Buckeye Creek

By Dalton Hicks

You had to be told how to get there. The GPS became a paperweight as you moved further south into Georgia. Long stretches of planted timber eventually gave way to the kaolin mines whose vast quarries and mountains sat otherworldly amongst the landscape.

Down past the mines and just up the road from nowhere was the cattle gate marking the entrance to Buckeye Creek, a humble tract known by few. A pole barn, a metal bunk house, and a burn barrel were all to be found once reaching a clearing 500 yards from the gate — a proper deer camp.

The first time I visited Buckeye Creek was in the early days of dating my now wife. Her father invited me to spend the weekend with them at their lease.

“I’d love to go, sir. Where’s it at?”

“Bum fuck Egypt, I’ll send you the coordinates.”

My kind of place.

With youthful exuberance and a fifth of Lagavulin, I loaded up my kit and made my way south for the first of many trips in the ensuing years. It wasn’t the hunting that kept me coming back; it was the confluence of people and humble provisions that I looked forward to so much — it was the camp.

It was the metal bunk house where we sweated and froze and shared quarters with the field mice, just drunk enough to pay them no mind.

It was the early morning burnt coffee that fueled an eventual tree stand nap, somehow the best sleep you’ve had in a long while.

It was the hollow-point ventilated burn barrel, where tall tales and legends of old were shared with the perfect amount of varnish.

It was resigning yourself to the fact that your tag would remain unpunched yet again, but that it was ok because someone back at camp brought watermelon moonshine and you had nowhere else to be.

It was there that the strong relationship between my father-in-law and I was formed. Bonding is inevitable when the community latrine is a porta-john, bottom removed, atop a deep pit on the edge of the first field.

These memories come with a twinge of sadness. Like all good things, an end was inevitable. Big timber and their deep pockets ran off the blue collar boys against their will, forcing us to find our sport elsewhere.

It’s no easy task. I’ve been on the lookout, searching high and low for a camp that can take the place of Buckeye Creek. The search remains futile, as I’m chasing nostalgia more than I am land. The bitter truth?

I’ll probably never find it.