VOLUME 18-----------DECEMBER 2003
SHOOTIN', HUNTIN', AND RELOADIN'
WITH THE OL' MISSOURI HILLBILLY
December 1st has arrived. Time to put up the December newsletter. This month will cover a number of interesting topics. Included will be information about an unexplained "bump in the night" incident, an assisted suicide, and an attempted sexual assault!
So, sit back, relax, and get your mouse finger workin', 'cause here we go.
The late whitetail buck season is behind us. It ran from November 3rd through the 19th. As usual, some goals accomplished, some unfulfilled. I can say there were lots of deer in the woods in our part of the world!
Since most of this month's newsletter will be about "whitetail deer," and I will be discussing "antler points," please excuse me while I get the tractor and front end loader out of the shop to help lift the Ol', Fat Hillbilly up on his soapbox!
IT'S TIME FOR ALL OF US IN THE GREAT NORTHWEST TO JOIN THE REST OF THE COUNTRY AND START COUNTIN' WHITETAIL ANTLER POINTS LIKE WHITETAILS, INSTEAD OF LIKE THE BIFURCATED ANTLERED SPECIES!!!
I subscribe to nearly a dozen shooting and hunting related magazines and often buy others off the rack. (I can even read all but the real big words) Almost without exception in all those publications, whitetails are described by counting points on both antlers, while mule deer and blacktails are discussed by counting points on one antler. Yep, them last two are both species with bifurcated antlers!
Other sources to peruse are the various hunting shows on cable or satellite television. By golly they talk about deer antlers just like the magazines!
Heck, line up 10 people who count whitetail points on only one antler, and I'll give you 10 to 1 odds that they won't all agree on whether brow tines are included in the count or not!
Well, I'm gonna' get off this box now, but guess what? When I talk about whitetail bucks, they'll be button bucks, spikes, forkhorns, or "X" point, with the "X" being the total points on both antlers!
This has been the first deer season for Ann and me since we retired, so we've had a lot more time to observe the behavior of these interesting creatures than we did when we were working. I could write for a week about the various antics we have seen over the last month, but I won't. So, it shouldn't take you more than six and a half days to read this!
In addition to watching the deer, we have more time to just look and enjoy our little piece of paradise here at the ranch. We got our first snow the night of November 20th. Looked like a winter wonderland around here.
(By the way, all the pictures this month will be thumbnails, so just click on them to see them in full size. The real pictures are also larger than I have been posting in past newsletters. They take a while to load on a dial-up connection, but I think they're a lot nicer.)
Our view from the west deck.
The bucks started serious rutting activity about November 10th. On the 10th and 11th, Little Heifer and I identified 5 different bucks within sight of the house, cruisin' for estrous does!
There was one that looked from a distance to have a wide, typical, eight point main frame. Another was a freaky older lookin' buck with long heavy main beams (half of one broken off) that had only one or two short points on each. Then there was a smallish six point, and two forkhorns.
Now, you might ask, "If there were two forkhorns, how could you tell for sure they were two different deer?" That's an excellent question, and I must tell you I did have trouble telling them apart, because I never saw them both at the same time.
Finally, Little Heifer came to my rescue. She actually named the two deer. She called one "Number One" and the other "Number Two." She also pointed out after she did the naming, that the one with only one antler looked to be about an inch taller at the shoulders than the one with both antlers. After that I had no trouble tellin' 'em apart!
I mentioned last month that Ann had shot her doe left handed because of a porta cath implanted in her right shoulder to administer her chemotherapy. She was using her Remington 7mm-08, and said later that it "felt awkward" and "it hurt!" Although her porta cath had been removed, the shoulder was still tender, so she opted for the softer recoil of her Ruger .243 for the late season.
We loaded some ammo with 100 grain Nosler Partition bullets and the lightest charge of Hodgdon's Varget powder shown in the Hodgdon's Data Manual. This gave us 2350 fps from the little sixteen and a half inch barrel on the Ruger compact. The sight in was one inch high at 100 yards.
It's late afternoon on Monday the 10th. The wide eight point and the freaky lookin' buck mentioned above were following a doe that came in from the southwest and passed within 50 yards of the house. I was watching the freaky buck through 8x30 Swarovski binoculars as he approached the fence line about 100 yards from the house. Suddenly, Ann said, "Here comes a bigger one!" I switched my attention to this last one, and lost track of ol' freaky.
By this time Little Heifer has her Stoney Point shootin' sticks set up, and is trying to get the crosshairs on the bigger buck. The buck hangs up behind a lone tree in the middle of a clearing about 150 yards out and just stands there, and stands there, and stands there, almost hidden by a low hanging branch. The deer finally steps out, front half clear of the tree, broadside, headed left to right. I whispered, "Take him any time."
At the shot, the buck did the jump, kick, and dash like we've all seen on the Outdoor Channel a jillion times, and is out of sight behind a finger of trees and brush in a flash. In those two or three jumps I could see that the deer was running very awkwardly, and appeared to be carrying the left front leg stiffly out in front of his body.
The two of us stood with silly grins on our faces for a minute, gathered our wits, let our heart rates normalize, and set off to tag Little Heifer's first nice buck. We both carried our rifles, "just in case."
We rounded the finger of trees just in time to see the "dead" deer crash off into the really thick stuff! No time for another shot; Sick feeling in the gut; Swear words close to the surface; Cussin' won't help; Maybe we should pray; And, it's gettin' dark!
I said, "OK, let's just back off and don't push him. Let him lay up and I'll find him in the morning."
We went to the spot where deep slashes in the soil showed the visual evidence of those first few jumps, and examined the area closely. No blood, no hair, no nothin'!
Now I'm rationalizing! Small caliber bullet, means a small entrance hole and it might not cut enough hair to show up on the ground. If the bullet lodged in that left shoulder on the other side, no exit wound, and that would explain the funny carriage of the left leg. If the bullet just caught the edge of the lungs or up high, he might not show external blood for a while. I'm still convinced I'll find a dead dear in the morning!
It's now Tuesday morning. Worried about the dang deer for hours; Rained hard all night; Sure as hell no blood trail now; No tracks either; It aint lookin' good!
My search begins!
By this time the telephone lines have been hot, so I'm soon joined by two neighborhood boys, Jerid and Dillon Cupp. We covered about 20 acres, got hot and sweaty, and found nothin'! An hour later the boys' Uncle Tom joined the fun. Still nothin'!
Dillon and Jerid Cupp
Folks, I looked for that dang deer for a good part of three days! I think I crawled under every bush and vine for a half mile. Finally gave it up as a lost cause! Dammit, I hate to lose an animal that I know has been hit!
Flip the calendar to Saturday night, November 15th. Little Heifer and I are sitting in the living room about 9:00 PM, when a loud "bump in the night" occurred. Sounded like something, or someone, had banged into the side of the house, outside the kitchen. I jumped up, went to the slider door in the kitchen, and flipped on the outside light. I saw nothing, so opened the door and stepped out on the deck.
Ann had the presence of mind to grab my Ruger .45 as she joined me, saying something like, "Here, Dummy, don't go out there without a gun!" We still saw nothing, so turned on another outside light, illuminating the driveway area. That revealed more nothing! A trip to the closet for the big spotlight was next, to survey the surroundings where the lights don't reach.
This time I saw something! Lying calmly in the grass, just beyond the clothesline was a very nice buck! Looked like an 8 point, with a fairly wide spread. I backed into the house and said to Ann, "You gotta' see this!" She came out, and we both just stared, open mouthed, at this deer practically on our doorstep, acting as though he hadn't a care in the world!
We went back in the house, still puzzling over the noise, but not wanting to spook the buck with further exploration. A few minutes later we went out for another peek. This time the deer was standing, just enjoyin' the evenin' air. As we watched, the buck sauntered off into the trees, walking with a slight, but definite, LIMP IN HIS LEFT FRONT LEG!!! Could it be???
Next morning, the 16th, Rick and Jennifer came up for the morning hunt? (which pretty much consisted of standin' around drinkin' coffee, lookin' out the windows) Suddenly, a doe trotted out from behind the shop, into the little meadow south of the house. She stopped to look back and her paramour was coming right along behind! Yes, he of the limping left leg was trailing along with lust in his eyes!
Before a rifle could be readied, one of the neighbor's cars came roaring down our shared private road, preceded by their big white dog. This combination scared both deer into the brush. Believe it or not, Mr. Buck stopped just inside the edge, stuck his head up high in the air, and stood there long enough to invite a bullet to pass right through his neck! No running off into "can't find him land" this time!
The first bullet Ann fired at this deer had passed just below the brisket, and punched a hole through the muscle in front of the leg bone. The wound was almost certainly not life threatening. He would have likely made a full recovery but for his propensity toward "assisted suicide." I have a theory about why that first bullet went where it did, but proving it will require a bit more test firing of Ann's rifle. I'll report on that next month.
Ann and Jennifer with the "Suicide Buck" As you can see, the 8 point turned out to be a 7 point. He had no brow tine on the left antler.
Did Ann's buck come knocking on the house Saturday night? We still don't know. Later, daylight examination showed no marks or any other indication of the kind of impact it would have required to make that much noise. Did he really have a suicide wish that made him keep returning to stand around 'till his wish was fulfilled? Don't know that either.
We do know that the cape and antlers are in the hands of Coeur d'Alene Taxidermy in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and about a year from now the shoulder mount will occupy a place of honor above the fireplace in our living room!
Assisting us in making rutting bucks do crazy things, was a silhouette deer decoy, affectionately known as Doe-Doe. Doe-Doe was made by Outlaw Decoys in Spokane. (Unfortunately, the company is reported to be bankrupt and now out of business) Doe-Doe is in three sections for easy transport, and snaps together with plastic fasteners. An aluminum stand sticks in the ground to hold the decoy upright.
A felt scent pad was attached to Doe-Doe, and freshened every day or so with "Love Potion No. Nine" or "Buck Fire." She was placed about 50 yards behind the house, where she could be observed from the sliding doors onto the north deck.
(I would strongly advise against using any type of deer decoy during rifle season on public land, or anyplace else where access can't be strictly controlled!)
Tuesday is "trash day," and I have to take the trash container about a quarter mile to the County road for pickup before 7:00 AM. While I'm preparing to make the trash trip on the 11th, I look out and can't see Doe-Doe! When I return and full daylight arrives, I trek out to see what has happened. The damp ground around Doe-Doe is pockmarked with deep tracks, the aluminum stand is bent over, she is twisted around sideways, and her butt section has been knocked completely off!
Now, I'm no trained investigator, but even I can recognize attempted sexual assault on an innocent decoy!
This is one of a number of Doe-Doe's visitors. This was the morning of November 22nd. I doubt this was the guilty guy, but he was the only one I got a picture of.
My plan was to use Doe-Doe's attraction to get a buck close enough to take with my Ruger .45 Colt. I had 3 decent opportunities on some forkhorns, but chose to fumble bumble around trying to take pictures, or thought it was a little too dark for the open sights, so never popped a primer. Oh well, there's always next year.
So, if seein' lots of deer makes for a successful season, (works for me) then this was a banner year! For the sake of the available habitat, deer/car collisions, and Little Heifer's plants and flowers, we are probably still seein' too many deer. Hopefully the game department will continue the antlerless "B" tags in future years to help address the overpopulation.
Dan Parker, one of Rick's coworkers, and his family live 3 or 4 miles over the hill from our place. Dan brought his boys and their trophies over one evening for a little braggin' session with us. As you can see, they had a good "deer year" too. The Parkers depend upon venison for their annual meat supply so these bucks, along with their "B" tag does, have the freezer pretty full!
Ann's buck on the left, then Cody, Drew, and Case Parker's.
Drew had also brought along a nice 10 point rack from a buck he bagged two or three years ago. That one was bigger than these!
While we were comparing and admiring all 5 sets of antlers, our 7 year old granddaughter, Jennifer, came over and whispered in my ear. "Pa Pa, there are 47 points on all those antlers!" Right she was!
There are certainly bigger bucks around this neck of the woods; we have seen some. But, based on my 18 years in the area, these are fair representations of mature whitetail bucks in Northeast Washington.
Well, It's time to shut down here, So . . . .
'Til next time, Keep 'em shootin' straight, shoot 'em often, and above all, BE SAFE!!!!!