The Caribou Motel - Part 2
See part 1 for the first half of this story
I had only been gone from them about five minutes when I spotted a nice three point buck walking slowly along the east west ridge ahead of me, maybe about 100 yards away. He was headed toward the top of the ridge at a 45-degree angle giving me a pretty good shot. He didn’t know I was there, as he wasn’t in a hurry, walking with his head down a little. I had buck fever and missed my first shot, shooting over his back which seemed to be a habit with me thinking it was further away. He stopped and looked up slope, I quickly levered in my second round, held where I should have the first time and the buck folded. Then I realized I needed a third shot for help and fired the third round into the snow, which was about 16 to 18 inches deep. I ran through the snow toward the buck, keeping my eyes on him—he wasn’t moving.
What a nice fat buck he was, I was very happy. I started right away to dress him, knowing my hands would soon be warm on the inside of his chest cavity. That’s not an appreciated term for people who don’t hunt, but for a cold hunter, whose hands are freezing in the cold wind while he’s beginning the dressing procedure it is a most welcome and looked forward to event.
Soon Kent and Steve had caught up, following my trail in the deep snow, and they helped me finish cleaning the buck. They could hardly believe I had gotten a buck so soon after leaving the spruce thicket. We were all chatter and excited now. The plans changed at this point, I would drag my buck back down the long ridge we had first come up, and Kent and Steve would work their way west on the ridge we were now on and hunt the big ridge, going south on the opposite side of the canyon I was on. We parted company—I wished them good luck, and I headed back south toward the place where I could drag the buck down the steep slope on our old trail where we had first come up after leaving Dad and the Jeep.
After about an hour, on one of my many stops to rest from draggin’ the three point, I heard a shot across the canyon where Kent and Steve were. Soon I heard another shot, then another, then several more shots. Yeah, it was Cox’s army again. I sat down on my buck to keep my Levi’s from getting wet in the snow. The buck was still a little warm and it felt good, and I was dry. I glassed the hillside across the canyon. Lots of draws of timber and gray bare quakies. It was late November or early December. I had heard a lot of shooting. Now it was quiet. I couldn’t see anybody but I knew they were opposite of me somewhere on that mountain. I pulled out my second sandwich and pop. The wind had died down, it was almost still, the temperature was a lot warmer, almost comfortable. Well it was comfortable actually. It felt real good. I hungrily ate my sandwich, drank my pop, ate a candy bar and just enjoyed the quiet of the mountains. I could feel more energy flooding through me after all that food, I’d needed that. It’s nice to sit quietly on a big mountain in the winter. No hurry, just sit and enjoy the magnitude of the wilderness, it is so large, and you are so small. Just enjoy the quiet. There is so much to see. So many colors, and different types of trees and bushes and rocks. Some birds, maybe a squirrel or two. I was just waiting until I saw those guys appear somewhere out in the open, out of the draw or timber where they were.
Finally, they appeared, maybe 1000 yards away, very small. I could see they were dragging a deer, more by the way they moved, than by actually seeing the animal. Hooray, they got at least one. We were successful hunters. That also doesn’t mean a thing to a non-hunter—but to a hunter, it’s a major accomplishment. It’s not easy at all to hunt and to succeed. It requires a huge expenditure of energy—a honing and application of many skills, a will not to quit, because you can get extremely tired, even exhausted, very cold, discouraged and disappointed. The distances are incredible, very far, the mountains are steep and strain your will, the animals are elusive, almost non-existent. You can hunt for days sometimes and never see a deer or elk. But at other times they seem to be everywhere. It’s feast or famine much of the time.
After a while we were yelling to each other and could hear each other’s words. They were working their way down the mountain side toward me. I left my rifle sitting on my buck, and started downhill working toward them to meet them in the bottom of the canyon, they would need all the strength they could get to drag the buck up hill to my buck at the top of the ridge.
We met in the bottom of the canyon. Time for the story and the details. They also had a three-point buck. But they had missed a giant buck, a massive wide racked mossy back. They got into the herd they’d seen yesterday—15 to 20 head. This little satellite buck, the big bruiser and his harem of does. Yeah, they were kicken’ themselves, they shoulda got the big one, buck fever, poor shooting, the whole nine yards. A tale every hunter has heard before. It takes a week or two to get over it to some degree. A chance at a really big herd buck doesn’t come very often, for many hunters, it never does come in their whole lifetime, missing a truly big one is nerve wracking, it makes you really wish there was a re-play—a second chance. It’s a selfish something or other, but it’s there, it’s real. I’ve seen grown men come close to crying over missing a big one, somehow, it’s a loss of a measure of your manhood. It sounds funny I know, and it is funny actually, but at the time, well a hunter knows and you don’t have to explain it to him. Now I don’t care. But in those younger days, oh it matters all right—big time. And I shouldn’t say I don’t care anymore, if I had a monster buck out there and I had a chance and missed, yeah it would get me still, but not like it used to. Now there’s a part of me that cheers for the buck too.
We finally reached the top of the ridge where my buck was. It was good to see two nice bucks for the freezer. Steve missed, but we were happy to be back together, with good meat and enough daylight to get off the mountain. Barely!
By the time we drug the two bucks out of the timber onto the flat field of the ranch we were hunting on (by permission, Dad got it) we were pretty much spent. It was all but dark, Kent laid down on his buck, he said he could not go one more step. We were famished, and running on empty, no energy left. Soon the headlights of the jeep could be seen coming toward us in the distance. Dad was hugging the timber along the edge of the field making sure he didn’t miss us. He pulled up alongside, we got the congratulations of Dad, heartfelt and worth receiving. Dad had a way, a good way of patting you on the back.
We loaded the deer in the back, crawled in the warm jeep, dug into the crackers, cheese and salami and root beer. We satiated ourselves as we traveled home and like so many times before, we slept soundly, while Dad drove.