Taken from an article I submitted to Woods ‘n Water Magazine and published in 2004.
Jena (Dixie County) – Thanksgiving weekend at the Royal Palm Hunting Club is traditionally the weekend for members of the club to bring their children and 2003 was no exception. As I write this I am reminded of my first trip with the Royal Palm Hunting Club. I was 14 years old and the club leased land in Collier County, Florida near Jerome and Copeland. I remember that it was a particular warm Thanksgiving and as most of you know, the Everglades has some of the largest mosquitoes in the world. That aside, it was an incredible experience.
Now, some 26 years later my son is continuing the tradition. For the past few years he and I have been hunting with the club as guests of one of the founding members, my father Warren (Gussy) Kushmer. My dad has been hunting in the state of Florida ever since he was a kid. From the Panhandle to the Everglades, he and his friends have seen most of the land. Some members of the club have been hunting together for over 60 years and most of them are second and third generation Floridian’s.
Traditions are very important to my family and even though I was unable to attend the Thanksgiving traditional hunt I made sure my son did. Daniel (Lee) Kushmer is 17 and celebrated his birthday on November 29th (in the woods) as he has done for the last seven years. Only in the past three years has Lee been able to hunt on his own and this was the first Thanksgiving weekend (regrettably) I did not attend. However, I knew his grandpa would take care of him.
Normally, Lee and I only make it to the woods once, maybe twice a year during hunting season so that is what makes this even more special.
Saturday, November 29th Thanksgiving was over and the crew was still full from the fine cooking of Uncle Johnny (Uncle Johnny has been the camp cook for over 50 years). While the crew is rounding up the dogs and getting ready for the morning hunt. Uncle Johnny begins the day cooking his gourmet breakfast. After breakfast the dogs are loaded up and the crew sets out. Just before Lee walked out of the lodge, Uncle Johnny said “today is the day, you’re going to get a big one”. Lee just smiled and said, “I hope so”
Royal Palm Hunting Club had a large crowd this Thanksgiving and everyone believed someone was bound to bag the “big one”. Once everyone had found their stand and was beginning to settle in the “dog men” Elwin Segrest & Johnny Vogel turned the dogs loose and in a matter of seconds they were hot on the trail.
Within five minutes the deer was in sight, too far to shoot. Yet, several seconds later, Elwin yells to Lee “do you see him“, Lee signals back with the confirmation. At that particular moment the deer was between Lee and Elwin and a shot could not be taken.
As the deer was heading to Elwin’s right he decided to move to his left and get on the ground allowing Lee the best opportunity to take the shot. Lee pulled up his grandpa’s Winchester, Model 12 pump shotgun loaded with Double-OTT Buck and drew down on the deer. As he focused the deer in his sights he realized it was moving pretty fast and the blood began to pump.
“How far do I lead him, is Elwin out of the way” Lee said to himself. After a quick glance to find Elwin, Lee once again looks down the 36” inch barrel and spots the deer. He figures the deer is about 70 yards away and is traveling pretty fast. He decides on how far to lead and takes the shot.
Bam, one shot, no more, Elwin yells, “shoot him again”. Lee’s Grandpa about a hundred yards behind Lee is wondering why he doesn’t shoot again, “he has three bullets,” Gussy says. Lee looks over to Elwin with a big grin and says; “He’s down, no need to shoot again”. Four pellets at 70 yards, “not bad shootin” Grandpa says.
Lee thinks to himself “what a birthday present” a nine point buck. He remembered what his Uncle Johnny had said to him not 30 minutes earlier “today is the day, you’re going to get a big one” and he just smiled. They loaded the buck into grandpa’s pickup and brought it back to the lodge to skin.
Estimated to weigh about 150 pounds with a rack measuring 15” inches apart at the widest point and 12” inches apart at the closest, it had four points on one side and five on the other. As the pictures were taken, the crew began to think, “this deer might be the biggest deer we have taken in Dixie County.” Bobby Wilkerson took the previous record several years ago. They looked at the mount and determined “Lee’s deer is bigger”.
Happy Birthday to Lee, not only did he “get the big one” on his birthday, he got the record. As you could imagine this will be one birthday Lee will never forget. If you are ever in Jena, drop in and see the crew at the Royal Palm Hunting Club and let them tell you the story first had. Although, I would wait until the mount is ready and hanging on the wall.
Daniel L. Kushmer, Lee’s Dad