Why It's Worth It
Taking a kid duck hunting
Why It's Worth It - 11/8/99
Chesapeake (Maryland)

Went hunting Thursday PM, saw nothing. Went again Friday AM - saw nothing. (Time to switch to doe areas) I took Kasey's 12 yr old brother duck in Saturday morning. Woke him up at 3:45 AM and he told me he hardly slept all night because he was so excited! He jumped right outta bed, threw on some clothes and said "lets go!" So off we went.

Picked up coffee and donuts and got to my buddy's place at 5:15. At the blind, we were set up and waiting 15 minutes before shooting time. Just as first light hit, we had a pile of geese and about 20 mallards sitting on the cove 60' out. We could hear them chuckling, quackin and everything. Called and called and called but the best we could do was get em up and by the blind just outta range. Damn! I was getting worried that Tommy's first duck hunt would be a little slow. My bud had his 10 yr old boy with us too so it was kind of a hunt for the kids.

Well, a little later we had a couple land just outta range. Some light chuckling and they began to swim into our dekes. When they were 10 yards from the blind, we got the kids ready. Drew was lined up on a drake and Tommy on a hen mallard. I jumped out of the side of the blind, scaring em up and BAM BAM BAM! The kids dropped both of em! To see the excitement on their faces as I brought the ducks in was incredible. They looked at where they hit em, examined the feathers and colors, and were practically jumping out of their boots!

Throughout the rest of the day, we saw more geese had a bunch more shooting at mostly mallards, saw herons, and other birds! We ended the morning at 10 AM with 3 drakes and two hens and the boys had a great time!

I was planning on bow hunting the afternoon but I was whipped, so I decided to just take a nap and then clean the birds. Woke up a few hours later and Tommy was sitting on my bed watching TV waiting for me! He was still excited! So we went out back, and Tommy, his sister Maggie and I plucked and breasted out the 3 birds we brought home. I told him to wash em off, and put what he wasn't going to eat in the freezer.

I had to get ready to go to dinner at a friends house and when I came upstairs to leave, he had 2 breasts in a pan with pepper, butter and veggies. The boy was cooking his first ducks all by himself!

I tasted 'em before I left and boy was it good! All in all a great day and I couldn't have had a better time even if we had limited out! Tommy kept the curled tail feathers from the drake as a memento from his first duck hunt. Last thing he said was "Thanks, I had a great time and can't wait to go again!" Nothing like seeing a young man happy about hunting!

Home from the Hill with a 10 Pt
Home from the Hill with a 10 Point
LJ (Virginia)

It was a dark and stormy night... 3 sailors sat by the.... Uhhhh no wait, that's not it.

It was a hunting Saturday not unlike any other Saturday except that I wasn't all that excited to go, it was much warmer than usual and my heart wasn't really in it this morning at 3:15am, when I had to get up... I got up anyway, got dressed, grabbed my rifle that I've lost trust in, then the Ruger .44 and headed out the door.

We met at our usual place, the usual suspects were all there, we talked about where everyone was going and started the drive in. As I walked to my stand, I thought seriously about just finding a nice hidey hole, and taking a nap. I decided to keep on...

I was up in my stand well before shooting light, I had pushed a bunch of deer in the darkness on the way so had some hope of seeing something... anything. As an aside, I'll now confess to missing a decent 8 pointer on opening day with my rifle (it's not shooting well so I've lost confidence in it). I also blew at least 3 opportunities while still hunting the last few weeks... I wasn't able to get ready for a shot in time, was winded by the deer, made too much noise (insert other excuses here). All of which create a shroud of doubt and lack of general enthusiasm for hunting.

As the light came over the ridge, hearing a distant rooster, seeing a fox trot by, and hearing the hardwood forest wake up, I felt much better. Now I remember why I do this... Very nice. I'm where I belong. I hear no shooting, no deer, no movement except for squirrels. This is the kind of day that sees very little in the way of deer action... I figure to relax a while, then maybe get down and mess up a nice nap. I love to take naps out in the woods. It's like something invisible comes, in the middle of my sleep, and silently removes the stress form my body, then gently nudges me awake to find myself very happy to just be here. Grateful.

It's getting past 9:00am now and I'm thinking I'll wait till 9:30 to get down and begin the nap I'm starting to look very forward to. I hear a squirrel coming up from the bottom of a large draw at the far range of my shooting area... or is it ? The squirrel noises are now giving way to what could possibly be a slow moving deer with no destination or real purpose in movement... Just in case, and since I've missed some opportunities by not being ready, I move my rifle from my lap, prop it up on my leg and rest the barrel against the tree. Then I start to listen hard... A few more steps, sounding more and more like a deer, the pulse rate starts to come up. The deer is still far away, I can hear the crunching leaves with each step, but it's moving through impossibly thick cover, there's no way I'll see this deer for a while. It's coming my way, I can tell. The pulse rate goes up another notch on the "Hunters Heart Rate Scale".

As I waited for what seemed an eternity, 5 minutes crept by me... Too much silence, another chance missed. Then the crunch crunch pause, again. Close ! How did it get this close ? I begin to strain to see through the thick brush, another step, then a few more, I STILL can't see anything and it sounds as if the deer is right up on me ! I see a horizontal line about 100 yards out, there's a back leg, Deer ! I look on the other side of the thicket, see the back leg move away and wait to see the rest. He takes a cautious step from cover... It's a buck. A nice buck.

Not having binoculars, and not wanting to move too much by bringing up my rifle, I wait. He begins to move toward me, I begin to see his antlers a little better, they're ivory white, He looks like a good buck. I was ready to take the first deer I saw, this is a great bonus. At about 80 yards, my heart was racing. My pulse was pounding in my ears, blood rushing faster than what my veins should be able to handle... It's a good thing this buck was moving slowly, I needed the time to talk myself down, breathe...

I had quit looking at his antlers, I was concentrating on not blowing this opportunity. He passed by a large tree and Whooosh, I brought the rifle up quickly to shoulder and began to look for the deer. I usually take a little while to find the animal in my scope, but this time as my eye married the scope, all I saw was a big front shoulder...BAM BAM BAM... my heart is racing, I bring the crosshairs down to just behind the shoulder and squeeze. BOOM ! He drops right there, no movement, lifts his head once and isstill... Good shot...

I quickly lit a cigarette, and began the calming process.... Whew, the drought is over. Forget the nap. I can't believe I almost didn't come out today, what the hell was I thinking. As I got down from my stand and walked toward the buck, his body was getting bigger, my grin was getting bigger, his antlers were getting bigger with each step, so was my grin. When I got to him, there was no more room on my face for my grin to expand ! 10 POINTER ! He's HUGE ! This deer is BIG. Not a huge spread on the rack but great mass for around these here parts.

Later, one of our guys had a kit that estimated his live weight at 216lbs !! That is a mammoth deer for this part of the country. He dressed to 177lbs. I dressed him, packed all my gear up to where I could bring my truck and went down to begin the drag. I hunt the best part of our property, I usually hunt it alone. I'm alone because nobody else wants to drag a deer UP, from there. It's all uphill, steady, with small boulders, large rocks... After 2 hours, I got him to where I could get him in the truck.

As everyone met up after the hunt, I'm surprised my shirt buttons didn't pop right off. I received congrats and hand shakes from all hunting buddies, including the pop-in-law... He waited till everyone was finished. And told me it was a "job very well done, very well indeed."

Hunt complete. Man, I'm one lucky guy...

Note: The picture of Len's buck point can be found in the GoodHunting Deer Trophy Room.

Iowa Deer Hunt
Cliff Claven
Iowa Deer Hunt - 1/5/2000
Cliff Claven (Pennsylvania)

We headed to Iowa a couple days before Christmas. Stopped at the Hotshot family and had a great time, as always. Little Abby is really cute, and yes Scott, Jen REALLY liked her. It's always nice to pull off of 80 and have someone serve you a great dinner.

Well, we moved on to Iowa and arrived the next evening. The next morning we had to do family stuff. This year, I was only able to draw a doe muzzleloader tag. In the afternoon, instead of doe hunting, Jen, her little bro Douglas and I went pheasant hunting. We kicked up one bird but other than that it was quiet.

It began to snow heavily, making the farm really beautiful. Jen and Douglas headed back home. I gave Jen my shotgun and decided to hunt deer. I had strapped on my .357 earlier in the day just in case I saw one (handguns are legal during the muzzleloader season). I began still hunting through the snow. It couldn't have been more quiet and peaceful...a perfect Christmas hunt.

Just before dark, I saw a doe feeding in a field. She moved out of sight, so I stalked along the woodlot until I could see her. She was with two other does. They were within 100yards but that is well beyond what I would shoot with the .357. I watched them, trying to think of a way to get closer.

Just then I heard a grunt, followed a few seconds later by another grunt, then crashing. (Side Note: The rut was definitely on while I was there. I saw fresh scrapes, heard grunting, and saw bloody doe pee numerous occasions. This is a northern state with a good buck:doe ratio. I never thought it would be that late).

OK, so back to the story. In seconds, about 50 yards away, walked THE BIGGEST BUCK I have ever seen in a hunting situation! I was just in shock. It was getting too dark to count points or anything like that, but let me assure you this deer was HUGE. I have hunted around my in-laws' farm for several years, and have seen some nice bucks, and have seen signs of some bucks I suspected were dandies. But until this point I had never actually seen a true monster. It was one of those deer you see in magazines. Just telling this gets me foaming at the mouth. I now finally understand why someone would sit in a tree stand for weeks on end and pass up small 8 points and all that other stuff.

That made the trip for me. Just knowing one like that was there. The next day, I went pheasant hunting with Jen's uncle and got a bird. We tracked them in the snow which was fun bird hunting. We found fresh tracks of a large flock but the birds evidently flew off and we never did find where they landed.

We did track one nice rooster which I shot. Jen's uncle is one of the best hunters I've ever had the pleasure of hunting with. This guy LIVES the hunting/outdoor life. He's one of the truest modern-day "hunter-gatherers" I know. He goes on a snorkeling trip somewhere exotic each year on the income he makes trapping furbearers in the fall and gophers in the summer. He fishes for everything, hunts for everything, forages for edible plants, has a huge collection of butterflies he's collected, etc. Hunting with him is like hunting with a natural predator.

The next day my bro-in-law arrived from Wisconsin, disturbing my hunting for several days. I've discussed this before. Nothing's changed. He left, and I decided to put Douglas on stand near where I thought the buck would be. I had been vague about the where-abouts of the big one because I was afraid what other bro-in-law might do.

To make a long story short, that evening Douglas was so excited he could hardly speak. No he didn't get the big one, but he missed it at 30 yards! I got a flashlight and followed the trail for several hundred yards...easy in the snow. No blood, no hair. But, best of all, Jen's brother was extremely happy just to see that deer. Usually he takes after the bro-in-law and just wants to ride around on his ATV and try to jump up deer, then get a running shot. For the first time, I saw the flicker of realization of why you might hunt the "right" way. It is a long road but I think he is going to be a good hunter yet.

I've rambled on long enough but it was a good trip, all in all.

Deer Hunt - A New Set of Indelible Memories
Deer Hunt - A New Set of Indelible Memories - 11/29/99
Carnivore (Virginia)

This weekend was an experience I will most likely never forget.


It started out on Friday morning as my father, friend Jim and I drove to our place in WVA for a two day weekend hunt. We arrived on stand about 6am and we went to our respective hunting locations. The forecast was for periodic rain (Possibly heavy at times) so we all had our ponchos with us. My stand was the farthest away from camp so I was the most concerned. I had a backpack and was ready to go. To get to my stand I have to cross a stream that usually runs 5 feet wide but is narrow enough in a few places to cross without getting wet.

About 8am it started to rain. On and off for several hours. I saw about 5 deer walk close by but by the time I saw them, it was too late for a shot. At about 3pm the rain picked up and it was a driving rain like I have never seen before. I decided to stay in the woods and wait it out but when 45 minutes went by I realized I had to get out of the woods. The stream would be flooding soon (subject to flash floods) and I would be screwed. So I started to walk back but when I got within earshot of the stream I knew I had made a big mistake by staying out so long. The stream was now a raging river and about 10 feet across.

I picked a few rocks that were still slightly under the water and tiptoed across them. I was about 4 feet from the bank when it happened. The current was too strong and my ass went in the drink. SPLASH. From the lower thighs down was soaked. I quickly picked myself up threw my gun to the bank and climbed out. It was not super cold but cold enough that I started to feel severely chilled. I ran to the truck and we drove to the motel we were staying at. I took all my clothes off and put them in the dryer. Borrowing my friend's clothes, we went to the nearby ponderosa for some chow.


The temperature was much colder this morning (probably in the high 30's). Again we went to the stands by 6am. I could not cross the stream because the river was still flooded so I sat in a stand overlooking the river. The constant rush of water was annoying as it dampened out any sounds of deer moving. I sat there all morning and saw nothing. Compared to Monday's opening day this was strange (Monday we saw over 20 deer each).

At about 11am I walked back to the truck to get a bite to eat. My father was taking a nap and my friend had already left. He had to leave at 9am to attend a Thanksgiving dinner with the family. I took a small nap and decided to sit in my fathers stand for the afternoon. My old man (who does not have a WV license) decided he was going to leave early that day. He has some things to do at home. I sat on stand all afternoon until just before dark. The stand overlooks a field to my right and hardwoods to my left. The field is about 200 by 300 yards and has pine trees spread out within it.

Just before dark, I decide to stand up slowly. I noticed a flash of white on a power line about 100 yards away next to the tree stand my buddy was in earlier in the day. I slowly picked up my rifle and looked through the scope. I saw a nice doe feeding right next to the power line pole. She moved a little and there was another doe behind her. This doe was huge. She stood higher than most any doe I had ever seen. I made my decision to take her right then. I raised my rifle, rested it against the tree I was in, placed the crosshairs on the vitals and concentrated on "squeezing". KABOOOMMM. The gun went off and the doe bucked. The next thing I saw was three deer running up the mountain. Had I missed again? DAMN DAMN DAMN!

I got down from my stand and walked to where the deer was. I saw a tuft of hair but no blood. I looked around about 30 yards and sat against the tree nearest where the deer was. I was stunned. I had missed again. I sat there for about 10 minutes. It was almost pitch black and I was about to smash my rifle to bits. I got up and started walking back to the truck when I saw her. She was on the other side of a pine tree about 40 yards from where I shot her. She was a monster. I dragged her back up the mountain and proceeded to field dress her when I saw the damnedest thing. Her nipples were huge and she had milk. LOTS OFIT! I almost got sick thinking there were fawns in her belly. I read somewhere that there have been cases of deer being born out of normal season. I field dressed her and was careful not to look at what was in her stomach in the event she was pregnant. Has anyone heard of this or had any experience with it?

I pondered driving into VA to check the deer since it would shorten my drive about 40 minutes but decided against that at the last minute. It was the best decision I have ever made. I checked the deer in and properly tagged it. I'll preface what I am about to say by telling you my rifle was uncased behind my seat (UNLOADED) because my gun case was soaking wet from the weather the day before.

I drove toward the VA line up the mountain pass. As I rounded the bend and reached the peak which separates VA from WV, I saw a white sign that read "Game Check". 8 wardens came rushing out of the woods and 5 Suburban's with blue lights flashing filled the road. I immediately realized what was happening. All I could think about is how glad I was I checked the deer in WV. The next thought was of my father and the fact that he does not have a WV license. The Officer asked for my license, registration and hunting license. I displayed them all and he made a quick check and said "everything looks in order, is your gun in the case"? I said no officer, the case is soaking and in an attempts to protect it from the environment, I have it in the cab under all my clothes.

As it turns out, he saw it anyway and was checking to see if I was going to lie to him. He asked me to pull over and issued me a "simple citation" for having an uncased gun after 6pm (WV law states must be cased after 6pm). I am not sure what the dollar amount is because I have to call the magistrate and they will assign a fine if I choose top lease guilty. The officer then said "because you are so nice and seem like a good guy, I will let you keep your gun". My jaw dropped. I thanked him for his time and left. HOLY CRAP, can they really do that???

That experience scared the crap out of me and I can now tell you, I will never violate even the simple stupid laws of hunting.

UPDATE!!!!I just got the ticket cost from the magistrate and he set me the lowest fine of $20 plus $67 court fee. WHEW

Cornholio's Elk
Big Sky
Cornholio's Elk - 10/28/99
Big Sky (Montana)

I hope Greenhorn/Cornholio/Kurt doesn't mind me doing this. If he does he can yell at me later or just take it out on me with a hike from hell this spring during bear season. Anyway this is a clip from the email he sent me about his hunt. Hope you all enjoy it.

We hiked in and got to camp at about dark. I didn't sleep too well even though I was tired from the night before. (Halloween party you will have to ask Greenhorn for the details on this I'm not mean enough to post them myself...BS.) I was real excited for the next day.

We got into elk right off the bat and I had a nice bull dead to rights at legal shooting light. But on one side his rack was busted off past his 4th tine. He would have been a 300 bull if he was all there. Lely was right on my tail filming everything. I haven't watched it yet, but I'm guessing it will be good stuff. Got into several other small bulls in the AM and we hiked non-stop through timber all day looking to goose a good one out of it's bed.

It happened at 2:00PM and 4 bulls got up and started running. I couldn't see 2 to get an idea as to their size. One was too small and this bigger one whipped around into some brush and stopped for a sec. I could see his outline and put the crosshairs right behind his shoulder and fired. The bull just dropped. I put 2 more though his chest to kill him.

Found out later the first shot (that I had forced through the brush) must have exploded on the foliage and only a little part of the bullet hit him high in the back and cut the spine. SO by 6PM, we had all the meat off the bone, cooled and into pillowcases and hung into trees in the shade. We brought out the head, cape, and about 1/3 of the meat and it was HEAVY.

We made it to the truck at about 1:30PM, took us 7 hours to hike out down hill mostly what normally takes us 4 hours to hike up hill into (even with backpacks).

I'm hurtin today.

Fairfax County Managed Hunt
Fairfax County Managed Hunt - 12/17/99
Bubbles (Virginia)

I arrived at the staging area and checked in at about 0515. There were 25 hunters and 7alternates selected for the day; six hunters didn't show, so all of the alternates were allowed to go out. The park had been divided into four zones with about six hunters in each. The literature that we were mailed the week before showed our zones, and we had a chance to scout it last weekend. There were three or four areas that I would have been happy to put my tree stand, so I wasn't worried about having to share my area with several other people.

We were given a quick refresher briefing on the rules of the hunt at 0530. No shooting at anything w/ antlers, two deer maximum, shotgun only w/ buckshot, please stay in your area, shooting out into the fields adjacent to the park was ok with the landowner, be out of the woods by 1:00, etc. We then met with the other hunters in our assigned area to figure out where we'd all set up our stands, and to check that we wouldn't be literally sitting on top of each other.

The briefing area was in the south end of the park, so the hunters who would be heading up to the northern edge were given a ride up there. The rest of us simply walked in to the area we'd selected. By now it was starting to get light, although dawn technically wouldn't arrive for a while yet, so I didn't need my flashlight to find my way through the woods. I found a nice tree for my stand, set it up, and started to climb. When I was about7' up, I looked down to see a six-point buck watching me with a "WTF???" look on his face. I froze, he stared at me for a few more moments, and then he turned and trotted off.

He stopped twice and stared at me again before finally disappearing over a hill about150 yards away. At about 10' I decided I was high enough, especially using a shotgun which has a pretty limited range anyhow. I could see 100+ yards in most directions because there are so many deer in the park that they've eaten most of the underbrush. I got situated, hauled up the shotgun and my pack with my food, water, and ammo, loaded the shotgun, had a quick drink of water (climbing tree stands are a combination of Thigh Master, Stair Master, Abdomen Cruncher, and Arm Builder in one small, portable unit) and got settled.

Before I even had a chance to start cooling off I saw a line of six does walking through a small draw off to my left. They were about 125 yards away, and I figured from their direction of travel that they'd cross about 100 yards in front of me, then go over the hill. I kept still because I didn't want to spook them out of the area. I'd heard a few shots already that morning, but the does didn't seem upset.

Well, they entered a small clearing about 100 yards in front of me and started feeding. Cool... I was hoping they'd gradually move nearer to me, so I slooooooooooowly moved the shotgun around so it was pointed in their general direction, although I didn't move it up to my shoulder just yet. Then I sat and watched. And waited. And watched. And waited. Still they're feeding... about 80-100 yards away, and I was really wishing for a rifle at that point. Occasionally one would come ***almost*** close enough, then she'd move away again back toward the group.

Then the one closest to me turns in a small circle and lies down! Three of the others join her, and I watch them put their heads down and go to sleep as the other does keep feeding. One seems to be "on guard" while the others sleep. The does stay there, 80-100 yards away, tantalizingly close. Every so often one would get up, stretch, circle, then lie back down. Fun to watch, but they were still out of range and I was cussing mentally.

Meantime the park sounded like a small war was going on, but no other deer were moving through my area, and the does I was watching seemed perfectly willing to sit tight. My rear end was also starting to hurt so every so often I would slowly stretch out one leg, then the other. The does never noticed the movement. I even hauled my pack up once for another drink of water; the does didn't spook then either.

I checked the time at that point; it was almost noon. DAMN! Over four hours spent watching six deer, and no shot. Since we had to be out at 1:00 I didn't wait too much longer before unloading my shotgun, lowering it to the ground, and climbing down the tree. Note - going down is harder than climbing up! When I got to the ground I turned and looked at the does. Despite the noise and movement THEY HADN'T BUDGED, although the "sentry" had an eye on me.

I decided to see how close I could sneak to them, given that there was literally no cover. I moved so that there was a large tree between me and the does and started creeping toward them. At about 70 yards their nerve broke and they took off over a hill. Thirty seconds later I heard two shots. I hope that hunter got one of them.

Several other hunters were out of the woods before I was, mainly because they'd gotten their two deer. The rangers wanted us to report the # of deer we'd seen, etc. so I told him about my day. They also provided soda and pizzas for the hunters, so we had lunch.

The other hunters had a good laugh at my story, and the ranger and animal control officer said they were going to try to push the Fairfax County board of supervisors into allowing hunters to use rifles in the future. I believe it'll be a cold day in Hell before it ever happens, though this park would be perfect for it. There's almost no cover, so long shots are possible, and the land has plenty of ravines, draws, and low areas to use for natural backstops.

I'm guessing that over 40 deer were taken yesterday, though I didn't stick around for the final tally. Those of us who didn't get shoot were allowed to take one home if we wanted as a "thank you" from the animal control officers, so I do have meat in the freezer. Even so, I think over half of the deer will end up going to the Hunters for the Hungry program.

Goose Hunt with the Outlaw
Goose Hunt with the Outlaw - 11/29/99
Bwana (North Dakota)

My youngest brother-in-law came out during Thanksgiving break to do some goose hunting with me. We sat along the edge of a large slough (lake if you are from Minnesota) that is a waterfowl rest area on some land owned by a co-worker in the hopes that as the1000's of SOB's (snows or blue geese) left they would pass overhead. We had been there waiting just over the hill from the oodles of gooses when all of a sudden it sounded like rolling thunder. The geese were in the air!

As we watched the huge swarm began coming straight for us! My heart started pounding in anticipation of the shooting that was about to take place. They came closer and closer and the noise of their cackling and wings got louder and louder until all else was drowned out. And as usually happens when I go after geese, they had different ideas than I had hoped. They started to turn off course! The stupid/smart things had merely teased us while making a swing in order to gain altitude.

A bunch of 5 birds did fly over the outlaw who managed to bring down a beautiful mature snow goose. Other than that NOTHING!! Moments before we had sat in anticipation as thousands and thousands of geese were coming towards us on what appeared to be a suicide mission only to turn off before coming within range. Talk about a let down, but what an event to witness! All I have to do is shut my eyes and I can still feel the chill of the frost, hear the thundering roar of the flock, and see them racing towards me. What a sight!!

Oh well, guess that is why I go hunting. People who don't hunt will likely never experience such an awesome sight.

P.S. The next day's pheasant hunt went the same way. The outlaw got one rooster, but it had the longest tail feather I have ever seen, 25-1/8 inches long. Not much shooting but we saw 5 mule deer and a lot of hens. I think he enjoyed himself even though we didn't fill any limits. Guess that's the way its supposed to be.

A Deer Hunt and a Night of Fear
Big Al
A Deer Hunt and a Night of Fear - 11/5/99
Big Al (Washington)

Well, deer season was the middle of last month, but of course, I'm taking forever to get in here and say 'hi'. Anyway, I thought you folks might find my last trip interesting. Here's a paste from an email to a buddy of mine: oh, and crazy enough, this was my second cougar of the year - and even legal in this state (except for the shooting at night part).

Okay, Saturday morning I went to the same area I went to last year and got a nice 4 pt. It's just north of Manson and near the Poison Creek drainage. Pretty rugged country in places and I hunt downhill only because nobody else does. By 8:00 I had spotted a couple groups of deer - each with a couple bucks, but only one legal one for sure. The legal buck was aaaaallll the way down at the lake (Chelan) and I decided to go ahead and put a stalk on him after he bedded. Was only able to get within 350 yards because of the open country and talus slopes surrounding them, so I perched on a rock and whistled to stop him when he started to walk away. I'm really starting to love my Ruger 7mm because I put the crosshairs right on his shoulder and that's exactly where it hit him.

He shuddered at the impact and bounded a couple times before he dropped dead. It was11:00 and my folks had the boat up lake, so I knew I'd have to pack the meat out instead of doing the easier boat trip. So I bled and gutted the buck and hiked backup to the rig to head to Manson and get my pack and other supplies.

While in Manson, I ate a big meal and called my grandparents to let them know I'd be spending the night with my deer (because last year, the same thing happened and I lost about half the meat overnight) and packing the meat out first thing in the morning. They gave me their cell phone to call once in a while to let them know I was okay.

When I got back up there and parked, I decided to test the cell phone and the friggin' batteries were dead! Thanks folks! So anyway, I hiked down to the deer, set up a fire pit, gathered enough wood for the whole night and boned the deer out by firelight and flashlight. Once I was done I had the meat laying out on a rock to cool and pulled the carcass downhill about 10 yards is all. I wasn't worried at all about a critter coming to take any meat because I figured my presence and the fire would keep everything away.

Well, I fell asleep around 11:00 and would wake up periodically to add more wood to the fire. Then a while later, I had slept pretty heavily and let the fire down to coals and a little flicker. I sat up to grab wood, looked across my fire and sat a dark figure below me. "Hmmmm, I don't remember that rock by the carcass", I thought. So I yelled out a "hey!" and it's head raised and I could tell it was a cougar! I froze for a moment and tried not to shit myself because he wasn't running - only staring at me for about 5 seconds before I gathered enough composure to grab for my gun. As soon as I reached over, the cat darted over the knoll and was gone in about 3 seconds. I looked at my watch. "1:00, shit this is going to be one long friggin' night!!!!"

Anyway, it took about an hour for me settle down enough to at least sit again, but every 30 seconds to 2 minutes I'd clap, yell, bark, roar, or clank my bone saw against the rocks, because I figured if that thing got a taste for blood, he'd be wanting to comeback. However, even though I was constantly straining to see out into the moonlight, I really thought the noise was enough to keep him away since I was even making the dogs bark across the lake.

Time passed very, very slowly. Fifteen minutes felt like and hour and I had to force myself not to check the watch too often. 4:00 a.m: The moon is out and casting a glimmer across the lake below me. The knoll drops off and leaves a soft silhouette of the grasses and terrain below me. I'd just finished clanking my saw when I looked down and saw a hard silouette. "Shit, now I've got a brave coyote visiting!" I decided to shoot that sucker so I could make some serious noise and feel better about the rest of the evening.

When I pulled up my gun and looked through the scope, what did I see? The outline of a cat head!! Son of a bitch, there's that adrenaline again and I can't hardly hold still!! It ducks down and sneaks off, but pokes it's head back up again after a few yards. I continued to pace back and forth in the glimmer of the lake moonlight for about 5 minutes before I was able to force myself to calm down and take the shot. Blam! I held the gun tight to my shoulder so I could see the reaction of the cat to my shot. It tossed it fully into the air like a full back flip and I could see it's full body spinning with the lake below as the backdrop!

"Ahh, man do I feel better now that I hit that sucker, but wait, the size of that body didn't seem as big as the cat that was feeding in front of me earlier." Was that another cat? Maybe it was a kitten to the female that I saw earlier? "Shit, myn ight's not even close to over. I've gotta keep making noise for the rest of the night, even though it didn't seem to scare them off the first go-round!!" I didn't dare leave the fire to investigate my shot, because I wasn't about to go close to an injured cat in the dark, so I continued to make noise and wait for that sun to finally come up.

The wind started to blow.... hard... now I'm hearing noise around me in all directions and paranoia is really starting to kick in. I'm tired. I'll try the cellphone..... nothing. What time is it? 5:00. Shit, this night is never gonna end....... better clank the saw again.... 7:00. Finally the sun is coming up. I was burning my last piece of wood and went up the hill to grab more after a quick visit down to where I thought he cat would be and saw nothing. Warmed up, waited for more light, and went back down.

Ahh, there's the blood. Son of bitch, that thing was only 75 yards away when he was pacing back and forth!! Another pool of blood a couple feet away, and another, and another. This cat's gotta be dead nearby, so I hike over the hill and start checking the benches. Nothing. Went back to the pools of blood and followed the trail. There was heavy blood for about 30 yards, a pile of crap, and a spot where it rubbed the ground bare from seemingly thrashing it's feet.

After the thirty yards, only a few very small drops were found before the trail vanished, so my theory is that from 4 to 7 a.m., that cat which from 75 yards should've looked bigger when I flipped it, was a kitten and had died. The mother must've returned again later and carried it away. Either way, I was pissed to have lost it because I'd have loved to have a full body mount of it for the memories of such a looong night.

What I learned: Never leave a carcass 30 feet from your camp no matter how big the fire is! Never sleep under the stars when alone! That was the first and last night I'll ever sleep in the boonies without a tent. And finally, never, ever, never, camp alone overnight somewhere with out a couple changes of diapers!!!

Great Turkey Hunt
Cliff Claven
Great Turkey Hunt - 11/1/99
Cliff Claven (Pennsylvania)

Headed to my parents' home Friday night for the turkey opener on Saturday. I was hunting my grandfather's land about a 20 min. drive from my parents. My grandpa was recovering from a couple of health problems and my dad was exhausted from a bad week of work, so they both weren't going out until later in the morning.

I got up and headed out early and headed into the woods. I was climbing up the steep hill in the dark and kicked up a deer, which stood there snorting at me for about 10minutes. It finally departed and legal shooting time came. I was walking along a trail when I heard a turkey...close. I was standing in the middle of a trail but decided to give a few calls. Well, the turkey responded but then must have seen me. It took off through the air, as well as six or seven others. The good thing was, they all went in different directions.

I picked a place to sit and began calling just a few minutes later. Birds were answering every time I called. I did this for an hour or so, but none came in. Then I heard a shot, and the birds shut up. I started slowly making my way over the hill. My eye caught movement, two big hens. They were walking through the brush, about 25 yards out, but I just didn't have a shot with all the brush in the way. They moved off and I called. They came back but hung up out of range.

Around 10 am I saw my dad. He had seen a flock of 15 birds and told me where they were headed. He wasn't close enough to break them up or get a shot. My grandpa was the one who had shot earlier. He had missed, but it was yet ANOTHER big flock. Turkeys everywhere!

We decided on a time to meet for lunch, and I continued walking up the hill. I made it to the top ridge and slowly stalked along it. Two does trotted through some nearby pines. Squirrels were everywhere, making quite a racket.

But then I heard scratching...and it was not squirrel scratching. It was coming from down over the ridge. I sat up and began to call. Nothing. Then my eye caught movement. It was a nice 7 point buck. He strolled by, knew something was wrong, but didn't know exactly what. He passed back and forth in front of me (10 - 15 yards away) for five full minutes. He then winded me and galloped off. Cool. Hopefully we meet again during deer season.

I could still hear scratching so I sneaked over the ridge. In some thorny stuff I could see a turkey head bobbing up and down. It would disappear, then re-appear. Not ideal, but I thought it seemed nervous. I pulled up the shotgun. BLAM! A miss. The turkey flew away. But there were also about 15 turkeys I hadn't seen. They flew up, too. They scattered. It was 11 am.

I moved down the hill just a few yards, and waited a few minutes. I called. Nothing. A few minutes later I heard one calling. I called back. It responded. I called. It responded. This kept going for several minutes. It seemed really eager. Then it shut up. I kept calling. Nothing. And then it responded. As did another. Oh no, I thought. They're calling back and forth to each other, not me. I still kept calling, yelping every time they called.

I could tell they were getting closer to each other. Then they both were calling together...and answering me. Heading my way. They were really eager. But where were they? My adrenalin was through the roof...I knew they were close. And then, as turkeys so often do, they appeared out of nowhere. When they were behind a tree, I laid down my slate call and lifted the shotgun. They were calling like crazy now.

I waited until I had a good shot. 15 yards away. I aimed at the lead bird, fired and dropped it. It was 11:30 am so I headed to meet my dad for lunch. It was a small hen. My dad had seen a few more birds but hadn't gotten a shot. My grandpa hadn't seen any more. I went to my grandparents' and plucked the bird. It's going in the oven this afternoon for an early Thanksgiving dinner.

A great turkey hunt in every respect...time with family, lots of birds, and plenty of calling opportunities.

Ducks, Pheasants, and a Sabre Tooth Tiger
Ducks, Pheasants, and a Sabre Tooth Tiger in SD - 11/1/99
Herb (Oklahoma)

Summary on first day back

Just got in, and I'm not sure whether I had a good time or not. Here are some highlights:

Stepped in saber-tooth tiger hole; mauled slightly.

Walked 137 miles a day in country that could have been Oklahoma, if you change the corn into post oak.

Saw maybe 20,000 pheasants in "too close" range (within ten yards). 15,000 of these got up at my feet as I was sneaking on a duck filled slough at 8:00 AM. South Dakota allows pheasant hunting only after noon during first part of season. Other 5,000 were in road ditch as we were going into town to get breakfast (same time).

You're not a regular in the Countryside Cafe until your third day; after that you have to tell them if you don't want your usual.

At least one farming family in South Dakota is just too attractive to even be considered as models of a farming family by Madison Avenue. As far as I know this is universal. They are really nice people as well.

I learned how to move a corn auger - a lot.

I was bitten by a tsetse fly on Thursday. Must have been, cause I couldn't go out Friday, and ended up sleeping 24 hours straight.

Saw a MONSTER buck in Kansas on the way back. Almost had an entry in the Big Buck contest, but swerved in time. Six points on my side, but I think maybe 7 on the other; would go 250 lbs easy.

More later.

The Rest of the Story

OK, it's tomorrow, most of the major fires are out at work and I can add some more details.

We got to South Dakota on Sunday about noon, and I met our hosts. In addition to being gracious and attractive they are also very smart. I learned about international economics, biology, dog training, commodity investing, federal farm policy, chemistry, modern birthing techniques, advances in dentistry, and the fluid flow of dry grain while I was there.

They were harvesting corn while we were there, and we went out with them to some of the partially harvested fields. I got one pheasant, and lost one that fell in the middle of a slough. Lots of ducks on the slough, though, so we were set up for the next day.

Next day my partner got in position while I was supposed to circle around the slough from the other side and flush to birds over him. On the way, I stepped into a small pocket of grass (maybe 2 acres), and before I stopped counting, I had 27 rooster pheasants come boiling out from under my feet. There were lots more, but as I said, I quit counting. This was maybe half a mile from the slough, and by the time I actually got to my friend I wasn't even twitching as the birds tried to knock my hat off. Of course, the ducks flushed with the very first pheasants, but my partner got one, anyway. It was a hen mallard, and we had quite a little discussion with the kids about why you can shoot a hen duck, but not a hen pheasant.

Once we could hunt pheasant legally, we went back to the same place, where of course there were no more birds. On the way out, while I was walking along an old railroad easement I stepped into a hole. Well, my right leg went into the hole; my left leg was still standing on an old rail road tie. Ouch! On the way out of the hole I scraped the hide off of my leg. My partner claims I just rubbed it against the side of the hole, and the old railroad bed roughed me up, but I prefer to think I was attacked.

Originally I thought it might be a grizzly bear, but after looking at the damage, I decided only a sabre toothe tiger could have inflicted the injuries. I'm glad to know there still are a few around. In spite of my frightful wounds, I managed to keep hunting and we scratched down a few more pheasants. I lost another one (I HATE that), but otherwise pretty normal.

We found a place to hunt ducks, but the pond was so low that we had to wade 200 yards though knee deep mud just to launch the canoe. The whole pond wasn't more that 2feet deep anywhere, but we managed to scrape a couple of gadwalls out of the sky. My partner managed to completely ignore an easy shot at snow geese, claiming that they were tundra swans (they weren't). Since he also had a tundra swan tag, boy was HIS face red! Mainly though, we didn't see all that many waterfowl except way up. After that one day, we spent our mornings moving the grain augers for our farmer friends.

Along toward the end of the week I got a 24 hour bug of some sort, and literally spent one whole day asleep. My friends came in from time to time to tell me how many they got.

Sorry about the length, but there was a lot to tell. Bubba, if you ever get a chance to hunt pheasants in South Dakota again, do it. We got a booklet of Walk-in areas which are free hunting, and which could have been useful if we didn't already have more places to hunt than we needed.

Geeze Louise, I didn't leave the bag numbers. Lessee, I got about 10 pheasants, one hungarian partridge and 2 gadwalls. I think that's right.