First Buck - Part 2
Eventually, the sky took on a glow, sort of a faint orange colors, almost daylight, “Hip hip hooray,” I thought. We could start to see the deep vast valley below us and then the huge mountain on the other side of that, to the south. Dad had told us that was “Independence Peak”. It was gorgeous. Beyond that lay the broad fertile plain where Dad was raised and the little town of Oakley. Light twinkled here and there, denoting a ranch or farm, and the little town. Beyond that lay another mountain range, not as high as where we were but vast and lonely looking, except for a few lights of deer camps. This was the world of the deer hunter, big BIG country HUGE-MASSIVE amounts of the most amazing landscape with hardly any signs of human habitation. So QUIET! It stretched forever. The lonely raw beauty of the overwhelmingly large mountains and canyons cannot really be described. One has to be there to see and experience that world for himself. It’s intoxicating, overpowering in its silent yawning stretched out forever beauty.
Now the sky on the eastern horizon was a warm cheerful orange glow, not intense, yet rich. Once could see fairly clearly now in the half light of dawn. Dad touched my shoulder and motioned me to look toward the far ridge on our eastern flank. Tom and Parley were already aware. Silhouetted against the sky, standing on the ridge were three bucks. They were probably 500 yards away. Two had big horns, big “racks” as Dad called them. They stood quietly looking our way, then down the ridge they were on, but further to the east. They were in no hurry, but very alert, they knew their world was being invaded. A rifle shot could be heard faintly- miles away. Then a few more. The bucks walked up the ridge-slowly- cautiously- majestically. The movement of a large mature mule deer buck is something to see. To me it was spell binding. They walk with a certain “authority” their movements are precise, beautiful, no hint of clumsiness or awkwardness, just the opposite to the extreme.
Soon, more bucks appeared behind the three, also large bucks. Then more, then more. All moving slowly cautiously up the ridge, single file. We counted 17 bucks. One for every year of my life and then some. What a gift. Only one or two were smaller bucks, two or three pointers. The rest were all four point bucks or better, five or six or seven point bucks, maybe more, what’s called non-typical or “freak bucks”. Just for a few moments there they all stood, in single file- a memory and sight I can still see in my mind. I think at that moment I was forever changed somehow in some way, I’m not sure in what way but it “got to me” down deep inside. It was a very real way “too much” to process, I think I’m still processing. I’ve only seen that many bucks all together one other time in my life, in Wyoming. We watched 18 bucks single file coming up the ridge toward us, two bunches of nine each. They merged into one bunch at a certain point- all in single file. That sight does something to you, you can’t explain. My friend, Robert Coggins actually could not talk without stuttering afterward, and Bob did not stutter. Two of those bucks I believe were 40 inch bucks- that’s another story.
Anyhow- here were those magnificent bucks, standing, outlined against that beautiful orange glow which quickly faded into a brighter yellowish blueish color. A couple of shots could be heard closer now- the bucks were moving now- trotting further up the ridge- another shot, not from us- but over on the other side of that ridge. The bucks split up going in three or four different directions. Some were coming our way, Dad whispered to get down lower in the brush. The sky now was bright the sun was almost to come over the edge of that ridge. Suddenly, the bright rays streamed directly on us. At that same moment- two big bucks appeared in the sage about 100 yards further up slope from us. I watched Dad and Tom stand up, take aim, fire almost simultaneously, both bucks dropped.
Parley had left, he was moving downhill fast, all I knew was he had seen some of those bucks headed down and he was trying to get a clear shot by going downhill. Boom. That must have been Parley. Only one shot, must have got one.
I realized then that everybody had got their buck- except me. Dad and Tom went up and dragged the bucks down to where we were, it was a better spot for dressing the deer. Soon Dad had the buck’s cleaned teaching Tom the procedure on his buck. Two beautiful mature four point bucks. I was very excited and happy, yet without fully realizing I was forlorn, sad, because I didn’t get a buck, not even a shot. Dad knew what I was feeling, although he didn’t say much- but now I know he was hoping somehow there might be another chance for me, although the herd was gone. But he knew that country, and knew there could be more getting spooked up from below.
While we were talking, (out loud now) and the time was swiftly passing with each minute that went by, the prospects of another deer coming our way was less and less. Dad hiked up to the radio tower and drove the jeep down to where we were so we could load the bucks. As we were talking and tagging the deer, I think it was Tom who said, “Buck.” Dad pointed uphill about 100 yards, maybe more and there was a three point buck bouncing across the side hill. Dad offered me his scope mounted 257 Roberts, it was right there handy, and I took it instead of my 30-30. I didn’t yet have my prescription lenses, and I felt more confidence with that scope. He was aware of that I think. I sat down on Dad’s big buck, resting my elbows across my propped up knees, one on each side of the large buck, holding the rifle as steady as I could for a 13-year-old, and got the buck in the cross hairs, I followed him for a few seconds pulling the crosshairs in front of the buck slightly as I had read how to do in the outdoor life magazine in an article by Ted Trueblood on running targets. When I had it just as I remember Trueblood’s instructions telling me, I shot. The deer took two or three more bounds and disappeared over a ridge on our left. “I got him,” “I GOT HIM!” I excitedly exclaimed. I was elated. Dad then had to rain on my parade by telling me that I missed. I knew he didn’t want to say it, but he didn’t have to, because I knew I got the buck. I said, “No, Dad. I got him, right through the heart!!” That was hard for my Dad to re-break the news that I missed and the buck was gone, he’d seen it keep bounding and go over the ridge. In my boyish mind I knew that I got the buck and I told Dad why. “Dad, I got the buck in the heart.” “How do you think that,” Dad said. “Because I aimed exactly the way Ted Trueblood said how to do it, so I got him.”
To be continued...