I am in America for this year’s Festival with my family. It is a rare opportunity to be in America at this time of year for me. One that I am not going to waste. I am an avid hunter and fisher.
I have spent many, many days and nights in the great outdoors for the sole purpose of “killing” some of God’s tasty creations. I have passed on that passion to my boys and have tried to pass it on to my daughter. I have “rationalized” that hunting and fishing are not within the realm of what was meant in the 10 Commandments related to killing. I know that there are many people that don’t agree with that rationalization.
I believe that we are stewards of the Earth and all of God’s creations on it. It is our responsibility to do what is possible to preserve the Earth and the creatures that live on it. I know that in America the States have the responsibility of managing the resources that I enjoy pursuing. They try hard but often aren’t successful in keeping the sportsmen happy and other times they aren’t successful in keeping the “others” happy. It is a tough job. I think it would be difficult to manage resources that are susceptible to the extremes of weather; too much snow and the hoofed varieties I enjoy so much suffer from hunger and death while too little snow and the fish suffer because there isn’t enough water in the summer and fall to keep them from getting too hot.
I was fortunate this year to get to go back to Wyoming, USA and do a little hunting with my boys. We haven’t been hunting together for many years, at least 4. It was nice to spend so much time with them. We do a little bit of hybrid hunting, not really a true “road hunt” and not really a camp and hunt. We drive around and look for a good place to hike into and see what is there.
We drove up a little canyon near our home here in Wyoming called Greys River. It is a very good hunting area and is known by many that enjoy hunting in Wyoming. It produces many trophy quality deer (>30 inches wide) every year and we are hoping that we can “luck” into one since we haven’t scouted any in the area. We see lots of does (female version of the Mule Deer) and fawns (this year’s young) but nothing with antlers (grown only on the male Mule Deer). By noon we have hiked a lot and are ready to eat and take a break.
I have a number of “moon cakes” that I brought back from China with me and am OK with just a couple of those and a liter of water. So by the time we get back to my home, I ask them to take me back behind the house to the National Forest (it is less than 1 mile from my front door). I am basically living in the same place that I grew up, my current home is just about 150 yards from the home I grew up in. So I have wandered around in those mountains and hills for the better part of my 49 years. Many adventures as a youth, young man, and adult; not all of them related to hunting and fishing.
I have found a spot that consistently over a month of hunting will produce at least the opportunity to see the animals of the area and occasionally I harvest (a more noble term for killing something) one there. I have been through this area so many times for so many years that I have identified a pretty reliable way to hunt it without ending up on the wrong side of Idaho and Wyoming boundary. And so it begins again, this time with my oldest boy, the others opting to get something to eat.
As the truck pulls away leaving us to walk back to the Forest gate, we hear the hum of heavy equipment; an unusual event that I am not expecting. As we walk down the road to figure out what it might be we see that one of our neighbors and friends from Church are just wrapping up a major firewood project. They have a 2 1/2 ton truck loaded with logs that they have spent the better part of the day cutting. They are just putting the binding chains on the load to secure it and will be leaving the area back the way that we came in. It is a little disheartening as the noise may have spooked the animals and they may not be anywhere close. Since our ride has already headed back off the mountain we decide that we will continue on as planned.
We walk into the woods and away from the ancient logging road and soon the noise and clamor are left behind. The only sound we hear is the crunch of leaves beneath our feet and the branches and brush rubbing against our clothes. We slow our pace as we begin the hunt in earnest.
Roughly about 300 yards into the woods from the little firewood collecting operation I see a little flicker of a deer out of the corner of my eye. My quick movement to shoulder my gun spooks it and two bounces later down hill it is hidden in the brush below me. I know that it has paused and is looking back at me but I can’t see it, though certain it can still see me. Oh, I am so not up to par in this environment, my weapon doesn’t do much to make this an even contest in the thick timber and brush we are in right now. I check my scope again and reduce the power to 4X knowing that any shot we will have will be shorter than 100 yards an more likely 20-50 yards. I continue to follow the well worn game trail I am on, being even more sensitive to the possible movements in front of me. I can see my soon moving parallel to me above me on the mountain about 40 yards uphill.
I can see some movement in the trees in front of me, there are at least 4 deer moving about. I shoulder my weapon and release the safety as I try to determine gender of the deer in front of me. I can’t see enough of the deer to tell what they are. I know from body sizes that at least one of them is a fawn, but can’t tell much more than that. As I try to maneuver in the trees to get a better angle and get a look at the heads of some of the bigger bodies in front of me a shot rings out from uphill followed quickly by a whoop.
The deer in front of me move rapidly down the slope away from me. My gaze turns uphill as I try to see if I can see something moving away from the shot, nothing. I continue to move forward with the intent that if the deer is wounded and still moving I might be able to finish it. After about 50 yards I turn uphill and begin moving towards where I know my son was, I see him and he says that he is standing on the beginning of the blood trail (he shoots a 45-70 Govt single shot). He says that the deer stood up about 20 yards in front of him and he has lots of blood where he is standing. I begin to move towards him and I see just up the hill to my left the distinctive rump color of a Mule Deer laying near a tree.
I approach the deer from the back and kick it hard in the rump, no movement. I proceed closer and can see the exit wound and blood pooling in the grass. He is dead. He made about 2 jumps and slide down hill as he collapses, he was about 15 yards from the point of impact. He is laying near the base of a tree with an 4″ snag leaning at a 45 degree angle over his front shoulders, his rump is facing down hill. He is a monster.
The work begins as we field dress him (removing the internals). We contact the other sons in the truck, they haven’t even made it off the mountain yet because they stopped to look for some other deer opportunities. We ask them to go pickup the “girls” to bring them to the site so that my son’s children can share some of this experience, just like I tried to give them that experience when they were young. Unfortunately the cellular service is spotty and we eventually just bring the deer out meeting the rest of the family at the house. We pose for pictures with the deer in the bed of the truck and end up hanging it in my father’s barn.
From the time we got out of the truck to start the hunt until it was hanging in the barn was just over 1.5 hours. That is pretty nice considering what it might have been had we gotten one in any of the locations we hunted earlier in the day. The deer is 29+ inches wide and 21+ inches high. He is nearly symmetrical and will be a nice mount that will remind us of the fun that we had together.
Epilogue: We processed the deer at one of the local meat processors, he weighed in at 153 on their scale, without his head and neck, entrails, and hide. Packaged meat weighed over 60 pounds, the hamburger, steaks, roasts, and jerky will certainly help my sailor’s family meals be a little more exciting over this coming year.