Suddenly an animal stepped out from behind one bush and
then in behind the next one. It was a buck.
How big was hard to tell, but I could see it indeed had antlers. I
chambered a round and picked him up again with my scope. I watched intently for the next 20 minutes as
the doe worker her way across the side of the hill. The buck never left
her side and I never got a good look at him.
I only occasionally saw a flicker of the tail or a brown blur which may
have been a log. I was somewhat
disappointed, but happy none the less that I had seen deer on my last afternoon
of hunting for the season.
The light had faded by this time and there was
only 11 minutes left of legal shooting light. I watched as the buck and
doe left my field of sight into the treeline some 250m away across the ravine.
Out of nowhere, something clearly startled the pair and the buck bounded
out and away from the treeline into the middle of my field of view, right on the
ridgeline. At this point I could only see a broadside view of his head
and saw he had a lot going on up top. He
then turned his head in my direction and I saw the width of his rack and knew
he was fairly decent size. He took a few steps forward and gave me the
classic perfect broadside shot. I
paused, steadying my sight picture.
Click goes the safety. I let my breath fall to a natural pause while I
pondered how far away he was and the steepness of the terrain between me and my
quarry. BOOM! This is what adventures are made of.
The split second later as I inhaled the cold
snowy air, I felt like I had seem him take the hit. I slowly lifted my
head and saw him bound down the ravine towards me, towards the creek, and then lost him in the brush.
It was getting dark quickly now. The sun had
set twenty minutes ago. On my GPS I saw a small logging road which forked
off from the main road a kilometer or so back which should bring me nice and
close to the bottom of the ravine. I hopped on the ATV and burned around to
find this path that would bring me closer. As I got to the fork it became
apparent that this old road had long since been deactivated. Trees six inches wide and fallen logs
rendered it impassable. I had to act
quickly or else it would get very difficult to recover the deer.
I burned back to where I had taken the shot and
marked on my GPS where I was and where I thought the deer had been standing.
I frantically prepared to hike down and across the ravine to look for
sign that I had hit this deer. I knew
this would be a heavy chore so I stripped down to my base layer on top and
decided quickly that rather than leave any gear at the ATV, I needed my parka and
equipment with me in case I became stranded or injured and had to spend the
night on the mountain. A moment crossed my mind where, all within the
space of a second to two, I convinced myself that I must have missed the shot,
I regretted taking the shot, maybe I wounded him, there was no need to go
looking for the deer, he’s fine, what am I talking about, these are crazy,
thoughts, obviously I need to go looking, this is going to be hell, I am going
to slip and fall, snap out of it, you love this, this is what it is all about,
you got this. The mind is a funny thing.
As I organized myself to set out I radioed my
father in law.
My father in law was back at camp, getting ready
to enjoy a last drink before putting some dinner on the stove and starting to
break camp. He had been unsuccessful that day, but when he heard the shot
from atop the mountain above camp he must have rolled his eyes as he turned on
his radio. He tells me he heard me say that I had taken a shot and where I was,
but it was pretty garbled. So he got in his Tacoma and started making his
way up to me.
As I descended the steep side of the ravine in
the ever growing darkness I was so thankful for my headlamp. I can’t
imagine the days before headlamps.
I picked my way down the side of the ravine to a
creek about six feet wide. I found a narrow spot and leapt across. In the last moments of light I saw the ridge line on which I thought my deer must have been standing. As the
inkiness of a cloudy night set in I started up the the ridge towards its apex.
With each step I half expected to come across
blood, but as I reached the crest of the ridge line I had not see a drop.
By this time snow had started falling, but the hike left me pleasantly
warm in my merino shirt. I felt as though
my world was only as large as the area illuminated by my headlamp. It was
As I walked around the top of the ridge I found
a large patch of blood… The adrenaline began to flood back in as I grab
my radio and blurt out incoherently that “I made contact with the deer. I mean
my bullet. I hit it. Found
blood.” I hear a reply for the first
time. I assume it must be my father in
law. I can’t make out anything he is
saying. One word gets through “...help…”
more static and garbled noises.
Through whatever sounds and noises are making it through the static I
infer he is asking if I need help. “Yes.
Please come help. Yes. Please
come help. I’m up the <name of FSR
removed :P >. Up at the top. Right at the end. You’ll see the ATV. Yes. I’ll need help getting it out.”
I marked on the GPS where I was and conveniently
found that my Garmin etrex has a blood drops symbol. I then saw that the
shot was 225m in distance. I start
following the blood, marking it as I went.
40 m back down the ravine towards the creek, in an odd pattern of
zigging and zagging, eventually it hooked back up the hill and there he was.
I poked him and it was clear he was well and truly
gone. I cracked a couple glow sticks and bent down two nearby saplings so I
could hang them as high as possible. I took a few photos and then set to
work. Just as I got to the goriest part my
radio crackled to life. At this point I could
clearly hear my father in law. “Yep, past the bridge, stay to the
right. Just keep going until you find
the ATV parked on the side of the road.
Look out there and you’ll see me. Look for the glow sticks.”
|Both his ears were split. He was clearly a fighter with half his tines broken off and scars all over his face.|
|The dark spot is the bullet exit point.|
|I realize how dumb this looks, but it was the only angle I could get with me and the deer. You can clearly see all the broken tines.|
I saw the light of the truck and heard it coming
up the road. My father in law pulled up and parked beside the ATV. I wiped
my hands off in the snow and we started chatting on the radio about how this next
part was going to go. My father in law asked me if I wanted him to come over
and I replied “No, no. I’ll come to you at
the road and we’ll make a plan. It’s too
damn dangerous to climb down here in the dark.”
With the deer now field dressed, I packed my gear up and started heading back.
Down and across the creek and up the other side I went. By the time I got to the
road and to my father in law I was breathing pretty hard. It is now
snowing heavily, but steam was still rising from my back and head. My father in law handed me some water as I sat
on the tailgate and unburdened myself of my pack. He asked me about the
buck. I told him that he was a good one, bigger
than my first whitetail, a 5x5, but with all the tines broken on one side, so
actually a 5x2.
My father in law has about 600m of this rope that is high strength, stretchy, and very low friction.
He suggested that I should take the end and walk it to my deer as he pays
it out from the reel, tie it onto my deer and he would slowly pull the deer up and out
with the trailer hitch. It sounded a lot easier than the two of us
dragging it out.
As I got my breathing under control and finished a
second bottle of water my father in law told me how nice it was that I hadn’t
asked him to come down to help me across the ravine. I told him that I
needed him to not get hurt so that he could rescue me when I break by leg
during this next part.
With my father in law there now, I decided it was safe to leave my pack
back at the truck and take only by rifle and the end of the rope. I
started making my way back down the ravine until I noticed that in the infinite
blackness of the night that I had gone wrong way. As I was forced to
double back, and gather the rope as I went, I saw the two glow sticks high
on the opposite hill and I set out in the right direction. As I
crossed the creek for the third time pulling the rope behind me, past
each tree and over every log, the resistance on the line had noticeably
increased since I first set out. I started to make my way up the far
bank to my field dressed buck, but the resistance was so high that I was forced to pull off some slack, walk a few feet,
and so on for the rest of the way.
I reached my buck and looped the rope around his
nose and tied it to his antlers. After a little discussion about the
radio commands I was ready to set off.
I radioed “Coming up easy,” and my father in law slowly started to drive forward on
the road. I could see small trees bending and the rope loading
up. Suddenly I could tell my deer is about
to move. I grabbed ahold of his antlers and
started guiding him down the slope. With a surge and a lurch the rope was pulling him down the hill as I steered the antlers around each tree. “All stop,” I radioed as the bucks body got caught between two trees. I repositioned the deer and my father in law
took another bite on the rope. It went
on like this for quite a while, me calling out to go up easy, or all stop, as I wrangled this deer
down the hill.
At the bottom of the ravine there was still the matter of the creek. I needed to
cross it for the fourth and final time. As I radioed “Coming up easy” and my
father in law started to pull ahead, I was trying to wrestle the deer over a log, but just as his body got up onto the log in the middle of the creek he started
sliding towards me. I didn't have time to move. The deer was on top of
me in the creek, on my leg. This was bad.
Gore-Tex is a marvellous thing. As I pushed
the deer off of myself and radioed frantically to “All stop” only a little water got
into one of my socks in the boot that was fully submerged. Otherwise, my
legs were well protected by my pants. I
gathered myself up and gave the signal to continue. In the chaos I hadn’t noticed that I was minus
a glove and also that the snow had turned to rain.
As we made our way up the last slope to the road
I was surprisingly feeling pretty good. I thought I would have been far
more exhausted. Once at the road, we
shook hands on a job well done and admired the deer. We loaded the deer
and respooled the rope and I apologized jokingly about doing this on the
last minutes of the last day of the last hunt of the seasons. My father
in law said “We come here for the adventure.”
At that point he looked at me and said that he
would take the ATV and that I looked cold and wet and should drive the truck.
I refused a few times, but didn’t put up much of a fight. When I turned the key and saw the time it was
just about 8:30pm. It had taken over 4
hours to get to this point from the time I had pulled the trigger.
We made our way back to camp as the rainy snow
came down. When all was said and done, the deer was hung and skinned at
camp, and we could barely keep our eyes open long enough to eat dinner.
hunting. What an adventure. What a day. What a great memory to enjoy every time I
cook a meal or eat a delicious dish.