Dogging Deer With The Duck Roost Gang

Daryl Gay | December 4, 2023

Part of Washington County’s Duck Roost Hunting Club after a successful deer/dog hunt on Friday, Nov. 17. On 15,000 acres, they average 80-120 deer per year. They enjoy the good camaraderie that goes along with deer/dog hunting, but the old timers in the club have a vested interest in passing along the tradition to the younger crowd.

Way off in the distance, the yammering seems to be getting fainter; the race is headed away from the huge clearcut I’ve wandered out into. Perched atop a pushed-up logpile, out front there is but scattered brush and a single line of trees too scraggly even for the loggers. Down the narrow dirt road 50 yards at my back eases a single Can-Am side by side, requisite dog box on the back.

Hammer. Hmmm; wonder where he’s going?

A hundred yards down the road, he suddenly turns into MY clearcut on a lane I didn’t know existed. (Or maybe it didn’t; that’s what Can-Ams are for.) A minute later, he stops and saunters—all 6-6 and 300 pounds of him—to the box. It strikes me that this is the first time in 30-plus years of deer dogging that I have a panoramic view of what’s actually going on; you always HEAR it, not SEE it. Hammer—whose government name happens to be Scott Glenn—pulls a single dog from the box. As soon as her feet hit dirt, the wide-mouthed yowl announces to the world that this is Brook—and that she’s struck something immediately interesting.

To both of us.

Right in front, seemingly in VistaVision, I watch in amazement and burgeoning blood pressure as she works things out. The ground cover that sprang up after the loggers left is thick in the half-acre she’s sifting, but little more than waist high. It blankets the action and now, as usual, I can hear but not see. But her nose knows; that deer is close by. The bawls and squalls that echo off the big trees across the road behind me are evident of her frustration, but also of confidence as Brook switches back and forth, a little closer with each step.

I’m positively mesmerized; this has always happened deep in our coastal swamps, where it’s difficult to pick out an elephant, much less a bedded whitetail. And then something happens that makes the pre-dawn highway haul to this spot much more than worthwhile: I actually watch the buck stand up.

But Brother, he don’t stand there long!

We’re not, for a change, running deer with hounds in far south Georgia or along the coast. In fact, I’m a guest of what Glenn calls, “the most northern dog hunting club in the state that’s still going.”

The Duck Roost Hunting Club is located in the northwest corner of Washington County, bordering Glascock and Jefferson counties. Its northern border is the Ogeechee River, and there are more than 6 miles of frontage on the club. It saw its beginnings in 1956, and Glenn, 59, has roamed and hunted it for more than 50 years. He told me quite a bit, but perhaps an even better perspective comes from a gent I rode the roads with and listened to from one end of Duck Roost to the other: 15,000 acres, about 19 square miles and over 80 miles of interior roads. He’s one of those friendly, quiet, modest guys who becomes a pal in roughly two minutes. Scott Glenn calls him “one of the finest men you ever want to meet.”

At 84 years of age, Billy Brantley is one of the original Duck Roost members, and in talking with other hunters throughout the two days I spent on the place, it’s obvious that today’s bunch looks almost with awe upon those founders. The peek back is fascinating, and Mister Billy was gracious enough to sit down beforehand and hand-write a few of his memories. I’d be remiss in not sharing them exactly as he put them down. You’ll likely not recognize any names, but it shows how sharp he remains, and provides a glimpse into how such institutions as the Duck Roost come to be.

“In 1956, my daddy Bill Brantley, Julius Walker, Aurthur Hartley and me began hunting on the Tom May place near the Duck Roost. Our dogs would run onto the Duck Roost, so Mr. Arlie Hendricks asked us to come and hunt with them. The property known as The Duck Roost was owned by a timber man, Mr. Cleo Archer. He had purchased the property at a good price and had sent out to the Midwest for deer. The herd grew rapidly.

“The hunting club was formed in 1958 with approximately 40 members; memberships dues were $50. Mr. Arlie Hendricks was the president and 10 directors were appointed. At that time, you were not allowed to hunt around the clubhouse unless Mister Cleo was hunting. No does could be killed, only bucks, so if you had one in your sights you needed to make sure it had horns!

“Through the years, many changes have taken place: increase in members, increase in dues, new property owners, rules and regulations have been added… but some things remain the same. There’s good fellowship, good sportsmanship, respect for each other, the land and the wildlife.

“I could sit and tell story after story of things that I have enjoyed through the years. I’ll do that one day soon.”

That’s a day I’m looking forward to, Mister Billy. And by the way, I’ll always be proud of your signed notes.

Glenn echoes Mister Billy when it comes to Duck Roost values.

“We have tremendous fellowship, with an older group of guys and the younger ones,” he says. “It’s important to us to involve the entire family; the younger kids today don’t often get a chance to hear what it was like for the old-time hunters and how they laid the foundation for how things are now. It’s important to carry that on after we’re gone, and I hope they do. We don’t put up with drinking and carousing, and the landowners won’t put up with it, either. We just hunt.

At 84 years of age, Billy Brantley is one of the original Duck Roost members. Billy has been dog hunting the area of Washington County since 1956. Back then he hunted with his daddy Bill Brantley, Julius Walker, Aurthur Hartley. Billy took the time to handwrite some stories when he found out GON was sending a writer to do a story.

“We have some of the finest dog handlers in the state and are very selective about them. There are eight, and no more. We may have a guest come hunt, but we won’t allow them to bring dogs. These handlers love our sport and wouldn’t do anything to harm it. I hope clubs continue to be respectful to other hunters and find a way to get along because that’s what’s best for our sport. We pride ourselves on safety and courtesy and try to debunk the myth about dog hunters being slob hunters. We’re going to keep the tradition going as long as the state allows us to. There’s plenty of room for everybody, still hunters and dog hunters. We run dogs on certain days of the week and still hunt on others. There’s a great group of people here, and I’m going to carry that torch as long as I can.”

As we ride the place chasing the dogs that have been chasing the deer, it’s obvious that the old-timers are still here in spirit.

“We have names of the old guys and a few favorite old dogs on the roads,” Glenn explains as I read hand-lettered  signs. “Cleo Archer was the original owner of the place; Aurthur Hartley was my granddaddy, and you have Orlie Hendrix, Oved Pittman and Tom Cox. Mister Orville Cobb was nicknamed Pea Popper, and that’s the name of his road.”

As far as the deer, Glenn estimates that there are between 80 and 120 taken each year on 15,000 acres.

“We have an extensive feeding program, and I’m sure we start each year with more deer than we left off with the previous season. We get a lot of kids who kill their first deer, and we’ve had 50-year-old men take their first deer ahead of the dogs. Seems like we always kill some of our biggest deer toward the end of the season.”

I wondered: what is a big deer ahead of the dogs in Washington County? So many times in previous years I’ve seen swamp deer that are big for their area but small in comparison to the rest of the state. Seems a lady from Twin City, Amanda Freeman, killed one that measured 156 inches.

That’ll do.

Speaking of big deer, you may recall the August 2023 GON cover featuring one Lindell Richey. And even if you’ve forgotten Lindell, you’ll likely remember the 193 7/8-inch monster he’s pictured with. (Actually, you would never forget Lindell and if you don’t know how to poke fun and laugh at each other all day, you’d not fit well at Duck Roost). It was through him that my Duck Roost invitation came about. And no, he didn’t kill that hoss in Washington County and no, he didn’t take it ahead of the dogs. That trip is a whole new fascinating story in itself.

Lindell was in a ladder stand when he shot the deer and as is typical of his humor told me, “Sometimes I’ll be sitting in a stand and ask myself ‘What am I doing up here and where are my dogs?’ I’ll just get bored and climb down. Kinda glad I didn’t that day though.”

Lindell’s deer dogs are his passion. All 28 of them. And they’re largely what got him into The Duck Roost club as a member following a guest invitation from brother-in-law Scott Glenn.

“I’ve been here about 10 years,” Lindell recalls. “I came as a guest, and they saw that I could handle my dogs, and that’s when they asked  me to join.”

He says it matter-of-factly, as is his way, but being able to handle dogs is very likely the single most important factor to a club such as this. Deer doggers get a bad rap when the hounds do what they do: go where the deer goes. Property line? Explain that to a Walker dog. It’s like attempting to explain the other side of the coin to an irate non-hunting landowner who doesn’t want the race on his place.

Simple solution as far as Lindell is concerned: “They’re tone broke and horn broke. When they get out of pocket, I hit a tone on their collar and they know they’ve gone too far. I start blowing the horn, and they come back to the buggy.”

May sound simple, but consider the amount of training that goes into it. Works like this: dog collars are GPS-equipped so that the handler always knows where they are by hand-held tracking device. When they get too close to boundaries, a push of a button beeps a tone on said collar. It’s not a shock; it’s a warning: stop and come back to the beeping horn.

Here’s what worn-out deer dogs look like after a morning of fun chasing whitetails in Washington County.

I watched it work like a charm for two days. The closest handler blows the horn and everybody catches up everybody’s dog, sorting them out at the end of a hunt. Keep in mind that we’re talking 15,000 acres and a ton of deer. Sometimes one jumps, sometimes a dozen. It’s easy for the dog pack to get split up.

Remember the buck that I watched stand up? He was a light buckskin, near yellowish. Looked to be maybe 100 pounds, smallish rack, sorta trotting—right at me! I knew him as soon as I saw him later, lying on the ground.

He was the fourth deer of the day within spitting distance, and I could have ended this race within 30 seconds and inside 30 yards. I had been told over and over to shoot what I wanted to shoot. So that’s just what I did; after 48 years of whitetails I can not force myself to end the career of a small buck; besides, it’s more fun to watch him get into a gallop with hounds on his heels.

And that didn’t take long.

He stayed in the clearcut, banked right and I heard a shot from a fellow stander. Then three more. And pandemonium followed.

He made it an estimated mile and a half before the dogs bayed him up for 30 minutes and allowed a shooter to get in and end it. I lost count of the day’s races, and there were five deer taken that day. In talking with club members since, that seems to be a representative number. It could be much higher, but that not this club’s way. One hunter is allowed to kill one doe a day, but that seldom happens. Billy Brantley, for instance, says if it ain’t got horns, he ain’t interested!

They’re a great group of guys, upholding an age-old tradition in the finest manner. I left knowing that, top to bottom, things here are done the right and proper way. The Duck Roost gives deer dogging a good name.

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