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.