By Jim Harris
Louis Corde and I have had many hunting adventures, but the longest lasting with a piece of equipment has been with a simple platform deer stand (without a seat).
I nicknamed it “the platform.” Mom – Nell Fitzpatrick Harris – ordered it for me as a Christmas present in December 1992 when she was 80 and had it delivered to her home near Hampden Sydney, Va. I assembled it in her living room as an English Setter or two stormed through the house. She always had two bird dogs.
I mentioned something about setting it up and just leaving it to hunt on with available time, and she scolded me: “You aren’t leaving it in the woods.”
Then her stepfather, gentleman carpenter, Lewis Thompson, got in the mix, took the platform into his backyard shop and installed carrying straps. The 17-foot, three-piece stand had round aluminum legs about 2 inches in diameter, not “skinny” legs like modern stands.
Thompson’s son Ronnie asked, “You’re going to notch the stand every time you get a deer, aren’t you?” I replied in the negative since I wasn’t so sure I would get many deer and keeping count just didn’t seem appropriate.
My uncle, Metellus Fitzpatrick, introduced me to deer hunting. (I had mainly been a quail hunter with Mom’s dogs until quail started disappearing.) He just chuckled as he sat and watched me strap on the platform and carry a backpack and my Winchester Model 12 shotgun into the woods.
Not to be outdone, Corde came up with the idea of a wooden platform on an extension ladder. He quickly got tired of lugging his contraption around and then ran all of the nearby deer off when he took his stand down into the woods on a surface running garden tiller. Later he began using a safer factory built climbing stand.
I still have “the platform,” and as it turned out, it practically attracts deer. This was in spite of all of the noise Corde and I made going into the woods and my opening all of the snacks that my wife Caryl stockpiled on top of the refrigerator. I kept them wrapped in the original packages in the event I didn’t eat them all on one trip. At least I didn’t take any potted meat or sardines after the time I tried to open a can with my trusty hunting knife and almost cut my hand off. Deer can smell practically anything, you know, and they don’t worry about an occasional rattle due to all of those pesky squirrels and other noises in the woods. Fidgeting, which I do plenty of when I get cold or bored, also doesn’t bother deer much when you’re perched high.
Corde and I would go out, set up our deer stands, and I would usually get a buck. Sometimes Corde scored after he figured out how to maintain his balance in his rickety ladder contraption. It got so bad Corde would say, “I came along to drag your deer out of the woods.” He is a little younger than I, and this is one of the reasons he seemed to be an ideal hunting partner. Plus he probably knows first aid since he is one of the few who parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes.
I would be up on my stand and a buck would be sneaking or running by, and in at least two instances after I started firing, the buck would run straight to the stand. Maybe, between Mom’s circling bird dogs and the sound of the shots, the deer just got confused. But even when one was running like mad during my shots, it ended up dropping right below the platform.
The stand took on a life of its own. Mom insisted I couldn’t leave it in the woods because she believed someone might steal it. Consequently, one evening I waited until dark to come down and then started taking it down. The ground was soft, and as I unstrapped it from the tree, it started to shift and threw me out on one side. The stand seemed to protect me by not shifting completely off the tree. Little harm
The classic protective situation was with our son Jeb. Once, he thought he could better bond with me by going hunting. He never did take to hunting, but I went along with his request and set him up in the platform near daybreak. It was one of those miserable mornings with ice ready to fall off your nose, but perfect for hunting since you could rattle snacks all you wanted and deer couldn’t hear due to the falling sleet. I told Jeb to be very careful when he ascended the stand. I went down in the woods and got in another stand.
At about 10 a.m., there was a loud thump where Jeb was, and then hounds started running and baying toward us. The buck must have run right by the platform, but Jeb didn’t shoot. When it came my way, I dropped it. I asked Jeb what happened, and he said he had maybe dozed off and flipped out of the stand. I think he abandoned the stand and went to some open spaces to nurse his bruises. I didn’t press the part about the safety harness. since somehow he survived.
Jeb had Rasta, a Black Labrador that he obtained from Thompson. When I took Rasta in the woods one Sunday after a Saturday hunt to look for a downed deer, we got caught in a tremendous downpour. Where did we seek shelter? Underneath the platform, of course.
Today the stand remains in the woods, and I replace the platform every few years when I think it’s getting weak. I even give the entire stand a coat of camouflage paint.
On Dec. 1, I had just finished chowing down on an assortment of treats when a buck came busting through the wood. Two shots from my Remington .30-06 and the platform had scored again. About that time I thought I saw Mom and Metellus sauntering through the woods. He had his slight limp from a busted right leg, same as me, and as she crossed a gully, she fell flat on her face. She picked herself up and yelled, “Hunter, where are you?” I looked and it could have been an albino deer flashing through the woods, but maybe it was one of her English Setters.
Editor’s note: Harris has lived near Chester since 1979. Corde is a retired Chesterfield County employee.