November 15 — Deer season

I’ve been hunting the archery season most of the fall without much success.  Last week I hit a doe, thinking I had made a fine 25-yard shot.  But she walked up the hill with her fawn without being affected much.  She began to slow down and look a bit wobbly, and I thought I saw her fall when she crested a ridge.  The fawn circled around and stopped where I thought she fell.  I got down from the stand and found the arrow, thoroughly covered with blood.  There was a strong blood trail going up the hill, but when I got close I saw the doe laying there with her head up.  I tried to back off, but she and the fawn ran off.  I waited at Lowell’s for at least an hour before we went out looking for her.  The blood trail dried up not far from where I last saw her, and we never found the carcass. 

Saturday was the firearms season opener in Missouri.  I got there early and took up residence in my favorite stand.  Rain had been forecast, and I came well prepared for that.  What I hadn’t come prepared for was 40 degrees and windy as hell.  It was a chilling experience.  I saw about 4 does and a little buck around sunrise, in the corn field next to the woods.  Later on, a nice doe came down the trail and crossed next to the bridge.  I really should have shot her when she was standing on the trail 30 yards away.  I passed, holding out for a legal buck.  With the antler restriction, it would have to have four points on one side. 

I climbed down when I began to shiver, eager to warm up in Lowell’s house.  John was coming in at the same time.  He, too, had gone out prepared for rain.  After we had recovered, and I had actually gotten in a brief nap.  We went to lunch.  We all had breakfast buffet.  We watched some football on TV before heading out.  I wish I had left 10 minutes earlier.  Lowell loaned me some insulated coveralls and John gave me some toe heaters.  All helped a lot.  As I was walking down the hill toward my stand, I saw a deer walking along the line of trees in the corn field.  I kept looking for it, and when I got situated in my stand I scanned with my binoculars.  I saw the deer come out of the other side of the trees in the corn field maybe 80 yards away.  The intervening branches and general lack of light made it difficult to get a good view, but I saw high tines on this buck.  I figured he had to be legal, so I fired a shot when he got to the next opening between the trees.  I couldn’t tell whether or not I had hit him, so I hiked over to look for sign.  I found no blood or other evidence.  I looked around the corn field a bit.  Thinking both that I probably missed and also not wanting to repeat the doe experience from archery season I went back to the stand.  I figured I could look the deer the next day.  I saw some does in the corn field all the rest of that evening. 

Sunday was colder at 30 degrees, but it was dead calm.  It was so quiet, you could hear a mouse fart.  I came with my insulated coveralls, hand warmer and boot blankets.  I stayed warm, but saw absolutely no deer.  I think they must have been scared away by all the dang squirrels.  There must have been a thousand of them, presumably making up for time lost during the windy, unpleasant previous day.  Almost nothing happened, I was so bored.  A hawk landed in a nearby tree, but took off before I could ready the camera.  At 10 I finally climbed down and walked around the property.  I stalked as quietly as possible, but still saw no deer.  Until I reached the field behind the old house, where a largish buck was lying dead.  It had the guts pulled out of it and the hind quarters mostly eaten.  The coyotes had gotten there overnight.  I thought it looked too old (as in lying there too long) to be my buck, and the antlers didn’t look quite right.  I went back and got Lowell and John.  We returned in our trucks and had another look.  After closer inspection, it was fresher than it first appeared, and the antlers were consistent.  The most parsimonious conclusion was that it was my deer.  I tagged it and started gutting it, or at least finishing the gutting of it.  Inside it was much wetter.  It must have been the dryness of the exposed portions that made it looked so aged.  It’s actually much harder to gut a deer that’s cold.  Everything is hard, and difficult to pull out.  I had to saw open the thorax, which I don’t normally do.  The fermented guts were smelling pretty bad, so I wanted to get it out of there.  We hauled it back to Lowell’s and hung it from his winch-powered gambrel.  I hosed it out, but couldn’t seem to make all the stink go away.

After I got it home, I hung the buck in the back yard.  I got it skinned and quartered before collapsing from exhaustion.  It had been a long day.  I finished the butchering on the next night. 

From Fall 2010


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