn. -- Greg Hackney took a step and stopped. Peaked around the edge of red oak, scanning everything in sight: The shape of leaning tree that could be the back of a deer; the movement of a hickory leaf the wind had flicking like a deer’s ear or shadows coming together signifying something moving.
“You have to see and interpret everything,’’ Hackney whispered, “almost like looking for a sniper in the brush. You see it first, you have a chance. You don’t. You lose.”
Minutes later, after seeing and interpreting everything in sight, he scoped out his next few steps and painstakingly repeated the process.
“It’s old school hunting, a lost art,’’ Hackney said, as he still hunted his way through a Tennessee bottomland, looking for sign, any sign of a deer.
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Hackney is a Major League Fishing and Bassmaster superstar, known for his full-court press when it comes to catching big fish. They call it the “Hack Attack,” a description plastered on a variety of baits in the fishing aisle of your sporting good’s store.
His approach is “old school,” one he doesn’t leave behind when he enters the woods.
“I learned to hunt this way,’’ Hackney said, “first with squirrels and then later with deer. I think a lot of folks forget what they can learn about hunting, by trying to slip up on a squirrel.”
Hackney is adamant that if hunters really wanted to be better, they would get back to the basics, like squirrel hunting. It’s the “wax-on, wax-off” stage of hunting. But it’s not as popular as it was 30 years ago.
“Me, I want my sons to be able to kill a limit of squirrels before they do anything else,’’ Hackney said. “They will thank me years from now when all their friends know about woodsmanship is how to spell it.”
That was the way Hackney was brought up in the south Arkansas woods. He killed his first archery buck still hunting at the age of 15. The 6-point buck was feeding under a white oak tree, when he slipped up on him.
“I was slipping down an old logging road and I came over a little rise,’’ Hackney recalls. “I was really fortunate because when I came over that rise they were both eating under a big white oak with their heads down. It’s one of those deals I just went unconscious and drew and shot all in the same. I didn’t waste any period of time when I eased over the hill. But it was in an afternoon and there was a lot of wind. I had a good wind.
“They didn’t hear me, and I walked right up on them. And when I eased over the rise, there they were feeding under a big oak. I was hunting a place I was real familiar with the land. I knew the trees that were getting hit because I had spent hours on end there. I had just about, in that particular patch of woods, killed a squirrel in every tree in there at sometime during my life, so I was real familiar with the ground.”
Today, Hackney still gets in on squirrel hunting during October. When he’s bowhunting, he extends his hunt by still hunting.
“In my region, the best deer hunting, or when they are actually moving, is that first hour of the day and the last,’’ Hackney said. “If I still hunt, I can extend my hunt thru lunch.
“That’s the cool thing about still hunting, when you’re up a tree, you’re limited especially early on when the deer don’t range a lot. It is good early on because the deer don’t range big areas like they do in the rut, all they do is eat and sleep and get a drink of water. I mean that’s all they do. They don’t just get up and travel big areas to be walking around.”
Add to that is while you are hunting, you are scouting too.
“You can look at a new area. I enjoy being in the woods, that’s something that squirrel hunting embeds in you.”
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