Day 5... The Last Hoorah
My brother-in-law, also a former Sheriff's Deputy, has a great sense of humor. He's raucous and rowdy, and really knows how to make a guy feel better about his situation. Currently, he drives a truck for one of the Oil Companies on the western slope. His company punches holes in the dirt looking for natural gas pockets, and when the rig dries up, and it is dismantled, he goes in and drops cement into the pit.
He got home just about 20 minutes after we did, and asked how we did. I'm sure my face told the story, but being the good, concerned family member he is, he asked anyway. I recounted once more our 2-day tale of failure and frustration, at one point resolving to "sell these (edited) bows and all the bull(edit) we've accumulated related to this (edited) sport and never look back."
He laughed his usual wheezy guffaw and slapped me on the back saying, "Man you should have been where I was today! I had to get out of the truck and run them off! A good buck was there too! I could have dropped him with my pen!"
How nice. Thanks Craig for always finding a way to show me that even when I think I've hit bottom, there is no bottom. I love you bro!
He got a map and showed us the area. I know this area. Stem to Stern... all private land except one spot where a house is under construction. I plead my case to him, and he replied, "Well knock on a door and ask." I let it go, it wasn't worth losing our housing. I thought to myself "Craig, I can't get through the big cattle gates that hold up their 'NO HUNTING' signs, to get to their front door to ask them ya big dork!"
"Hmmm... well we can check that out tomorrow. Thanks, Craig." and off to bed we went amidst his chuckles and chortles.
Cheri was intrgued by the idea of a new area, so I again acquiesed and off we went to explore. I am sad to report that I was correct, and when we arrived to the house under construction, I stopped to talk to one of the workers. His english was... less than perfect... but we were able to muttle through and I got confirmation that there were indeed deer everywhere... after dark. "Dey neber comes out when the light... er... de suns is out. Dey slip all days." he told me. Well that solved that. I gave him a hand shake and my best "gracias" and we checked out another area. It too proved to be a fruiltess venture.
Thoroughly beaten, and completely without direction, I suggested we head out to our Vega spot for one last try. We sat the blind... and after 3 hours of watching God knows how many ATV go by, but no deer, at 5:15 pm. we flat gave up. I don't quit. Period. I will give something or someone every concievable chance to pay off, (usually to my own detriment), and I am completely ashamed to say that I quit. But... I had good reason. I wanted to go back to that house under construction just to try once more. I wanted this more than anything I have ever wanted in my life. This Vega idea was a bad one for us and I wanted no more of it. (edited) Vega!
I told Cheri that I had an idea on 2 spots to check out before we headed home. I gave her the choice. "We can either stay here and cehck that area on this side of the dam road, or we can head back down to that house I talked to the construction guy at. What do you want to do?" She chose to stay at Vega. I'm sure I shrunk visibly, but she never acknowleged it, so off to the dam we went.
We parked at the Visitor's Center, which was empty, and waited out the small gale that was blowing through the area. Now that I think about the decision to wait, I wish we had used that time to move in to the area using the wind for cover. I was concerned that we would "get busted" as the deer headed for cover, and Cheri wasn't in any hurry to get out in the rain and wind, so we waited.
After about 10 minutes, the wind broke, the rain stopped and I found a trail in the high grass that stood like a sentry infront of a large group of Aspen. We followed the trail into the wood, and as we were almost through them, I spotted what I thought was an odd looking rock about 15 yards away, still in thick cover. It moved slightly as Cheri stepped on a down branch. CRACK! We froze in our tracks, and the doe, a big older female, scanned through the hundred of limbs and thousands of yellow leaves between us. There was an opening I could have taken a shot through, but it would have required me to kneel down and draw as I was kneeling. Given my earlier foul-ups in Texas, I didn't even try it. Add to that the extreme difficulty involved with a track through that stuff, and the coming darkness, it just wasn't a good idea. She bolted as I took a step toward what I thought was an opening in the wood.
That was fun. Probably the most fun I'd had since Cheri took her shot. Somthing moved outside the wooded area, and I noticed it was a long set of ears with black tops. CRAP!! I saw the does, yes does, blast out of the area. My heart leapt into my throat, and I looked back to see Cheri's eyes wide open too. We never even saw them! I decided to continue into the clearing and investigate.
It turns out that we had stumbled into their bedding area. The grass here was at least twice as tall as what we were in before entering the wood. Everywhere it was crashed down in shapes big and small. I counted ten beds and stopped counting. Slowly the reality setlled in... we had driven past this area for days never knowing this was here. What a waste of time! What a complete waste! I began to silently curse the day I was born, and it hit me. We saw three doe blast away... but there are more than 10 beds here. Find cover... NOW!
I ducked down and ran for a set of tall bushes with Cheri in tow. The others might come back at any moment and I sure don't want to be here if they do. We settled quickly and I surveyed the area. It wasn't perfect, but it would have to do. MAN!! I wish I had known this was here!!!
I started the camera, and told Cheri to recouont quickly what we had found. She chose to take the time to say what a wonderful trip we had, and it was quite a learning experience, and we would be back. HUH?!?!? Are you kidding me?!?! Look around you woman! We are in Mecca! This is the venison highway I was looking for all week! Now you want to call it a day! NOW?!?!?!
I handed her the camera and said, without mincing words, "We are here til dark. Stay down and don't move." It was 6:36 pm on my last day and come hell or high water, I was going to ride this spot out til dark. Period. I got no arguement.
I looked at my watch after what seemed to be 6 days, and it was 6:57 pm. Nothing had come out of the trees, and I was starting to lose hope. I looked at Cheri and she was growing nervous about the dark. She was afraid again that we would get lost in the woods and never see civilization. Unwarranted. I knew exactly where we were and precisely how to get to the van. "Three more minutes babe, and then..." Out of the corner of my eye I saw a train of deer approaching about 200 yards out. "Doe. Doe. Doe. Doe!" I whispered to her and grabbed for the range finder.
Oh there they were! Lined up one in front of the other, daintily walking their way to us. Two yearlings in front, and an older gray Doe following. Just after what I can only assume was "gramma" were 4 doe I estimate between 3 and 5 years old. Jackpot! OH please let them keep coming! We're concealed just enough. They'll never see us. "They don't see us!" I whispered to Cheri. "Start the camera!" She pulled the camera from her leg pocket and pointed it at the doe-train. I know she said something but I couldn't hear a word over the wind that had picked back up and the blood rushing into my ears.
The older doe turned into a course that put her moving right at us! "She's coming in!" I whispered, "Don't move a muscle!" Cheri was about 3 feet in front of me and in a direct line with the old doe. The little ones started fighting, and for whatever reason, gramma decided to turn and break them up. "DAMN! She'll turn back. She'll turn back. Why is she going into the wood!? She's supposed to turn back!" she didn't turn back. But the others behind her didn't follow.
I quickly ranged a bush near the area we entered the clearing and it read 56 yards out. Well within my range. I was bullseyeing a 2 inch circle at 60 yards. Again I told Cheri, "Don't move a muscle.", as I ranged the the largest of the 4 remaining doe. 74 yards. Oh no. My bottom pin was 60 yards. I did some quick math and geometry, and reasoned I could make the shot. 74 yards though! I redid the math and it would work. "Don't move a muscle."
Once more with the math, and I was going for it. Cheri zoomed in on the deer, obviously confident in my decision to try, and watched her feed. The others moved into the wood, and she momentarily raised her head to watch them go, but then returned to the foiliage.
I've never attempted to hit a target more than 60 yards out, and I am not sure I made the right decision now in hindsight, but I wanted that doe. I did not want to go home with empty coolers again. I drew.
"Here we go babe." I whispered as I found what I felt was the correct angle.
The arrow was away. No debating needed now. It was done and the rest, as they say, was out of my hands. I saw the orange fletching turn and turn as the shaft made its way into the does location, but dusk stripped it from my view, and I looked down to Cheri for any signal of success or failure.
I didn't need to see her reaction. CRACK!!!! The Doe skeetered out and the others who I now knew were not as deep in the wood as I had thought did too. I'm sure the doe thought some variation of "What the hell was that!?!?" then ran off. I missed and hit one of the huge rocks that were all over the place up there. Cheri was extatic! She saw the whole thing on the video.
SHe confirmed the miss, but said it was spectacular on the video! I missed... by 1 inch over the back of the doe. She said it was just like on TV. I laughed and reminded her that one TV they don't miss and they certainly don't take a 75 yard shot at a doe with a bow and arrow, but I was happy with the shot. Had I only moved the marker a hair lower I used to estimate the shot, I would have hit the spine, and considering the loud crack, I have no doubt that would have ended it for her quickly.
As it turned out, at least I could recover my arrow because Cheri got it all on video, and all we had to do was rewind and watch.
"Oh (edit)!" Cheri utterd. " OH NO!"
"What?" I asked.
Surely she didn't. She couldn't have. OH no!
She started to cry. "I'm sorry Rick. I'm so sorry. I never hit record."
She did. She surely did. "Oh well. I got my shot. Even if we don't recover the arrow, which I know is detroyed now, I got my shot. And what a shot that was, huh? Stop crying babe. It's fine. I'm fine." I kissed her lightly and nuzzled her nose with mine. "I got my shot!"
She tried to laugh through the tears. "Oh I wish you could see that. It was really something."
"Nah... I'm ok. Let's go get the that arr.. DOE!"
Two doe were coming in now from our 12:00 position. It wasn't over yet!
Now this is the upswing I was talking about!!!!! You are a great writer Rick!!!!!
Get outdoors and discover the world around you!!!!!
Day 5 Continued
New does were coming in just behind our location. We were completely out of position, but it looked to me that we could, with certain stealthy maneuvers, move into a shooting lane.
I was standing when I noticed they were in-bound, and we were busted right off the bat. We dropped fairly quickly, and tried to slip into what we thought was a continuation of the high bushes we were originally hunkered down in. As it turns out, we entered an even larger grassy area with little cover at all. I ranged the larger deer at 105 yards, and the other at 100. There was no way we were going to get a shot off at that distance with my bow let alone Cheri's.
The larger deer seemed to ignore us, but the smaller one watched every single move we made, and I am pretty sure she blew her nose at us at one point. Before we even got 2 steps off, the little one bolted off and took the larger one with her. I laughed and stood upright again to watch them as long as I could as they bounced away.
Cheri was quick to return to her error in missing the record button, but I wouldn't let it continue. We got to witness up close things that most people will never see in a lifetime. We got to spend time doing literally nothing except waiting on deer. We didn't care about the economy, we weren't concerning ourselves with layoffs or kids issues. We got to watch the colors of the aspen trees change literally in front of our eyes.
Cheri got to do something few women on the planet have had the chance at. She was able to draw her bow and take a shot at a mule deer. Some will argue that she missed an easy shot, and I will challenge that statement by asking them to remember what was riding on that shot. Aside from the stress she put on herself to let go of the ghosts of Texas, apart from the pressure she felt to make it count because I was there, she needed to do this to finally rid herself of her history of abuse and oppression.
She needed to prove to herself that she could spot the deer. She did this even before I could. She needed to confirm that she was capable of maintaining herself in a pressure situation, and not cave. She confirmed it. I couldn't be more proud.
All in all it was a fun time spent with family and each other learning about a sport and heritage that sadly, all too many people just don't understand anymore. No we didn't fill the cooler as we had hoped, but we got close. We learned the value of exploration, strategy, and most of all patience. These deer don't come to you. They jump at the slightest thing out of order. They are as curious as they are cautious. So long as I didn't leave the van, that doe I played chess with was content to play too. It was fun to see the young ones get the equivalent of a butt-chewing from gramma on the last day.
Every night when we returned to Kris and Craig's house, their sons David and Patrick would ask if we "caught" anything. Suddenly I became Uncle Rick. Having never heard that, I was caught off guard at first, but I soon came to cherish the sound. I can't tell you who was more let down by our misses: Cheri or Craig. He really wanted us to get one down. He even called us on our way home to say next time he wanted us to get with him before we picked our areas and he would act as our guide. He's a good brother.
I am sorry that once again, our hunting adventure didn't net a score... but as I hope I have imparted here, we got a bunch more than that. God help them next year. And hey... small game opened up yesterday... Rabbit anyone?