Punch Your Tag - Part 1

             In the fall of ’79 or ’80, I think it was, I was living in Swan Valley, Idaho. I had been there all summer cutting timber in the forest for my log house. I was staying in a friend's guest house in Conant Valley, which is the Northwest end of Swan Valley. I called my brother, Steve one day and we talked up a hunting trip. Our plan was to go up near the girl’s camp on the west side of the Snake River and hunt that area. Steve came with his brother-in-law and a friend so there were four of us. We made a nice camp with a couple of tents and gear for a couple of days, or three. 

            The first day, as I recall, one of the guys with Steve got a buck. The second day turned off cold, it had snowed that night so we had maybe six inches on ground. Steve and his guys hunted one direction, and I decided to hunt another. My thinking was to work my way around to the back side of the big peak we were camped below.

            On that backside, the North Slope, there was thick timber, a good place for bucks to bed down for the day. I would have to move very slow and quiet, but might be able to find an opportunity in there. By the time I got near the top on the west side of the open south slope, the sun was starting to warm the snow enough on the boughs of the lodge poles that it was starting to drop to the ground, this created a soft plop, plop, plop noise in the timber as I entered into the yards below the very top of the peak. I soon realized this noise might work to my advantage by masking or covering any noise I might be making, so the deer would not be able to distinguish my footfalls from the sound of the snow falling from the boughs. 

   

        It wasn’t long until this was exactly what happened. I had only moved maybe 100 yards into the trees, when I spotted a buck in his bed about 75 yards above me. He was nervously reacting to the continuous plop, plop, plop sounds, looking this way and that. I could tell it was confusing him and making him quite uncomfortable. He had not seen me. I stood very still, waiting for the right moment to bring my rifle up for a shot. Finally I was able to slowly get in position and made a good neck shot. At the report of the 30-30- he dropped and a very big buck jumped up from his bed and shot off through the timber toward the east. I only got a glimpse of him but he was a heavy bodied, mature muley with a dark pocking chair rack. WOW! Well at least I had a buck, but the big one had given me a real case of buck fever. I tried not to covet. It was hard. When I found my buck, I was happy, a nice fat gray brown three point.

            I dressed him and flagged my way out to the open south face of the peak and hiked back down to camp to get the horses. If I could have drug the buck out of the timber I would have easily been able to drag it down the mountain not really needing the horses, but getting him out of the timber was harder than I wanted to work with all the dead fall and the uphill drag—it would have been killer.

            When I got to camp, Steve was there so he helped me saddle the horses and we enjoyed the ride back up the big open slope to my buck. The view was so beautiful, you could see to the west, peak after peak for close to 30 or more miles. The air was fresh and clean, brisk, yet the sun felt good, the faithful ponies doing all the work, you just relax and enjoy the world of nature, western style.

            Once we got to the timber, we dismounted and led the horses down the steep slope, over the downfall, zig-zagging so the horses wouldn’t slide. Soon we had the buck loaded on Little Joe and were snaking our way back up and out to the south slope where the going was wide open and easy.  We mounted up and headed back to camp.

            As we rode along, a thought came to mind that I had forgotten to tag the buck. Well no problem, I’d tag it when we got to camp. I didn’t want to take the time to dismount and get the tag out and punch out the date and sign it and tie it to the horns and re-mount. I was comfortable and taking some relaxation time after a rather tiring day, and really didn’t want to take all that effort.

            A thought came, remember you’re supposed to punch the tag and sign it before you leave the sight of the kill. Yah, yah, I know but for Pete sake, we’re out here in the mountains, on the top of a mountain, no roads, we’re not going to run into any game warden out here, and besides I have every intention of doing it at camp and that’s good enough. I’m not trying to get away with anything, I just don’t want to bother with it now.

            All this was going on in my mind. Don’t worry about it Price, relax. We rode along, I tried to forget about it, it seemed silly to me. What game warden is going to be walking around on a mountain like this looking for somebody to ticket, it seemed too ridiculous to even think about.  They stay in their pickups and work at checkpoints on the highway.

To be continued...


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