Clyde Roberts already had killed two does in Bedford County during the 2017 deer season, now he was perched 20-feet high in a tree stand looking for a bear.
Did I mention that Roberts, who lives in Evington, celebrated his 104th birthday in October?
His son, Mike, believes his dad is the oldest active hunter in America. A Google search doesn’t dispute that.
What is certain, Roberts has become the hero of hunting blogs this year, getting nearly 20,000 likes on one that described his hunting prowess.
He wasn’t always a hunter. He took up the sport when he retired from Rubatex in Bedford at age 65. That may sound like a late start, but for Roberts it was nearly 40 years ago. Mike had bought him a gun to get him started.
“I think Mike thought his father needed a hobby to help pass the time, and perhaps he was correct,” Roberts said. Growing up poor in Bedford County, where he cut timber and cleared land, hadn’t afforded him many luxuries or free time.
One of the best deals of his life was the $5 lifetime hunting license he purchased from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries upon his retirement.
“I suppose the state fish and game folks figured anyone retiring would not be around long enough for them to lose money. I have hunted and trapped on that $5 license for decades. Some years later that deal was discontinued.”
Roberts has been around longer than the DGIF itself, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016.
Last season, Roberts killed the largest buck of his life while on an Election Day hunt with his granddaughter, Christin Elliott. The two voted that morning and spent the afternoon in a tree stand. The big-bodied buck carried a wide-rack bearing 8 gleaming points. In a blog report, Christin called the hunt, “Awe-inspiring. The hunt of my lifetime. The best part was when he knelt down and thanked the good Lord.”
Elliott used her cellphone to text a blow-by-blow report of the hunt to her dad who was on an elk hunt in Montana.
“When people ask me about the secret to my longevity, I tell them it was all about hard work and living for the Lord,” Roberts said.
He has missed tagging a deer only one year, that was in the early 1990s when he was unable to climb a tree or shoot because of a dislocated shoulder and three broken ribs.
“That was the result of an attack from a deranged, Angus bull,” said Mike, the long-time director of Return to Nature, a program that introduces school kids to the outdoors.
Roberts’ early December bear hunt took place in Halifax County on land owned by conservationist and former NASCAR driver Ward Burton and son, Jeb.
Bear were forgotten when a couple does walked into the field that Roberts watched. He has killed 10 deer since he turned 100, all but four taken with a .50-caliber muzzleloader. On this hunt he cradled a .270.
“There’s a buck,” Roberts whispered to Mike, a bit too loudly, Mike thought. It was an 8-pointer. It crossed the field and began chasing the does. Mike stopped the movement momentarily with a grunt call. His dad squeezed the trigger. The buck cartwheeled. That made three deer for the 2017 season. Roberts had hunted 10 afternoons during the two-week firearms season in Bedford County.
According to DGIF statistics, only 6 percent of the state’s deer hunters kill three deer in a single season. Only one is 104.