A Sunday afternoon off from elk hunting.
After two mornings of seeing elk, I am feeling good about the chances of successfully filling the freezer this week. Since I have a deer license also, and have been watching several large bucks all summer, I decide to go to a different area, just a few minutes by car from my home and see if they are still around. More wonderful neighbors have given me permission to hunt deer on their 160 acres, even when they are not home.
Having watched the deer for months, I know that they typically appear in the late afternoon and again in the early morning. Midday usually finds them hiding in tall grass or brush. I have actually learned to spot antlers on a deer that is lying down! I never believed the stories from hunters who picked out deer by seeing antlers until I began to see them over the past few months. The recent summer and early fall has presented us with more male animals than previously. Buck deer, all sizes, are spotted almost daily, when in past years only the does with their fawns were out in the open. We have even seen a few small bull elk, not just cows. It is the year of the male!
While we have seen more deer this summer than other years, they have been scarce during the past week. Annual migration to lower elevations occurs based on daylight, or lack thereof; as the days become shorter, the deer leave, almost overnight. Still hopeful, I am happy to take one afternoon off from elk hunting to look for a deer, specifically one of the big bucks I’ve watched for months.
After an hour or so of waiting, I see a doe and two fawns on the far hillside. There have been at least three sets of deer twins around this summer, testimony to a mild winter last year. I watch as the mother and twins trot off down a trail. In my peripheral vision, I see another moving brown object. On closer inspection, the object proves to be another doe. Where are those big bucks? I’d like even one of the smaller ones at this point, since I will probably hunt elk the rest of the week. It is almost dark and I have a good shot at this doe. Fearful that the bucks have chosen this week to migrate west to the lower meadows, I consider it…until…two fawns pop up out of the tall grass. They are large enough to survive if orphaned, but I just don’t want to do that. Erik is in agreement and we decide to leave the two families of mothers and twins and drive home. Still safe and legal shooting light when we abandon this spot, the trip home will give us a chance to see more deer if they are around.
A few minutes later, on the drive up the dirt road, just two miles from our driveway, I see something familiar. “Erik, stop, back up, deer!” “Dawn, get out, get your rifle!” Less than a minute later, I sneak up behind a boulder and see a large buck. One shot and he immediately drops! I am more proud of seeing antlers in the distance and behind shrub than of my shot!
This is the night the hunters in the neighborhood are coming to dinner, all six of them, so I get to share my joy with four men and two women who understand! In addition, I am thankful that these dinner guests have no expectations that I should be a great hostess. First priority is to field dress and skin the deer! Our friends brought food to share and I had an elk roast cooking all day in the crock-pot and we had a great time catching up on children, grandchildren and jobs, between telling hunting stories.
The deer turned out to be quite a nice one, the largest I have ever seen. Our hunter friends urged me to have it mounted, so I took it to a taxidermist the next day and had a European Mount done, just antlers and skull, far less expensive than the full head and neck mounts and ready in a week, not six months from now. Thankful for the encouragement of other hunters, I appreciate my trophy. Once again, I am blessed.