This week is deer season in Eastern Washington. I’m staying at my folks place in Pateros. I know none of you know where the hell Pateros is, so here is the best I can do to explain… it’s roughly halfway between the middle of nowhere and BFE. And it’s beautiful!
I took the hunter’s safety course when I was in middle school, I think I was 14 or so. That’s about the same year I got my 30-30. I really wanted a 30-30 because of my infatuation with the funny outdoorsy stories of Patrick F. McManus. He & ol’ Retch had some good times huntin & fishin an generally redneck engineering in the backwoods of Idaho. I became obsessed with deer hunting after reading all I could get my hands on of these books.
After passing the course and getting my first hunting license and deer/elk/bear/cougar tag, (ya never know what ya might run into out there) I go with my dad and uncle into high country on horseback. We have a canvas wall tent with a little woodstove, enough canned beans and potatoes to survive a week, and fishing tackle to supplement our diet. We set up camp and were feeling pretty good about ourselves! It almost looked like we knew what we were doing.
The first morning we hike to the top of the closest peak. There’s a lot of open space to look at. I’m still green, so I am not surprised that the deer are tough to see. Turns out, the deer were green too, they didn’t we were there to harvest them! Shrews knew we were there though! Every time the beans hit the stove, the shrews bounced in and out of our wood pile trying to figure out how to steal our meal. Later that night I discovered the reason behind a mummy style sleeping bag, not for the cold so much, but to keep a barrier between your forehead and these little mice-like terrorists.
No luck on this trip, that’s why it’s called hunting not killing, right?
By high school I’ve become dedicated to wrestling. Wrestling season is smack dab in the way of deer season, and I was way better at wrestling! I took a few years off to kill on the mats instead.
After the wrestling career, I was able to spend the time getting back to the woods. Now most folks go out on a serious mission, filling that freezer. I however, have a different approach; I really enjoy the crisp air and the miles and miles of hiking through trails and sometimes not so much trails. I enjoy picking a peak and hiking to it, then taking in that view from the top. It’s relaxing to hike up and up all morning and then head down through the afternoon, there’s usually a cold one waiting back at the rig. I get a sense of satisfaction after these days of vigorous exercise fueled by quaker oats bars and beef jerky. “That’s what bad hunters always say!”
Just before I started a new job I took a week extra to spend it hiking with weapons with the old man. Dad had a rustic cabin in the woods in Twisp. (It’s a town 40 miles north of that spot that’s between middle of nowhere and BFE) Around the cabin there’s plenty of deer, mostly Mule Deer but there are some Whitetail around as well. We decide to scope out the same field and surrounding hills for a few afternoons in a row. Dad would hike up the west side hill, I hiked the east. Each night we’d meet in the field and report what we saw out there. This valley was really part of the driveway to the cabin, we walked from the wood stove to the stalking grounds. One night, Dad decides we oughta hunt the lower valley. We hop into my truck to head down. I let him out near the bottom of the area we have been hunting, I was going to drive all the way to the main road and hike up, about 3 miles. I get around the first turn when I see three whitetail standing on the spot Dad has been sitting the last few afternoons. Like exactly on the spot! I stop the truck and scope the deer. There’s a 3 point buck in the middle of two does. I chamber a round. My truck door is open and the window is rolled down, I have the perfect stand to steady the rifle and wait for the clear shot. A few moments pass and the deer are still clumped together. I reach over to the Clarion deck and turn up the Zepplin disc I have playing. Robert Plant screams enough to make the doe on the left to walk right. She clears a textbook broad side view of the buck. BOOM. The three of them start to dart up the hill. I’m sure my aim is true, but with all the adrenalin, it looks like I must’ve missed. Then the buck stops. He turns downhill. I do my best Doc Holliday and work that lever action as quick as I know how, scope is full of the other side of the buck. BOOM! He collapsed. He is about 130 yards up the hill from me, and I make it there in roughly 3 seconds. The shot was perfect, the kill was quick, and I see Dad running down the road.
“Could you pull my truck off the driveway and turn it off?”
I won’t go into the field dressing, but at that moment I do believe I was closest I’ve ever been to a spiritual nirvana. Connected to nature in a way that is next level, third eye, chakras, connected to God, whatever you want to call it, I was there. I was 21 years old, and was on cloud 9.
Every Hunt Since:
That story was my glory days. I still hike with weapons occasionally, but now my stories include a time I brought a pint of bourbon and a buddy and puked all over the hillside…
Also, did you know that there are tiny cactus growing in the Coulee hills? I was out hiking on opening weekend along with everyone with a gun and a truck. Seeing deer was not an issue on this trip, you did need a slo-mo camera in order to see points though! There were enough people walking around stirring up every critter in the county, so after getting to a highpoint on a ridge, I sit down for water. At first I thought I sat on a hornets nest. I got a bunch of stings in my left butt cheek. I still have my gloves on and I slam my hands down to lift myself up and prepare to bolt away from the nest. Once my hand was stung also I realized this ain’t bees. Pulling off the glove revealed hundreds of tiny spines that looked like thick red hairs. I saw my hand, I thought about my ass. Oh dear, what kind of night am I in for?
The dude glassing from the other side of the hillside is telling a different story to his buddies, I mean there’s a dude with a rifle dancing and stripping just below the winter wheat cut!!!
Another year I went with my buddy and his family over to a little tiny one horse po-dunk town about an hour outside of civilization. There was one bar/restaurant that sold ammo and those red pickled eggs next to the Redman pouches and Hustler Magazines that are a decade old. Yes, in fact I did write the visitors guide just now! We camp in the town park, across the street from that fine establishment. The park has no playground, no swings, no pull up bars, it does have game racks to hang your success stories from for all to see. I brought my pup tent, it has almost enough room to keep my sleeping bag dry in case of rain. Boy did the guys enjoy watching me slither backwards into this thing! It’s been well over 10 years and Pat still gives me shit. The hunting was great here. Not as crowded, plenty of hiking room, and then there’s the after party at the fine establishment! I ordered an I.P.A. Both of the bartender’s teeth were in great shape. She got a good laugh at that one. I never saw the deer that trip either. Maybe I need to invest in some Deer Goggles!
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