Thursday, October 30, 2014

Like, Whoa, Man!!!

Deep thought for the day:

I have come to the realization that every person should have at least one other person on this planet that they love more than they love themselves. 

If there isn’t one person on this good Earth that you wouldn’t gladly take a bullet for, it’s my honest opinion that you’re doing it wrong. 


Monday, October 27, 2014

Tam Posts a Timely Discussion, Reinforcing My Comments on "Unthinkable"

At the link, you will read about a real-world example of the "turkey shoots" that I discussed as applies to my post below.

You will recall that I made the argument that, contrary to popular belief, the allies could have bested the German Wermacht without the help of the Russian Army.  Many people, based on sheer numbers alone, argue that we could never have beaten the Germans without Russia, since Russia committed so many millions of troops to the effort.

I argue that with allied air superiority, that battles, such as the tank battle at Kursk, which consumed so many millions of lives, would never have even happened had it been Britain and American fighting on the allied side.  Russia ALWAYS loses a lot of men when it goes to battle.

America and Britain, however, owned the skies, and any time the German Army tried to move without the cover of bad weather, we systematically picked them apart using air power, with ground forces to hem them into the killing field.  The one time post-D-day that they managed to mount an offensive that set us back, was when the weather did not allow large-scale air sorties to occur.  As soon as the weather cleared, the offensive crumbled.  We had our struggles fighting the Germans before we held air superiority, but once we bested the Luftwaffe, it was only a matter of how many German sholdiers we'd have to kill before Hitler capitulated.

Tam discusses the killing fields at Falaise.  I was born in 1980, so I never saw them in real life, and I've only seen a few pictures, but the idea of what happened there - the sheer magnitude of the suffering and death - haunts me.

Falaise is why we did not need the Russians to win.  We killed and captured more German soldiers at Falaise than the Russians did at two Kursks, and our loss of life was negligible in comparison.  The Russian involvement in the war did nothing, really, other than to raise the total allied body count.  We could have handled the Wermacht without them, but it would have been immeasurably horrible for the poor Germans on the ground.

Monday, October 20, 2014


I got involved in a “what if” discussion about “OperationUnthinkable” over the weekend.  It was very enjoyable, this mental masturbation of considering all of the things that might have been, had this alternative history actually taken place. 

First and foremost, I wonder what it would be like to drive a Russian sports car?  Tam did a post that I can't find,  which was essentially a picture of two cars, one of them a 1990 mercedes sports car that looked awesome, and the other, a Trabant, one of those awful 2-stroke nightmares that the luckiest among the East German population could acquire, and said something to the effect of “take the world’s most intelligent, industrious people, put one group under communism, and one under captitalism, and this is your result."  Makes me wonder what  Russian sports car would even look like… 

A lot of the arguments against the possible success of “Unthinkable” came from arguments revolving around sheer numbers.  I think there were three soviet tanks for every allied tank, and four soviet soldiers for every allied soldier, and so the folks in the conversation that thought “Unthinkable” was, well, un-doable, generally relied on that fact.  Based on sheer numbers alone, the Soviets would be our masters in any confrontation.

Most people do, in fact, consider the Eastern Front to have been the actual war in Europe, whereas the western front was simply a side-show, and they base that on sheer numbers.  As Tam has pointed out (can’t find that post, either), that is probably simplistic thinking.  I also have a more nuanced view of the situation, and consider that the war against Germany was won by the following key factors. Without any one of these, things would have gone very differently:

Allied Supply and Industry

Germany could not touch us when it came to the ability to produce war materials.  Russia could not touch Germany in that same regard, and would likely never have surpassed Germany if it were not for Allied lend/lease programs keeping Russia in oil and ammunition and food.  Without Allied supply, Russia would have almost certainly collapsed after the first few months of war.

The United States Air Force

At the same time that Allied supply chains were dwarfing those of the Axis, Axis supply was being pounded to dust by a relentless air bombing campaign by the Allies.  This also served to degrade the strength of the Luftwaffe, putting them on more equal terms with the degraded Russian air forces.  Without this, German supply could possibly have dwarfed Russian supply, and they could have had a chance at winning a war of attrition with the Russians (maybe). 

The Russian Winter, and German Arrogance

No German commander gave the situation in Russia it’s due regard, specifically as applied to winter, but also as applies to the will of the Russian man, and their ability and willingness to feed their people into the meat grinder, and finally, in having the humility to withdraw and set up defensive lines and perimeters during the worst times of the year instead of attempting to press forward and outstrip their ability to supply.  The Russian winter gave the Russian army a chance to gain a foothold, as Germans outpaced their supply in many fronts. 

Notice that the Russian Army doesn’t make this list.  That is on purpose.  If you look at the total number of Russian casualties, and carry that over to the US and British armies without considering these other facts, you would be tempted to exclaim “there is no way that Britain and the US could have absorbed such massive quantities of casualties!”  And so you’d be tempted to add the Russian Army to that list.

I agree.  They could not have. 

But they would not have, either, and that’s what the folks arguing that line fail to see.  The war in Western Europe was entirely different than the war on the Eastern front, for one reason – the plains and steppes of the eastern front.  The spaces to maneuver were massive, but there was no cover from the air.  Neither side had much of an airforce left towards the end, and so the war was a ground war, won by gross tonnage of men and equipment each side was willing and able to feed into the grinder. 

Consider one famous battle, the battle of Kursk, and think about that battle had one of the belligerents had an actual, operating air force at the time of the battle.  Think about masses of German tanks, sitting out on the open steppes, with nothing to protect them from wave after wave of B-17, B-29, and B-24 bombers.  The entire front of that battle could have been carpet bombed ten times over by the time the Germans fielded an offensive, and no offensive would have ever occurred.  Instead of the largest tank battle in history, you’d have had an unremarkable, nearly casualty-free (for the allies, anyway) bombing campaign (made possible by the absolute allied air superiority at that time of the war, and also their superior supply chains for the bombs and fuel), followed by another unremarkable “mopping up” campaign where stragglers that survived the bombardment were destroyed by ground forces and artillery.  How many would have been lost had that battle been fought between Germany and the Allies, instead of Russia?  I’d argue not many allied troops at all, and probably not as many Germans as actually died, because they would never have been able to field such a force in the first place.    

That battle, alone, as I recall, was responsible for 350,000 Russian casualties, which is damn close to the total casualties of the allies in the entire European war!  If it had been fought against Germany by the US and Britain, the “Battle of Kursk” would have been no different than the “turkey shoots” that US and British air corps inflicted on the Germans and Japanese later in the war on their own fronts.  Couple the horror of this air bombardment with the fact that the Germans would not have been nearly so reluctant to surrender to the Americans, because they knew they’d be treated better, and you’ve got an entirely different dynamic at Kursk. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yes, the Russians lost a lot of men in the war, but historically, the Russians ALWAYS lost a lot of men when they went to battle.  You might argue that the Russians did the lions’ share of the work by fighting these massive battles of attrition against the Germans, and I’d agree, but it was not necessary that they did so in order for the Allies to win.  With our supply and our air power, we could have fought the entire German army ourselves, and we’d have still won.  We just wouldn’t have had to kill every one of them to make it happen, as the Russians found necessary. 

So any argument that the Russians would have been a formidable foe that the other allies could not have handled as easily as they’d handled the Germans tends to fall flat.  Fighting the Germans in mountainous, treed western Europe is entirely different than fighting them on the steppes of Russia.  Our air force became useless in ground support roles in several instances of direct fighting in western Europe, but on the steppes and plains of Russia? 

No surface army could move without air cover, and air cover is one thing that Russians would not have had once the allied lend/lease and alliances dried up. 

Moving on to supply chains.  Even if they could have found someone to supply them (as they were still incapable, even as late as 1945, of supplying themselves) they could not have defended their ports for long.  The American and British navies would easily have crushed the Russians, again, because moving surface ships after 1938 without air cover was suicide, especially against an American Navy that had just fought the largest naval war ever seen, and won handily. 

Every port the Russians had would have been in allied hands in a matter of weeks, which was a key advantage the Germans never gained against Russia because of their lack of a strong navy. 

An Atlantic Ocean empty of German “wolf packs” meant that supply would be pretty much uncontested to any port on Earth (except for those few controlled by Japan in the very early days of the war against Russia), so Allied supply would be unfettered.  Add in the fact that we would no longer be diverting a huge portion of our supply to the Russian cause, or to the bottom of the atlantic, or, after August 1945, to the Pacific Theater, and I think no person could argue against the statement that the balance of supply would be tipped drastically in allied favor.  Drastically. 

So now we’ve got material superiority, and air superiority.  We still don’t have manpower superiority, but with smart deployment, as discussed before, we wouldn’t need it.  The entire Russian army in Germany was being supplied by 20 locomotives.  They wouldn’t last the first week before allied bombings took them out.  If the Russians weren’t quick to retreat, we could have had them cut off from retreat and re-supply in a matter of a few days, using encircling tactics, and avoiding direct confrontation with the main body of the Russian Army whenever possible.  All that would be needed is to repel any counter-attacks, which again, would be made easier by the fact that our air force would be constantly degrading their ability to make war, tighten the noose, and wait for their supplies to run out. 

It was pretty well known that the only reason the Russian army stayed in force during the war was that they hated the Germans more than they hated Stalin.  But give them a chance to choose between surrendering to a benevolent force like the US and British, and starving to death? 

There would be no Stalingrad.  No fights to the last man.  The second they got rumbly in their tummies, they would hoist the white flag. 

If they did not, it would only change the outcome by a few weeks and a lot of Russian blood, anyway.  No Russian force, encircled, cut off from supply, and out in the open, could possibly survive the allied air barrage that we were capable of laying down.  B-29s were almost impervious to Russian anti-aircraft batteries.  Don’t forget, too, that we had nukes and they did not.  The T-34 was  good tank, but even it could not withstand a 500 pound bomb, much less a 12 kiloton nuclear blast. 

It would simply be a case of how many Russians you had to blast to smithereens before they gave up.  But give up they would, without a doubt. 

But I still don’t think that such a thing could have been done without the Russians attacking us, first.  Believe it or not, my biggest reason for thinking that it might not have worked was popular opinion and politics.

No one could have possibly foreseen how powerful and dangerous the USSR was going to get.  In 1945, they were our allies.  How could you possibly convince the American and British pubic, now that they’d won their hard-fought victories, to make war on a key ally and keep fighting?  How could you convince the troops?  Especially when they all knew of the massive attrition rates that the Russians had inflicted on the Germans? 

How do you explain to them that it won’t be the case when we go up against them? 

I think that this, more than any other thing, is the reason that I do not believe that “Unthinkable” could ever have worked.  The US and Britain were tired of war, and would never have supported such an endeavor.  Turns out I was right, because they didn’t, and “Unthinkable” never got it’s legs under it. 

Without that, the campaign never started, and we had 60 years of nuclear brinksmanship and fear as a result. 

Pity I never got to drive that Russian sports car.  

Requested Update

ASM826, co-blogger over at “Borepatch” left this comment below:

<i>Any updates you can share?</i>

Yeah.  I've been kind of dragging my butt a bit for the last couple of days.  Just feeling low over all of this, coupled with the fact that I just missed a big deadline on a project last week, so I've got clients that are righteously pissed off at me right now.  It's one of those things where there's nothing that I could have done, but the owner doesn't care, or know enough about the process to know that he's coming down on me for something that was outside my control.  It’s crisis management time, and I’m not really that good at crisis management without allowing it to stress me out beyond description. 

It's just the job, you know?  You apologize and move on, and try not to let the fact that you've got health issues effect your judgment and your ability to handle the injustice of it all (but fail miserably in the process, if you’re me)... 

"What are you bitching about?  This doesn't look all that hard!"

As for my heart, it's pretty much been established at this point that the surgery didn't work, and I'm going to have to do it again. 

Right now, my cardio-electrophysiologist is in the same boat with me as I'm in with my client right now - it probably wasn't his fault; it was probably out of his control, but I'm still righteously pissed off.

I’ve got a theory as to what happened and why the surgery failed.  My a-fib and a-flutter was triggered in large part by swallowing – cold liquid or a big mouthful of food, as it went down my esophagus, would trigger a-fib almost every time.  To me, this meant that the spot on my heart that was having the issue was right up against my esophagus.  Why else would swallowing trigger it? 

After the surgery, the surgeon confessed to me that there was a spot that needed to be ablated, which he was unable to properly ablate because the spot was so close to my esophagus that he was worried about “cooking” my esophagus and causing esophageal lesions, ulcers, or even worse, literal holes in the damn thing. When he said that, I had a twinge of fear that I set aside quickly out of denial, that maybe he hadn’t fixed me. 

Turns out that is exactly what happened – he got 5 spots on my heart that had bad conductivity, but were likely not the true cause of my a-fib and a-flutter, and missed the one spot that needed to be ablated, out of an abundance of caution for causing worse problems. 
"Well, Mr. Goober, we got that non-life-threatening heart arrhythmia taken care of,
but you now have a hole in your swallowing tube, so no eating for 60 to 90
days while it heals."  

I’m still taking those horrible anti-arrhythmic drugs that make me so tired, and keep me from being able to get my heart rate up enough to perform simple things like walking up flights of stairs without getting light headed.  There were a couple times deer hunting last weekend when I thought I was going to go down, and I told my brother in law to not panic if I did an just give me time to come back to.

"No worries.  I'll be able to get myself out of here with my heart not working right.
Piece of cake!'

The update that I’ve gotten since my last post is not any more heartening or encouraging…  I went to a second doctor to see what their opinion was on this, and the upshot is this:

One:  In 30 days, I get to put on a Holter monitor and wear it for 30 days to count and categorize the arrhythmias.  This will help them determine 100% whether the surgery failed or not (but I already know it did – I haven’t gotten any relief at all from it). 

Two: The course of treatment will almost certainly include a second surgery, and from what I can tell, no one wants to try and do that until 24 months have passed from the first surgery, so it looks like I’ve got a minimum 2 more years of fighting this shit until I have another chance of being fixed.

Three: I’ll be on the arrhythmic drugs and the blood thinner for at least another two years. 

One ray of light, I did complain about the constant bleeding from my psoriasis as a result of the blood thinners, and the second doc switched me from Xarelto to Eliquis, which is supposed to minimize bleeding.  Maybe my bedsheets won’t look like a scene from Dexter every morning anymore, so I guess there’s that. 

I’m trying to focus on the positive things in my life right now.  Mrs. Goober is almost 4 months along now, and the baby is healthy and growing as it should.  It wouldn’t cooperate at the time of the last ultrasound, so we still don’t know if it’s a boy or a girl.  The Mrs. is funny with all of her cravings and being hungry all the time.  She usually eats like a bird, so when we went to Napa yesterday to get brake pads for her car, and a new radiator hose to replace the one that was looking sort of used up, she suddenly had a craving for, of all things, Taco Bell.  So I made “a run for the border” and she got a bunch of absolute crap to eat, and she was so happy… 

The savor of stoned teenagers and pregnant women since 1973

I'm trying really hard to not let the looming spector of my myriad of health problems take away from the joy of making our second child, but it's hard.  I've been so physically broken for so long now, it feels very hopeless.  

Saturday we made the first 75 pounds of sausage from the deer we shot last weekend.  I made 25 pounds each of bratwurst, Italian, and breakfast sausages, both in bulk and in links.  I used pork butts we got from a local supplier to mix 50/50 with deer.

I recently inherited my Great-Grandfather’s 1902 vintage cast-iron sausage stuffer when my Great Uncle Larry stopped making sausage, so we were able to use it to make our sausage this year, and it was fun to use that machine that had been used, through the years, by likely hundreds of my family and ancestors.  I plan to do a post on it soon, because it is really a cool machine, but I need time to do some research on it first. 

I have a steelhead trip coming up on the 11th, 12th, and 13th of November.  It’s a work-related trip.  I’m bringing some folks from work, including an architect from one of my projects, and one owner.  We’re getting a cabin up Hell’s Canyon and will spend three days up there fishing for steelhead.  One of the guys coming along knows how to run a jet boat in the canyon, so that if I have heart issues while we’re up there, he can get everyone out.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


So ablations have a success rate of about 75%.  I’ve feared mightily the one in four chance that I have that my ablation, and all the fear, and pain, and discomfort associated with it would be for naught. 

Yesterday, I found out that it was. 

I spent the entire day falling into and out of afib, with the requisite awful feeling in my chest, light headedness, shortness of breath, and just general feeling on un-rightness associated with it. 

I wasted my time.  I wasted my money.  I wasted all that stress and fear and everything that I went through, for fucking nothing.  I’ve got a doctor’s appointment coming up at 2:45 today, at which point in time I plan to find out what the next step is going to be.

Maybe at this point, the answer is just “live with it?” 

God, I fucking hope not.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Deer Season 2014 - The Result

So deer season was a big hit this year.  I was tagged out by 10 am opening morning.  All told, my party of four got four deer, two of which were mine. 

So here’s how it went:

First thing in the morning, brother in law and I are at the bottom of a canyon, 50 yards in from the road, when we spot a doe 220 yards up the canyon.  We have doe tags.  She’s facing directly at us, so he drills her in what I call the “triangle of death” which is the little spot right where the neck meets the ridge in the chest between the two shoulders.  A hit in that spot guarantees a heart shot, and probably a couple of lungs and maybe even a liver, all of which are eminently fatal.  She ran uphill a little bit, and he shot again and missed, but it didn’t matter.  She was already dead.  She tumbled backwards, down the hill towards us, and lay still. 

Then, right out of the same brush where she fell, another doe emerged.  I did not think it was the same animal, since I’ve been doing this long enough to know BIL’s deer was dead, so I figured I’d fill MY doe tag, and did.  She was running across my field of view, full out at 220 yards.  I shot her right behind the left shoulder blade, taking out the top of her heart and both lungs.  The bullet went through her chest cavity and exited out the top of her off-side shoulder, which ruined about three pounds of meat, unfortunately.  But no worries, that just happens when you hunt the way we do.  She dropped like a stone, an rolled back into the bottom.  Both does lay within ten feet of each other. 

Since they both died about 300 yards from the road, we had them out and back to the truck before dawn had even fully broke, and so we started driving back to my cousin’s house to get them skinned and hung as quickly as possible, so we could go try to fill our buck tags with the remainder of the day. 

4 miles down the road, I spotted a deer up on top of a mountain, about 425 yards away and 600 feet above us.  We stopped and glassed it, and it was a big buck.  I counted at least four points on one side, then stopped counting, because that made it legal.  I grabbed my rifle and ran off the road right of way, and let him have it.  At about 375 yards, I shot behind him by three feet (I forgot to mention that he was running, probably pushed by another hunter).  So I adjusted aim and let fly again, and he kicked, hard, and I knew I’d gotten him.  Dad was watching him through binoculars, and as I dropped another shell into the chamber of my rifle, in order to throw round number three in his direction, Dad shouted “he’s down!” and I knew that I had just tagged out with a very respectable buck. 

By the time he fell, he was back over 400 yards away, and like I said, it was at least a 600 foot elevation gain to get to him, so it took brother in law and me a while to get up there, but when we did, the one thing that we noticed, other than the fact that we were breathing so hard that we were denuding small shrubberies as we walked, was that it was really a respectable buck.  Turns out it was a 5 by 5, which, to you easterners who don’t know how to properly count deer antler points, is a ten-point buck. 

Just so none of you call me a liar, we used a laser-range finder to verify every distance that I am discussing, independently verified by a non-affiliated hunting partner.  Also, here’s a picture.

One thing I noticed when the smoke cleared was that none of the rest of the hunting party even fired a shot at him.  One hunting partner said he knew that those distances were way outside his skill zone, especially on a running buck, so he didn’t bother to shoot.  Brother in law was having a hell of a time finding it in his rifle scope, and by the time he got a bead on it, I’d already killed it.  Dad didn’t even get his rifle out.  Apparently, he is getting old enough now that he just likes to watch his boys shoot stuff, and apparently has enough confidence in our shooting abilities that he doesn’t feel the need to back us up.  I told him to stop doing that, because I draw a huge amount of confidence in the knowledge that my Dad is going to back me up if I wound an animal.  He is an amazing rifle shot.

Party hunting is illegal.  The definition of party hunting is a hunter tagging a deer he did not kill (ie, allowing someone else to shoot your deer for you) but to me, it is supremely unethical to allow a wounded animal to get away, when you could have shot it, simply because the State says that the guy who kills it has to tag it.  I’ve always followed the “first blood” rule, and it’s a rule that I’ve lobbied my state to adopt multiple times.  It says that the hunter who draws first blood gets to tag the animal, but once first blood is drawn, it becomes the duty of every hunter in that party to ensure that the animal is harvested humanely.  Is essence, once an animal is shot by the originating hunter, the rest of you open fire until the animal is down and dead.  To me, it’s the only humane way to go about the process, but it is definitely a gray area, legally, if you end up killing the thing, and your buddy ends up tagging it because he drew first blood. 

The party hunting rule is kind of like speed limits.  Everyone pushes the envelope of legality every time they go out, and the law really only exists to prevent people from buying  a deer tag for their wife, who doesn’t hunt, and then getting to shoot an extra deer every year as a result.  I don’t think most game wardens would disagree with what I’ve written here, because the intent of that law isn’t to prevent the ethical harvest of game, but to prevent the unethical “game hogs” from buying tags for every one of their relatives and then shooting 50 deer every year. 

We had him out of the hills by 10 am, and in the truck, at which point we all decided it was lunch time, and that we needed to get the deer skinned and hung soon, or risk spoiling the meat. 

So off we went, back towards my cousin’s place, with the intent of grabbing some lunch and hanging some deer, when hunting buddy, who also had a doe tag, saw a doe about 175 yards up the hillside.  He jumped out of the truck, and once off the road right of way, shot his doe. 

By the time we blood tracked it into the deep brush, found it and got it out, it was past noon, and my tummy was grumbling and it was time to hang four deer and eat a damn sandwich. 

It was a good hunting season.  But for me, it was over before it even hardly began, because I was totally tagged out by 10 am.  I had it slated to go deer hunting next weekend, and now I don’t know what I’m going to do. 

Maybe get an early start on the sausage making for the year, I guess.  I’ve got 130 pounds of deer burger in my freezer that needs to be mixed with pork, seasoned with yummy, stuffed into a hog intestine, and then probably smoked for 6 or 7 hours.  The smoke part depends on the recipe.  My Italian links don’t get smoked, but when I make Andouille or german sausage, that gets smoked.  

Friday, October 10, 2014

Deer Season 2014

The opening of modern firearm deer season is tomorrow morning. 

Traditionally, this used to be a time of great anticipation and excitement to me.  There was nothing like the feeling of pulling together all of my gear the night before, laying everything out to be ready for an early start the next morning.  As a kid, this day was literally better for me than Christmas. 


"Holy shit, holy shit holyshitholyshitholyshit!"
I still get excited about it, even as a grown man at 34 years old, but this year doesn’t have the pizzazz of years past, for a couple of reasons:

One, I’m not fully released yet for full physical exertion.  I’m still on the “take it easy” program, which means “NO HIKING BIG, DEEP, ROUGH CANYONS WITH A DEAD DEER ON YOUR BACK, GOOBER!”  So I’m pretty much on truck duty, a task usually reserved for the older men in our hunting club.  I’ll drop the physically healthy hunters off on top, then drive the truck around to pick them up at the bottom.  During the drive, I’m welcome to shoot any deer that I might encounter near the road.  Woo hoo…   Sounds like a real fun day, right?

Nothing lik driving around in your truck all day to get hte adrenaline flowing, eh?

Two, we’re kind of in the middle of a generation right now.  The youngsters are all too young to go hunting with us, thus bringing that youthful enthusiasm and excitement, and the rest of us are all too old to still be all excited about stuff.  Don’t get me wrong, we still enjoy the trip, but it’s like Christmas.  As a kid, Christmas was the most magical, enchanting, and exciting day ever, am I right?  As an adult, it’s still a fun day that you look forward to, but it isn’t nearly as exciting as it used to be.  Before you have kids, Christmas just kind of becomes a “meh” day, and after you have kids, it is super exciting again. 

Also, deer hunting in general pales in comparison to the challenges of elk hunting, and moose hunting, and bear hunting.  Those are the seasons that I really look forward to. 

So this year, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m struggling a bit to keep excited about deer season. 
Poor me
Now, on to the fun part.  Gear and equipment.

Most of you have probably seen deer hunting on TV and have a biased notion of what it’s all about.  Back east and in the Midwest, deer hunting it mostly about creeping into a deer stand, holding still all day long, and waiting for a deer to walk past so you can shoot it. 
Out west, here with our massive tracts of open land, we either drive them or "spot and stalk."  Both of those activites involve covering as much ground as you can safely, quietly cover in a day.  It means you get to walk.  And walk.  And walk.  And we’re not walking on a sidewalk here.  We’re walking the Breaks of the Snake River.  Crumbling basalt slides, steep, trail-less hillsides, and thousand foot bluffs. 

"Holy crap, Uncle Goober, are we going in THERE?"  

So the first and foremost piece of gear is your boots.

I wear Meindl Western Guides.  The boots are very stiff trekking boots, that provide excellent foot and ankle support in the rough, uneven terrain, with ruber randing all the way around the footbed to ensure that the sharp, jagged basalt rock doesn’t cut your boot (or your foot).  These are not inexpensive, but they are worth every penny by about noon on opening morning, after you’ve accomplished 6,000 feet in elevation change in the first three hours of the day.


The other major difference between stand hunting and the drive or “spot and stalk” of the American West is the distances.  I laugh constantly when I see the eastern hunters on TV talking about not taking shots because the deer was walking and was out at 100 yards, and it “just wouldn’t stop walking, man!”. 

I am not bragging when I say that I’ve killed a deer with a 430 yard running shot.  Deer run at 40 miles per hour.  My dad’s best shot was 475, also running.  These shots are made generally offhand, with your heart beating a mile a minute from exertion and holding your breath a nearly impossible task. 

One year, when I had two tags, I shot two deer in less than 7 seconds, running across my field of view at top speed, and 225 yards.  Lee Harvey Oswald was a fucking piker.

It’s for this reason that I carry a magnum – not because the 300 win mag is necessary to kill a deer, because it isn’t.  But if you want to have the best chance of bagging a deer where we hunt, you must be prepared to make 500 yard shots and have them count. 

So I haul a Ruger M77 Mark II, stainless synthetic all-weather in 300 win mag.  I load my own rounds, using 190 grain hornady interlocks, with 71 grains of IMR 4350, pushing that big bullet downrange at 3,000 feet per second.  At anything less than 500 yards, that round is nearly impervious to wind, and carries enough energy to drop a moose in its tracks. 

Mmmmmm, Moooose tracks!

A good set of optics is also key.  A Leupold 3x9x40 VX3 rifle scope is mounted to my rifle, and I carry a set of 10 power Nikon binoculars on a stretch harness on my chest.  The harness keeps the binoculars from swinging around all day long.

Next, I’d like to discuss the quarry.  Again, most hunting programs talk about whitetail, because that’s what’s available back east, but out here, we have both whitetails and mule deer.  In our area, the mule deer are 30% bigger than the whitetails, and so we generally go after them. 

"Hey, what's up?"

The downside is that the muleys live in rougher, more unforgiving terrain, and so you put more effort into a hunt.  The upside is that you get to be a snobby and scoff at all those easterners shooting their stupid little whitetails. 

The method goes like this.  In a drive hunt, you drop hunters off at the top of the area you want to hunt, and they coordinate their movements through the area, effectively driving any deer in front of them as they go.  Whatever deer they come upon, they can shoot as they move along.  When they get to the bottom of the drive, another group of hunters is waiting there (this is generally the old guys and the youngsters, as the drive is generally very physically draining).  Whatever deer get pushed into them, they shoot.  This method works better for mule deer than it does whitetail.  Muleys generally run away from a hunter, whereas whitetail are more likely to run for a bit, then take to the brush and try to move around behind a hunter. 

In a “spot and stalk” hunt, generally done when you don’t have as big a crew of hunters, you get up high as quickly as you can, and start walking slowly and glassing for deer.  When you see deer, you try to figure out where they will go, and how long it will take them to get there, and haul ass to cut them off. 

Once you get a deer, you’ve got a choice on how to deal with it, and that depends entirely on where you are an how far you’ve got to go with it.  My advice is to almost always keep it whole, get the guts out of it, and drag it out in one piece, but if you’re in a deep enough hole, or far enough back in, sometimes you’ve got to quarter it and haul the quarters and meat out, leaving most of the skeleton, and the hide behind.  State law requires you to haul the head out.  This usually take three guys, minimum, but it’s better with four.  One man can carry two deer quarters, but we try to mix it up, so that a guy will carry a quarter, and a sack full of backstrap and rib meat.  The other guy will get a quarter and a head.  The last guy will probably get two quarters, but you’ll give him the lighter front quarters.  The other two will generally carry this guy’s rifle for him, or, best case, you’ve got a guy to carry gear and rifles, leaving the meat packers more free to haul meat. 

In any case, when the shooting ends, the fun ends with it.  Hauling a deer out of those canyons can be a real sonofabitch. 

"This is fun...  I'm having FUN!"  

But it’s worth it. 

Last year I made Andouille sausage, breakfast links, and brats out of a 50/50 mix of deer and pork.  They were all excellent.  I expect to do the same again this year.