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Dawn to Dusk
A Hunter's Solitary Memory

First morning of the deer hunt,

New snow, a hand deep,

Any movement of animals during the night would be fresh.

I left at four to make a circle around the area I wanted to hunt, coming in from the back, four miles deep, through aspen, gambel oak, mahogany, dotted with a occasional juniper or Douglas fir.

I cut left at Whites creek as it turned sharply west, still dark but able to make out known landmarks, had hunted this area for ages, it seemed at 24 years.

I walked steady, but slowly. Sweating would make life miserable later in the day.

Climbing the slope of Maple Ridge, timing my movement to hit the top at sunrise, I looked over the basin at first dawn, hoping to spot a buck, but heard shooting way down in the basin, three miles to the south, could hear horses as they whinnied, telling me they had split up to make a drive as they moved through.

An hour later, what sounded like a barrage indicating lousy shooting or multiple targets, preceded two riders come toward me, one leading his horse with a deer packed on his saddle—the Sauder boys, fine horsemen, but lazy hunters, riding, rarely dismounting to foot hunt. They waved as they passed.

I moved downhill, where they had just hunted, finding the gut pile of vanquished mule deer. Magpies had found the spoils, picking the caul fat off the stomach, fueling themselves for the nearing winter. I spotted a blood trail headed east. They had wounded a deer, failed to notice or didn't care to follow, trailing dark blood from a muscle wound—vein blood. I took up the trail, hoping it was a buck, not a doe wounded by an errant bullet.

The deer was moving normally.

I stopped, started a fire and gave the deer time to lay down and hopefully stove up a bit, cracking a can of Vienna sausage, picking out the contents with my pocket knife, drank a beer from my pack and warmed up as the sun peaked through the clouds.

I Started tracking again about noon, followed the blood, as the deer zigzagged through the oak, dropping down into a small canyon, a finger of terrain branching off Whites Canyon.

As I topped the ridge the sound of a deer busted out in head of me. There was his bed, blood marking it.

I doubled my pace, knowing now that the deer was slightly wounded—a chase it was. A deer acts similar to a jack rabbit in habits. This animal knew I was hot on his track. He doubled back twice in the four or five-mile chase.

I would have lost him had it not been for the blood, mixing his tracks with other deer. I waited for a button hook; my father taught me that a pushed deer will take a hard left or right, and try to watch his back trail. A hunter who knows the terrain can use this to an advantage.

He headed downhill towards the creek I had crossed that morning. I thought he might break out on the other side of the canyon, making for an easy shot. Instead he turned hard right, headed back for the top, had damn fooled me.

I had to hike back up the steep slope to find him. Finding his tracks again, I started to jog faster to press him, hoping he would panic. He started back down again, so I moved laterally along the top—he was mine now.

He came out on top, almost ran into me, close enough to see his fear. Taking a running shot off hand, I slammed him in the neck, it being hard to miss a 30 yards.

I walked up to him lying in the snow, a fine young buck, would be great tasting. What an exciting hunt the horse hunters had missed out on. I wondered at this as I field-dressed my trophy. Yes, a trophy, only a true Hunter does this, tracking an animal almost until dark. He had a long slash on his left inside quarter, almost lost his nuts to the Sauder boys. Where the hell were they aiming?

God knows I despise some sportsman.

They could have recovered this deer.

How many other deer did they wound that day?

Add Comment
IshmaelDecember 14, 2016 4:57 PM UTC

Thanks Lynn, have a great editor!
LynnDecember 13, 2016 11:56 AM UTC

Bravo, Ishmael, well written, thrilling account.