Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Clinton Mule Deer Buck
It was more than 25 years ago that I first hunted Clinton area with Bill Mewhort from Gold River and Campbell River. I had hunted prairie chicken and ducks with my Dad on the prairies. He hunted deer, moose and bear like my rancher grandfather before him. I didn't stay at home long enough to hunt big game with Dad though we'd duck hunt and prairie chicken hunt with my brother's red setter, Tartan, years later. I loved those autumn dawn and dusk walks together across the Manitoba stubble.
So it was with Bill Mewhort I shot my first deer on north Vancouver Island. Then I'd shoot my first moose near Clinton the year we stayed together at the Circle H Mountain Lodge. Since then we've been back together and I've been able to come up on my own always enjoying the cowboy ranch grass lands and sage with evergreen, and poplar woods. The autumn golden and green colours are spectacular.
This year I was with Laura and Gilbert. We had the Forest River Mini Lite notor home at the Gold Trail RV Park enjoying the luxury living compared to the old days of back packing and tenting. I was mostly driving about the back country in my Ford F350 Harley Davidson Edition truck. Laura came along for the ride a couple of times. Gilbert was at the window with his nose navigating scents. We saw some grouse and only interested in head shots I missed them all. Gilbert meanwhile tore up the whole back country with circles and spirals and every genetic bird finding tactic hardwired into his little cockapoo hunting body. He was pumped. A little disappointed with my showing, mind you, but well pleased with his splendid efforts on behalf of the hunting team.
When Gilbert and I were alone we walked some, stalking silently through the woods. But we didn't sit in ambush this trip. Bill thinks that's the best way to hunt. As a master hunter with game galore to his credit I've never doubted his wisdom. Hunting for me is as much about nature and exploring the country, getting exercise and just walking the dog. A mostly desk job can diminish the joy of meditative sitting waiting for the deer to make their appointment.
Driving around in a great Ford truck, drinking thermos coffee, listening to western radio, Gilbert manning his window, and endless rolling hills, meadows, streams and forest patches, seemed just the thing to do at dawn Thanksgiving morning.
That's when the 3 point antlered mule deer bounded across the road in front of my truck. I stopped, grabbed my Mossberg rifle, jumped out of the truck, saw the magnificent animal look back as I was loading a single cartridge. I'd missed a moose earlier this year loading two cartridges. As the big mulie bounded away I lifted rifle with scope sited on the heart and fired in one fluid motion. The deer was in mid air when my shot took him and he collapsed. I could almost see him bounding away but he didn't rise and while I let Gilbert out of the truck to help me find the body, I loaded another shell and headed across the sage to where I'd seen him go down. I found him before Gilbert. Short of the woods, collapsed in a heap, still breathing. I put another shot in the head. He kicked in final spasm and settled. I gave thanks to God.
Gilbert, for reasons unknown to man, only known to little dog brains, launched himself onto the head of the deer. Stuart, my scotty terrier, had kicked dirt on the head of a bear I'd shot. What is it with little dogs and big game? My big dogs never behaved so weirdly.
I cut my tag and quickly field dressed the deer. Then I dragged him down to the truck. It's always smarter to shoot animals on the uphill plains. He was heavy. I was wheezing. It was suddenly a very hot day for a cold autumn morning. I backed up the truck to the wooded area where I pulled the deer onto the road. I couldn't lift him onto the tail gate. Thanks to the Polaris ATV winch I was able to get him onto the truck gate. He was heavy. I tied him down with a tarp over and continued along the Circle H Ranch Road to Big Bar Lake remembering the first moose I'd shot here.
I was also praying and thanking God for his abundance. I believed going to the Clinton Catholic Church on Sunday for worship had certainly helped.
At Big Bar lake I filled my container with water and rinsed out the cavity. A few men with a half dozen boys were there. They'd been hunting and not got any deer themselves. I told the 6 year old to watch out because my daddy had taken me hunting first at his age and I was still hunting more than a half century later. The boys were really excited to inspect the dead deer. They had to get by Gilbert first. Without my knowing he'd set up a perimeter and was guarding us with ferocious barking. I called him off and the whole crew came over to look the deer over. One of the guys took a picture of me with my deer on the back of the truck. I was happy about that.
Driving away with the deer now on a fresh tarp beside the ATV all clean and dressing complete, I felt pretty stoked. Gilbert and I were quite a team. Laura was having her first coffee when I got back. But an hour later the RV was stowed and we were on the road by noon. It was a long drive down the canyon towing a trailer but I felt good with what I was carrying.
I phoned Victor when I got to Chilliwack to find out who his game cutter was .He'd shot a deer earlier in the year and given me some fabulous pepperoni. Curt Crack had done his game but when I phoned Curt he said he'd had so many carcasses brought in that weekend, his hanger was full. He gave me the name and number for Johnston's Custom Meat Cutter's on Vedder Road in Chilliwack. Sure enough, they could take me.
It was quite the sight to be hold seeing my beautiful animal go into cold storage. What cuts would you like? Roasts, Steaks, Chops, Ground, Pepperoni? Yes, everything. And I'd like the pepperoni hot., I said. I could already see the neat labelled brown packages in my freezer and almost taste the stews and curries I'd make all fall and winter.
I could tell Gilbert couldn't understand why we were leaving his kill. I tried to reassure him but I could tell he was still awfully suspicious. He'd feel a whole lot better when we returned in a couple of weeks. What a great thanksgiving this day was. My body ached from head to toe with exertion but after prayers I slept like a prince.