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HuntingNut: Hunting Stories

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  2014 Utah Mountain Goat hunt
Hunting Stories
2014 Utah Mt Goat hunt, Beaver Ut.

The story of this hunt started 17 years ago, when my wife chose to apply for a Mountain Goat tag. We knew it would take a long time to draw, but it would be worth it. Each unsuccessful year of drawing gains a "bonus" point that helps increase the odds of drawing. The system is set up to guarantee a person a tag if they put in long enough. I thought she would have a better chance at getting that than Bison or Moose in Utah. As it turned out, this certainly was the right decision!

In the spring of 2014, we got the drawing results that stated she finally drew her Mt goat tag for the early season hunt, in the Beaver Utah unit. We immediately started making plans, getting vacation time approved, Googling up gear ideas. We even decided it was finally time to upgrade the old spotting scope I've used for 20 years, I figured it would save us alot of hiking come hunting time to be able to glass canyons from a greater distance.

We decided to head down to this mountain range around the 4th of July, to camp and scout a bit. We arrived in the town of Beaver, ready to head up the canyon. We still had over 1/4 tank of fuel in the truck which I decided was enough, but my wife wanted me to stop and fill up. I said we were fine, she said she really thought we should stop, so I decided "ok fine, we'll get gas". At that point we pulled off in a small gas station / mechanic store and started pumping fuel. It was an incredible stroke of luck that we stopped there! A very friendly older man was filling up paper towels and asked where we were going camping, my wife said we were headed up to look for Mt Goats as she drew a fall tag. He stopped and said "That's neat, the guy I work with actually guides for Mt Goats up there". I immediately asked if this guy was around and if we could talk to him. Sure enough, he was there and we had a great time chatting. Sometimes in life you meet people you just "click" with, Kasey Yardley was certainly one of those. He seemed very knowledgeable about goats and had alot of experience hunting them. He talked about taking Karl Malone up for a nice goat, and he took Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys owner up last year for a nice goat.

We continued to chat and I asked him his prices. He quoted me a reasonable "working mans price" and said "We'll go in on horses, have alot of fun and get her (my wife) a nice goat. It will be alot of fun". I said that sounds fantastic. I told him I'd call him later in the week when we got done with our trip and let him know our decision.

The road up from Beaver was steep, halfway up we turned off onto a dirt road which was even steeper. It was in good condition, just steep. I used 4x4 low range to drag our camp trailer up it. The main flat everyone camps at is called Big John Flat and is located at 9,950ft elevation. Unfortunately, we didn't know the Forest Service gates off the road at different elevations in the spring to keep trucks from tearing up the muddy roads. As the snow melts off lower elevations and the roads dry, they unlock a gate allowing traffic up to the next gated section. It was July 3rd and the top most gates were still locked because of a few snow drifts that hadn't melted yet, one of which was still 17ft deep.

Limited by the few roads up there, we made some short hikes and glassed with the new spotting scope into various valleys and up on ridges. The new spotting scope was just incredible, such a difference over the cheap 20 year old Bushnell spotter that had been dropped or fallen off an ATV more times than I could ever count. We saw many deer, lots of elk but no Mt Goats. Finally on the last day we were camping, we drove up to the locked gate, and hiked up a to a flat spot and glassed again. We were rewarded with a view of 30-40 Mt Goats feeding up the ridge a mile away. Pretty stoked to see goats, knowing we'd be hunting them in a few months.

After we returned from the camp, we made the decision to hire Kasey and his group to get us into the goats. Going in on Horses and Mules sounded like a much better deal than trying to do this solo on foot. We called him up and worked out a deal to hunt. There was one hiccup though, we received a letter from the DWR stating they would begin a helicopter transplant a few days before her hunt was to start. They stated they didn't think it would affect the hunt as Billies should be in a different area, as it turned out, the billies did move into different areas but it worked in our favor.

As we got close to the season, we finally locked down the day we would hunt and a time to meet up. Sunday morning, we met up with Kasey and his partner, Kurt Wood at 5am, then trailered the horses up to 11,000ft and unloaded. We saddled up and headed up across the mountain tops and enjoyed the rising sun.

Beautiful sun rise touching Mt Baldy in the Tusher mountain range.

The tops of the Tushar mountains are rolling terrain, with big cliffs dropping off the east sides. Along the top, its relatively easy going terrain that certainly doesn't look like its at 12,000ft!

As we were enroute to the spot we were going to hunt, we spotted a herd bedded down ahead of us on the trail. Barely visible in this picture on the right side on the ridge.

From a distance of 400-500ish yards we could see 2 billies worth getting a closer look at.

We left the horses and circled around a peak to get within 380 yards. Most of the goats were bedded down. From this vantage point it was clear there were 2 +9inch billies worth shooting, as well as a huge 11inch nanny

We setup packs as a rest and Heather got setup for a potential shot. As we watched the goats, they laid down and continued to sleep. After 30 minutes we decided to move closer and carefully made our way down to within 340 yards.

A better look at the two shooter billys, in the center.

From here, we continued to watch the goats... for another hour. All the while my wife laid prone looking through her rifle scope. She got pretty numb being in that uncomfortable position for so long. Eventually the bigger billy shifted position exposing the vitals and we decided to let her try a shot. Unfortunately, fatigue had taken its toll and her shot was just low on the goat.

The herd quickly reacted by jumping up and wandering uphill over the ridge. They didn't really understand what the sound was, so they seemed to calm down as they moved up and out of sight. Kurt felt they wouldn't go very far and we could quickly move up and intercept them.

As we moved up and crested the ridge, there was a "wall" of rocks that hid our approach allowing us to get within 240 yards of the goats who were then feeding in front of us. Kurt quickly got his spotting scope set up and tried to identify the bigger billies which was hard to do as they were feeding away from our position.

It became quickly apparent the bigger goat on the right was one of the two "shooter" sized billies. With the distance widening quickly, we got Heather set up on the rocks as a solid rest and waited for a clear shot. With only moments to try and get a shot off as they moved away from us, this billy on the right seemed to be the best choice for a shot.

Total stud goat, all fluffed up and looking really buff. What a bruiser with the big neck hump.

Finally he was clear of the other goats, and stopped quartering slightly away. This picture is only a few seconds from my wife's shot, it hit perfectly with a 165grn Nosler Partition right through the lungs. The goat reared up with the shot then took off, running out of sight to the left. We gave it a short time to expire as we waited for Casey to bring up the horses. He arrived, a bit worried that there was a big cliff just past where we last saw the goat.

We hurried up and looked over the edge of the steep hillside. The remainder of the herd was scrambling out the bottom, nothing appeared hit and it seemed to be a few missing.

We split up on the ridge and started looking for blood, I moved west, Heather and Casey went east. Kurt and the boys were behind us still. I worked my way a little further down the ridge to see better when suddenly 50 yards past me some rather large rocks went tumbling down the hillside. I quickly moved over and saw the head of the billy swinging around. Crud! It was still kicking a bit and sliding down the steep hillside. I carefully moved as fast as I could back over to where Heather and Casey had gone and finally found them, a big waving of arms got them headed my way.

I stayed higher on the ridge to give them room to move up on it, took a picture as it laid there, tail still flipping around.

With the goat potentially able to slip further down the steep hillside, they decided to put one more anchoring shot into it.

Done deal! After that they moved up and verified it was done. Big smiles all around! It was pretty treacherous where the goat came to a rest, we were all slipping and sliding in the rocks on the steep slope. But everyone was pretty thrilled with the harvest.

Smile says it all, very happy with this billy.

They aged it at over 6 years and +9 inch horns. A very nice trophy.

Posing and picture time. We got him up on this rock and shot a bunch of different pictures. Picture doesn't show it but we were all hanging onto the side of it to keep it upright. It had nice hair for as early of a hunt as it was, they would put on more over the next month but we were thrilled with how well his cape looked. Nice beard and "chaps" down the legs. Never realized how bushy of a tail they have either. Me, our boy Tate and Heather: Smiles all around!

Kurt, Tate, Kason and Heather.

Kurt Wood, Kasey Yardley and Heather. Great bunch of guys, very fun to hunt with.

My favorite picture, goat looks really bushy and the thick horns really stand out.

Picture looking across the canyon we were on. The purple cliffs on the left edge is where Karl Malones goat tumbled down. I am so happy this one didn't take a similar tumble.

Top of the world. Not many places you can hunt Mt Goats from a Horse. Its a very unique and cool mountain range. Google earth showed we were at 11,800 ft where the goat was killed, We were only 400ft from the top of the highest peak in the range.

Trail ride back.

My boy Tate.

Me on a Mule.

Kasey, Kason and Kurt. Made it one heck of a fun hunt.

I think I know what the family Christmas card will be this year Smile

Posted by DallanC on Friday, September 12, 2014 (22:46:43) (5852 reads)
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  Primitive Hunting
Hunting StoriesDeer hunting in Pennsylvania for my family was sometimes a hit and miss opportunity. We seemed to always purchase our hunting license and doe permits but would sometimes not always have the opportunity to use them.

I remember in the early 1980s when my brother and I decided to go doe hunting the day before the season opened. Because of other commitments we had not been hunting deer at all that year. So we met early the next morning and headed for the woods.

My brother would grab the lever action 99 Savage that belonged to my father. My father was not hunting with us that day so my brother would use his rifle. As we rushed out the door he would grab five 300 Savage cartridges for the gun.

We would be hunting on several thousand acres of state game lands that would be joined by several thousand private acres on the backside. We had hunted here many times before and were quite familiar with the land, or so we thought. We would split up and hunt on separate ends of the game lands. Because it was damp and rainy there were not many hunters in the woods.

It was one of those damp cold mornings and when my brother tried to aim at a young doe my father's Weaver KV scope would be totally fogged up. He would miss with the first shot and decided to use the Weaver flip mounts and use the open sites. Only problem with this was the open sites had never been sighted in. The second shot with the open sites would hit the deer that resulted in a gut shot. He now had two cartridges left.

He would continue trailing the deer and would eventually get another shot. He would miss with that shot and would eventually miss with his final-round. He now had a wounded deer and no shells left. The deer was still fairly close and he decided if he could get close enough he could finish it off another way. He would now be into primitive hunting.

After considerable time and effort he would pin the deer between a couple of large rocks and finish it off with a big stick. We did not believe in allowing a wounded animal to be left in the woods. We did what we had to do.

When he went about the business of gutting the deer he realized he had forgot to bring a knife. But because the deer was gut shot he was able to use a pen knife on his keychain. You sometimes do have to improvise. He was now ready to drag the deer out of the woods but had also forgotten to bring a rope. He would end up using his scarf.

Now because of chasing that deer all over the backside of the state game lands he would now be confused as to where he was. Although we had hunted here many times it is still confusing when you get into big woods. Even experienced hunters can get lost in large tracts of timber.

He would ultimately drag the deer in the wrong direction and end up at a hunting camp a couple of miles from where he would take that deer. It was one of those hunting experiences that we will always remember in our family.


Posted by LETITFLY on Thursday, May 31, 2012 (14:24:08) (1957 reads)
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  who's hunting who ?
Hunting StoriesTwo that got way, one due to their diligence one due to nerves.

We were hunting caribou in Alaska southwest of Bethel. The river road was very bust that morning with shoppers and hunters all traveling before the sun was above the horizon. Because of our geographic position on the planet the sun comes up more in the north than the east. Traveling down river heading south the sun came up over my right shoulder. About 40 miles outside of town we saw one caribou about 1000 yards out. Caribou usually travel in groups. Not wanting to drop the dime as it were we waited until the other hunters kept moving. ( knowing there had to be other caribou there )

We waited and waited but only one caribou was to be seen. Planning our stalk the wind was in our favor. We traveled about a mile ahead and layed in wait for the "unsuspecting" prey to walk in to my sights. Plan A did not work. Plan B was to approach using the frozen sloughs, and staying out of sight. It was during this phase we notices all the wolf tracks. A lone caribou on the tundra with all there wolf tracks he had to be one very cautious critter. Either by sent or motion the jig was up. Time for plan C. Get back to the snow-go travel to the east a long way and loop around behind him. 10 miles and we started to head back north. Just off a big lake we stop to glass for caribou and see something small coming across the ice behind us. I'm thinking what is following us. Way to small to be a bear?

Forgetting all about the caribou we watch and wait. The lopping gait is not familiar it doesn't move left or right just straight ahead coming toward us. The wind is out of the east, and beasty is coming from the south. At what must be 100 yards we recognize what it is a real live wolverine. Following us ! I didn't want to shoot it. I suppose I could have I just didn't want to. So it comes closer. Finally we let it know where we were by moving. Nothing, no reaction what so ever! The wolverine changed direction somewhat but gave no indication it cared or was concerned we were there. After passing us we watched with amazement as it went into a willow thicket. Being curious we followed up until the snow got to knee level. Wolverine tracks were everywhere. Mr. or Mrs. wolverine had themselves a den in that mess.

So there it was in one day, two critters no shooting. One so scared it was darn near paranoid, the other so darn confident it lead us to it's home.

The yupiks said the wolverine was following us looking for a gut pile. Knowing we were "gusicks" it had no fear of us.

It got me to thinking who was hunting who?


Posted by longwalker on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 (18:29:30) (4175 reads)
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  Widow Maker
Hunting StoriesWidow Maker

Ed Harmon

Whitetail hunting in New Hampshire was a ritual for me. I would get together with my buddies from High School and we would all plan our first day of vacation to coincide with the first day of deer season. Bob had an uncle who owned a three-bedroom house on a lake in the western part of the state. We called the house on the lake

Posted by SwampFox on Thursday, December 04, 2008 (16:49:12) (3687 reads)
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  Argentina Bird Hunt 2008
Hunting StoriesArgentina Bird Hunt 08
Ed Harmon

We left for Argentina on July 18, 2008 and returned to Pensacola on July 26, 2008. During the 8 days we were gone, the group of four hunters shot 21,500 twenty gauge shells, stayed at a first quality, top shelf lodge and ate the very best food served anywhere in Argentina, to include even their finest restaurants, in the largest cities. My Son had returned from his latest tour in Iraq and this was his "welcome home" hunt. This is the story of one trip to Argentina.

I have been many times on the plane ride to and from Argentina but this was the first trip to hunt with the firm of Maers & Goldman. To say it was a memorable trip is an understatement.

The foundation for the 2008 trip started in 2002 when I was invited to go with a bunch of Mississippi

Posted by SwampFox on Wednesday, November 05, 2008 (20:53:03) (5364 reads)
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  Decoyed Pigeons In Argentina
Hunting StoriesDecoyed Pigeons In Argentina
Ed Harmon

In June of 2007 we started out late on a Thursday afternoon for a decoyed pigeon hunt in Argentina. This was to be my first decoyed pigeon shoot. I flew from Florida to Dallas, TX where I met the rest of the 8-man group. Our group consisted of the owner of a MS timber business, an ENT Surgeon from Jackson, MS, a MS real estate developer, the Assistant to the Commissioner of the MS State Police, a Drug Manufacturer

Posted by SwampFox on Sunday, January 06, 2008 (03:34:39) (4256 reads)
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  New hunting buddy
Hunting StoriesI had my best hunting experience yet this past weekend (17 November 2007). Or I guess I should say we had one. It was the opening day of white tail

Posted by Pumpkinslinger on Monday, November 19, 2007 (16:36:50) (3289 reads)
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  9 Year Old Girl Takes Record Book Brown Bear
Hunting StoriesIf the "biggest bear" is determined as a ratio of the size of the bear to the size of the hunter, Fern Spaulding-Rivers is probably setting records that will never be broken. The 10 year-old from Talkeetna, Alaska has already harvested great trophies of most of Alaska's major game species, and she is a handloading fanatic as well. Fern's larger caliber rifles have a muzzle brake and a recoil pad and she also wears a custom-made padded shooting vest from McCoy Shooting Armor to help her withstand big bore recoil. Fern was carrying her Remington 700 Stainless chambered in .375 H&H while brown bear hunting on the Alaskan Peninsula with her father and mother on May 10th, 2006 (when she was 9 years old).

As the day progressed she and her father saw 11 bears. At one point, they were charged by a pack of wolves, and they had to dispatch some with the nearest at only 8 paces! Later, they spotted a big bruin in a gully at 32 yards. With all the excitement of the day beginning to show, Fern asked Larry to hold her legs steady while she shot because her knees were shaking. Fern rolled the bear with her first shot, but the bruin regained it's footing and tore off across the tundra. Shooting again from a prone position, Fern dropped the behemoth for good with a second 270 grain Barnes Triple-shock at 112 yards. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service measured the bear's hide at 11'4" from nose to tail. The skull has been officially scored at 29 1/16" Boone and Crockett.

What does Fern think of bear hunting? "Do you know how big an 11' bear looks at 30 yds? It's kinda scary! They are about the size of a Volkswagen bus and when they swing their head to look your way they remind you of a T-Rex in Jurassic Park!" Her trophy brown bear now puts her in an elite class. Fern is a tremendous example to young hunters everywhere, and she is a great hunter regardless of her age.


Posted by DallanC on Tuesday, February 06, 2007 (22:46:01) (16302 reads)
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  Elk Hunting In The Rain - 2006
Hunting StoriesFriday, October 6th. 2006

I loaded up my hunting gear and food in the pick-up and Dad and I were on the road a little before noon. After arriving at my Dad’s house (in Chama), we unloaded our gear and Dad got his house “up and going.” Because Kevin had left his horses and trailer from when we scouted last week, they were running loose on my Dad’s place. I caught the horses and put them in a pen so they would be easy to catch in the morning. I hitched up the horse trailer and got everything as ready as I knew how for the next day. Kevin and his son Timmy arrived late afternoon. We brought the horses up to the house and saddled them to get things like the gun scabbard, saddled bags, etc. adjusted on the saddles. It’s easier to do it in the daylight than in the dark at 4:00 AM. After that we all loaded up and went into town for our customary pre-hunt Bar-Be-Q supper meal. After supper we drove out to the designated camping area on the Humphries Wildlife Management Area to see if there were any other hunters camped out. To our surprise, there was not a sole there. After that we went back to Dad’s house, we talked about how the weather might effect the hunt, because it had been raining off and on (more on than off) for the last couple days and tomorrows forecast didn‘t look too good either. There was a 60% chance of rain on Saturday (opening day) and a 75% chance on Sunday, and then the system was supposed to start to slowly move out of the area.

We made plans on exactly when and where we wanted to be. Kevin had marked our trail on his new fangled GPS and assured me that he could get us where we wanted be no matter how dark it is.

I set the alarm for 3:45 AM., and I fell asleep listening to the rain on my Dad’s tin roof.

Saturday, October 7th. 2006

Opening day of a five day Elk season! It was still raining but not too bad, just a steady gentle sprinkle.

I got up when the alarm went off, woke up Kevin and Timmy, brushed my teeth (what few I still have), started a pot of coffee, and brought up the horses. We got the horses saddled and loaded in the trailer, went in the house and got a cup of coffee and a breakfast burrito, and were on our way at 4:45 AM. It stopped raining about the time we left Dad’s house.

It took us about 30 minutes to get to the parking area on the “Humphries Wildlife Management Area” and when we got there, my heart fell. There were at least three different guides with horses already saddled up and ready to go. One guide had seven horses the other two guides had five horses each, and every horse had a rider. Everybody was leaving as we started unloading our horses. The first thought I had was, “everybody will beat us to the place we want to be and will either spook the Elk or start shooting before we can get there.”

As it turned out, when it got light enough to shoot, there wasn’t anyone in the area we were in. I don’t have a clue where everybody went, but we were right in the middle of a large amount of Elk, and they weren’t (tee hee hee).

We tied the horses up on top of a ridge overlooking a large open valley. When it was light enough to shoot, we eased down the top of the ridge to a point overlooking herd of about 45 to 50 Elk in this big open valley. There were about 10 bulls that looked to be 5X5”s, maybe that many bulls that were smaller, and about 20 to 30 cows and calves. Oh, did I mention there was a very nice herd bull in amongst the cows? Well, there was! He would have scored somewhere around 300 Boone & Crocket points. Very nice indeed! Problem was, he was about 600 yards from us, out in the middle of this open valley and he had all those cows to warn him if anything got to lookin’ funny. He was too far away to try a realistic shot.

I saw a small stringer of trees that went out into the open some 30 or 40 yards and I tried to sneak closer to the herd bull by way of that stringer of trees. Didn’t work! A cow saw me and took off and the whole herd went with her. They went up a header draw that lead in to this big open area.

Out in the middle of this open valley was a small mound with a couple trees on it. Because there were bulls bugling all around us, I reasoned that maybe there might be a few elk in the area that would take the same route as the herd mention above. So, I took off out to the mound and got set up to where I could see a long way in just about any direction.

That’s when I heard him, it had to be a big herd bull bugling and grunting not very far from where I was. I waited and listened and he seemed to be coming closer and closer. Then it seemed that he wasn’t getting any closer, but he was still tootin’ and a grunten.’ After a while, I just couldn’t take it any longer and started to sneak toward him. I went about 200 or 300 yards to the east before I spotted him. He was about 6 or 7 hundred yards away from me and just at the edge of this large open meadow. He was chasing cows trying to get a good smell and chasing off smaller bulls and was not paying any attention to anything else. He was huge!!! I could see that he had a lot of cows with him. I mean a LOT of cows! There must have been as many as 6 or 7 satellite bulls that were respectable 6 by’s, probably as many as 20 or maybe even 30 smaller bulls ranging in size from spikes up to 5 by’s in amongst all the cows. Did I mention that the herd bull was huge? Here is how I judged how big he was - I was looking at him through a 6 power scope, and when he was turned away from me I judged how many times you could fit the width of his rump inside his rack ......... at least two maybe two and a half. When he was standing broadside to me, I judged how tall his rack was by comparing it to how tall the bull was at the shoulder. There would have been at least 18 inches above his back if his rack were sitting on the ground. This guy was huge, I’m telling ya! His rack was very symmetrical. Each side of his rack was a carbon copy of the other side. Six points to a side. This guy would no doubt make the record books, If I were to guess what he would score, I would say around 375. Like I said he was huge!

Problem was, like before, there was no way I could get any closer with out going across a lot of open space. I tried but it wasn’t long before the cows started getting nervous. Now here is where I did something dumb! I got down on the wet ground in a prone position and took as steady of an aim as I could. I put the cross hairs about a foot over his back and fired once at him. I missed. Of course, all the Elk took off, but they were going around the mound I mentioned earlier, so I took off running back to the mound, hoping to get another shot. That didn’t happen because I slipped and fell face first into the mud while running flat out. I landed really hard and my gun took a hard hit as well. The barrel was plugged with mud, the scope had a lot of mud on it, and the stock had a lot of mud on it. So, I just watched the Elk run off. I probably couldn’t have gotten another shot anyway.
Kevin and Timmy brought the horses down off the ridge while I cleaned up my gun as best as I could. When they got to me, they told me that they figured there were at least 100 Elk in that herd, maybe more. I agreed.

After cleaning some of the mud off my gun, I figured that the fall had knocked the scope off too bad to continue hunting, and it was starting to rain again, so we called it a day. We rode out to the truck, and when we got there, one of the guides (the one with seven horses) was loading up his horses. They only had one tag and had filled it with a scrawny little 5X5 bull. They said that it was the only Elk they had seen all morning. They wanted to know if we had seen anything and if so where. We told them that we hadn’t seen a thing, and we had been all over the area and hadn‘t seen much sign either. (I didn’t want to tell everybody where the Elk were, let them hunt for them like we did.) After they left we eat our lunches, loaded the horses up and headed back to Dad’s house.

When we got to Dad’s house I cleaned up the .06 and by then the rain had let up for a little while. I set up a target at 25 yards and checked how bad my scope was knocked off. Pretty bad! It was about 3 inches low and about 2 inches to the left at 25 yards. No telling how bad it would have been at 2 or 3 hundred yards. I re-sited my scope to where it was 3 inches high at 25 yards, hoping that it would be dead on at two hundred yards, maybe even a little high.

It started to rain again so we decided not to go back out. We hung out there at Dad’s house, made new plans for the next day, had supper and went to bed around 9:00 PM.

Sunday, October 8th. 2006

The alarm went off at 3:45 AM. It had rained all night long and was still raining. Raining pretty hard, in fact, so hard I decided not to go hunting. We all slept in, had a lazy sort of day. Sometime around 3:00 PM., the rain stopped. The hunt area I drew out on is split between the Humphries and the Rio Chama. The Rio Chama is a lot lower in elevation than the Humphries and is usually a pretty good place to go late in the year after the snow has made the Elk go to lower country for better foraging. I also knew that there is a small resident herd of Elk in that area. I got the bright idea to run down to the Rio Chama area and hunt the rest of the afternoon on foot. We could always get the horses later if needed.
We drove out to the Rio Chama, parked the truck and started hoofing it looking for any sign. Mud, mud everywhere! Stuck to my feet so bad that at times I probably was 7 foot tall. Anyway, we did find a few fresh tracks but come dark, we hadn’t seen nor heard any Elk. We loaded up and went back to the house, had supper, made our plans for the next day and called it a day around 9:30 PM.

Monday, October 9th. 2006

The alarm went off at 3:45 AM. I woke up Kevin and Timmy, started a pot of coffee, and brushed my teeth. It had rained most of the night but wasn’t raining when I got up. When I went to go get the horses, it started to sprinkle. By the time we had the horses in my Dad’s garage ready to be saddled, it was raining pretty good. I told Kevin that we might as well lay off one more day, I didn’t want to get the saddles wet. He told me that he had to get Timmy back home tonight because he had to be in school on Tuesday morning and when he and Timmy go home they were taking the horses with them.
Oh great! I thought we had until Wednesday night. Well, it’s today or never. We loaded up the horses and headed out. The rain wasn’t getting any worse, it just wasn’t getting any better.

When we got to the parking area, there was not a sole around. They either filled out or got rained out. We unloaded the ponies and headed out at 5:00 AM. Come shooting time, I wanted to be on the East side of the valley where we had seen the big herd on opening morning. At 6:45 AM we were almost to where I wanted to be when we heard a bull bugle pretty close to us. We just stopped and waited until it got light enough to see while listening to several bulls bugle. It was still raining and it was foggy. About 7:00 AM., Timmy says “look there’s some Elk” and pointed out into the big open meadow. Sure enough, about a hundred yards from us was 6 or 7 cows munching away on the grass. We were still horse back, so I told Kevin and Timmy to ride real easy toward the tree line to the north of us about 30 yards. We did and it didn’t spook the cows, they watched us until we were in the trees then they went back to eating. We dismounted, tied the horses up and I sneaked back out to where I could see the Elk again. That’s when I heard him .............. again! I could tell that the “Big Guy” I had seen on Saturday was somewhere not far away. I could tell by the way he bugled and grunted that it was sure enough him. Just where the hell was he?? The valley was literally crawling with Elk. This was for sure the big herd we saw on Saturday. I tried to find him by glassing with my scope. My scope was getting fogged up on the end closest to my face and the other end was getting rained on. Couldn’t see a damn thing! I tried to clean the lenses with my finger, and that only made it worse, I unbuttoned my shirt and used my tee shirt to clean the lenses. That was better but wouldn’t last very long until it needed it again. I kept glassing the heard until I found him. Yep! It was him, the “Big Guy” and he was about a half a mile to the north of me. This time I could duck back into the timber and pull a sneak on him that would get me within shooting distance. I did this and every so often I would peek out of the timber and relocate him to make sure I was doing the right thing. It was working, he wasn’t moving very much and I was gaining ground on him. I was still having trouble keeping my scope cleaned off long enough to find him. When I had gone as far as I could in the timber, I stepped out beside a pretty good sized Cedar tree and started looking for him. After cleaning my scope several times I located what I thought was him. It was kinda hard to tell for sure because of the rain, and the fog was getting a little worse too. I waited a few minutes just listening and watching. Pretty soon the “Big Guy” starts to bugle and grunt some more. Yep that’s him! He is somewhere around 350 and 400 yards out, so I take careful aim about 2 or 3 inches over his shoulder and pull the trigger. That is exactly where I hit, about 2 or 3 inches over his shoulder, I know this because I saw the mud kick up just over his back. He jumps and runs about 10 yards to my left and stops. I jack another round in the chamber and try to get another shot. The scope has now fogged up from the heat of the first shot, so I clean it off again, find the bull and aim right behind his shoulder and pull the trigger again. This time he drops like someone hit him between the eyes with a 16 pound sledge hammer, well maybe more like a 180 grain slug out of a 30-06. I just watch him for a few minutes to make sure he didn’t get up again. He didn’t, so I start out toward him.

On my way out to him, I am amazed that although I was a little frustrated about the scope fogging up, I never got excited or had to deal with “Buck Fever” at all.
When I was about a hundred yards away from him, I look through the scope at him and thought to myself, “man, that is a real nice bull.” About that time here comes “The (real) Big Guy.” He trots across the open about a hundred yards from me, stops and looks at me while I look at him through the scope. He made the bull I had laying on the ground look like a school boy. For a couple seconds I was dumb-founded. What in the world happened? Then I instantly knew what had happened. The bull I took was a satellite and the Big Guy had slipped behind the only two or three trees in the valley somehow without me seeing him do it. Probably while I was cleaning the fog off my scope. The one I took had been exactly where I had seen the Big Guy earlier. With it raining, and the fog and the trouble with my scope, I just thought the one I shot was the Big Guy.
For just a split second, I thought about taking the Big Guy and somehow dealing with the fact that I would have an untagged bull to deal with. Would one of the other hunters that had been unsuccessful want him? If not would he tell the Game Warden on me? It just wasn’t worth it, so I just told myself that I had a very respectable bull and I hadn’t hurt the gene pool any. And I was happy with that decision, it will give me something to look forward to next year. I watched him for a bit longer until he winded me then he took off with the rest of the huge herd.
I went up to my bull and looked at him and almost had a heart attack. The way he went down, he buried two of his antler tines on one side in the mud and it looked like I had a 6X4 rack. I turned his head and was relieved to see that he was a very respectable 6 by 6.

I started to take care of the field dressing just as the rain started to let up. This year I tried a new way of dressing out my Elk. A method I had read about on a neat web site called “HuntingNut.Com.” The article is called “The Gutless Field Dressing Method.” Works pretty good too!

I didn’t want to pack out bones except the head. So, I removed both rear quarters and a shoulder then it became apparent that I could use some help. Oops, I had forgotten that Kevin and Timmy were waiting back at the horses for me. I left the Elk and started back to the horses and then it dawned on me just how far I had gone while sneaking up on this guy. About three quarters of a mile! Anyway when Kevin and Timmy could see me they started in my direction, so I turned around and headed back to the Elk. After we got back to the bull, we finished de-boning the meat, put all the meat in 10 gallon sized zip-lock bags and loaded all the meat into the saddle panniers on one horse.

By this time the rain had stopped and the fog was lifting pretty good so I had Kevin take a few pictures. We loaded the head on the second horse and hung our packs and rain gear on the third horse.

Then we started out. It was a long walk because it was in the mud, the kind that sticks to your feet and there is nothing you can do about it. It took a hour and a half to get in on horse-back in the dark, it took some three and a half hours to walk back out in the daylight.

As I get older, I think the mountains are getting taller or something. It just takes more out of me than it used to, that’s for sure. We were some tired puppy dogs when we got back to the truck.

Anyway, when we got back to the truck there were three hunters in the camping area. There also was a truck and horse trailer that belonged to a feller that packs out game as a side line of work, parked in the camping area too. We unloaded everything, and sat down to eat our lunches when I noticed one of the hunters had a rack sticking out of his pickup. I walked over to the pickup and looked at the rack. It was another 5 by 5. He said that he had taken it the afternoon before and had called in the professional packer to get it out for him.
I don’t know if I would want to eat the meat because he had killed it almost 24 hours ago and it still wasn’t in a cooler yet??

He ask if he could look at the bull I got, I said “sure” so he went to look at it. After he looked at it he said that he thought it was pretty respectable. I didn’t even tell him how I let a “really” big one get away. He probably wouldn’t have believed me anyway.

After a while we loaded the horses and headed out to my dad’s place, packed up all our gear and headed home. I dropped the meat off at a meat processor in Espanola then went home.

When I got home, Julie (my wife) met me at the door and wanted to see this bull, when she saw it, even she was impressed. I had held true to my word about not taking anything unless it was a better rack than the last one I got four seasons ago.
I went to bed that night a very tired but happy Elk hunter.

Friday, October 13th. 2006

Last entry in this year’s journal.
I had a bunch of work stacked up on me while I was hunting, and just today had time to finish up this journal.

I couldn’t help it, I sent my old hunting buddies, Ken and Charlie an email with a couple pictures so that they would know I had been living the good life.
The meat is in my brand new freezer, and life is good.

After my last hunt four seasons ago, I kicked myself for months and months over letting a monster get away wounded. I still think about it.
This year however, I will be haunted by the fact that I came this close to putting one in the record books. ................. It’s a lot better feeling this year.

I sure miss my old hunting buddy, Big John.

Posted by RRFSELKMAN on Monday, January 29, 2007 (20:24:50) (3956 reads)
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  Uncle Slim
Hunting StoriesUncle Slim...

...he wasn't...he probably weighed well over 300 pounds, and I'll never forget the day I introduced him to helgramites. Uncle Slim called, wanted me to take him fishin', I was 12 or 13. He showed up with a pinto bean can with half a dozen or so little gray sewer worms...dug from his yard.

On the way to one of my favorite fishin' holes, I asked Uncle Slim to stop at a bait shop and I would buy some helgramites for bait as I didn't have time to catch any. Uncle Slim asked "what are hilderbites?" (Uncle Slim talked kinda funny). I just told him that they were good to fish with, but already I began to anticipate their first meeting. Boy was I in luck, the bait shop had just gotten in a fresh batch of those big ol' red headed lookin' critters, the ones that just glare up out of the cup at you and dare you to touch 'em. Well I capped the bait cup off pretty tight and we were on our way.

The spot I chose was in a good turnhole, and on the bank an old home made wooden river jon boat was tied off to a willow tree. I had permission from the boats owner to sit in it and fish so I graciously offered Uncle Slim the rear seat (the one sticking farthest out into the water). He reminded me of a high wire walker making his way back there...both arms stretched out...bobbin' an' aweavin'...leeetle bitty steps, heel to toe...300 pounds!...( the bottom of that big ol' jon boat must have been 4 or 5 feet wide but I reckon Uncle Slim didn't have much in the way of sea legs). Anyway, we got set down, rigged up and ready for bait..."Jimmy Joe"...(don't know why Uncle Slim called me Jimmy Joe, my name is Sam)..."Jimmy Joe", he says, "gimme one of them hilderbites". So, I handed him the cup.

Somewhere in Uncle Slim's past, I'm sure that there is a background in ballet...finer pirohuets I have never seen...not to mention various squats, and what appeared to be an allemand left!...all with that big ol' red headed helgramite hangin' onto his left thumb...grinnin'. Well, with one last YEEEOOOOWWWW!!!, Uncle Slim raced past me (having found his sea legs) and up the bank, grabbed a good sized rock and began pounding the helgramite...and his thumb (by now it was hard to tell which was which) to a bloody pulp.

Once extricated from the helgramites grip, Uncle Slim stomped to the truck, crawled in and slammed the door. Since all the rest of the bait, and most of our tackle had been knocked overboard during Uncle Slim's debut, I figured this fishin' trip was pretty near done. I didn't want to walk home so I gathered up what I could quickly and joined Uncle Slim in the truck. Conversation on the way home wasn't altogether "family oriented" so I better leave off here, an' I swear this fishin' story is mostly true...mostly.

Posted by 4rum on Monday, January 15, 2007 (19:08:22) (2845 reads)
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  The Longest Minute
Hunting StoriesThis article was emailed to me with the pictures. I do not know who the original author is

We all have read about or seen movies entitled, ‘The Longest Day’, ‘The Longest Yard’, or ‘The Longest Mile’. Well, I am going to tell you about “The Longest Minute” of my life.

Reed Thompson and I had been hunting hard for five days. The day was Thursday, September 7, 2006. The weather had turned from beautiful sunny skies to gale force winds and the blasting rain that comes with fall storms. Never has the weather dictated hunting time to us, so out we ventured into the Alaska bush. Not seeing a single bull for several days, we decided to hunt an area downstream that had always produced one.

Late in the evening, we were walking down a raised half mile long finger of ground that was full of grass and alders. This turf was slightly higher than the swampy tundra on either side of it. We had slogged across the swamp as quickly as possible, during a sudden deluge, to get to the downwind point. Our hope was that our passage would not be observed with the sudden increased wind and rain. About halfway down the finger, Reed turned to me and said, “I think there is a moose up ahead. It looks like two white sticks in the grass. It would surprise me if it was not a moose.” I glassed the area about one hundred yards ahead and to the left. With Reed’s help, I zeroed in on the two white sticks and watched them for several minutes. With the slightest movement, the two sticks transformed into a white paddle and then back to the two sticks. The bull had moved his head ever so slightly.

I moved my scope out to ten-power and focused in on the two white sticks as Reed moved about ten yards further down the high ground. Then as Reed focused on the white points, I moved to his location for a better shot. Reed began moving toward our quarry as I watched for movement though the scope. With nothing solid or high enough to rest my rifle on, I was forced to aim free-hand. When Reed had taken a few steps, I saw the horns rock to the right and then back to the left. The big boy then stood up and was looking directly our way. Even with the forty mile an hour winds blowing directly at us, he sensed our presence. I squeezed off a round from my Browning .338 and felt good about the shot, but the bull took two or three steps to my right and disappeared out of sight behind some alders. Reed could still see him and shouted, “Do you want me to shoot him?” I yelled back at him to go ahead because I did not want the bull running too far. I heard his shot as I was scrambling forward to get a better look. After a thirty yard hustle, I was able to see the huge fellow still standing. I put another shot into him and watched him drop. We both hesitantly, but with great excitement, approached this giant and realized that he was dead. This was a mature bull with a beautiful rack and the biggest body mass I had ever seen. The fun was definitely over; now, the real work was ready to begin. After consulting the GPS, we noted that we were a half mile from the slough and boat. It was decided that both of us should return to the boat to discard unnecessary items and return with the gear needed to prepare and pack out the meat. We placed red and blue handkerchiefs high in an alder bush so that the sight could be located from the adjacent high ground. This was the easiest half mile hike of the day. I was pumped up and excited beyond explanation.

At the boat, we left our heavy rifles. We gathered our pack frames, game bags, ropes, and knives. After Reed repositioned the boat, to compensate for the upcoming low tide, I asked him, with hand signals, if he remembered to get the handguns. He did not understand my award winning charade performance, but I let it pass after observing his revolver strapped to his chest.

Upon returning to the moose, we were hot, sweaty, and wet. The rain had abated for awhile, so we removed our rain gear and hung them in a small tree about five yards perpendicular to the moose’s belly. Reed removed his revolver, hung it on a branch opposite his jacket, and brought to my attention that it was hanging there.

With darkness approaching, we decided on removing the top front and rear quarters, tie them to our pack frames, gut him out, and then roll the behemoth over to cool through the night. We would return in the morning to finish up. Two non-spoken traditions when hunting are: whoever pulls the trigger 1) does the gutting and 2) hauls the horns out of the woods. After removing the two quarters, it was time to remove the internal organs. After cutting, tearing, and ripping, I had removed all but the heart and part of the esophagus. Darkness was settling in pretty fast and I could barely move my arms. At this point, Reed said that he would trade places with me. Instead of moving up behind the moose, I just scooted to the rear leg area and watched Reed crawl up inside the gut cavity. After a couple of cuts the ordeal was over. As Reed pulled the heart out and tossed it behind us, a loud “HUFF” snapped us to our feet. Turning around, we saw standing before us, on his hind legs a large, chocolate brown grizzly bear. The next minute seemed to last an eternity. The term surreal is so over used, but the next minute was dreamlike, bizarre, fantastic, and unreal.

The bear was standing next to the tree where the pistol was hanging. We both started shouting and waving our arms back and forth, as we moved somewhat to our right, toward the tail end of the moose. The bear came down off his back legs, onto all fours, and started circling to his right -- toward the head of the bull. My only thought was to get to the gun so that we could scare him off. I sensed that he charged us from the head of the moose as I broke for the gun. Reed commented later that the bear vaulted over the moose and went straight for him. Halfway to the tree, I tripped on a fallen log and went down on all fours. From my peripheral vision on my right, I saw the bear going after Reed, who had moved into the tall (5 foot) grass. It appeared that the bear had knocked Reed down and was standing over him. My worst fear was that my friend was being mauled. I did not know how I would get him back to the boat and then home.

I grabbed the holster but was unable to remove the revolver, regardless of how hard I tugged. As I looked up, I saw the bear charging toward me. I started backing up as I continued screaming and hollering at the bear. I was frustrated that the pistol would not break free from the holster. With the bear almost on top of me, I fell over another log. I did a back drop and felt him grab my left leg. His huge head was above my lap, just out of reach of my holstered club. I tried to hit him with the pistol but a crazy thought entered my mind that I could scare him into thinking I was going to shoot by waving it back and forth. Unable to remove the pistol from the holster, I tried to shoot through it, but the strap held the hammer down on the single action revolver. Just when I thought all was lost, the bear rose up, pivoted 90 degrees to his left, and was gone. The grizzly had charged back in the direction of Reed as he had jumped up and yelled once again. Later, Reed stated that he had seen the bear knock me down and thought he was mauling me. The thought entered his mind that he was toast. He was alone in the grass with no weapon. I was down and I had the gun. When the bear started moving toward him, Reed dropped back down into the low wallow area where he had fallen during the initial charge. Reed saw the bear’s face about a foot from his own. He could hear the bear trying to sniff him out. At that point, the bear stood up, pivoted to his right, and charged back to me.

When Reed distracted the bear from its attack on me, I had time to concentrate on the holster. I saw a buckle with a strap running through it. I could not figure out how it held the gun in place, so I grabbed the buckle and attempted to \rip it off. To my surprise, the buckle was actually a snap and the strap peeled away. As I pulled the revolver out, a sudden calm came over me, and I knew everything would be fine. I looked in the direction of Reed only to once again see the bear charging at me. He was about ten feet away coming up and over the initial log that I had tripped over. That was when I pointed the revolver and fired at center mass. The .44 magnum boomed in the night and the boar fell straight down, his head three feet away from where I stood. As he fell, he bit at the ground and ended up with a mouthful of sod. I stood in a dumbfounded stupor. I had no expectation that the pistol would kill the bear. My hope was that the shot would sting the bear and help scare him away along with the flame and loud report. As his head sagged to the ground, I shot him three more times in quick succession, out of fear and anger.

My next sensation was hearing Reed’s voice ask if the bear was dead. I answered, “Yes”. He then yelled at me to save the rest of the rounds because we still had to walk out, and he did not have any more bullets with him. The minute was over. We hugged each other for a long time, before packing out the two quarters.

Sorry the pictures aren't too good.

Posted by DallanC on Thursday, October 26, 2006 (23:14:55) (10626 reads)
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  1989 Colorado Archery Elk Hunt
Hunting StoriesThe climb down was going to take longer than expected. The tangled mess of downed timber and rocks was even worse than I remembered from last year. I thought about taking the easy way back to camp, but I wanted to scout this area anyway. I rested for a moment then started down off the ridge. Part way down I slipped on some wet moss and fell. Although I had bumped my knee and scraped a little hide off of my elbow, I was ok. I gathered up my bow and arrows, checked for damage and continued down through the timber. Some two hours later I was out of the blow down area and only about a mile or so from camp.
When I arrived in camp, I cleaned the camo paint off of my face and hands, got a cool soda and sat down for a well-deserved rest (Elk hunting is hard work, don’t you know). While resting, I thought about all the things I did wrong today. Things like, I didn’t get started as early as I should have, I made entirely too much noise today, I had “buck fever” over a small 4X3 bull still in velvet, what else? ...... Then it hit me, the biggest mistake of all was no one, and I mean no one on this planet knew what area I was hunting in! What if I had broken my leg when I fell, and couldn’t get back to camp? My hunting buddies wouldn’t be back in camp for a few more days, and even then they wouldn’t know where to look for me.
After thinking about it for a while, I decided to start leaving a note every day, explaining where I would hunt and what time I planned on being back in camp. I also decided to keep track of where and when I saw game and note their movements. This might help the rest of our group when they got into camp.
I didn’t have any writing paper with me, but I had brought some bagged sand to camp to build horseshoe pits with. The paper from the bags of sand would do just fine.

Before I continue, let me explain some things about our hunting camp.

This is not a guided hunt on private land, it’s just a bunch of well-organized guys that love to bow hunt. We hunt on public land, in North West Colorado.
We all come from different walks of life, and from all over the United States it seems. Two are from Texas, five are from Colorado, and I live in New Mexico.
Each year we start planning our hunt as early as January or February, and by the first of July, each man has sent in a small deposit, his date of arrival and his length of stay. Each year someone volunteers to do the organizing and will make up a schedule and send it to all those that plan on being in camp that year. This schedule includes arrival dates, departure dates and a cooking schedule. The deposit is used to buy breakfast and lunch food, and any other camp supplies that are needed that year.
On your day to cook, it is your responsibility to get up and get breakfast going, wake up everyone that plan to hunt and have breakfast ready for them. You also supply and prepare the evening meal for the entire camp, wash the camp dishes and set up for the next morning. Everyone is on their own for lunch, but as mentioned above, the camp supplies the lunch fixin’s.
We have a 10’ X 12’ wall tent devoted as the cooking tent as well as our personal tents for sleeping. We have two stoves in the cook tent, one is a wood burning cook stove, the other is an old gas range that we took the top off of, changed out the gas jets and rigged it up to burn propane. We call the cook tent “The White House.”
Now that you maybe understand a little about our camp, the following is the day-by-day “notes” (that some how ended up as a journal) of the 1989 Colorado bow season for Deer and Elk.

Thursday, 8/24/89
I took off work a little early, and was on the road by 3:30 PM. Arrived in Denver about 9:00 PM. Stayed over night with John. Didn’t sleep much. (Tomorrow is opening day of bow season)

Friday, 8/25/89
Up at 5:30 AM, loaded up the camp stoves, filled water jugs, stopped by the store and picked up the last minute stuff, picked up the sand for the horseshoe pits, and was on the road by 10:00 am. Stopped in the last civilized place on the way to camp and bought a combination archery license to hunt Deer and Elk, got a hamburger, locked the hubs and started up the mountain. Arrived at our campsite at 2:00 PM. Set up my tent and unloaded the camp supplies that I had brought. Paul and Sherm, showed up with more camp supplies at 4:00 PM. I helped them set up their tent and unload the supplies they had brought. Paul wanted to hunt for a while, so he took off. While Paul was out hunting, Sherm and I fixed supper. Paul was back in about 7:30 PM and had only seen one small deer. After supper, we sat around and talked over our strategy for tomorrow. Turned in about 9:00 PM.

Saturday 8/26/89
Up at 4:20 AM. Running late! Fixed coffee, eggs and bacon for breakfast. Left camp at 5:30 am, and headed for my favorite place to hunt (“The Point”). Got to “The Point” a little before daylight. Sat and waited for it to get light enough to see, then started glassing “the hole” and the “dark ridge.” Spotted three fairly large bulls at the lower end of the “third park,” just above the beaver ponds. Too far away and they were moving up the ridge pretty steady. Hunted over to the “upper sawmill,” saw a lone cow Elk, but she soon winded me and slipped into the dark timber. Hunted over to, and up through “stump park,” back to the “upper sawmill,” then behind the sawmill to the fire break. Nothing! Hunted back to “the point”. I had been sitting on “the point” for about 30 minutes, when a very nice but small racked 6x7 bull came up out of the aspens below. The trail he was on was only about five yards from where I was standing. I slipped back a step or two into the brush and waited for him to come by. He never did. Apparently he went back into the timber to the west of me. I knew I might still have a chance if he crossed the firebreak behind me, so I started a sneak toward the firebreak. I hadn’t gone very far when I heard him crash off through the timber. He had either heard, saw or smelled me. I give up on him. Started hunting my way back to camp.
I run across four guys from Montana, one of which had taken a small four-point bull earlier this morning. Helped them get the bull to a logging road and loaded in their pick up. After arriving in camp, I cleaned up, and fixed myself a late lunch. Paul and Sherm came into camp mid afternoon. Paul said he had shot all of his arrows at deer and had to come back to camp at 7:30 AM to get more arrows, the sad thing was, he had not touched a hair on anything.
Paul fixed Antelope stew for supper.
In the sleeping bag at 10:00 PM.

Sunday 8/27/89
Up at 4:00 am. I fixed coffee and cold cereal for breakfast. Left camp at 5:30 AM with Paul and Sherm to hunt the “first lake” area. We saw six deer but no one could get a shot at any of them. Hunted till about noon. Didn’t see any Elk. Started hunting my way back to camp and when I got there, I helped Paul and Sherm set up the cook tent and move their tent to a better location.
Paul and Sherm had to go back to work on Monday, so they left for home late afternoon. After they left I took a “sun shower”, fixed a steak and some potatoes for supper. Fell asleep reading a book.

Monday 8/28/89
Up at 4:00 am. Fixed coffee, no breakfast. Left camp at 5:30 AM to hunt around the “first lake” area again. Saw a small three point buck deer but he slipped into the timber before it got light enough to try a shot, and I let him go. Started hunting the area between the “first lake” and the “first park”. I sat down on a big log in the middle of a small meadow to rest a while and do a little glassing. I was about to get up and start out again, when two bull elk came into view. One was a spike and the other was a 4x3 still in velvet. The spike went about 150 yards below me into the firebreak where Paul had taken his bull last year. The 4x3 came straight toward me. He grazed his way toward me until he was about, what I thought was 40 yards from me, then turned broadside and stopped to munch on some grass. I waited until he had his head down, came to a full draw, put my 40 yard pin in the middle of his chest and let the arrow fly. A clean miss, high. I had misjudged the distance. He had been only about 25 yards from me. He jumped and run about ten yards to my left, turned broadside and looked around. He still hadn’t seen me so I knocked another arrow and let it fly. This time the bottom limb of my bow hit the log I was sitting on, causing my arrow to only go about 15 yards before hitting the dirt in front of the bull. This time the bull ran into the timber. I waited about 10 minutes to see what would happen. Then the 4x3 came back into the same clearing about 5 yards or so and stood looking down hill at the spike. Again I misjudged the distance and shot low. By this time he was getting real nervous and took off down the hill toward the spike. They moved off into some dark timber, and I let them go. I had “buck fever” so bad I had to wait about 30 minutes to get my heart back to normal. I got up and found two of my three arrows I had shot. Started hunting my way toward the “dark ridge” then back toward camp. On the way back to camp, is when I took my little fall I mentioned earlier.
Fixed beef stew for supper and started this “journal”.
In the sleeping bag at 10:00 PM.

Tuesday 8/29/89
Up at 4:00 AM. Fixed coffee, no breakfast. Will hunt “the point” today, plan on staying there until about noon.
I left camp at 5:30 AM, and got to “the point” at 6:20 am. Sat there until 11:00 AM. Did not see anything except birds and chipmunks. Heard a bull bugle twice and right after each bugle the coyotes would really start to howl. I was back in camp a little after noon. Cleaned up, took a nap, fixed up the horse-shoe pits, chopped a few days supply of fire wood, and made myself a meal of fried potatoes, onions, and hamburger meat for supper.
In the bag at 9:00 PM.

Wednesday 8/30/89
Up at 4:00 AM. Fixed coffee, no breakfast. I will hunt the point again, but will wear more clothes today (like to have froze to death yesterday). I left camp at 5:30 AM. I arrived at the point at 6:15 AM. Guess what? I saw two bull Elk were working their way across the open area below the point. They were moving from my right to my left, as they munched on grass and aspen tree leaves. The lead bull was the largest (6x6), and was about 50 yards away and getting further away with each step. The other bull was a respectable 6x5 and about 40 or so yards away and getting closer with each step. I waited on the smaller bull. It seemed like time was standing still. I could feel “the fever” coming on again. I tried to calm myself down, but to no avail. I was starting to shake like a leaf.
When the 6x5 was about 20 yards away and broadside to me, he lowered his head to munch more grass. I slowly came to full draw and let the arrow fly. I watched the arrow hit him in the shoulder. It appeared to bounce off of him. He jumped and ran about 15 yards to my right, turned broadside and looked at the lead bull. What happened? Had the broad head come off the arrow? I quickly checked the rest of my arrows in the quiver. All had broad heads on them. I knocked another arrow and shot again. This time the arrow appeared to hit the bull in the rump. The bull took off down through the aspens and was out of site in a flash. I glanced at the lead bull to see what he was doing, he was standing still, watching the 6x5 going through the aspens, he did not know what was wrong but he wasn’t sticking around to find out and decided to get the heck out of there. In a matter of seconds both bulls were nowhere to be seen.
At this point, words cannot explain the emotions and the feelings I had. I was so shook up that I had to sit down for fear of falling down, my legs felt like they were made out of soft rubber. I looked at my watch, and what had seemed like a lifetime had only taken approximately 10 minutes, it was 6:25 AM.
I took off all my extra clothes and hid them in the brush, sat back down to give this bull plenty of time. That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I couldn’t sit still for very long, so I went to find my first arrow. Being careful not to disturb any sign, I found my first arrow, and it shocked me because the arrow was covered from tip to tip with blood and the broad head was still on the arrow. That didn’t make sense because it appeared that it had bounced off his shoulder. Now I’m very confused. What in the world happened?
At 7:15 AM, I couldn’t wait any longer and started after him. Tracking was pretty hard because he wasn’t bleeding much and it was pretty dry. I lost his trail after about 50 or 60 yards, and couldn’t find it again. There was a fence about 150 yards or so to the East of me, and I knew that there was a major game trail that crossed the fence. I decided to mark the last spot of blood, and go to the fence to see if maybe he had crossed it. His trail was leading in that direction anyway. When I got to the fence, I looked for any hair on the fence or any fresh tracks on either side. Nothing! I decided to go back to the last sign I had found and start over again. On my way back, I just happened to look through the aspens into a big grass meadow, and there he was. He was lying in a ravine, at the edge of the meadow. He had only went about 120 yards from where I had last seen him.
I think most hunters have this feeling from time to time, so I will admit that I had a lump in my throat, partly out of relief of finding him, and partly because I had just killed one of God’s magnificent critters. You know, one of those joy / sorrow things.
Anyway, after getting my emotions under control, I went about the task of cleaning, skinning, and quartering the meat. I didn’t have anyone to help me pack him out, and my pack frame was back in camp, so I covered the meat with grass and weeds to keep it cool, and took off for camp.
I was back in camp at 10:30 AM. Drank a lot of water, cleaned up, changed clothes, put my pack frame in the pick up and drove to the closest place I could get to him on the logging road that run south from camp.
Started packing the meat out about 11:45 AM. I finally had all the meat hanging on the meat pole in camp at 5:00 PM. What a chore! I took a “sun shower,” changed clothes again. I was so tired that I didn’t want to fix myself any supper, so I just snacked a little and went to bed at 7:30 PM. I will go to town tomorrow to call home and pick up any supplies we are short of.

Thursday 8/31/89
Up at 5:00 AM. fixed coffee, no breakfast. I am worried about the meat, it didn’t get very cold last night. Put the edge back on my hunting knife, and cleaned up around camp. Checked the meat, it seemed cool enough. I left camp at 11:00 AM and went to town to call home, and to picked up some supplies.
I was back in camp at 1:00 PM, at 2:00 PM, I decided to refill the “sun shower”, so I drove to the closest stream to camp and was filling the sun shower when Big John drove up. He wanted to know if I had anything hanging on the meat pole, I told him that indeed I did. He then wanted to know where the rack was, but before I could tell him, he took off to camp to have a look see for himself. I finished filling the sun shower and went back to camp to help John unload his stuff. John was pretty excited about it all, and I have to admit that it finally had sunk in and I was pretty happy myself. I helped John unload his gear and the rest of the camp equipment. We cut a flagpole for the camp, and hung the American flag and a POW flag on the flagpole. At about 4:00 PM, Paul and Charlie K. showed up in camp and I told them the story. John and I helped them unload and get set up. Charlie fixed venison stroganoff and a fruit salad for supper. In bed at about 11:00 PM. Tomorrow is my day to cook for the camp.

Friday 9/1/89
Up three times during the night because of an upset stomach (probably because of the many toasts to my success I had partook of yesterday afternoon and last night). I got up at 4:00 AM to fix breakfast for the guys, and started coffee but was too sick to do breakfast. Woke up Paul and ask him to do breakfast for me, he said ok. I went back to my tent, and crawled back into the sleeping bag. Paul and Charlie K. took off hunting after breakfast. I got up at around 8:00 AM, but wasn’t worth killing, I was still sick to my stomach. I will never do that again!!
Am a little worried about Ken and Charlie L. (we have two Charlie’s), they were supposed to be in camp last night, and they still aren’t here.
John reminded me that it was my turn to cook the evening meal, so I started cooking beans to make Chili with.
12:00 noon. Ken and Charlie still haven’t made it to camp yet. Hope nothing is wrong.
Starting to feel a little better, felt even better when Ken and Charlie arrived in camp about 2:00 PM. I hadn’t seen them since last year, and was glad to see them. They didn’t know about my bull yet as we had hid the rack in their tent, and hadn’t told them about it. When they started to unload their gear they found the rack. Ken let out a war whoop that could be heard for twenty miles and came out of the tent and shook my hand and hugged me. He told me that he just had one of those feelings and knew that I would have one down before he could get into camp this year.
Paul and Charlie K. were back in camp around 5:00 PM. Paul said he had a shot at a cow elk but had missed (again). He thinks he knows what he is doing wrong.
Had Chili and beans ready at 6:00 PM. We all had supper, I cleaned up the camp dishes and got things ready for breakfast in the morning. Went to bed around 10:00 PM.

Saturday 9/2/89
Up at 3:30 AM. Because I didn’t do breakfast yesterday, it was my turn today. Got breakfast going, woke everyone at 4:00 AM. Paul and Charlie K. had breakfast and took off hunting. Ken and Charlie L. had elected to get up a little later. I cleaned up the breakfast mess and woke Ken and Charlie L. at 6:00 AM. They had a quick bite to eat and took off to the point. Woke John at 8:00 AM. John and I sat around taking it easy and enjoying the day. I caught up on this “log of important events.” Ken and Charlie L were back in camp by 10:30 AM. They had not seen anything but had heard a bull toot a time or two. Charlie K. came into camp around noon and said he had a bull coming in but he never showed. He also said he came to full draw on a small doe, but wasn’t sure he wanted to take such a small deer, while trying to make up his mind another larger doe stepped out into the open. By now he was shaking from holding the string at full draw for so long, then the arrow fell off of the rest, and both deer took off. We all got a kick out of that. Ken and both Charlies’ laid down and took a nap. I washed my camos, cleaned up around camp then took a nap myself. While I was taking my nap Sherm showed up in camp. I got up and read this journal to him, and showed him the rack. Paul came in about 6:00 PM., said that he had not seen anything all day. We all played a game of horseshoes. Sherm fixed a seafood gumbo for supper.
In bed by 10:00 PM.
I will hunt the lower sawmill area in the morning.

Sunday 9/3/89
Big John woke everyone at 4:00 AM. Had coffee, eggs and bacon for breakfast. At 5:00 AM, Ken, Paul and both Charlie’s took off to hunt The Point and beyond. I left to hunt the lower sawmill area. I got to the place I wanted to be at first light, but there were about a gazillion “moo cows” all around. I decided to try working the timber between the lower sawmill and the lower end of Stump Park. Heard a bull bugle, and he was close! Although I had already filled my elk tag, I decided to have a look-see anyway. Slowly I worked toward him, and hadn’t gone far when I came to the edge of a small clearing. By this time I knew where the elk were! All around me! Bulls were bugling all around me and sounded like there was a fight brewing. As I was watching the meadow and listening to all the commotion, I saw movement and just like that, two bulls went to fighting at the far edge of the meadow. What a site! It didn’t last long; the larger bull had the smaller one on the run in a few seconds. Then the winner went back to his harem of cows and started to push them back into the timber. Too bad some of the other hunters weren’t here to try their luck. I know that if someone would have had an elk call, they could have had a shot.
Just watching this seldom seen event had my heart thumping pretty hard. I just stayed right there till the old ticker got back to normal (didn’t want to spook the game plumb out of the state). After a while, I got up and started hunting my way to the east end of Stump Park, then over to the upper sawmill. Didn’t see any deer or any fresh sign. I wasn’t too far from the point and I kind of wanted to see if I could find a missing piece of the arrow that took my bull. About an hour later I was below the point and as close as I wanted to be to the gut pile. Backed tracked from the gut pile to the point, didn’t find the missing half of my arrow. Climbed up on the point and just sat there and was watching the world go by, when out of the corner of my eye I caught movement. A young cow elk was coming up through the aspens toward me. Not moving, I watched her. I was setting out in the open and she saw me, she didn’t know what I was but she wasn’t taking any chances, and turned around and went back into the trees (where are the guys with unfilled elk tags?). Later I hunted my way back to camp. On my way back to camp some “dude” came through the timber on a trail bike, I guess he was a modern hunter?
Back in camp a little after 2:00 PM.
Some of the guys were back in camp too. Charlie L. had a shot at a nice buck deer, but had missed. Ken hadn’t seen anything to shoot at but Charlie K. had been into the elk at the bottom end of stump park, but wasn’t able to get a shot at any of them.
I cleaned the camo paint off of my face and hands then cut the horns off of the elk head (the head was starting to get a little ripe). Played a game of horse shoes with Ken, John and Charlie L. and I lost 6 bucks out of that deal. Paul came in later and hadn’t seen any game all day. Sherm had hunted the three lakes area and hadn’t seen anything either. John fixed sauerkraut and pork ribs for supper. After supper we all sat around the campfire and told lies. We drifted off to bed about 9:30 PM. I caught up on this journal. I’ll hunt the point again tomorrow.

Monday 9/4/89
Ken’s day to cook. He got us up at 4:15AM. Had coffee, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast. Charlie K. and I headed out to the point at 5:10AM. At the point at 5:55AM. I sat on the point and Charlie K. worked the timber to the northeast. He was back at the point by 9:15AM. He hadn’t seen anything. I hadn’t either. Charlie K. watched the west end of the point and I watched the east end for a while. I got a little sleepy, took a nap in the sun. Woke up with all kind of ants and bugs crawling all over me, but no worse for the ware. Charlie K. left for camp at 11:20AM. I stayed until about 2:00 PM. and didn’t see anything. When I got back to camp all the other hunters were in camp too. Paul hadn’t seen any game, Ken and Charlie L. had been into the elk at bottom end of the second park, but didn’t get a shot at any of them. Ken was smoking a big old turkey for supper while the rest of us played a game or two of “shoes”. It looked like it might rain, so we gathered some more firewood for the cook tent. Ken had his turkey, gravy and sweet potatoes ready by 6:00PM. After supper the storm blew over without raining. We all sat around in the cook tent telling stories, Charlie K. had some very good ideas about income tax reform. Maybe he should go into politics? Charlie L. is from Texas and had been freezing every night, so I loaned him an extra blanket.
In the sleeping bag by 10:00 PM. Everyone will hunt the dark ridge tomorrow, and maybe John might try to go out with us. I’ll help Charlie L. with breakfast in the morning.

Tuesday 9/5/89
Up at 4:15 AM. Charlie L. didn’t need help with breakfast, as he had coffee, French toast, and bacon ready when he got us up.
Paul and I left camp to hunt above the firebreak that runs between the first and second parks, just west of the dark ridge at 5:10 AM. A little before shooting light, we were at the edge of a small meadow and spotted three bucks about three to four hundred yards off to the south of us. We pulled a good sneak on them. I happened to be the one that had the best chance for a shot, however as I was working into position, the smallest of the three (a fork horn), saw me. I was only twelve yards from him, but couldn’t get a shot, especially while he was looking right me! Paul was behind me and a little to my left, but he couldn’t shoot because I was in his line of fire. I fell for the oldest trick in the book. The fork horn lowered his head as if to go back to eating, I started to draw the string, the buck jerked his head up and saw me moving. He knew what was going on, but didn’t spook, just started to move off real nervous like. I knew it was a lost cause, but tried to shoot anyway. I barely missed, but missed nonetheless. Needless to say, the fork horn and his buddies were gone in a flash! I watched them run then turned around to see what Paul was doing. Paul had a big smile on his face. I could tell that he had enjoyed the moment as much as I had, maybe even more. We stood and watched to see what else might happen for a while then started on to the firebreak. I found a good place to sit and watch while Paul worked his way into the timber to the south. After about 15 minuets I saw Charlie L. come into view on the firebreak below me. Soon after, I heard what sounded like elk crash through the timber below Charlie L., and then it sounded like they turned to my left, away from all of us. I waited for a little while, and then got up and started in the direction I had last heard the elk. Found where they went around us, and I could tell by their tracks that they were moving pretty fast as if they had been spooked petty good. Went back to where I had been sitting. Sat there till about 9:00AM. and was about ready to leave when I spotted Ken. He motioned to me so I waited for him to get to me. I told him what had been happening for the last hour or so. Eat a candy bar, said so long and we went in different directions. I dropped down to the fire break, then hunted over to the dark ridge, found a good place to watch for a hour or so, then started to still hunt back to camp. Back in camp a little after noon, and so was every one else. I cleaned up, fixed a sandwich, and rested for a while, then played a game or two of “shoes” this time I won my $6.00 back. Although we don’t normally hunt in the late afternoon, Paul, Sherm, and both Charlie’s decided to go out for a short hunt about 4:00 PM. Later Paul came in and told us about having a ten-yard shot at a deer but didn’t shoot because it was just a fawn (good for you, Paul). Charlie K. came in and told of taking a shot at a big doe, but had missed. Sherm and Charlie L. came in and hadn’t seen anything.
Sherm and Charlie L. fixed a seafood gumbo for supper (what a meal!). After supper, everyone wanted me to read this journal of priceless memories to them because the Texans (Ken and Charlie L.) are going home tomorrow afternoon. Everyone likes the idea of keeping a journal and I think I’ll make a scrapbook out of it, including photos and give it to everyone for Christmas. At 9:30PM. everyone but John and I had drifted off to bed. John and I sat around and shot the breeze for a while, then John got the bright idea of setting the rack up by the fire and take some timed exposure pictures. After that we sat around just enjoying the memories of past hunts till about 1:00 AM.
Don’t think I’ll hunt tomorrow.

Wednesday 9/6/89
Up at 4:30 AM. Sherm fixed coffee, eggs and sausage for breakfast. Everyone but John and I took off hunting. While John slept in, I sat in the cook tent and drank coffee while watching the world wake up and thinking about the last two weeks. When the sun came up, I put up the flags, cleaned up the cook tent, straightened up in my tent and caught up on this journal. With a sad heart, I’ll be heading home come early Saturday morning. Sure hate the thought of leaving and having to get back to making a living.
Ken had (for sentimental reasons) decided to hunt the point one last time before going home, but was back in camp by 9:15 AM. When he got in he was mad as a wet hen, he told of hearing something in the meadow just north of the point so he went to see what it was. He found a camp not 150 yards from the point! It made him pretty mad so he started back to camp, then looked back toward that camp and saw a really nice 5x5 buck and a doe standing between him and the idiots camp. He wouldn’t even try a shot because he was afraid that if he missed, he could hit the tent and maybe hurt someone that might be still in the tent. The rest of the guys were back in camp a little before noon, and hadn’t had any luck. While Ken and Charlie L. were packing to go home, I cut some steaks off of the meat on the meat pole and started to fix them as it would be our last meal that we all would have together till next year. We all eat then said our good-byes to Ken and Charlie L. I cleaned up the lunch mess, and took a nap. Later, Paul and Charlie K. went out for a short afternoon hunt but didn’t see anything. Sherm fixed chicken for supper. Everyone was down for the night by 9:30. I don’t think anyone is getting up early in the morning... I’m not.

Thursday 9/7/89
Up at 7:30 AM., and was the first one up, so I started a fire in the cook stove, and got coffee going. When everyone got up, I fixed eggs, bacon and French toast for breakfast. Paul decided to go hunting and left at 8:15 AM. Sherm and I decided to try our luck at fishing, so we hiked up to the second lake. Didn’t get a bite all day and was back in camp at 2:30 PM. John said he new where we could catch a fish so he and I took off to see if he was right, he wasn’t. We didn’t get a bite there either. Paul came in and as it was his day to fix supper, he fixed Antelope stew for us.
In the sleeping bag at 9:30 PM. I think I’ll hunt the point one last time in the morning.

Friday 9/8/89
Up at 4:15 AM. Sherm fixed coffee, eggs, and bacon for breakfast. The weather had turned bad during the night, but looked like it might stop raining by daylight. At 5:00 AM. it was still pretty windy but Charlie K. and I headed to the point anyway. By the time we got there the weather had gotten worse and was trying to rain again. I toughed it out for an hour or so but the weather was getting worse not better, so I decided to start working back toward camp. When I got to the big stand of aspens east of camp, I decided to find a good place to stay out of the wind and rain and watch a meadow. I watched the meadow for an hour but didn’t see anything, so I went on into camp. It wasn’t long before everyone was back in camp because it had started to snow too. Sherm hadn’t seen anything but Paul had. He saw two nice bucks, but while trying to get close enough to get a shot, some cattle came down the trail he was on and spooked the deer. Charlie K. had also got into some deer and even took a shot at a buck in the same meadow where the idiots had set up their camp (the idiots had moved their camp yesterday), but had missed. We all stayed in camp for the rest of the day because of the weather. I took a short nap then got up and started to pack, as I’ll be heading home in the morning. Sherm fixed a left over stew or something that looked like stew anyway. After supper we all gathered in the cook tent and we all swapped phone numbers and addresses, and talked over our plans for next years hunt. It quit snowing about 8:00 PM. and cleared off. It will be cold tomorrow. Maybe someone will stick one in the morning.
In the sleeping bag at 10:00 PM.

Saturday 9/9/89
Woke up at 4:00 AM. Got up and helped Charlie K. fix coffee, and French toast for breakfast. Said my good-byes to the guys before they went out hunting. John helped me finish loading my gear in the pick-up, and I headed down the mountain toward home at 8:30 AM. Didn’t stop for anything except gas, and was home at 3:30 PM.

Sunday 9/10/89
Last entry for the 1989 Archery Elk Hunt Journal.
I’m home now, I have all my gear unpacked and put up till next year. I am going to make copies of this journal and make scrapbooks with a few pictures I took, and sent them to everyone for Christmas.
Thinking back, words can’t describe the feelings and emotions I have right now. I guess the only way is to simply say the memories will be with me for the rest of my life.
You can bet your hunting boots, I’ll be back next year.

As time goes on, things change. This journal was the first of some six or seven more years of hunting with these guys. The guys in this hunting camp had been hunting together for some 20 years before I started hunting with them. Over the years, there would be someone that would stop hunting and a new guy would start hunting with us, but for the most part this hunting camp stayed together.
In 1995, my friend John was diagnosed with Prostrate cancer and was no longer able to make it to hunting camp. For the next six years John bravely fought for his life. In June of 2001, John lost that battle. During those last six years, John, Charlie L., my Dad and I would go fishing together during the Colorado Archery season. Also, during those last six years, the hunting camp just slowly fell apart. Although most of us keep in touch, we no longer hunt together.
I still hunt, but no longer travel out of state to do so. I just cannot afford the price of a non-resident tag. New Mexico has a “Draw” system for all public Elk hunts, and when I am lucky enough to draw a tag, I still (out of habit) keep a daily journal.

Posted by RRFSELKMAN on Wednesday, September 20, 2006 (20:17:23) (3235 reads)
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  You Can, See Again
Hunting StoriesYou Can, See Again

By: Ed Harmon

"You are legally blind." That statement, made by a doctor and especially by your doctor, will wake you up. The statement will also take the starch right out of your collar, all at the same time.

1986-87 was my best year shooting in competition. By the end of 1987 we had attained the scores, experience and skills necessary to become a state small-bore International Handgun Metallic Silhouette Association (IHMSA) aggregate champion and an IHMSA small bore 12 state region champion. For the uninitiated, the most difficult silhouette competition to master, is the small bore competition.

With 3 world records in shooting, including the new bowling pin record, we were "on a roll." I had bested John "The Kid" Robbins' Second Chance record, a record that had stood for 9 years, by almost two tenths of a second. At the very next pin match, I came right back and bested my own new world record. Speed, accuracy and consistency were all in one place at one time. Then, like a slow motion nightmare, it all went away. By 1989 I could only shoot with optics, I was legally blind.

The decline came rapidly, all too rapidly. My eyesight changed in jumps, sometimes as much as three full increments, per year. The doctors ran tests. We went through exam, after exam. Nothing seemed to help or explain the sudden change in my vision. Diabetes tests were run, not once, but three times, all with negative results. As my sight grew worse by leaps and bounds, I tried various aids including, lenses, loops, bifocals, line-less bifocals and the Merritt system. Nothing, by itself seemed to help, nor did the paraphernalia help when combined.

A questionnaire program was run through the IHMSA's monthly publication, in an attempt to determine if anyone else had been or was on the same route that I was so obviously taking. There was no answer to my problem, derived from the questionnaire, except to determine that the shooters that are myopic (nearsighted) loose the ability to compete with iron sights, much earlier in life than do the farsighted shooters. The situation pretty much boils down to this, in very simple terms, as you get older you loose the ability to see up close. If, in the beginning, you can see up close, but you can not see at long distance, then as you loose the ability to see up close, the ability to shoot with iron sights is pretty much destroyed. The loss of the ability to shoot with open sights is due primarily to the need for glasses with multiple distance lenses, lenses that never focus at the required distances. Frustrating? You bet!

Natural 20-20 eyesight is one of God's true miracles. You can see one image from two eyes, that image appearing as one image, even when the eyes are divergent by as much as 8 points. That is to say that the eye-brain combination sees one object when in fact the eyes are separated and not on the same horizontal plane. The two eyes can bring various objects at various distances into focus, all at the same time. The multiple distance focus is visualized as instantaneous or instant focus if you will. Try that combination with two digital cameras and the best computer on the market.

As my eyesight became worse, I started looking into surgery as a possible alternative. I was lucky to have a number of customers and friends who are doctors to talk with and with whom to discuss the alternatives. It did not take very long to rule out RK and PRK as possible solutions. These surgery techniques can leave one with the ability to read a newspaper. However, the surgery results are permanent and can not be corrected, or altered to any meaningful degree. I saw a film about cornea (the lens of the eye) shaping that was being done in California, by an experimental machine. The technique involved surgically removing the cornea, then while the patient waited on the table, the cornea was chilled and shaved by a diamond blade. The cornea was then returned to the eye. The cornea removal, shaving and replacement process seemed much to convoluted for my tastes.

Several plastic surgeons that I know purchased Excimer lasers for skin treatment. The Excimer laser is quite an ingenious medical instrument. The laser's footprint can be altered into different shapes, including circles, ovals, squares, rectangles, etc. The Exemer laser can then be set to remove tissue by tiny increments, almost single cell depth increments. The Excimer laser does not remove low places in the surface, only the high places. The process is much like sanding a scratch out of wood. You remove the surrounding area, in stages, until you reach the bottom of the scratch, one final pass and the scratch is gone. The Excimer Laser does much the same thing in layers of tissue, which regenerate. It can be used to remove scars, wrinkles or even tattoos. What does all this have to do with eyes?

Lasik surgery is the use of the Exemer laser to reshape the cornea of the eye. Lasik eye surgery is not approved by the military. However, Lasik surgery, as I understand the process, produces a result that is virtually undetectable during a regular or normal eye exam. Lasik also produces a result that can change a pilot or aircrew member's status from grounded to flying. I talked to several pilots who were looking for a surgical answer to vision loss. Lasik surgery offered them some hope. I discussed Lasik with several air crew members who said that they knew men who had the surgery performed, with perfect results and who were currently on flight status.

The best chance, always, to get a real answer is to go to the horse's mouth; so, I decided to contact a well-known eye surgeon in the Southeast. My base criteria for a doctor, in such an instance, is very simple, if a surgeon does 1,000 similar surgeries per year, he may have the experience to fool around with my eyes. Eyes can not be replaced; so, we do not allow OJT on our eyes. The surgeon, Dr. Samuel Poppel, of the Emerald Coast Eye Institute was just the person we were seeking. He had his very own, newest version, Exemer laser. He had done thousands of surgeries and came with a bushel basket full of recommendations.

Off to see the wizard we went. What I found was that Lasik surgery can correct near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism. Lasik can correct these as individual ailments or as a combination of ailments, all at once, in one surgical procedure. The Lasik result can be altered, after surgery, by additional surgery and can be tweaked to a fine adjustment, if needed, after recovery from the initial surgery.

Lasik surgery is a four-step process.
1. Your eyes are examined to make sure you are a candidate.
2. Your eye or eyes and systems are examined and the cornea mapped.
3. The surgery,
4. The recovery.

The first step was fairly simple, a routine eye exam including dilation, pressure check, etc., standard stuff. The last part of the exam, the interview, was very different from the normal examination. "What do you expect and what result will satisfy you?" My first preference was to shoot with iron sights, without corrective lenses. The doctor indicated that my first preference was a tall order. It could not be guaranteed, or even really attempted with much of an idea of success, even with his experience. I thought about that for a moment. Well, my second preference was to be able to shoot with iron sights using a single vision corrective lens. The lights came on in his eyes and the doctor's face lit up. That preference he thought, he could do with a high margin for success. However, even with my second preference he was not absolutely certain of the results and could not guarantee the outcome, prior to the second exam or the surgery itself. The first exam was free, and is normally free, regardless of the surgeon you select. I was asked to consider the next step, very carefully. The doctor asked that I go home and consider the operation, then contact his office after several days, if I wished to go to the next step, a very through exam and the mapping of the cornea.

It is not wise to make decisions based on partial information; so, I decided to go on to the next step. The next phase was a very thorough eye exam, including extensive imaging of the cornea. The two-hour exam included tests of virtually every function of the eye and the body systems connected to the eye, even the ability to produce tears During the course of the second exam, digital photos and 3-D images were made of my corneas. Yes, both eyes.. The digital images produced by the camera-computer combination that were processed the computer program into visual contour map of the existing shape. The existing topography then produced a solution and the image of the desired shapes of my corneas. At the end of the exam, the doctor was fairly certain that my second preference, shooting with a single vision lens, could be met. He also thought that within one year after surgery my first preference might very well be attained. However, he cautioned that there is always a risk of complications or problems that are unforeseen.

That unforeseen risk factor was made very clear to me and should be very clear to anyone contemplating eye surgery. After careful consideration and two extensive discussions, a date for the surgery was arranged.

The day of the surgery was a day of nerves and being on edge. We knew what to expect and had been briefed. However, having anyone monkey with your eyesight is not a lighthearted idea; nor, is it something you should journey into without some serious reflection. The surgery itself is a fairly simple process. Your eyes are numbed using drops, no needles. A suction cup is attached to the eye ball itself. A flap is cut in the "skin" of the eye, above the cornea. The flap is laid back, exposing the cornea. The suction cup is then attached to the lens of the Excimer laser. The laser is focused on and to the diameter of the cornea. The digital firing solution, for the correction to the cornea, is fed into the computer that controls the laser. The laser is then pulsed (fired). The result, if done correctly, is a near perfect cornea, reshaped to all corrected surface dimensions. The flap is then folded back down and smoothed out with a small brush. No stitches are necessary to reattach the flap, as it adheres to the eye instantly. Sight correction by a CNC machine, if you want a comparison. The actual surgery on both eyes took less than 30 minutes.

The evening after the surgery was spent wearing plastic "bug eyed" goggles, while sleeping under heavy sedation. Sleep is the best medicine to aid and speed the healing of eye injury or surgery. Wearing the goggles prevent you from rubbing your eyes during sleep. Rubbing your eye might dislodge the flap, before it heals. The surprise was waking up and having to put drops in my eyes. Just to open the eyes and trying to move around the house while trying to see through tiny slits was quite different. Vision with wide-open eyes is not recommended or approved for some time, after the surgery.

The first thing you do, the day after surgery, is to go see the doctor. So, the morning after surgery, first thing, we were off to the doctor's office for a quick look-see, to make sure everything was OK. All went well.

My "naked eye" vision was in the 20-30 range the next morning, after the surgery. However, reading was pretty much out of the question as was watching television. The next few days, it was difficult for me to look at anything for an extended period, without my eyes starting to tear. The eyes also felt very tired in just a few minutes of looking. So, I tried to catch up on my sleep.

A week after the surgery, I went in for my second, after surgery, checkup. A problem had developed, an infection in the left eye. Why? I had done everything necessary, used the drops religiously, was very careful not to get dust or dirt in the eyes, etc. Then, the doctor said, "That infection looks like a virus infection." Then it struck me, 17 years before; out of the clear blue I had contracted a serious infection in my left eye. The infection was eventually diagnosed as a viral infection. I informed the doctor of the prior infection. The doctor's response told me instantly that I was in trouble; he visually winced. He said that viral infections are a major cause of permanent eye damage and the cause of most of the cornea transplant surgeries done by him. Oh, great.

Virus infections are very diabolical. Most everyone has had, or more correctly has, a virus infection someplace on his or her body. Chicken pox, shingles, fever blisters, herpes simplex, etc are all a form of virus infections. The virus never goes away, it lays dormant in your system until an injury or low resistance allows it to rekindle, like a smoldering fire. When I told him that I did not remember the infection until he mentioned it, the doctor said, "You might forget, but the virus never forgets."

We then went through two weeks of eye drops every two hours. The infection died or went dormant. However, the infection left a scar on my brand new left cornea. Remember the caution about anything can happen? Well, my telling this story, in its entirety, is to give credence to the fact that the caution is indeed very real. My left eye can be corrected at this time to 20-30, minus one, with glasses. This is OK, not great, but OK, and I am very, very lucky. One thing, to be clear, the infection could have reoccurred by itself at any time. The surgery undoubtedly aggravated an old injury, but neither the surgery nor the doctor was to blame. We will have to wait for 6 months to a year to see what will be needed to correct the problem.

The vision in my right eye is 20-20 without correction. However, like most things done by man, there is a fly in the ointment. In this case, the fly is the loss of my near vision, without glasses. Now I have to wear reading glasses to read. My 20-20 focal point appears to be near 4 feet without glasses. I tried several off-the-rack reading glasses. I finally settled on a 1.25 lens.

So, what about the right eye and shooting? I waited for one month after surgery to try shooting. The wait was probably not necessary, but that is what I did. Being that I am right handed, the right eye being in good shape was great. My first outing was standing with a red dot sight, just to get the feel. The result or score was not too bad; nor, was it too good, either, just a so, so performance. I wanted to get the feel of shooting without corrective lenses, so I felt that the outing was a success. One real good thing did come from the match. Wayne Lowery, a champion speed shooter, lent me his .50 reading glasses. Wayne had the glasses made to shoot with open sights. The result was amazing; I could clearly see sights and targets both, with the .50 glasses. It was then and there that I resolved to take a trip over to the next silhouette match being held at Mobile, Alabama, the next weekend. I wanted to try big bore production as my first real test for the new eyes. Now, if I could just get a pair of shooting glasses made in a couple of days.

Back to the doctor the next day, exam for glasses, prescription for .50 reading glasses and off to the vision center at Wal-Mart. Yep, Wal-Mart, Why? It is the fastest place in our area to get lenses made. The next day, glasses in hand, I was ready to reload and take the ride to Mobile.

Now, all of a sudden, the reality of the situation hit me. Most of my iron-sighted guns had been sold over the years and I had long ago thrown away all of my old sight settings for iron sights. I dug around, Friday night until finally, in an old file cabinet, I found my 12 year old, Merrill 10-inch production gun, 30-30, standing, sight settings. The settings were for a fairly light cast bullet load. Yes, I still had the gun and the 30-30 barrel for the frame. We were in business, I had the gun, the load and the sight setting.

Off to Mobile we went, Saturday morning, five weeks after surgery, no practice, new "reading" glasses, and a gun and load I had not shot in twelve years. However, I just might be able to shoot iron sights again; so, who cared? All that other stuff was just window dressing; we were going to burn powder.

I decided on the drive over to Mobile, to try standing first, just to determine if I could actually see the sights and if the sight settings were even remotely close, for my old, rusty self. In all my figuring and planning, I did not count on one thing happening, something that had not happened to me in almost 20 years, a very bad case of match jitters. The jitters jumped on me like I used to get when I first started, 20 years before. I could not hold the gun still, not even reasonably close to still. The result was a pretty miserable 13x40 final score, standing. For a few seconds, after I finished shooting, I was a pretty dejected. However, after over 20 years in competition, it did not take but a moment for me to realize that this was my first outing, and I needed to straighten myself up, get down to business and get going. "Spit teeth and cuss," as the old saying goes. I gathered my self back up and pressed on. We were going to shoot production, without sight settings and without a spotter.

The first three chickens were missed, all while trying to get the correct sight setting. Then an additional chicken was missed in the second bank, due to the need for a bit of additional tweaking of the rear sight. That is 6 chickens of 10 at 50 meters. One pig was missed in the first bank, sight setting again, with the second bank of five, going down clean. That is 9 of ten pigs at 100 meters. The first turkey was missed due to the sight setting, and a turkey in the second bank was flat missed. That is 8 turkeys of 10 at 150 meters. The first 200 meter ram was missed, requiring an adjustment to the sights. The second bank of 5 rams went down clean. That is 9 of 10 rams at 200 meters. The final score, a 32x40, in production with iron sights. Of the eight misses, 7 were from not having the correct sight settings! I was elated. This was 5 weeks after eye surgery!

The proof is in the pudding; I can see to shoot again. If you love the shooting sports, the ability to shoot is worth every penny that the surgery cost. Lasik surgery is not cheap; the going rate in this area is in the $1,500 to $2,000 range, per eye. The cost in some areas of the country is less.

This article is intentionally written without technical jargon and is worded to help the average shooter achieve a level of understanding. The article is not meant to be accurate as to the surgery. Let us leave that up to the doctors. I think the article describes fairly, the idea of the surgery and accurately describes the facts before and after the surgery.

Would I do it all again, even with the infection? The answer is yes. It has now been two months since the surgery. I am getting more and more accustomed to the arrangement. 30 odd years of glasses has required some adjustment. However, like most things worth doing in life, you adjust as necessary and go forward. I must say that shopping for sunglasses is a whole new experience. I have only had photo gray glasses from the first pair of glasses to the last pair.

It has now been four years since the surgery. The left eye is now at 20-30, without correction. However the right eye is at 20-15. I hunt, fish and shoot without carrying anything but a pair of reading glasses. The surgery continues to be one of the better things that I have done for myself, in my lifetime.

A similar article first appeared in the IHMSA News. This article has been revised and rewritten by me, the author, to constitute a new article for publication on this site.

Posted by SwampFox on Thursday, August 10, 2006 (17:38:39) (4160 reads)
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  Fox shooting!
Hunting StoriesBy Gert Sørensen (Mauser)

The first step
The beginning was many years ago, when the gamekeeper of the estate asked me about my interest in pest control of fox population on the estate. The number of foxes has been growing, following many years during which the fox scab had kept the population low. The gamekeeper was particularly worried because he could see the effect of foxes on the released pheasants. As we began to see more and more foxes on the estate, we saw more ewes there throughout the summer that lost some of their lambs. It was from the beginning, pure and simple pest control. We started shooting the pups in August. Later, from September and further on, we hunted the older foxes.

Waiting with Rifle
In our form of pest control we where placed on some strategic places where we know there was fox activity, and then we just waited. We might wait for many hours, but it was seldom if ever boring. In this magnificent area there was always something to look at. It might for example, be a bird of prey, a ewe with her lambs, or an old six -point roebuck, that kept himself hidden all during the hunting season, but now with the season closed he shows himself. The climax, of course, was when a fox showed up, and died from a well-directed bullet.

The hunting challenge
For me, this sort of predator hunting was a bit of hunting distraction after the buck season. Before the autumn season it occupied me more and more. Gradually, as I started knowing the hunting ground and the fox movements, I felt a new kind of challenge. The sly fox is absolutely the same great challenge as it is to hunt the old roebuck, … maybe even greater.
I have on several occasions watched foxes when they come across a fresh human trail. The reaction is almost always the same; they stop, turn around, and then quickly return to where they came from. Bucks will often just cross a human scent trail without any sign of fear.

Small-bore rifle
When I first started, I used the same rifle on fox shooting as I did on buck hunting. It was a “Mauser 98” in caliber 6.5 x 55 Swedish. I have taken a lot of foxes with this rifle, but a couple of years ago I choose to build a new rifle. I decided that it should be in a smallbore, high velocity cartridge, with extreme accuracy. I had the fox in my mind as I considered this new rifle, because it is a small target, and the shot is often at a long range. My project started from an old target rifle, with a “Mauser 98” action. The calibre was 6.5 x 55, as it is in nearly all rifles at rifle clubs in Denmark I changed the barrel to a brand new one, chambered in .220 Swift.

The .220 Swift is known, (or have a doubtful re*****tion) for its extremely high muzzle velocity (around 4000 fps). I produced a new stock, and changed the trigger to an adjustable “Timney” trigger. I mounted a “Leupold” Vari-Xlll 6.5 - 20 x 40mm scope. I must acknowledge that I got my inspiration for choice of caliber and scope from American Varmint hunters. The Varmint hunting where the targets may be prairie dog and coyotes puts great demands on accuracy, because of the (often) long-range shooting at small targets. I have always been of that opinion that it should be me and my shooting ability (ore absence thereof) that determines the limit for me to make a justifiable shoot. Its must never be because of my equipment.

The right bullet choice
I went through a longer experiment, where I tested several different bullet types, and powder charges to determine the best accuracy. When I went to the shooting range I often heard a lot of comment that I got plenty of practice in different firing positions, instead of the one (prone with rest) that I always used. For me, it was not the shooting positions, but the shot variations, that were important.
The biggest problem with the rifle was that, because of the high velocity, there was a problem with copper fouling inside the barrel. After quite a few shots it influenced accuracy. At last however, after a lot of tests I found a bullet, and a load that satisfied my demand for accuracy.
The bullet, a moly-coated 50 grains “Hornady” V-Max, reduced cupper fouling in the bore. The V-Max bullet is a specialized Varmint bullet, made with a thin jacket for violent expansion. This type of bullet would not be suitable on deer.
Using both the bullet’s ballistic coefficient, and velocity (measured at 3950 fps), I made a “drop table” to use for correcting my hold for long-range shots.

How far, is too far?
That is a good question. In my opinion, the answer depends on the circumstances. One of the circumstances is the shooting position. I would never take a shot at a buck, for example in a freestanding position at a range of more than 50 meters. If, on the other hand, I were shooting in the prone position, with a rest, under optimum conditions, I would shoot at that same buck at 200 meters without thinking twice about it.
I tested my .220 Swift at different distances out to 300 meters. With a zero at 240 meters, I compiled the drop chart below.
One thing I learned from my testing was the great affect wind deflection has on a light bullet. If it’s possible to estimate a distance, and know the bullet’s drop at that distance, it is a simple job to compensate for this drop. On the other hand, it is much more difficult to estimate wind speed and angel, and then afterwards compensate for the wind deflection. Because of that I decided not to shoot at long range on game in cross wind.

A fox stalk
One morning near the end of November, I climbed op in the high seat (stand) at the end of the “north meadow”. The high seat leans against an old oak tree. Thirty meters on the right side from me a creek meanders through the meadow, and on the other side of the creek, I have a view over a grass field. Earlier in the year there have been caws on the field, so the grass has been cropped. Right in front of me and to the left, the meadow stretches, 500 – 600 meters. The “North meadow” is a huge grass area, and it’s been cut late in the summer. A few spots have not been cut, though, and stand out like small “islands” with high grass as hiding places for game.
I had been sitting in the high seat and watching for an hour or so, when my eyes catch a movement in the grass field on the other side of the creek. It is a fox, in the characteristic jog-trot, crossing the field. I got my rifle ready, and took rest on a strong oak bough, on my left side. Range was about 150 meters. The fox continued it’s jogging. Stand still, darn it! Then the fox stopped to sniff something on the ground. The scope was set on 20 power, the reticle catch the heart region of the fox, the sight was steady, when I squeezed the trigger BOOM!!! The fox collapsed, and lay still, not moving a limb. I remained sitting in my stand. A half an hour later the sun rose up above the beech trees on the hill behind me, and spread sunbeams over the meadow. Shortly after that another fox appeared about 500 meters away on my left side. The fox was very busy by catching mice in the cropped grass. The wind was perfect, coming toward me, so I claimed down from my high seat, and started a stalk. I was quite sure that I have a fair chance of getting closer to the fox while mouse hunting absorbed it. I followed the edge of the meadow while I kept cover behind the beech trees. When at last I was on line with the fox I saw that it had disappeared into one of the high grass “islands” I crawled forward to a bank of earth, from where I would have a clear shot, if the fox appeared again. Suddenly, I saw the fox, standing between two grass tufts just like a pointer in front of a bird. Clearly the fox got the scent or sound of a mouse in the grass in front of him. I got my rifle into position, estimating the range at about 150 meters. This one died like the fist one, instantly when the bullet hit him.

A long shot
It was the last Saturday in January, and I was sitting in the high seat in the “North meadow”. I have shot only one fox from this place since I shot the two in November. One of my friends had seen two foxes earlier in the morning from this spot, so I went out about noon. There was snow on the ground from a light snowfall the night before. Now it was sunny weather, with the wind blowing weakly from the south. I have been sitting and enjoying the good weather, watching two herons with my binoculars
The herons strutted around in the meadow, and as I sat studying them I suddenly spotted a fox. It came out from the high grass on my left side. Quickly I got my rifle up, and caught the fox in the scope. It was a considerable distance away, about 300 meters by my estimation. The fox continued a jog trot in the direction of the fox’s den in the hillside on the other side of the meadow. Stalking was out of the question, so now I had to make a quick decision.
Should I fire? The rifle had a stable rest on the left side of the high seat. I was wedged firmly in my sitting position as I pressed myself back into the seat. The wind was weak, and coming right toward me, so I wouldn’t have to worry about wind deflection. The only thing I have to compensate for was the drop. I looked at the drop table on top of the scope and it said there would be a 10-centimeter drop at 300 meters. But the problem was that the fox was moving. I made a decision! I decided to fire if the fox would stop while I still had it in sight. The fox continued jogging, but at last it stopped, nearly 300 meters out in the meadow. I kept the scopes reticle 10 cm. above the place I wanted to hit the fox. The rifle was complete steady, as I increased pressure on the trigger. At the very moment the shot went of, the fox was down. I reloaded the rifle, but there was peace and quiet in the area, with the exception of the two herons; they were in the air now. I remain sitting in the high seat for another hour, before I walked down to the fox. I counted my steps, and by step number 280 I stood by the fox. It was a young vixen, and it was dead with a clean heart shot. That reminds me of what one of my friends, an excellent marksman, said.

“It is not difficult to make a perfect shoot!
The art of shooting is to abstain from making a bad shot!”


Posted by Mauser on Thursday, July 27, 2006 (19:09:58) (4979 reads)
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  Pigeons in South Africa
Hunting StoriesPigeons in South Africa

The best pigeon shooting in the world

Ed Harmon

Just returned from the Dark Continent where we were hunting rock pigeon, speckled rock pigeon, red-eyed dove, cape dove, guinea fowl, ducks, geese and francolin. The country of South Africa is reported to have the very best pigeon shooting in the world. The seven in our group had a great time for the 7 days we were there and can attest to the accuracy of “the best pigeon shooting” statement.

Our great time was almost put out of focus by Delta Airlines. They lost all of our guns (6 gun cases) for four days and the luggage of two of our group was missing for five days. The difference between a good host and a great host came out quickly, in such a situation. Our hosts scraped together guns for us to use and scoured their closets for boots and clothing that would fit each hunter in need. Thanks to the good folks at Grass Land Safaris we never missed a minute of hunting. For myself, this trip was not my first day at the rodeo and it was a good thing I had prior foreign hunt travel experience, as I was one of the unfortunates without guns or luggage. My airline carry on bag has, for the past three international hunting trips, contained a full set of hunting clothes, without boots. My hunting suit in the carry on ditty bag doubles as a rain suit. The suit has a Gortex jacket and Gortex pants. A hunting suit, including a hat and gloves, in the carry on is a little lesson learned from two trips to Argentina. Next trip will see a pair of lightweight, short boots, in the bag as well. Some in our SA group were not as lucky, but our host made it all work out, just fine.

Anyway, we did our level best to lay waste to the pigeons and doves and tried to reduce the guinea and francolin population, as best we could. Rock Pigeons (RP) are large birds, about the size of a small partridge. They sport a wingspan of 18 to 24 inches. A mature Rock Pigeon flies about twice the speed of a grey mourning dove. In the air a RP looks and acts like an aerobatic aircraft flown by an expert pilot. They say a 25% ratio on RPs is just about all a real expert bird hunter can expect. Yes, well, 20% might be a better figure. I myself shoot a respectable 70% - 75% recorded ratio on Argentine doves and doubt that I ever came close to 25% on the RPs, the first day’s pigeon shoot. After the first 10 shots and being 60%, I actually thought to myself; “well now this isn’t so hard.” 90 rounds later, I just gave up trying to maintain a decent ratio. It is not uncommon for the best shooters to find themselves relegated to “flock shooting” the RPs, jut to calm the inevitable frustration.

This trip actually started during the summer of 2005 in Argentina, over a cool beverage, one evening. As bird shooters are want to do, we were talking about the very best bird hunting in the world, for various flying species, when the subject of pigeon shooting came up. Two folks that had been, told us about shooting pigeons in the sunflower fields of South Africa the year before and how the numbers of birds were just outstanding. We, the ones that had not gone before, looked around at each other and decided right there and then that we just had to go, next year. One of our group had a standing reservation, for eight hunters, for the last week in April with Carel and his wife Cariel Coetzer of Grass Land Safaris.

Grass Land Safaris is a premier wing-shooting out*****r in South Africa; they are in Bamfort, Free State (old Orange Free State), South Africa. Bamfort is a sleepy little town located about four hours by van, south of Johannesburg. Carel, head honcho and senior Professional Hunter (PH) was in a prior life, a lieutenant in the old South African Army. As a former Recondo in the 101st Airborne, I knew of the re*****tion of the two finest military arms on the continent, the old SAA and the Rhodesian Army. Their long range patrol units were second to none. Carel served in a long range patrol unit officer in Rhodesia and Angola, years ago, during the troubles with the communist rebels. Cariel, a lovely lady, with a great outgoing personality, is a registered nurse who now administers a hunting lodge in the bush, on an 8,000-acre ranch. Cariel also takes care of the bangs and bruises plus sore muscles and joints. She has a very detailed grasp and knowledge of her country’s history. The Coetzers have three children and a steady flow of hunters from all over the world. They both are very dedicated hosts who go out of their way to make everyone feel special and bend over backwards to accommodate the needs of their guests with whom they become friends very quickly.

As things are and always will be, not everyone in the original group of eight could go to SA, so two of us took the places of the poor unfortunates that had to back out of the original arrangements. Their loss was very much our gain.

We took off early in the AM from the Pensacola Airport where the entire group gathered. While on the plane awaiting takeoff, we became alarmed when one of our group saw the baggage handlers remove several of our gun cases, just before leaving the terminal. Later we would all agree that we should have got off the plane right there and then. The next time, should we observe such a debacle starting, we will only continue the flight with the guns. From now on, if we see the guns get off the plane, so do we. Later we were told that the plane was over loaded, this was the excuse for removing the guns. However, removing the gun cases was a violation of just about every security regulation in the US Airline Industry playbook. Not to mention the TSA playbook.

Our hosts met us at the airport, arranged everything and off we went. Our first traveling experience in South Africa was a white-knuckle ride. We found ourselves on the wrong side of the road. The SA drivers drive on the left side, like the British. After a 19-hour plane ride we were a bit delusional, so the oncoming vehicles kept registering as being on our side, at curves, etc. We arrived at the hunting lodge after dark to iced drinks; great South African wines and a wonderful sit down meal of fresh vegetables and grilled Kudu steaks. South Africans like most Europeans, drink their beverages without ice, or without being chilled, so the ice machine was part of our host’s preparation for a US group of visitors. Our chef, a lovely lady, was a culinary professor and registered dietician who taught at the local university. During our entire time at Grass Land, she kept us well fed and always came up with some excellent deserts. All of our meals had an exotic flare, at least for us.

The first hunting day, Monday, we left the lodge well before daylight in what was to become our regular routine. We drove for about 45 minutes to the Dove-Pigeon field, where the sunflowers were brown and ready to harvest. Unlike Argentina, the doves and pigeons in SA have a flight line and rarely stray off the line. You do not see hundreds of doves scattered all over the place like you see in South America. You just see doves in large numbers at or near the fields where they feed and where you go to shoot. The odd thing about the flight line is the birds fly the line in small groups, one group right behind the other, for hours on end. The flight line was so narrow, only about 200 yards wide, that we sat up starting at 40 yards off both sides of the corner of the field. The birds came over the corner and most veered left or right, and then flew down the edge of the field. With an over and under, you shot just about as fast as you could load. We lost three “lodge” guns that first day, to breakage, all of the broken guns were well used Berettas. One O/U started opening by itself when the upper barrel was fired. Another O/U had its hammer actuator snap off from the forearm, after a box of shells, and a side by side decided it was time for it to start doubling. Carel got those guns replaced and everything ran pretty smooth after that.

I cannot go into all of the things our host did to make our trip a success, but let us say, the effort was extraordinary in every sense of the word. Carl did not join us for dinner or for a drink until Friday night. When Carl left with us in the morning Cariel took over the effort. The rest of the time, the couple was improvising, adapting and overcoming. As a business owner myself, I think it needs to be said here that anyone can run a perfectly smooth operation, it is only when the ship hits the sand that the real gems start to sparkle. And sparkle they do at Grass Land Safaris.

Every day, when out hunting, we stopped shooting about 11:00 for a brunch in the field. Fritz, the young Professional Hunter in residency (two years with senior PH is required) was in charge of setting up the field kitchen and dining area. The kitchen and tables were off in the distance and always near some large trees, in the shade. We normally had a field brunch consisting of a grilled whole grain sandwich made of cheese with sliced tomato, grilled wild game strips on a stick, game shish kabobs, boiled eggs, grapes and yogurt. To drink we had soft drinks and bottled water. Carl is a stickler for safety and does not allow any alcohol on his hunts, period. Our entire group, to a man, was very grateful to see Carl take this stand on safety. We had all had bad experiences in other parts of the world and none of us cared to see those things repeated or even come close to happening, again.

The second day, Tuesday, we went back to the field of the first day. When we got to the field just after daybreak we saw that the farm workers were already busy combining the sunflower seedpods. The birds were everywhere, like bees flocking to a press, crushing apples, for apple cider. We sat up our blinds and started a great dove and pigeon shoot. The shoot lasted all day with no shortage of birds. We learned something on the first day that was different about hunting in SA, they adhear to the English methods of hunting. The birds are just not counted and the bird boys are pulled back from the hunter least they interfere with the hunt.

The third day, Wednesday, we drove about 20 minutes from the lodge to a farm where they were harvesting potatoes and sunflowers. This was no dove shoot we were going to. What we saw in the distance, as we arrived, were clouds of big birds, by the thousands. This location is where we were to see a full day of Rock Pigeon shooting, with very few doves in attendance. I would say we saw or shot less than 1% doves. This was where we were to see, for the first time, the true performance of a Rock Pigeon.

I will attempt to describe the flight of a Rock Pigeon; they come by the edge of the field, flying parallel to the edge and out about 200 yards, then make a circle out over an open area. At the end of the circle they make a turn towards you, then they come straight for the edge of the field, flying at full speed, about 50 feet off the ground. Just as they get to the edge of the field, they do a barrel roll, dive for the ground, then make a 90 degree right turn, fly for 10 yards, then a 90 degree left turn and fly across the field at the height of the sunflowers. During this series of maneuvers they reach speeds of near twice that of a mourning dove. The evasive movement starts the moment anyone shoots, moves or stands up. I actually saw one bird do a wings out, hear up, complete stall, from full speed, then it did a hammerhead over into a dive, pulled out at 3 feet above the ground and then flew across the field about a foot below the top of the sunflowers, dodging seed pods as it went. Needless to say, my first shot was where the bird was supposed to be, not where it was.

I had to keep telling myself that missing was part of what was expected. I do not think I have ever shot so much empty air before in my life. But empty air was not the end of the frustration. The birds are so big and so tough that many times, a shot would render a puff of feathers and result in a hunter standing there, after two shots, empty gun in hand, and no bird on the ground. A big day on the RP line, for this shoot, was 100 to 125 birds, on the ground. There was no lack of shooting just a serious lack of bird bodies.

The best part of the third day was that our gun cases arrived in the late afternoon and were awaiting our return to the lodge at day’s end. We did have a couple of guns damaged, a hole in a gun case and one gun case badly scuffed, as if it had been dragged across asphalt for a mile or so. However, we were very happy to get our *****d guns back in hand.

What is the best method of shooting Rock Pigeon? Well the advice I received from Carel was; when you first see the pigeons, duck down behind the camouflage net, pick a single bird coming straight towards you, watch the pigeon through the net until it get about 80-90 yards out. At that point you stand and shoot. The pigeon should be about 70 yards out when you fire. The pigeon will collide with the shot at 35 to 40 yards, due to his flight speed. The method did not work so well on this day, in short sunflowers, but on Saturday, in tall sunflowers, it worked like magic.

The fourth day, Thursday, we left early again and drove for about 15 minutes. Now with our over and under guns we could hunt game birds. We stopped and lined up across a large pasture of waist high, yellow grass that was still soaking wet from the dew. Most of us had never hunted Guinea fowl before, so we were in for a real experience. Guineas like to hide in the tall grass and similar to a New England partridge, will let you walk up to them or go by them, before they come up. Luckily we had two dogs with us. The dogs made short work of pointing the birds up and finding the birds, after the birds were shot. Guinea fowl are bigger than a pheasant and if skinned have white meat that tastes quite a bit like the meat of a domestic chicken, that is slightly tough and a little stringy. The evening of the fourth day we dined on fresh Guinea with vegetables and an excellent South African table wine.

You know what gets your attention while walking through waist high yellow grass, bird hunting? The guy in line, next to you, says; “Two years ago I got my black mane, male lion, over there, about three miles from here.” You then look around and realize that, yes, you are in tall grass, on the plains, in Africa, with your O/U 12ga and #7 ½ shot. Every movie you ever saw with a lion chasing prey flashes by in your memory. Here dog, here dog, stay close dog, find the lion, find the lion first, my buddy the bird dog.

The afternoon of the fourth day I broke off and went plains game hunting with my custom rifle chambered in 300 Winchester Short Mag. Grass Land Safaris offers both wing shooting and plains game hunting. We went out to the range to make sure my rifle was sighted in. I quickly discovered that someone had twisted both of my large tactical adjustment knobs counter clockwise. The first bullet impact was in the upper right hand corner of a piece of 8½ x11 paper at 100 yards. My first thought was, so much for mounting a tactical scope and giving it to customs officials. After 5 rounds we got everything going correctly and off we went. A valuable lesson; never shoot at an animal with a rifle taken on a trip until you test fire the rifle.

We saw a large group of Blaze Buck and got to within 200 yards on the first try. The Blaze Bucks were standing on a slight rise in tall yellow grass with only the upper half of their body exposed. However, just as I got the shooting sticks set up, the wind changed from blowing in our face to blowing dead from our backs. Off all of the Blasé Bucks went with a snort. Several hours later we came upon the heard again, but this time they were milling around in a slight depression. They were right at 200 yards once we finished our hour of stalking, just a big wad of heads and horns sticking out of the tall grass. The grass was so high that all that could be seen when I was standing was the very top of their back, neck and head. Every time a good ram was spotted, he had a ewe in front or behind him. Because of the tall grass I had to stand to get a shot at them. I stood there for over 5 minutes with the rifle on the sticks. I was shooting a 180-grain Sierra Game King bullet at over 3,000 fps and knew for certain that the bullet was going to go right through the animal. Finally the PH called for the truck to move up in an attempt to separate them or spread them out a bit. Unfortunately instead of milling around just a little, they all bolted at once and headed off like a run away freight train, full speed, right out of sight. They were very spooky, which I lay on a zebra stallion that was with the heard. He acted strange, very skittish, every time we saw him. I decided to return to wing shooting the next day rather than spend more time with the antelope.

Three of the other hunters had better luck than me. Between the three of them they bagged a high scoring Kudu, a very good Gem Buck and a very fine Black Wildebeest. The Wildebeest was shot at about 330 yards with a 338 Ultra Mag. Andy, our resident Veterinarian, made a perfect shot. The 338 A Frame bullet entered just inside the right shoulder and exited behind the left shoulder. The Wildebeest dropped like he had been struck by lightning. The Kudu and Gem Buck were shot with a .308 rifle provided by the out*****r.

The next day we were up and out a bit earlier. We drove about 30 minutes to an area where the ground was low and there were what appeared to be small lakes or large ponds. The South Africans call the water filled areas Pans. A Pan is a low area that fills with water in the rainy season and then dries out during the dry season. The pans were the favorite places for spur wing geese, shell ducks, Egyptian Geese and the African red billed teal. We had a nice morning waterfowl hunt, bagging three spur wings, two shell ducks and several red-billed teal. I had the experience of shooting a B-52 bomber with a BB gun. That was a spur wing with a 12ga O/U at about 45 yards. I saw and heard the shot hit, twice. But the big goose never even changed direction or lost a wing beat. Every goose brought down that morning had a broken wing bone or was hit with one pellet in the head. I watched one goose after being hit, run into a pan, and swim across the pan, about 200 yards, then run up a hill before the hunter ran him down.

That afternoon we hunted Guinea fowl again and had a marvelous time shooting guineas, quail and Francolin. The quail in South Africa are quite a challenge due to their size, about 2 ounces total weight. Unfortunately a 2-ounce quail shot with a 12 ga at 10 yards doesn’t leave much to put in the game bag. This particular hunt was great for me as I got a couple of quail and four mature guinea fowl.

The evening of the 5th day Carel announced that we had not returned to the site of the pigeon shoot because the pigeons had moved. Carel and Fritz had found a new place for pigeons and doves and that new place was an hour away, but looked like an excellent spot if we wanted to give it a go.

The sixth day we were off to the new spot, across the street from an operational gold mine, where we set up our blinds in tall green sunflowers. It was a remarkable spot, with high tension power lines in front of the field, a paved road along the left side, high tension lines on the other side of the paved road and the gold mine, with its three huge concrete vent stacks, across the paved road. Early in the morning, before brunch, I had shot 14 boxes of shells, one spot down from the corner of the field. When we returned from brunch, everyone moved one spot, as is the procedure at Grass Lands. I moved down one spot to the corner of the field. It was at this point that the pot came to a hard boil. Fritz left for a few minutes to check on the other hunters and returned to find me sitting, out of ammo, this sequence was repeated three times before the afternoon was up. My Browning Ultra XS 20ga gun was smoking, literally. The metal got so hot that you could not touch it with your bare hands. Fritz came by in the truck as the sun went down, I heard him say to Carel that my stand looked like I declared war on the pigeons, their little bodies were everywhere, littering the ground. I had shot 70 boxes of shells (1750) rounds and the bird boys picked up four 60-gallon nylon bags, full of dead birds. To say that we helped deplete the vermin population would be an appropriate statement.

The next morning we got ready to go and were surprised by a gift from our hosts, a very nice embroidered hunting shirt. The shirt had a Guinea Fowl, in color, topped by the words Grass Land Safaris in an arch above the guinea. The colorful work was embroidered in the front left pocket area. We were sorry to leave and were not looking forward to the long plane ride back to the US.

On our way from the lodge to the Johannesburg Airport, we stopped at a SA version of a roadside truck stop and there was Fritz with his truckload of Danish hunters, on their way to the lodge. I guess I made the list of hunting stories around the campfire. Fritz introduced me to the group of new hunters, as “this is the fellow I was telling you about that shot 1750 shells just yesterday.”

I have saved this portion of the story for last, “the what you need to know:” part of the process. Going to South Africa has its quirks so one needs to pay attention:
1) Hunting in South Africa is not done on Sunday (arrive and leave on Sundays).
2) Doves and Pigeons are considered destructive pests and can be shot anytime with any gun, including a semi-auto shotgun.
3) Game birds, Francolin, quail, Guinea, waterfowl, etc., cannot be hunted with a semi-auto.
4) Semi-auto shotguns are all but impossible to bring into the country unless you get a handicapped persons permit (pretty much requires use of only one arm).
5) Shotgun shells of 12 ga are easy to obtain, 20 ga are available with an up charge, but 28 ga and .410 are not popular or readily available.
6) The agricultural center of South Africa is the Free State.
7) The altitude across the Free State is about 4,200 feet, so the sun burns you to a crisp, without sunscreen.
Cool In the fall (April-May) it might be 32 degrees F at daybreak and 80 degrees F by mid afternoon.
9) Layered clothing is a must due to the change in temperature.
10) Plains game hunting is available at Grass Lands on their 8,000-acre ranch; wing shooting at Grass Lands takes place on their 200,000 acres of leased hunting lands.
11) Recommended rifle for plains game hunting by the PH, I asked, a claw extractor model rifle in 30-06 with 165 to 200 grain bullets.
12) What rifle did the PH have to rent, a Model 98 Mauser in 308 with 165 Sierra GK bullets, hand loaded.
13) Bird boys in SA do not load your shell pouch or count birds. If you want a count, bring a clicker.
14) Shooting over sunflowers requires low shots. Shooters should be at least 70 yards apart, eye protection is a must.

Contact information:

Posted by SwampFox on Thursday, June 08, 2006 (19:16:47) (8982 reads)
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  How I Hunted Fox with a Skunt Bone
Hunting StoriesCourse, that goes with any hunter of yote, hell, I been there. Out in the middle of nothing for 5000 miles, no water, no shade. Slip on of all things a banana peel, WHAMMMM flat on my back. Leg broke with bone sticking through my new huntin boot. Made a splint outta sand (you have to heat it in a fire to make the glass) , splinted up ma leg and finished the hunt. Killed 2 more yote before I passed out due to lack of blood from my broke leg. Though I better try to curb that flow, so I skunt the yotes and used thar seuwn ta stitch the hole. Tucked thet protrusion bone up in the slash and did my best to go ahead and set it. Then I rap it real tight with raw hide coyote pelt. Toasted thet oer a fire I made to mak the glass and harded it lak a cement block. Made maself a sand-glass walkin stick and carried on the hunt a foot. Called in an kilt a Lynx cat, dug one o his tooth out and used it as astichin needle to sew a soft fur coverin oer thet walker. Made another mile a foot, then a see's a filthy flea ridden fox run oer a far ridge line an a say it be a far piece. I set out after the critter with a sharp stick and a single .223 cartridge a found in the bottom o a wash. I caught up ta the vermin about 3 day later, he was hole up in a ol' mine'n tunnel just south o the border in Sonora, Mexico. By the time I git thar he's in a bad way with the hydro-phoby, foamin like a maytag washin machine. I went in, usin a tarch I whittled outta a knotted oak stob. I eyed the critter thar way in the back and went at him with ma sharp stick, bullet, an a pebble a pick up just for I cross the border. Went I had the snarlin rascal cornerd I grab ma gonads an a shook'um at him. When he make his move run thet bullet up his butt on the stick an tap it off with thet pebble. I hears a low sound'in pop, deep inside thet foam flinging filth, and then he shots out a turd. Hits me in the eye with seed filled shat. Som-*****.
I'm blind. I gots a broke leg. Thar in the darkness of an abandon mexican gold tunnel, I fought off that hydro-phoby fox. After the intial shock of the seedy shat, I shook my head. Tryin ta dislodge thet fithy seed infested projectile. Thet vermin is dead at ma feet due to a well placed .223 round in his gullet. I grip ma testicles and check’em fer damage. Bruised and painful, as I recall. I hears it. A poppin sound. Then I rethink to myself a how stupid I been. Pursue a fithy hybro-phoby fox deep into Mexico, runnin into a hole and try finish his foamin carcus off. Where there one fox, they's two. Where thet fella's vixen. I hear a snappin and snarlin, close! She be poppin them teeth like a pissed off Javalina. "Run you blind fool" I thinks to myself. I run for the light, hobblin on a raw-hide leg cast and squinttin one eye. Thet seed shat, burn'in ma rhetna. Every move I make with my swishin and dodgin puttin more a strain on them sand glass leg poles I fashion. Thets when they give it up. Ma glass walker, leg poles just exploded under all thet runnin. I falls ta the dirt floor, thet seed shat pops loose a my eye and nails thet revenge crazed female vixen from hell clean. Right square in the mouth, she chokin on a seedy shat. I grab what I got available, ma testicles. I swings em oer ma head and back to earth. Wham, right on her seed encrusted cranium. We lets loose with a squall lak a twin banshee’s. I scamble ta ma feet and dive fer the light. Ma mashed testies draggin behind lak a fishin lure. I'm free, lord almighty, I's free o thet tunnel o death. I tumbled down a tailings dump and lands on ma feets like a cat, runnin full out back towards the north. I reel in ma nuts and stuff’em back in ma britches. Thet hate filled vixon female fox screamin from inside the tunnel. Her sounds echo'n from off the canyons fer miles.
I staggered into a boarder town round midnight, November of 02'. Them folks took me in and patch me up. Soon enough, I'm on the mend. Took three days a soakin in a hot tub o water to relieve thet raw-hide glass from ma leg. Six week later I head back to the Jeep, I leave it down on the first set near a water hole. All total I been huntin and killin coyote and fox, not to mention the one bob, about two month. Been in the mouth o hell down in Mexico, leg broke, eye shat out, hydro-phoby phlem flung on me, raw hide rapped, glass splinted and sun burn ta hell. And even all thet never stop me from huntin. Now let me tell ya about the mishap I fell upon during a cat hunt down near Bowie, Arizona/ December 3rd 1998...........

Posted by bonita on Friday, February 10, 2006 (17:41:29) (4101 reads)
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  One step to far
Hunting StoriesI was about 26 years old, when I found myself cross country skiing in Pennsylvania. The day was not a typical February winter day, gray sky about 10 degrees, slight breeze and snowing. The snow was falling with enough force to lend a very quiet day and obscure my movement. Following game trails for about 5 miles I came to a marsh. It was called Levenson’s Meadow, I don’t know who Levenson was.

The “meadow” was created by a very deep channel of slow moving water. Erosion had done it’s work over the past centuries and created the channel but also an extensive wetland. The Hummocks and grasses kept the area mostly clear of people not wanting to get wet. This cold winter had in fact frozen the marsh and channel into what seemed like a solid sheet.

The snow increased its intensity and soon visibility was only about 50 feet. I looking through the trees, down into the marsh The creek channel was clearly free of hummocks and grass. One push and I was off. Leaving the trees the snow seemed to intensify further obscuring my visibility. Crossing the hummocks was fairly simple on the skis but once I made it to the channel I was able to move with a smooth and determined gait. I spotted some movement ahead of me and stopped. For some reason I was along the edge of the channel next to the grasses when I saw the otter. It would dive under the ice swim back and repeat this seemingly endlessly, until it came up with a trout. Soon there after I discovered I was watching two otters not one. I watched the two otters long enough to decide I could get closer. Slowly moving forward the otters did not notice my presence or didn’t care. As is usual one step to many and they were off. I stood and waited for a good while longer, thinking I could out wait them.

The snow was still falling but the wind had gone still the snow was accumulating on my jacket such that I was now almost completely white. It was time to head back when I decided to go look at the hole the otters were using as I go closer I noticed that I could not see the water directly under the ice. My mental recognition of the ice condition was just a half a step behind the cracking and water rushing up my legs. I managed to grab a handful of grass as the water came up to my neck. The predicament was made difficult by the 2 meter skis I had on. What allowed me to get so close is what was holding me back now. I rolled on my side and brought one leg up at a time. Eventually getting clear of the slow moving water recovered my poles and prepared for a long walk back. I had been skiing on about ½ inch of ice almost 2 inches above the water!

Immediately my skis iced up. I discovered that heavy skis were better than breaking through the ice every step. With my skis back on I started back to the cabin. The good news it was mostly up hill travel, the bad news was the last mile was all down hill. The worse news, it was snowing harder and getting colder. The wind had started blowing again. Climbing hills with cross country skis is a fairly easy task. With the proper wax, applied you can climb just about anything. However, skis need to stay dry. As Ice forming on them covers the wax and results in a very sticky situation. With the combined weight of my wet cloths and ice and snow covered skis I was tired and cold.

I decided youth pulled me through that one easily enough. The next time I might be much older and less able. From then on I always had with me the bare essentials for winter survival. Two heavy duty trash bags, with strike anywhere matches, a piece of pine molding and a space blanket and a pocket knife.


Posted by longwalker on Friday, December 09, 2005 (22:14:14) (3667 reads)
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  Quest for a Dream, Non-typical Mule Deer
Hunting Stories
2005 BookCliffs Deer hunt

I've always wanted a non-typical mule deer. Something about those heavy horned critters with points jutting out every which way filled my dreams for years. Honestly, I thought I might run into a typical with a sticker point but nothing truly "non-typical".

Back in the end of 2003 I decided to abandon my attempt to draw a Utah Paunsagaunt or Henry Mountains deer tag. Sure there are some unbelievably big deer there but the odds of drawing it were so poor I decided it would be 10+ years before I drew a tag. I had a lot of bonus points so I decided I'd rather try for some easier to draw areas and perhaps hunt them twice in the time it would take to draw for one of the premium areas.

In looking over the state areas map I settled on the Utah Bookcliffs. Years back they let an overabundance of hunters hunt the unit and it was decimated... but lately they have slowly been bringing the area back by restricting the amount of hunters allowed in there. In looking over the draw odds I noticed I was just a couple points from being guaranteed a tag. That sold me on it, I would apply for it for the following 2004 season.

I was disappointed when I got the "UNSUCCESSFUL" message and even more so when I later found out I had a 1 in 2 chance to draw it. That's ok, I knew I would be virtually guaranteed a tag for the 2005 season if I stuck with it. Sure enough, at the first part of July I got my result back "SUCCESSFUL" for the Utah Bookcliffs Any Weapon hunt (ie: rifle).

I immediately began tracking down every friend or person I knew who had hunted it to get information on how and where to hunt a unit I'd never even been to. What was interesting is everyone informed me that the Bookcliffs deer herd is quite interesting in that it migrates north as the winter approaches. I also learned that during the Archery, Muzzleloader and finally Rifle seasons, the herd would be in completely different areas, all dependent on weather and other factors.

I planned a scouting trip out there in August and on a tip from a guy who knew the area and had pictures of terrific harvest's from years past, visited an area he swore I would not see a single thing in... but that it would be crawling with deer come rifle season. His words were prophetic, I did not see hide nor hair of a deer, not even a track at the countless waterholes I stopped to check out. It was slightly worrisome but he assured me the deer would be there come hunting time.

As the season got closer, I began packing up probably 5 times a much gear as I would have needed, just in case of emergencies. I thought I was well prepared but in hindsight I wasn't even close.

The Utah Bookcliffs is a remote area... some of the most remote and unexplored country in the continental United States. It is tough country... you learn to bend to it or it will break you.

My initial plan for the hunt was drive out Thursday morning and establish camp, then scout Thursday evening, Friday morning, relax Friday afternoon maybe shoot some rabbits, then continue scouting Friday evening. I figured I would have a good idea where to be come Saturday morning and the beginning of the hunt. It was a good plan... but in actuality, the nightmare was about to begin.

Thursday, the commute from hell

I headed out Thursday morning according to plan and arrived at the end of the paved road around 1pm, so far so good! I traveled a whopping 6 miles when I heard my trailer tire blow. Ah crap! Well I had thrown in a floor jack and star wrench and I had spare tires so I figured it would be a 30 min pain then I'd be off. I jack up the trailer and try to budge a lug nut... it wouldn't move! I tried more and more, but none would break free! Momentary panic set in, then I got an idea. I took the handle off the floor jack and duct-taped it to my star wrench forming a 'cheater' of sorts. I climb under the trailer and lay into it and was rewarded with it grudgingly turning! YAY! The day is saved... I keep working with it but after a minute I notice something odd. It didn't seem like the nut was backing off the stud. I had a horrible sinking suspicion and put a finger around on the backside of the hub and felt the stud end and turned the nut... ah hell, sure enough the stud was stripped! I was so screwed as I knew nothing short of a cutting torch was going to get this thing off.

With nothing else to do while sitting in the middle of absolute no-where I tried to loosen the other 4 lug nuts. One by one they all came loose without stripping the stud. Soon a oil field truck came by and stopped to give me a hand. He didn't have any equipment other than a cell phone but ended up staying with me for 3 hours while we got things resolved. We used his cell phone to call my brother who actually was out in the Bookcliffs helping me scout, we reported my location and he said he would come back to help but would be over an hour away.

We sat there pondering what to try... vicegrips on the stud, patching the hole, all failed. Suddenly we see a truck coming along down the road and they guy helping me says 'hey that's a pipe welder truck, they will have a torch on it!'. I wave and the guy stops. I inform him of the situation and he immediately climbs out, fires up the torch and cuts off the stud. I thank him with a lot of gratitude and he says 'ok is that it?' I say yep, I have a spare tire, the other lugs are loose so I can get the flat off. He says ok good luck and takes off down the long dusty road.

I climb back under and begin taking off the other 4 lugs... they grudgingly unscrew until they get right to the end of the stud then they tighten down... I put a tad more elbow grease on one and suddenly the stud strips! Oh lord please stop with the bad luck! I tell the original guy who stopped to help what happened and he couldn't believe it. I work at the other nuts and got 2 off, but another stripped as well.

Son of a .....

In retrospect I should have pulled the hub and let the welder weld the studs to the hub... but I didn't so I was totally screwed now. We wait another 30 min and off in the distance I see a white dodge hauling butt towards us, I say 'looks like by brother' ... he gets within 300 yards doing about 60 when I hear BAM FLAPFLAPFLAPFLAP and he begins to fishtail, sliding right up within 20 yards of my truck. He blew a $200 Michelin E rating tire... had a 5' rip right through the sidewall.

Ok yea, this day is just getting WAY better all the time...

Then I notice his back window of his truck is broken out, he shakes his head and says the strap broke that was holding his ATV in place so it rolled forward and broke out the rear window! UGH!

So we replace his tire with his last spare then look over the trailer. He was in disbelief along with us that 3 of 5 studs stripped (I was also in a panic the rest of the weekend incase we blew a tire on the other hub... I mean if one side is defective the other probably is too right?). We decide to draw the trailer 2 miles back the way I had come to a well site and hide it and my truck out of site while we made a run to Vernal for parts. It was late afternoon about this point so I was worried about stores closing. We got the truck stashed with the trailer barely making it... totally destroyed that rim LOL. We make the run to Vernal arriving there right at 6pm where my brother is able to work out a deal at a closing tire store for another spare but unfortunately no-one was open with trailer parts so we returned to my truck.

We unhook the trailer and leave it while I take my truck and camper and head for the spot I want to camp. My brother followed me. We went slow, not wanting to blow another tire and arrived at a good campsite around 10pm. So much for getting there early and scouting that evening! I tell my brother 'screw the atv's, lets just crash for the night'. He says nah, lets go get'em. I said geeze its over an hour back down there then another hour back. We wont get to sleep until midnight or later. He says ya that's about right, now lets go get them. I shrug and say well ok, then help him offload his atv. We drive all the way back down there, 20 mph so we don't get a flat, load up my spare into his truck while I drove the other one back. Its now 12:30am and we finally have both atvs to camp and I am beat like you wouldn't believe... my brother was worse, he'd left to drive out there at 5:30am the previous morning. We quickly fire up the heater, set alarm clocks then crash for the night.

Friday, opening day Eve

6:30am Friday morning the alarm goes off. We get ready, fry up some sausage and hash browns then take off as the sun was just hinting at a sunrise. This was the area I had scouted the previous august with zero deer... almost immediately we began seeing deer. I was very relieved let me tell you. The migration had started and the deer were definitely moving in. Within a mile or so of our camper we saw our first 4x4 buck, right off the side of the road. We travel another 20 miles or so, counting another 10-15 4x4's and misc other bucks. Things were definitely looking up!

Sadly I noticed we had forgot to fill up my atv on gas before we left for the morning, having burned most of it the prior evening while I drove it back. Grudgingly we started back for camp around 9am. Amusingly that ended up being one of the biggest strokes of luck of the weekend!

While on the way back, we suddenly notice a really nice wide 26' 4x4 buck. He was 300 yards away and very obviously rutting and following a doe. We sat there on a major road, on atvs, clearly in sight and this fool of a buck walked up within THIRTY yards of us! My brother snapped a couple pictures of it.

The deer eventually walked right past us, across the road and was gone. We sat there talking about it when 2 guys in a truck drove up. We sat there chatting for a minute when my brother exclaims 'Geeze look at that one!' I turn and there is a 28' 5x6 walking past us at 80 yards, also headed into the same area as the 26' buck went. We knew this was a good area, if nothing else it had the bigger deer. We chatted with the guys in the truck for a while then we parted ways and returned to camp.

Trailer repair 101

We had a quick lunch then headed back to fix the trailer. We arrived and pulled the whole hub off (I should have pulled both in retrospect) and returned to vernal where we were able to get the hub repaired. We also bought two new bigger, better, heavier tires. The trailer store owner literally laughed when he saw the blown tire... he said 'boy guys, these are just bia ply tires... they are just big bouncy balloons and you guys are out driving on needles out there in the bookcliffs!' He dug out two new steel belted radial tires on rims and said 'you really need these'. I bought them without question. Amusingly the guy was incredibly friendly and actually charged me for the rims only... NOTHING for the work repairing the hub and he threw in a tube of grease to lube the bearing with for free. It is nice to run into very nice people in life. Me and my brother both talked about the 'quality' of people we met out there... truly some of the best selfless people I've ever run across.

We returned to the trailer, re-installed the hub, put on one of the 2 new radial tires and headed out for camp. Its now 4pm Friday afternoon and arrived in camp with the trailer and all our gear. My brothers now put 300 miles on his truck just helping fix the trailer.

So we relax for half an hour or so then head out to scout for the evening. We decide to try a more remote area and saw a lot of deer but the bucks were a lot smaller. Very few 4x4's and nothing bigger. We talk things over and decide that come first light the next morning, opening day we would be up on top where we saw the bigger deer. We figure a lot of other hunters would hunt from camp up to where we would start, if we didn't see anything we could always hunt out way back down.
Fix-a-flat anyone?

With the following days plan decided on we head back to camp. After probably 3 miles my brother comes along side me on his atv pointing down and I see his now completely flat tire. We are over 20 miles from camp.

Ugh. I offer to drive it but he declined and took off, hanging off the left side to minimize the weight on the flat. We arrive in camp an hour later, and fix some dinner and get ready for the next day.

I make absolutely sure both my atv's are full on gas as well as bungie on a spare can of gas. Due to my brothers ATV having a flat I am happy I decided to bring both mine and my wife's... I just had a feeling to take a spare atv, it was good I had. We set our clocks 30 min earlier just to be sure we have enough time.

We joke that we absolutely have to have used up all the bad luck in the world by now and all that will be left is good luck. Ironically that actually more true than not.

Opening Day, Its here!

We get up early opening day and have another of my famous sausage and hash brown breakfasts then I load my gun into my atv and we head out. It was a beautiful morning, more stars than you can count, and no real dust from previous vehicles... it seemed we were indeed the first ones headed up on the mountain. A 20' wide 2x2 runs across the road in front of us and my brother yells to me 'so you want that one?' I just smile and we keep going. We arrive where we saw the 2 big bucks the morning as dawn was approaching. We scour the area with spotting scopes and seeing nothing, we start traveling hill to hill, working the area with our spotting scopes. We soon see a nice rutting 24' wide 4x4 running with a bunch of does and some other misc bucks. He would be a shooter any other place than the Bookcliffs opening day. I tell my brother we are looking for the next class up, hopefully something non-typical with trash points.

We split up, keeping in contact with radios and we each see tons of deer, lots of small bucks but nothing remotely worth wasting 7 years of drawing time on. We meet back up and start to work our way to lower elevations. We begin to see more and more hunters so we split up and work our way down small jeep trails, glassing canyon after canyon.

I get down in a very pretty 'deer'y' looking canyon that must have held at least 75 does as I hiked down to a ledge where I could see better. Suddenly my brother yells over the radio 'HOLY CRAP DUDE, I'M LOOKING AT THE BUCK OF MY DREAMS, GET OVER HERE'. He gives me directions to get to him and I run back up from the ledge I was on to my parked atv and take off.

A Mild disclaimer about my brother. He's a mule deer fanatic. He spends a lot of time filming deer on winter ranges, does taxidermy professionally etc etc., He's really good at field judging them so when he says a buck is nice, it is really nice. He knew what I wanted to find... or should I say hope to find, so when he hollered out that he found a shooter, I knew it would be one. I finally find the road over to him and saw him, which ironically was about 400 yards from a major road. I pull up and he's very close to shaking. He immediately says see those 3 deer over there, the closer two are does, the farthest one is the buck, just shoot it now... DO NOT LOOK AT THE ANTLERS!

LOL he thought I would take a look at his antlers, get buck fever and miss it.

Deer of my dreams at 150 yards.

Well I dig out the gun and jack in a round then settle the crosshairs on the farthest deer. Its in deep sagebrush from my angle and his head is down while he feeds. The other two deer I could clearly see their heads and knew they were does so I held on the 3rd and continued to watch it. I wasn't going to shoot unless I knew it was a buck. After a good minute or so, with my brother getting more and more giddy and saying, 'trust me its big enough, just shoot!' the deer I'm watching suddenly lifts its head and I see the top of his rear tine's branching out all over, I could see he was pretty wide and heavy. Because we were in clear sight only 400 yards from the main road, a road a lot of people are now driving up and down frequently, I squeezed the trigger and at the report of the rifle, the deer dropped from sight.

My brother took a deep breath and said 'if that's not something you want you have my permission to kick my butt'. We talk for a moment then walk over to take a look at him. I couldn't believe it as we got closer to it. I saw the antler rising up out of the brush and knew it was pretty wide. As we got even closer I saw the mass of the horns and began to see the trash hanging off the right side.

WOW! It was amazing to me. Sure people kill bigger stuff but darn it, most people don't kill anything near this big in their lifetimes. He had nearly everything I had hoped for in a non-typical buck. Nice heavy mass on the antlers, true trash points branching out all over, not the little sticker point stuff some deer get. His bases were amazing, heavy with lots of sticker points coming off it, all rough and gnarly with bits of pinion pine wood embedded in them from rubbing and tearing up trees. His cape was perfect, no flaws and absolutely beautiful. His neck was completely swollen up from rutting. He looked huge.

It took a while of looking at it before I could bring myself to leave long enough to grab a camera and return. We spent a good 20 minutes or more prepping him and taking good pictures. For me it's a deer of a lifetime and one I wanted good pictures of to remind myself of for years to come. After a few minutes of shooting pictures a truck drove past with 3 hunters in it. They saw the antlers and cameras and came over for a closer look. They were suitably impressed. Then 2 ATV's came by with a father son duo, they saw all the people gathered up and came down for a look see too. Then if that's not enough another guy and his son came walking down through the sage and came over to take a peek.

Everyone congratulated me and I could see the excitement in their eyes knowing that there are some nice deer out there and they had a good chance of running into something nice as well. Slowly people returned to their hunting, we finished our picture taking and began to take care of him.

The ride back to camp was moderately anti-climatic. I had expected to hunt the 9 days of the season plus the 2 days of scouting. To be finished by 9:30 am and headed back to camp felt strange. But I have to admit I spent a lot of time looking at the shadow of the antlers behind me, as they were cast off to my right on the return trip. I felt like I was 14 again having taken my first buck.

I never thought I would fulfill my Non-typical mule deer dream... but after nearly endless bad luck, it seems fate rewarded us with just enough good luck to fulfill a dream.

His main frame is a 5x6 with several more trashy points at his base giving him a 8x8 points (counting eye guards etc).

Pictures are worth a thousand words, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves

Me and my brother Mike

Brother Mike

From a distance, it gives you an idea of what he looked like

Look at the shredded pinon pine in his bases

Truely the hunt of a lifetime. Thank you everyone who helped out!


Posted by DallanC on Thursday, October 27, 2005 (03:56:01) (7170 reads)
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  Fork Horn Buck
Hunting StoriesFork Horn Buck

During the second week of the South Dakota East River deer season My son and I found ourselves deer hunting while the inlaws were in town from Long Island. The Friday after Thanksgiving for some reason always is a cold, windy, snowy, rainy, and early. We were moving at 5:00 am and in the tree line well before first light. As windy and cold as it was I chose to find a “sheltered” spot on the ground.

Round about first light I could hear the first sounds of the moving deer. Three does moving through the wood. They appeared somewhat stressed, so I let them pass. Sure enough a little while latter I heard the tell tail sounds of hunters walking along the section line.

If they saw me they made no eye contact and just walked on by. I waited another 40 minutes the only movement came from squirrels and mice.

Now my son had taken tree stand and waited in the not soon forgotten cold of a South Dakota November wind. I heard the report of a small rifle and was sure it was him. Then another shot and another and finally a forth. I wasn’t so sure it was him but thinking the worst I moved from my spot toward him. Hoping I would find him with the deer down, but expecting to have to track a gut shot deer.

When I found him he had the deer out of the trees and on it’s back. Really a good sight. I unloaded and asked him if he was unloaded, he was. I noticed right away there was considerable amount of blood on the bottom of the chest. Not a particularly unexpected sight when hunting from a tree stand. As we both got ready to dress the deer I asked him to tell me how it came to be. It seems the deer came up on him from behind. Those pesky hunters had driven the does and this small Fork-Horn toward Martin’s stand. He then tells me the deer stopped not 15 feet from the stand and just stood there looking East whence he came. Martin told me about the beating of his heart and the shaking and the breathing. He waited until the deer moved and looked West the direction which we had been traveling. He knew now was the time, raising his rifle he placed the sights just to the left of the spine behind the left shoulder. Shot one. Nothing happened. Martin thinks he must have missed. So he shoots again at the same spot. Again nothing happens. No tail drop no jump just standing there. After the third shot he is beginning to second guess himself. So he holds back a good ways and fires the forth shot, at which time the fork horn drops. As excited as he was he knew to wait a while and let the deer die in peace.

The first three shots while not directly hitting the heart did virtually drain the deer of blood, both lungs and one major artery ventilated. The forth shot however broke his back and wrecked both side of the back strap in that area. He asked me why the deer didn’t just drop when hit the first time. I explained to him “deer and all wild game just don’t give up that easily”. The Fork Horn knew something had happened to him but didn’t know what.

I congratulated him on his follow through. While he was embarrassed about all the shooting I explained to him he did the right thing. You shot at the deer. Sure of your shooting ability you rightfully knew you hit him. Not wanting to track a wounded animal you continued to shot until the deer was down. I was proud of him and he knew it. $1.96 worth of bullets proved to me he was ready to hunt on his own. My only problem, I have to much fun hunting with him.


Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, September 07, 2005 (21:27:30) (3580 reads)
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  The Beast that did not get away.
Hunting StoriesIt was an early September morning. I rolled out of my bed after a long nights rest where I was dreaming of the hog that I was looking for and making the perfect shot. I stumbled around trying to get ready for this hunt but my mind was still on my dreams. As I walked down the steps looking at all of the trophy mounts that adorn the walls of the lodge, my guide asked if I have everything and informed me on where I will be sitting.

Opening the door to the outside, all I could see was stars. It was still dark out in this early morning and made it a little dificult to see where you are going. We started out walking through a gate and down a path that leads to the timber. My guide told me to just keep walking and you will be alright. When he told me that, all I could do is wonder why. A few more steps and I suddenly found my self surrounded by snorting and squeeling beasts.

Just keep walking replied my guide. So I tredged on.

Finally we came to a hill and I was able to see a little better now that my eyes have adjusted. My guide directed me in the direction on the stand I was going to be perched in. I stopped and asked " You are not taking me to the stand?" "No" replied the guide "but as long as you dont stop and try to do anything, you will be ok."

So I started down the hill and through a small area of open land to my stand. As I was walking I could see shadows every so often run in front of me and also along side of me all of the time thinking of what my guide told me. As I walked even closer to my stand, I could not help but think "what if one of them has a change in attitude?" My heart was beating a little faster than I had expected.

As I drew closer to my stand, I could make out the shadow of a tall structure. My stand at last and safety for these beasts.

As I reached out for the first rung of this structure, my right knee came in contact with something for a split second and I heard a grunt. It was a hog. I scamped up the ladder rungs hoping not to slip and fall.

I made it to the top and perched myself facing the open field with the tree line behind me.

It was getting lighter by the moment and I could see shapes.

An hour has past now and I was wondering if anything would pass by. All I could think about was my dream and hoping my Hog will pass by.

I heard a shot off in the distance, it was my friend. I thought, "ok he got his and now it is my turn." My guide came to me thinking it was me but no. I have not fired a shot. He radioed to the other guide and asked if Bruce got one. No, he missed because a small twig lay in front of his barrel that he could not see. My guide told me to sit for awhile and I will be back around lunch time.

As I watched him dissapear into to tree line just right of where I was, I heard noise come from the left tree line. I turned and looked, here comes a sow with her babies down the trail these beasts made. Stopping in front of my stand to mill around, one of the little piglets looked up. I thought "Yes you know I am here, now go away." Off they walked. At that moment I caught a shadow out of the corner of my eye. It came closer and got bigger. When I had full sight, I realized this might be my beast.

Coming even closer and finally stopping in front of me. He picked his head up a little and turned so I could see him better.

It was him the beast of my dreams. He turned again milling around in front of me. My heart started to race. I had lowered my rifle and put my sights on him just behind his shoulder and above his chest. It seemed like an iternaty. I made no noise what so ever so I would not spook him. Right before I exhaled, the beast raised his head, turned and looked right at me as if he knew I was there. He then lowered his head not to mill around but as if he was there for a reason. For Me! I took my shot and all I could see was smoke from my Black Powder Cartridge Rifle.

What I have seen when the smoke cleared was shocking.

Just behind where this beast stood was a hole but no beast. I thought "I had to of hit him. He was only 10 yards away."

My guide immeredged from the tree line and asked if I hit the pig. I climbed down and shown him where the beast stood.
Looking around we found a trail of a crimson liquid. I knew now that I hit him. We walked very slowly not to lose the trail and finally there was the beast. He ran about 110 yards from where I shot him. Being cautious just incase this animal did not pass, I chambered another round. My guide said he is gone. How do you know for sure? He told me it was a perfect shot. How can you tell? There was a hole on one side about the size of my finger and on the other side was one about the size of a silver dollar.

We got the beast back to the lodge and started to dress him out. The guide said " I will show you that it was a perfect shot."

He pulled out this dark red mass that looked like the heart. On one side was a hole no bigger than my finger and on the other side, well there was nothing but shredds of flesh. A perfect shot.

I sat there waiting to hear if my friend had shot one yet. Think to my self this is
my dream hog and he knew it was his time.

I thanked the Lord for this " Beast that did not get away."

By Joseph Sloan

Posted by jes66 on Saturday, August 27, 2005 (17:47:08) (12001 reads)
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  Praire Morning
Hunting StoriesPrairie Morning

The dark sky is full of the musky smell of vegetation while the sucking sounds of my steps unleash the mash bottom. How many times have I almost fallen in the black cold water of the slough. My cold hands untangle the carefully wrapped and weighted lines as decoy bag slowly decreases in size.

Surprisingly I am not rushed, false dawn is still twenty minutes away.

The moist cold of the slough is penetrating. It seems to draw you in like no other place. Watching the sunrise over cattails is no less a spectacle than watching you child take their first steps.

The sounds of the marsh wake you before the warmth of the first light. The flights of wood ducks and teal as they descend on the decoys are unmistakable. They arrive from behind in a rush of wind. Only the residents of the marsh know them by sound. Soon the mallards and gadwalls, they arrive with much more confidence as the woodys have blazed the way.

Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, August 23, 2005 (21:07:12) (3207 reads)
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  some guys are just born lucky
Hunting StoriesMy second year in South Dakota I did the brotherly thing and invited my brothers from Pennsylvania and Colorado and my buddy from Chicago to come hunt pheasants. I was sure the guide thing would work out just fine. The first day the shooting was pretty good. We found birds and had some good drives. We were hunting around a small lake walking the high grass by the shore line. Some times the birds would drop in the water sometime not. This was of little concern as we had our dog “Niko”. A New Foundland Labrador mix. Everything was going as planned, until we came to a peninsula. We hunted the small spit and had a large group of birds go up right in front of us birds fell. During the bird finding it was discovered that one rooster flew out over the ice and fell. The good news was we could see the bird the bad news the ice was very thin.

Repeated attempts to coax the dog to retrieve the bird resulted in wet feet, mine. Once my feet were wet I pulled the dog in with me. My logic went something like this my feet are wet so who cares if my ankles get wet. This pretzel logic continued until the rooster was retrieved. I knew I had dry cloths in the truck so no big deal really. Cheers of “you the man” fueled my misguided zeal of retrieve you game at all costs.

Now the ice conditions should give some idea of the temperature it was about 19 degrees and very slight breeze. I made the announcement that we would hunt to the truck where I could change. A simple plan for a simple man. There was only one problem Niko starts acting all birdy, and is not hunting toward the truck. My PA. brother is to the west of me and in the direction Niko is hunting. I quickly move ahead of Niko and loop around the idea being flush the bird or birds his way. Niko is stopped and pointing into a large clump of olive brush. As I approach the now pointing Niko, I notice she is not pointing directly in front of me but to my left. As fast as your mind goes sometimes it is just not fast enough. The sight of the skunk a full 10 inchs from my left leg doing what it is they are know for. I just watched as the creature preformed. It was his last great act of defiance. Niko looks at me with that look only a dog can give you. “ see I can happen to you too”. I saved the dog from being sprayed by a selfless act of kindness. Did I mention there were no birds.

The walk back to the truck was graceless. Two brothers a friend and my son all laughed and wondered how I was getting home. I wondered as well. Now to the lucky part. After stripping my iced over clothes off, I found that I was almost sent free. My boots thankfully were on their last hunt anyway the blue jeans would never make another hunt with me. They found their way in to a box tied to the roof rack of the suburban. All I can figure is the ice covered pants protected my skin from the “O de Colon”.

I didn’t hit another bird that day. But it didn’t matter I was able to arrive home and be allowed in the house.


Posted by longwalker on Thursday, May 19, 2005 (15:41:13) (11607 reads)
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