“Going into the woods is going home…” – John Muir
If there is a hunting season for it, chances are Bobby Ruff has hunted it.
The 2008 Murray High graduate and standout football player has bagged everything from deer and raccoon to bobcat and bear here in the local area. It’s a passion that emerged on a blustery morning twenty or so years ago when he went deer hunting for the first time with his dad. Now, at 30, Ruff continues to live for the leaves to change so he can get back to his first love, chasing white tail.
“It’s a good hobby, a good thing to do outside,” said Ruff, who spent his childhood in Resaca before moving to Murray County in middle school. “My dad got me into squirrel hunting and taught me how to shoot. In this part of the world, it seems like something everybody does.”
Ruff remembers being on the hunt for deer for the first time and can plainly recall the adrenaline rush of bagging a nice buck.
“Weather was horrible, really cold,” he said. “We had not seen anything in days and were living out of an old Apache popup camper. A lot of time, a lot of work goes into it. It was pretty satisfying when everything came together.”
Like any hobby or sport, hunters improve with practice and preparation, Ruff said. Over the years, his skills have improved and, with the help of a little bit of luck, he’s been able to hunt most of the animals he’s been interested in without having to travel all around the country. One of the more unique species he’s hunted is the black bear, which are no strangers to Murray County residents.
“I started out hunting white tail in bear country,” Ruff said. “I never really intended to kill a bear. The state gives you two tags these days so I guess that means they’re a little more populated than they want, so I just do my part.”
He was staked out in the woods looking for deer when the first bear he ever killed emerged.
“It just came strolling through,” Ruff said. “I don’t get nearly as excited killing a bear as I do a white tail just because it usually involves a lot more work. Getting them out of the woods is quite the chore. Luckily, I had good friends who helped me. It was killed fairly close to four wheeler access. Being able to get it out of the woods fairly easily is something I consider before hunting it.”
Hunting bobcat is also a difficult chore because of their elusiveness, but Ruff was able to nab one a few years ago.
“I always wanted one to carry to the taxidermist,” Ruff said. “I boogered that one up too much, though. Too much gun. It was a first, something to check off the list.”
Ruff has yet to take a trip out west for elk or Bighorn Sheep, but he has enjoyed chasing whitetail in several different states. In the end, though, he says it’s hard to beat hunting close to home.
“Half of our county is public land,” Ruff said. “Cohutta Wilderness is right in our back yard. Somebody new to the area, this is a great place to get started in the outdoors and I didn’t really realize it when I first moved here. I was limited to hunting with somebody that could carry me back then. I started getting out and exploring and the opportunities around here are endless.”