The Timber Creek Buck
Dad had a lot of roads he liked to drive during hunting season where he might have a chance at getting a shot at a buck. He was past the stage in his life where he could hike much and these roads gave him the opportunity to hunt from the Jeep. One of these roads was called the Timber Creek road, it was located on the Idaho/Wyoming border near the Smokey Mountain mine owned by the Simplot Corporation. We lived in Idaho then, so he only drove as far the Wyoming line.
One evening in mid-November we were hunting this road. Dad, Kay Hart, a good friend of our family- from Pocatello, and myself. I was 17 or 18 years old at this time. A good foot or more of snow was on the ground which pretty much required 4-wheel drive. That’s the only way Dad ever hunted anyway, was 4X4. It was also very cold that evening. We creeped along, going up the many switch backs toward the top of the divide between Idaho and Wyoming. We didn’t see anything all the way up.
As we turned around to go back down the same way we had come up, it was beginning to be that “magic” time of evening when the deer seem to appear out of nowhere. They are up from their day beds and are hungry and moving around to feed, another 20 minutes and it would be dusk, so now was the time. We all were keenly scanning the timber, the open hillside, the gullies everywhere in hopes of spotting deer. It was also the time of the “RUT”, when the bucks are gathering their “harem” of does, it was breeding season, the only time of year when the does can get pregnant. At this time the “BIG” bucks are easier to see, because they are so love sick, they forget about being careful and smart, and staying hidden. They want their girlfriends, and that’s about all they have on their minds.
As we slowly came around a bend in the road, there were deer everywhere. Probably about 20 does and a “HUGE” buck. We instantly came to a stop, getting out very quickly with our guns at the ready. All three of us had our eyes on this buck, who was sneaking away, holding his head down to hide his horns in the brush. He came to a stop momentarily, giving us a good chance, about 100 yards away and standing a little way up the brushy side hill on our right.
There was only one boom. All three of us shot at exactly the same time. The buck dropped and never moved. Dad and I both at the same time said, “I got it.” Kay didn’t speak. We all walked up the hill and dragged the buck down to the road. He was a massive herd buck. Later measurement gave him a 31 inch outside spread. A perfect four pointer. We were all elated to have him. All the other deer had quickly disappeared. While we were cleaning the buck, or I should say while Dad was cleaning the buck, we were also busy talking and comparing notes.
Dad said he aimed for the neck, but there was no bullet hole in the neck. Kay said he knew he missed, he flinched and said his aim was entirely off the buck. Dad said, “Clark, where did you aim?” “Right behind his right shoulder.” Dad pointed to the hole exactly where I said I shot. “Well he’s yours son, congratulations, he is a ‘FINE’ buck.” I was elated. It was a heart shot and the buck did not suffer for a second. We loaded him on the hood where he could catch all the cold air to cool out quickly. We drove into Soda Springs and got a good meal at the Wagon Wheel Café, while all the onlookers could get a good look at our trophy buck. We said goodbye to Kay when we got to Pocatello, then headed home. We hung the buck up in the big weeping willow tree, behind our house, and didn’t waste much time getting to bed, it had been a very exciting day.
The next day was Sunday and so after church some of my friends came over to see the buck I had told them about. He was hanging upside down by his hocks, his head and horns about three feet off the ground. Robert, one of my good friends was holding the horns feeling the mass and the smoothness of the well-polished antlers. Antlers of a large buck are like a magnet. You just have to touch them, run your hands up and down the tines and feel the girth at the base of the horns. They are so beautiful and no two sets of antlers are just alike, they all are different in some unique way, they tell a story of combat- sometimes some of the tips are broken off from fighting. They can be used for many things. Hung from the wall to be admired, sometimes a rifle is suspended or cradled between them, a perfect place to display the rifle as well. They can be used to make chandeliers, lamps, handles for knives or other implements. They can be used to make jewelry, door handles, weapons, coat hangers, the list can be as long as the imagination is creative. Most hunters “love” the antler, I did and still do. They are so beautiful in design, function and use. Their colors vary somewhat, from almost tan color all the way to near black or dark dark brown, and many shades in between. They are a memento of a hunt, of experiences not to be forgotten or un-appreciated.
Getting back to Robert, he was admiring the “rack”. He held the antlers in his hands and turned them so he could see them at changing angles as he turned the horns, the whole buck would of course turn as well, because the entire carcass was stiff from rigormortis. But not this buck. His head turned but not his body. Robert was able to turn the head in almost a complete 360 turn, 180 each way, while the body stayed in one position, not twisting with the head.
Robert looked up at me while I was talking to some others, and said, “Clark, this buck’s neck is broken.” I said no, I shot him in the heart. “Well, then somebody else shot him in the neck because I can turn the head clear around,” showing me how it turned so freely. We both knew it should not do that. I said, “Well, Dad said he aimed for the neck, but we looked and there’s NO bullet hole in the neck. We all looked very carefully and sure enough, there was no hole. We all stood there quite puzzled. How could this be? Then Robert saw a little trickle of frozen blood staining the left ear where it goes down into the ear hole. Suddenly it all made sense. The mystery was solved. Dad’s bullet had entered into the right ear hole, severing the bottom of the skull from the top of the neck bone or vertebrae, then the bullet continued out the left ear hole so as not to make a hole anywhere, yet breaking the bucks’ neck. No wonder the buck fell hard without a twitch, his neck was broken and at the same time his heart was gone. I know this all sounds kind of gross, or disgusting- but to teenage hunters it was very interesting and amazing. Robert aka “Sherlock” had discovered something “cool”, and together us boys had “figured it all out.” We ran into the house and told Dad what we had discovered, or Robert had. Even Dad was glad to know his aim was good. I was glad to have Dad lay claim to the buck as well- it was “our” buck. To a teenage boy that was cool. I’m telling the story from an 18-year-olds perspective, not from a boring 75-year-olds perspective. “Give me a break,’ no pun intended.