As I am getting ready for this years archery season, I found this story I posted on another site in October 2008. It was my oldest daughters first deer hunt. I had an elk tag and she had a buck tag. I had been in the area she drew her tag for archery season, but I was unable to harvest a deer, but I knew good places to take her for rifle season. Now she's 17, starting college (she graduated high school at 16) and doesn't want to hang out with dear ol' dad as much. She said depending on her class schedule, she may go again this year, but who knows for sure. I believe anytime we can get our children away from the cell phones, video games and mall we are pretty lucky. Even if we don't put meat in the freezer, the memories last longer than the meat would have. Luckily I have a daughter that loves rabbit hunting and will be old enough for big game for the 2011 season.
Friday was my last day at the old job, so it was 4:15 when Nancy and I headed out of town. We saw several nice bucks on the way to our campground. I was lighting all the pilot lights on the camper, while Nancy was unloading the truck. She came in and told me there was a buck on our property. So I went to take a look, sure enough there was a four point 15 yards from the truck. He looked like he wanted to help unload the truck. I asked Nancy if she wanted me to get the 30-06. She said hunting season didn't start till tomorrow. I said who would know. She said we would. It's always nice to know some of what we try to teach our kids soaks in. So Saturday morning we woke up at four, got the hunting backpack and food backpack loaded up and headed to 31 Mile Mountain.
On the way there, we saw a nice bull elk. We hiked up 31 Mile in the dark and that was not an easy task, but by sun up, we were at the point I thought would be a good place to start. We heard a few gunshots to the south of us, so I was hoping the elk would run towards us. Still hadn't seen any elk by 10 so I decided to walk to the other side of the saddle we were on. Finally about noon I decided I would take Nancy to the area I spent most of archery season looking for a buck. After climbing down 31 Mile, we got to the area about 1:30. They were doing a controlled burn, so I figured we were hosed. Just as I was pulling onto the forest road, a DOW guy was driving past. He started to slow down, so I punched it on the forest road. He slammed his truck into reverse and was on that forest road about 150 yards behind me so I pulled over and got out. He asked why I sped up, I told him I was just checking to see if he was going to pull us over to check our tags or not. He thought that was pretty funny, but asked me never to do it again and to tell everybody I knew it was funny the first time, but don't any of you try it. So there is my public/community service announcement.
While he was checking our tags, he said the fire wouldn't bother the deer and they were also reintroducing wild turkeys in the area. Sure enough we saw several does and 15-20 turkeys while driving back to our area. We got out twice and walked a mile or so circle looking for bucks. The first hike we came across 7 does and fawns and further on 3 does. We never did see a buck. About 4:30 I told Nancy we had plenty of days left so we decided to head to camp. A little south west of Wagon Tongue, we saw a decent area and decided to walk around a big bunch of rocks. We walked it and came out about 100 yards from the truck and about 70 yards off to the north were 2 bucks. They were in a pretty protected area. I told Nancy I would walk back towards the truck which would keep me a decent distance from them, but may get them watching me and I pointed out an area for her to try to get to to make a clean shot. So off I went. I turned back and reminded Nancy, walk slow, if they look towards you stop moving, all the other things I could think of. Started away again and turned back to remind her to take a deep breath, hold the gun steady, squeeze don't pull. Nancy said If I kept yakking the deer were going to leave.
So I headed out for the third time. I go 40 yards from the truck, 50 yards from the bucks and they were watching me, good sign. I looked to find Nancy, and to my surprise she was right where I told her to try to get to. I glassed the bucks, they were still looking at me when I heard the explosion of the 30-06. They biggest buck jumped and they took off.
Here is my second community service announcement, a 37 year old, giddy with excitement, should not try to run downhill in the Rocky Mountains. After almost face planting myself, I saw Nancy was shaking, her face was red and she wasn't crying, but had tears in her eyes. She said I'm sorry Dad. I asked her what she was sorry for, she thought she missed because the deer ran off. I said I thought she got a good shot, but the deer could run a little ways before dying. We got to the point the deer were when she fired. No blood. None. I guessed we had less than an hour of sunlight, so I decided to try to follow the tracks hoping to find a blood trail. We followed the trail about 40 yards, still no sign of blood. I heard a noise off to the left and saw a buck running. He stopped and started looking around. I was using the binocs, trying to find the second buck, hoping I would be able to see a blood stain or something to see if Nancy wounded the buck. Nancy said she heard something further down the trail we were following. I looked for another minute or so and couldn't find the second buck and followed off the trail behind Nancy. Nancy starts hollering that there was an antler sticking up out of the dirt. Again, an old guy shouldn't run down hill. I got there and sure enough there it was. No blood around him other than from his mouth. A nice heavy, 3 point, about 70 yards and less than 5 minutes to leave this world, and on opening day of her first deer season.
I had read several books and magazine articles and seen videos on field dressing. Nothing happened the way the videos show. I made my first cut, reached in to pull the liver, stomach, intestines etc out. Apparently she double lunged him and got the diaphragm, because when I reached in all the air come out and made a grunting noise. I thought the thing must have been coming back to life and was gonna kick the snot out of me so I jumped up and back. Nancy had a pretty good laugh on that. I had a heck of a time, but the processor and 2 hunters that came up after I loaded it the deer in the truck said I did a pretty good job gutting it. We got back to camp and found out all the rope I thought I had was sitting at home in the garage. So instead of tying the deers head, throwing the rope over a branch and pulling it up with the truck, Nancy and I had to hoist the deer up with 5 feet of rope. Use your imagination as to what a funny sight that was.
This morning, Sunday, we drove the buck to the processor in Florissant. Come to find out, the zip tie I used to attach the tag broke, so the tag was no longer on the buck. I told the processor what happened and he said go to camp, and bring the tag back or he couldn't take the deer. Unfortunately, I wrapped the buck in sheets and decided to burn the sheets so Steph wouldn't yell at me for trying to wash bloody sheets. He called the DOW agent and explained what happened. Luckily they had her license on record and the first DOW agent that pulled me over said he saw us in the area a few hours before Nancy shot the buck.
Processor said to go back to camp and look around while loading up and if not we would have to meet with a DOW agent to file a report and then it would be up to them to decide to confiscate the buck or not. My stomach was in knots heading back to camp. I didn't want to lose Nancy's first buck due to a stupid mistake on my part. Luckily the tag was right by the tree, God takes care of me and protects me from my own stupidity often. Anyway, with the economy the way it is, I don't think I'll make it back this week to go for an elk. So my kid became a big game hunter before me. I've been on the phone for hours telling everybody about my hunting trip. I have next year to look forward to getting my first big game animal.
Last year I didn't draw a tag, so I'm hoping to join the ranks of big game hunter this year. Otherwise both my kids may end up official hunters before me.