First Buck - Part 1

               I grew up in a hunting family. OR I should say I grew up with a hunting father who taught us how to shoot a rifle and hit what we were aiming at. From as early as I can remember, venison was a meat we ate regularly in our home. It was delicious, especially the way my dad prepared it. He was raised on a ranch in Southern Idaho and was taught the proper care of deer meat and also beef, pork, and mutton. His Uncle John was a butcher and Dad gleaned considerable knowhow from him and also his Uncle Parley. His own father was not particularly an outdoor type, more of a business and merchant type, but when Dad’s mother died when he was only four-years-old it turned out that he spent a lot of time with his uncles who were ranchers and cowboys as he grew up. They took him under their wing and taught him to ride, and hunt. That life style became part of him, or he a part of it, engrained into his soul never to depart.  His love of the mountains, the big game that inhabited it, and the love of the adventure of hunting was passed on to his sons and even his daughters to a lesser extent, but they went on many hunts with their dad and had good times too, right along with us boys. 

            I always looked forward to the time when I would carry my own rifle and hunt too. Dad made it a tradition in our family that all us boys would receive a Winchester model 94 30-30 lever action rifle on our 12th birthday. I still own that rifle and treasure it as a keep sake from Dad, but it is still used now and is just as serviceable as ever.

            I think my fall hunt in my 12th year was not a success for me as I recall, or should I say I know I did not get a deer that autumn. The next year, my 13th was never to be forgotten and very special not only to me, but to Dad and my brother Tom.

            It was October, and we were encamped on Dad’s favorite mountain for hunting deer. It was located just east of where Dad was raised in Oakley, Idaho. Dad had hunted that mountain and others around it since he was a boy and we hunted alongside him on the same mountain all our growing up years also and beyond. It was a magical mountain, a mountain of lore and tradition, a mountain of high adventure and fond, fond memories. Mount Harrison was its name, a name of honor after a president of the United States—William Henry Harrison. The mountain was legendary in our family- we called it “the Minidoka” I know it’s an Indian word, don’t know it’s meaning, but to us the meaning of Minidoka was deep and broad, it encompassed memories that spanned many years and many unforgettable experiences between fathers and sons, daughters, wives and mothers, an uncle and some cherished friends and cousins. To me it is actually a hallowed place.

            It was a beautiful mountain- especially in the fall when the aspens were gold and the deer were in their prime – fat, healthy and such good meat that was consumed and appreciated by our family during the long cold months of winter. A sizzling venison steak with sautéed onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, green salad and vegetables, cold apple cider and homemade pie for dessert was an oft eaten and much appreciated meal at the Price residence. My mouth is watering, stop that Clark! Back to the hunt.

            Our camp was high up the mountain, near the summit, it was situated near some beautiful pine trees and amazing rock formations with a sweeping view of a broad meadow and deep canyon to the west, and the rocky bare summit rose above our camp, also to the west, which was the center place of hundreds of amazing memories and experiences, for it was on that peak where unbelievably big mule deer bucks could be found if you knew where to go and what to do.  Dad and Uncle Parley knew both of those things.

            That night, my thirteenth year, we filled up on one of Dad’s coveted campfire cooked suppers and then we spent way too long laughing until we hurt at my Uncle Parley’s stories and jokes as we sat around a blazing campfire, so much fun. Thanks Dad and Parley for all the memories. Parley was one of a kind, my Dad’s mother’s brother. He was a sun bake rancher with the most amazing sense of humor, dry humor. He hardly ever cracked a smile, while everybody was rolling on the ground in convulsive laughter, tears would come down my dad’s eyes he laughed so hard, well us too. My brother Doug actually would start laughing just being around Uncle Parley without Parley saying anything it was just an involuntary reaction. Anyway, we crawled into our sleeping bags in the tent about midnight or 1 A.M. and fell asleep with the sweet aroma of the pines and pinewood smoke from the embers of the fire.

            Morning came early- still dark, we all got ready and guns loaded ate breakfast, I can’t remember it but it was good. It was just the four of us this 13th year. Dad, Tom my older brother, myself, and of course Uncle Parley. It was never quite the same in later years when Uncle Parley couldn’t be up on the mountain with us. Nobody could fill that empty space. 

            We climbed in Dad’s Jeep and drove up the rocky dirt road to the very top of the peak.  We left the jeep near a radio relay tower and started walking down the side of the mountain through the sage and rocks. No trees up there-maybe a few small scraggily ones a little lower, but it was barren, nothing but rocks and sage and grass. It was cold and a little wind made it even colder. We hiked for some time, ten or fifteen minutes. We came to a certain place that Dad knew and he turned the flashlight off and we all sat down in the chaparral. “We’ll wait here till daylight,” Dad said- not out loud, but in a whisper. That’s one thing that Dad had taught Tom and I, was to whisper- “Don’t talk out loud,” he taught us, “Deer can hear a human voice for miles.”  “When you’ve got your deer, then you can talk out loud.”

            So, there we sat, in the dark. I was shivering, my teeth were chattering.  “Stop chattering your teeth,” Dad said- “Deer can hear that too!” It was hard, but whatever Dad told me to do, I tried hard to obey, I always wanted to please my Dad. Slowly the sky on the eastern horizon started to get faintly lighter. Time passed very slowly, all was silence, four people sitting stone still in the dark on the side of an enormous mountain, above timberline, not talking, not eating, trying to stay warm without a fire. Only a hunter would voluntarily do that. We were hunters, we did that.

Continued in part 2...

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