THE 2018-2019 SEASON LOG

January 27, 2018

Starting off early this year, again. Each year brings some new promises of adventure, and as I just turned 70 last adventure time (and physical ability) is probably running out. Time to get cracking.

After being skunked last deer season, I finally got a deer, sort of.  Last Thursday evening I had a phone call  at 5:00 PM from a friend who lives in Riner. "There's a deer in the road by my house; it was hit by a car but it's still alive.  Can you come and deal with it?"

I get calls like this from time to time from friends who know I hunt and presume (more or less correctly) that I will know what to do. I think over the years I've had four or five "mercy killing" requests, and whenever possible I answer the call, out of a sense of what is right and best for the injured animal.

I told my friend I'd come out but before I could do anything he'd have to let the authorities know what was going on, and get a tag of some kind for the processor, since I wasn't going to be able to process the deer myself and I didn't fancy getting stopped and charged with poaching. He said he'd call the Sheriff's Office and get back to me.  Twenty or so minutes later, not having heard anything, I called him. The Sheriff hadn't called back, so he would call 911 and try again.  After doing so he was told by the 911 operator that they would have to "send a deputy." Of course, in the meantime the deer was still there on the side of his road, dying by inches.

Another 20 minutes passed and he called. By then he'd spoken with a game warden who had, finally, given him a check number. At that point I could come out and deal with the animal, but he said, "It's dead now!" Well, no matter: it hadn't been dead very long by then, so it would still be edible, and I didn't want it to end up as coyote and buzzard food, so out I went.

I drove to his place in my truck, arriving about 7:00.  We then went to the site where the deer lay in the ditch.  It was a very young buck fawn with horrific injuries.  His hindquarters and halfway up back he had literally been flayed alive by the impact, the skin torn right off.  Then we went up to it, was ALIVE, still! 

I can hardly believe that the poor thing had lived at least two hours after being half skinned alive, but I put an end to its suffering with my .44 Bulldog right then and there. Strictly speaking this was not kosher, as one is not supposed to discharge a firearm within the right of way of the road, but to hell with that restriction. I wasn't going to let him spend another minute suffering if I could help it, and I could. I might have used a knife, I suppose, but a gun was quicker and more certain. It just goes to show that having a compact, powerful handgun around when you need one is a sensible practice.

I shot it in the head just in front of the left ear, with the muzzle touching its fur. Amazingly the bullet didn't exit, as I found out later.  I was using some moderate "Cowboy Action" level reloads someone had given me. Had I used the very hot Blazer ammo I keep around for Close Encounters of the Anti-Social Kind, likely there would have been pass-through. But what I had was enough to do the job. We loaded the body into my truck, I took it to a local processor, and while it will cost me extra, I let them eviscerate and skin it (well, finishing the job the car started, anyway) preparatory to making the entire thing into hamburger.  I might get 15 pounds out of it, and it's going to be pretty pricey stuff.

I'm glad I put the deer down but I'm mildly pissed off about what happened before I was able to do so. Of a certainty the Sheriff's Office dispatcher should have told him to go ahead and kill it after the first call, which would have saved the deer from a good hour of additional suffering. The poor beast underwent needless agony for bureaucratic reasons. It was very small, not more than 50-60 pounds on the hoof; and some of the hindquarter meat was pretty roughed up by the impact: the car must hit it in the hind end and dragged it, accounting for the skin being half torn off and the left ham being badly bruised up.

Furthermore, I can't imagine that whoever hit it wasn't aware of the impact. There's no way that kind of damage could have been done without the driver knowing about it, especially since it happened in daylight. Driving off to leave it in the road was an act of callous cruelty. I've seen some pretty horrific road-hit injuries but this was one of the worst cases I've ever encountered. If I knew who'd done it I'd tie him to a tree and flog his back down to the bone to teach him a lesson he'd never forget.

February 4, 2018: The Aftermath

I picked up the meat at the processor yesterday. That deer was larger than I thought: I was thinking I might get 15 pounds of deerburger out of it, but it came to a total of 26 pounds! All in nice one-pound packs, plus the liver. I don't eat liver but the friend who showed me the deer does, and I'll give it to him.

February 8, 2017: Getting Ready

My friend Phil and I are planning to take a 3rd-year veterinary student for a bird shoot in Glade Hill. Vince had never shot birds and had no real acquaintance with wingshooting, so we took him to the club's range and brought along an assortment of shotguns for him to try.

I am embarrassed to say that he, a complete novice, a total tyro, out-shot both of us on clay pigeons thrown from a foot-operated trap.

In the end he selected a 20-gauge autoloader of Phil's, and I imagine he'll do even better on live birds than on skeet.

I elected to try for Chukars this time. I usually shoot pheasant, which are big enough that I have some hope of hitting one now and then. Quail are nice but they're such teeny things they're too easy to miss. Chukars are in between, maybe I'll actually manage to kill one or two. The ones I miss...Vince will get 'em, I bet.

February 25, 2017: The Bird Shoot

Phil, Vince and I went to Glade Hill for the annual bird shoot. We paid John Holland for 24 quail, and 8 chukar. The short story is that we brought home all the chukar and 22 quail; two quail had—literally—exploded in mid-air by taking the entire charge of shot at a range of perhaps 5-10 FEET. In once case we found a few bird fragments and that was it.

We also brought home a pheasant, which hadn't been on our order, but who foolishly exposed himself. He'd been left over from someone else's shoot the day before, and managed to survive overnight, fat lot of good that did him.

John had three dogs he'd borrowed from his brother-in-law, because all five of his own dogs, including ones we'd shot over before, had been killed in a kennel fire last January. This was a terrible shame and a tragic loss, and he's obviously still grieving for his lost friends and "employees." I can understand his feelings since I've lost some dogs suddenly myself. Furthermore, Phil had buried one of his pets yesterday at age 14, who died of a stomach torsion. Dogs remind us what we could be if we were only good enough, and I think they were put here as role models for mere humans. Their only flaw is a short life span: to lose them at all is hard enough, but to lose them unexpectedly and in such tragic ways is totally unfair.

It was a good half-day: weather was overcast and cool, though there was no rain. We tramped around for four hours and were very satisfied with the outcome. One annoyance was that somewhere I dropped a very nice braided leather gun sling, and I'm hoping John finds it and returns it to me.

Our newbie Vince is a natural. He shot better than either Phil or I did, and although we didn't keep track of who shot what, he unquestionably accounted for more birds than I did. He is a "natural," perhaps because he has no preconceptions about wingshooting and just "does what comes naturally." I wish I shot that well and had his reflexes.

Despite all the walking my hip bursitis isn't too bad, another encouraging thing. I had seen this trip as a major test, and I passed it. I can feel the effects but it's nothing I can't deal with. Getting old really sucks, but I ain't dead yet.