Thrill of the hunt

Published 11:10 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009

A white, Ford step-side pickup bounced from side to side. The pickup crawled down a one-lane, dirt road that cut a swath through fields and forests.

Chuck Yeargan guided the pickup along the edge of the clearing. He came to a stop, leaned slightly over the steering wheel and pointed to the right where a homemade, wooden ladder leaned against a massive oak tree.

He climbed out of his truck, slung his rifle over his shoulder and carefully climbed to the top. He sat on the small platform, leaned back against the tree and watched for the slightest movement — a flash of white or brown.

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“The deer are in full rut, and that’s what you want,” Yeargan says. “I’ve got all the time in the world. Maybe we’ll see something.”

Yeargan is a guide for Morgan Academy’s annual deer hunt fundraiser, which began place Friday and ends today.

He scouts land and drives hunters to prime locations around Dallas County. They climb into boxes and stands before the sun rises and do not come down until the sky is dark again. Most hunters fall in love with hunting in Selma. Yeargan said about 90 percent of the hunters return year after year, with our without their wives’ approval.

“When they come down here, their wives think they’re roughing it,” he said. “We do try to treat them first class.”

That treatment comes with warm meals each day, including a steak dinner on Saturday night.

Kenny Green cooked 150 steaks on a grill the size of an iron lung. Green has been cooking barbecue chicken and steak since the fundraiser started nine years ago.

“The secret to a good steak is the seasoning you put on it and the fire,” Green said.

The cafeteria was decorated to resemble a hunting lodge, complete with camouflage tablecloths and tree stump candleholders. The main attraction was a dessert table that seemed like it went on forever.

“All of the desserts are homemade,” Dana Stewart said. “That’s a big selling point.”

However, the deer are the real reason people braved the cold rain Saturday night. Donnie Dibble Jr. and his wife, Amy, traveled to Selma from Hamburg, La. They heard about the hunt from a friend back home.

“The hunting’s good, the food’s good and the company’s good,” Amy said. “We like it so we keep coming back.”

Donnie killed a nine-point deer Friday. Saturday was not as kind.

“Today, nothing,” Donnie said. “That’s why they call it deer hunting and not deer killing.”

Organizer Todd Stewart said Morgan should make about $50,000 from the fundraiser. But the event is about more than money.

“The hospitality is really as much as the deer hunting,” Todd said. “We want them to have a good time.”

People ate tender, rib-eye steak like it was going out of style. By the time the night was over, the pans on the dessert table were practically licked clean.

Dana agreed with her husband. People love that Southern hospitality.

“They get loved on here,” she said.