I shouted the words into the cell phone this morning, struggling to share the news with Boyfriend as the bars kept disappearing from my screen. Redial. Signal lost. Redial again. Ring ring ring.
I GOT A DEER!
The latter is a good strategy for blacktail hunting in California, which has the lowest success rate of all wild game hunting in the state. But I actually had some reason to be optimistic today.
First of all, unlike last weekend s hunt with Phillip in the Mendocino National Forest, I was on private land. It was only 50 acres, but it was 50 acres that hasn t been hunted in who knows how long, and I had it all to myself.
Second of all, unlike last weekend when we did not see one single legal buck, I d already seen several on this land. But let me back up for a second.
Boyfriend and I were actually supposed to be hunting wild boar here. Owners John and Peg Poswall were going out in the mornings and finding their landscaping all dug up. Peg knows Boyfriend through the food world, and she thought her hunter friend might be able to help alleviate their problem.
The only hitch was that they had never seen the pigs during the day, which we knew might be an insurmountable obstacle “ you can t hunt pigs at night. But John mentioned that they had tons of deer that we were also welcome to hunt, so I picked up a deer tag Thursday morning.
When I arrived Friday afternoon ahead of Boyfriend, John took me on a tour of the property and I found tons of pig sign and deer sign. At the end of the ride, I even saw several legal bucks (forked-horn or better) skitter across their fence. Sweet!
Boyfriend and I spent the night and when we got up the next morning, I took him to a spot where I d found a pretty good pig trail. We perched on some boulders and waited to see what would come, but nothing did. Then I looked up the hill and noticed deer munching on cypress trees on a walkway leading to a fountain. They were about 180 yards away.
I angled up the rock for a better shooting position and one of the bucks in the group turned broadside. My heart raced. My bipod shooting stick was too low. My position was awkward and unsteady. In the early-morning light, I couldn t see clearly what was behind the buck (I think it might ve been a chicken coop, but there were lots of marble statues in the vicinity that had me just as worried). And on top of all that, it was 180 yards away “ a little far for me. The buck moved behind a tree, and then the whole group trotted off and the opportunity was gone.
Boyfriend totally would ve taken that shot “ and made it “ so I felt like a moron for holding back. But he was nice enough about it. If it doesn t feel right, you shouldn t do it, he said.
We decided to take a quiet walk around the property so I could show him other promising spots I d seen. As we walked along a creek at the bottom of a hill, we bumped four does on the open hillside above us. Then we went to a pond where pigs had been wreaking havoc. By this time, it was getting pretty late and we began talking in normal tones instead of a whisper. We figured we d spend the rest of the morning mushroom hunting.
You know what we haven t seen yet? he asked.
And just then, something burst away from us on the other side of a bush.
There s one, he said laughing. Then we realized it wasn t a rabbit; it was a buck. Forked-horn, and a nice size. He d let us get ridiculously close to him.
The buck sprinted up the hill and then came to a stop. Broadside. Right in front of the house.
I looked back at Boyfriend, chagrined to have lost my second chance of the morning.
Oh, even I wouldn t have taken that shot! he said.
We called it quits not long after that. But it was really bugging me that I knew deer were there and I hadn t gotten a shot at them. When John and Peg made it clear I was welcome back anytime, I said, Could I come back tomorrow?
That was how I found myself walking down that trail again at 5:50 this morning in the near-blackness of the new moon “ alone, because Boyfriend had work to do today. I hadn t gone 20 steps down the driveway when I bumped a deer “ right where we d spooked that forkie the day before. But I couldn t see what it was. Too dark.
I circled around to the place where we d seen the first deer of the day on Saturday, and as I made my way to an oak tree I could back up to, I bumped another deer that I could hear, but not see.
Crap. Would this be the only time I d see the deer here?
The answer was yes. I spent nearly two hours under that tree and watched all variety of geese and ducks and woodpeckers, and heard not one but two flocks of turkeys down the hill from me. But not a single four-legged critter came by. And with the wind swirling all over the place, it was no surprise “ my scent had to be stinking up the whole area. The only excitement had been hearing rifle fire from somewhere nearby. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Damn, either you re not a good shot, or you re not hunting¦
I decided to bail.
I walked back to the pond where we d bumped the forkie to see if he d make the same mistake twice, but he wasn t there.
It was 8:40 and I hadn t seen squat. But I decided to make one last swing “ down to the creek, then back up to where I d started “ before calling it quits.
I walked down the trail toward the creek quietly, scanning the big, open hillside where we d bumped the does the day before, wondering where they were now.
Then I saw antlers sticking up out of the dry grass. They were attached to a head that was pointed my way.
Where I saw antlers
My heart leapt into my throat and the rest of my body went the other direction, sinking slowly toward the ground, right there in the middle of the trail. I set up my shooting sticks, raised the gun and took at better look at what I d seen “ a lone forked-horn buck bedded down, broadside to me, about 80 yards away. He was looking my direction, but the wind was in my face, so he couldn t smell me, and he clearly wasn t spooked.
My stick was positioned too low, so I slowly reached for each of the legs and extended them a bit. Looked through the scope again. Still a forked-horn “ looked like the one we d seen the day before. Shooting stick was still too low.
One more adjustment and it was perfect. And the buck still wasn t moving.
But boy, my gun was. My heart was thumping wildly.
Calm down, calm down, calm down, I told myself. I put the crosshairs on where I thought his vitals should be, but the grass obscured his body.
No need to take that shot, I told myself. He d have to get up soon “ his nice shady spot was starting to get sun.
Calm down, calm down, calm down.
I kept the scope on his vitals, but my eyes kept wandering to his antlers. A forkie may be no big deal in whitetail country, but this was a respectable deer. A legal target. My heart raced more.
Just look at his ribcage.
After five minutes, I finally calmed down enough that I felt I could take a shot.
If he d just get up. He seemed to be in no hurry. He looked this way and that. No hurry.
My arms trembled from holding the gun steady for so long.
Finally, the buck heaved “ rear end up first, then the front. He took a step, quartering slightly toward me. I put the crosshairs behind his elbow and the rest of what happened became a crystalline memory.
He staggered a few steps and dropped. Good!
He got back up. Problem?
Even without the scope I could see a bloody hole in his ribcage, glistening in the sunshine that had ended his nap. Good hit “ definitely hit lungs.
He wobbled, and collapsed.
Yes! These are the shots I dream of. Not some botched shot that sends an animal into the woods to suffer until I find him, maybe dead, maybe alive. The shot that takes him down before he knows what happened. No suffering; just rapid death.
I watched the spot, then checked my watch. Boyfriend and I had gone over the what-if scenarios the night before. How long should I wait if I shoot a deer and it runs? How long if he just drops on the spot?
Ten minutes, just to be safe. It was 8:54:03.
I was trembling uncontrollably. I peeled off my gloves, jacket and hat and watched the spot to make sure he didn t get up. For a moment, I saw the grass twitch spasmodically where the deer had fallen. Not struggle; just the nerve reactions that follow death. I ve never killed a deer before, but I know what that looks like.
I glanced at my watch. 8:57.
Oh my God, I got a deer!
Thank you, I said out loud. For the deer s sacrifice. For the dumb luck that had allowed me to spot him, and to take the time to regain my composure, and to be presented with a perfect shot.
I looked at my watch every 30 seconds, and finally it was time. I marched up the slope and searched the knee-high star thistle. There. On the ground. Eyes open and tongue out. Dead.
He looked a little smaller than I d thought from where I shot him, but I didn t care “ he was a good looking deer.
I went back up to the house to get some things “ like Boyfriend s truck, which I could take down the trail. I saw Peg and John at the house.
We heard seven shots! John said.
Only one was mine, I said. The last one.
They seemed relieved. John was saying, She must not be a very good shot¦ Peg said.
I laughed, and told them I needed to get back to the deer to field dress it.
But first, I needed a picture. I d brought my camera, a tripod and a remote control, so I could take a picture of myself:
The gutting was a pain. The biggest mammal I ve ever dressed was a jack rabbit, so this was more challenging. I struggled through it and got almost everything out. That s when I noticed the very full bladder still attached. I felt around it, trying to figure out how to liberate it without emptying it all over the meat, with the animal lying on its side on a gentle slope. I was stumped.
Blood up to my elbows, I grabbed my cell phone and dialed Boyfriend. How do I get the &^@#! bladder out? I yelled. His answer was not helpful. I went back to the deer, and after several attempts, hoisted him up by his hind legs to get the bladder hanging, pinched off the tube leading into it, cut the tube and tossed the bladder a safe distance away.
And here s where I felt really blessed to be hunting where I was: I was able to drop the tailgate of the pickup, angle it toward the hillside, and drag the deer 20 yards to the bed of the pickup. Total luxury!
I went back to the house to get the remainder of my stuff and gave thanks to my hosts. Peg looked at me “ bloody and stinking “ with what looked like a mix of intrigue and horror. She was totally cool with the hunting, but for all I know, this was her closest encounter with freshly-killed meat.
All right, I said. I d give you a hug, but I m disgusting and smelly, so I m just going to get out of here.
On the drive home, I began texting and calling my hunting friends to share the news. I d tucked the deer well into the bed of the pickup so nothing would stick out, but honestly, I had the urge to parade him around and show everyone: I d just gotten a deer. By myself! My first deer ever. A blacktail! I just wanted someone in a taller vehicle than mine to look into the bed of that truck and give me the nod of approval.
I was amused by my reaction. I ve not really cared that I hadn t gotten a deer in my previous three years of hunting, but I was as proud and excited as if it had been a lifelong goal.
When I got home, I got what I was looking for. I found Boyfriend working in the garden, but he came to me immediately to give his stinky, bloody girlfriend a big hug. He was proud of me “ I d done it on my own.
I kept grinning through the rest of our work breaking down the deer, and wondered why I was so taken with the experience.
I think we re just hardwired to hunt deer, he said. We ve been hunting deer since before we were we.
Maybe it s that. Maybe it s the odds. I d gotten my Second Chance buck on my sixth day of deer hunting ever. Statistics say it takes 33 days of hunting to get one. Phillip had told me it d taken him four years to get a blacktail.
Maybe it s the antlers “ the thing that allows you to instantly measure your quarry. This was the first antlered animal I d killed.
Maybe it was the fact that I d done it myself. Sorta. While I was alone at that moment, the reality is that every action I took was influenced by what I d learned from people like Boyfriend, Phillip and even random TV shows. But I d made all the decisions. I d spotted the antlers in the grass. I d taken the good shot.
I don t know. I probably won t figure it out tonight. I may not figure it out ever. But for now, I m just happy.
© Holly A. Heyser 2009
For more stories from Holly go to www.norcalcazadora.com
See the original article at CampWildGirls.com
Team HuntingLife.com Date-9/12 and 9/13
Opening Weekend Opening morning and the weather was not what we had hoped for. Temps on Saturday morning were in the 60 s and 100% humidity. Terri Lee was hunting and since Kale was working Joe Sharp took over the filming.
Oma and Opa picked up Tali Friday night, (she was not happy) so we could head out early in the a.m. Tom is working so he can t watch her. Joe and Amy had supper with us and I took my last shots with the bow from the garage rooftop. Everything is ready. All my clothes have been washed in scent killing laundry soap and placed into a tub with cedar and pine boughs, even my underwear and socks. I am going all out after that big buck.
4:20 the alarm goes off and I am not ready to get up. 2 nights without sleep, due to excitement, had me dragging. 4:25 I am out of bed and into the shower. We are going to be chasing after a big buck that we have seen on the trail cams, but not this a.m. We are doing a trial run at the apple tree stand. The big buck has been coming in early evening and we do not want to spook him but I do want to get some jitters and bugs worked out. We see two small bucks and a doe as we thought we would.
I head over to pick up Tali and go home for some much needed rest and later a change of babysitters. Auntie Nicky picks up Tali at 4:00 p.m. Tom will get Tali back after work and meet me back at home, after hunting. Into the shower again, as it is so hot and I am so sweaty I have to become scent free again. Joe picks me up at 4:30 so we can head into the stand early. It is so still and muggy.
We take the wheeler in at 5:00 and bait the stand like we did the night before. We have been running the wheeler in every night at 5:00 for 2 weeks picking up trail cam pictures trying to pattern this buck. We are hoping to get the deer used to the wheeler noise also. Joe returns the wheeler to a remote spot while I get set up. We get settled in sweat pouring off of us.
Around 6:00 we have a visit from a pesky bear. We have only seen him in here once on the cameras and he picks tonight to show up. He does not want to leave. It is getting closer to the time we have been patterning our buck and we want him out of there. We start throwing rocks from our Grab-it bag. We put it in the stand earlier just in case something like this would happen. We never hit the bear but Joe almost took me out as his rock ricocheted and nearly hit me in the head! lol. He should have had that on camera.
Joe finally decided he was going to get down and chase the bear out. (I was going to film because I knew this was going to be good!) When he stood up to get out of the stand, the bear finally walked away. He was not happy he huffed and puffed as he sauntered off.
Nothing more came in and we headed out at dark, planning to return the following morning. When I arrived home, supper was waiting for me. I have an awesome husband!
9/13-My husband Tom is home this morning so no need for babysitter. Joe picks me up at 5:15 again. We head into the stand in the dark. Not much happening this morning. We think the bear has changed the dynamics of things. Weather is still very humid and warm. We pull the trail cam pictures and head home to review. We want to know how long it was before the big buck returned last time, after the bear raid. He had been back the following day. That was good news and we were hoping he will make an appearance tonight.
I Head back home for family time, a nap and another shower.
5:00 p.m. Joe and I head back to the stand again. Same routine. Joe drops me off and ditches the wheeler. We get settled in. It is probably close to 80 degrees just slightly less humid than last night. The air is very still though, no breeze. Around 6:00 we have a small doe come into the bait pile. She hangs around for a short time.
We can hear something coming in from behind us and circling around. Through the limbs I can see the deer and I get a glimpse of horn. My heart begins to race slightly. If the pattern we have seen is true, the 9 pt will come in, followed by the big buck. He finally steps out head down and I can see it is the 9 pt. He looks up directly at us. We don t move a muscle.
The mosquitoes are biting my cheek and back of my neck but I know I cannot move. I know I am not going to take this one but if we spook this him, the big one will not show up for sure. He continues to look at us and then moves back into the woods and comes around at a new angle. At one point I thought it was the big buck coming in and my heart was jumping out of my chest. I took some long, silent deep breathes to try and compose myself. Then it felt like my heart totally stopped. I thought maybe I had had a heart attack and just hadn t fallen over yet.
The deer kept staging for quite some time, coming in part way and then retreating. He finally departed, and it was pretty dark in the woods by now. We never spooked him and I don t think he knew we were there. I didn t realize until I talked to Joe that it was the 9pt all along. The big buck didn t come in and we will not be back to hunt there for a few days. We will be checking the trail camera, though to see what he is up to and work on a plan from there. Later in the week I will be filming Kale. Stay tuned for more!
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See the original article at CampWildGirls.com
There are two things in Northern WI that you will never change. Rifle season is Holy week and, we love the Green Bay Packers. So the year that we got the word that Brett Favre was coming to camp, it was like a dream come true for our hunting crew.
It started off as a usual hunting season. Our group is to big to house in one place, so the Adermans and the Koels, stay at their shack (a.k.a the Happy Family Cabin) which is just down the road from our shack (a.k.a. my aunts basement). The rest of the guys i.e. the two Patko families, live in the area and stay at their homes. On the Friday before season, it is a tradition that we all converge on the Happy Family Cabin to have a few beers, (third thing about WI, we love beer) catch up on what everyone has been doing throughout the year, and strategize about where we will be going the next morning. We generally hunt on land that is owned by Butch Johnson of Johnson Timber and Futurewood, and it adjoins the Summit Lake Game Farm which is also owned by Johnson.
6:00 p.m. rolls around and the people in the crew start arriving. The regular banter is going on and guys/gals are greeting each other. The noise level is at a dull roar. Hunters/Huntresses are almost giddy as the season starts the next. The young guys are scrapping in the yard and burning off some of the extra energy they have. There s lots of handshakes and backslapping going on. It is the normal, total chaotic transition, but everyone loves it. We have waited an entire year for this week.
By now, everyone that is old enough, has found their favorite flavor of beer (another thing about WI we love our beer) and is settling in for the big discussion. It most always starts out the same way each year. Someone, out of respect, starts by asking the Grey Beards, where they would like to start in the morning. They usually defer to the younger, 40 something salt and pepper group, stating they are just glad to be in the woods and don t really care. DJ Aderman, President for Futurewood Corp, a division of Johnson Timber, normally gives the status on the land that adjoins the perimeter of Summit Lake Game Farm, and what parts we are permitted to hunt on, what is expected of us, and what they have been seeing throughout the fall. This year, he had a unmistakably mischievous grin on his face and little twinkle in his eye that could not go undetected.
He started out giving us his diclaimer, and the following news. I can t say for sure, but there is a chance, that Brett Favre, Mark Chamura, and Jeff Dellenbach of the Green Bay Packers, as well as WI Gov. Tommy Thompson, may be hunting at Summit Lake after the Packer/Viking game on Sunday. He went on to say, that Butch Johnson, the owner of Summit Lake Game Farms and Johnson Timber, is probably going to invite us to do some drives in the farm area and meet the guys. However it cannot be made public until after it happens.
At first we were simply stunned. Sitting ther silently wondering, is he joking? Then all hell broke loose, every adult in the room turn into a little kid, chattering and gigling about the news we had received. Unbelievable, we are going to get to meet Brett Favre and hunt with him. I don t know who was more excited, the kids or the Grey Beards! I do know, however, that nobody slept and it dang near killed everyone not to tell!
Season continued, and we did our usual hunting, harvesting several nice bucks and waiting for the big day to arrive. Finally, we get the word that they would like us to be there on Tuesday.
Monday night I know nobody slept again . Tuesday morning we headed down to Summit Lake. It is about a twenty minute ride from where we meet in the morning. We arrived very early, with our parade of 8 or so 4 wheel drive pickup trucks, to the parking lot at the Summit Lake game farm. We stood around in nervous silence pacing or kicking stones with our feet. We felt like bunch of little kids waiting to see Santa. In the meantime DJ checked went into the lodge to check out the situation. One of the guys looked at me with a very confused look and said Are you wearing¦make-up? something that was unusual for me while hunting. I retorted back, Of course I am, are you stupid! We are going to meet Brett Favre! That started the others rolling and seemed to beak the tension a bit.
My sister Lori and I went in first and were introduced to Favre, Dellenbach and Thompson. Chamura had been injured and had to leave to go to physical therapy. Favre s hair was a mess and he was wearing jeans and a shirt with cut off sleeves. He looked just like anyone else would, in the morning, at hunting camp. (This was back in his drinking days and they had gone out on the town the night before, but that is a whole different story).
We started chatting with him and what amazed me immediately,was that he was just an ordinary guy, just joking around. (Except that he is Brett and he is gorgeous! Lol) Everyone then walked out to the parking lot and Brett was introduced to the rest of the crew. Mysteriously people had Packer shirts and souvenir with them, stuffed in pockets and behind truck seats, and he graciously signed them. We took lots of group photos and joked around for a short time.
Brett and the other guys were loaded up in trucks and SUV s to go out to the stands, while we did drives on the property to encourage the deer to head their direction for the remainder of the day. After a fun day of hunting we headed back to the lodge. The only one that had had a successful deer hunt was Favres agent, and he took a doe.
Brett s hair still a mess, he was now in a blaze orange jacket and was chowing on, as he put it some pretty good dingle-berry pie. There were lots of snacks and more WI beverages while we all sat around and listened to, or told stories about the hunt. It was pretty much like every other night after hunting hours only way different! Brett listened and laughed and told his stories right along with the rest of us.
Soon the local game warden arrived. She had heard that Favre was there so she just happened to stop by to check the game tags on deer and register them. She also wanted her picture taken with the quarterback and he obliged. He would not however wear the handcuff she asked him to wear. As he was standing there just after the picture, he turned and looked straight-faced at one of the guys and said Hey Roscoe, what did you do with that bear you shot today? He knew full well it is illegal to take a bear during deer season and that the warden would start questioning the poor guy!
Well the whole group including Brett, errupted in a fit of laughter, while Roscoe sat there stammering and stuttering and trying to explain to the warden that there was no bear, nor had there ever been one, and he certainly hadn t shot one! That was a moment that is forever etched in our minds. He was just like one of us!
He continued to sign autographs on shirts, dollar bills, back tags, hats and whatever else we could come up with til late in the evening. He was such fun to get to know as a person and never acted like he was any better than any of us. His attitude of having fun and being able to relate, is the reason so many Packer Fans fell in love with him. He is just one of the guys.
The smiles on the faces of our crew were priceless. That day forever seared into our memories. He is welcome to come anytime and hunt with us or just shoot the bull (not the bear). We have many great pictures and very fond memories of the day Brett Favre came to hunting camp!
See the original article at CampWildGirls.com