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Three score and ten or more

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When I was just a little bitty—Well maybe not SO little.

I grew up loving the out of doors.  By my 12th birthday, I was a good dry-fly fisherman, and by the time I was in high school, I was pretty good at duck hunting, and along about that same time I had killed a couple of geese. 

I had developed – or been taught by someone—a pretty good way of hunting waterfowl that had nothing to do with water.  On two sides of Pocatello, Idaho, where I lived, there were, at the sides of the mountains that surrounded the town, what we called  benches, high flat lands above the town but below the actual mountain sides.  By the time I was in high school, the “west bench” was pretty well being developed for housing, but the “east bench” except for that part close to the college, was mostly farm land or sage brush semi desert.  That which was farm land was pretty much occupied by “dry farm” wheat.

The benches weren’t flat, but sloped downward from the mountain side toward the city.  My waterfowl hunting ground extended above Pocatello creek toward, what is now, Highland High School and a lot of luxury homes.  It was grain fields where the wheat was harvested fairly late in the fall, and when the first snow fell, usually in October or early November, the ducks and geese would land to feed on the grain fields.  My hunting technique was to go up to the mountain edge dressed all in white parka and pants (like you see in movies about military ski patrols).  Cradling my shotgun (actually my dad’s shotgun) I would just squat down a push off over the snow on my skis drifting slowly down though the point where the birds were feeding.  I one didn’t make any noise and were moving slowly, it didn’t seem to bother the birds much, they were busy scarfing down the leftover grain in the field. 

It was regarded as bad sportsmanship to shoot a “sitting” duck or goose, so, when you were in their “midst” you would just stand up quickly scaring them into flight.  If you were ready at that time you could get off two or three shots while they were flying very close to you.  The disadvantage of this process is that when a bunch of ducks or geese take off suddenly in flight, it can make enough noise or confusion that it will scare the “peewaddin” right out of you but after one or two flights you get used to it.  I didn’t diminish the  bird population a lot, but I got four or five ducks and a goose or two about every year for two or three years.

Of course the experienced duck hunters with retrievers etc. would build blinds either at the edge of the grain fields or down on the flatlands at the edge of the Portneuf river or the American Falls reservoir, but that required sitting in the quietly in the cold for awhile waiting for the bird flights to come in.

It was okay to hunt ducks on a natural grain field, but one didn’t want to be caught “baiting” them by scattering grain near your blind.  The game wardens were strict about that.

I didn’t hunt much deer, partly because I didn’t know much about how to do it and didn’t have a rifle.  After I started working full time at the railroad or the concrete plant in the summer I saved up my pennies to buy a real rifle.   I bought one called a 300 Savage, and it was one of the pretties things I had ever seen.  One of my friends taught me to “sight it in” and sometime (I am not exactly sure which year it was, my junior or senior year, I think) thereafter I went deer hunting (by myself, which was stupid) up near an area called “Cherry Springs”.

Now, if you think the  game wardens were fussy about “baiting: birds, they were almost fanatic about “baiting” deer.  (scattering ears of dry corn in an area etc.) and the “word” was that they would take away your rifle and actually throw you in jail for awhile if you were caught doing that..   It didn’t even occur to me.  All I knew was that if you could find a deer trail (they seemed to travel like people, using much the same routes) and you could get the high ground around it, you could, if patient, wait for a deer to come along, or, if you were good, and downwind, you could follow the trail to water or a place where deer rested.  (This was the propaganda I heard.  I didn’t actually do enough deer hunting to try these processes out.)

I went up to Cherry Springs road, parked my car and walked till I was about a mile above it, and was following a small stream and looking for “sign”.  I had a tall row of choke-cherry bushes on my left and a rise on my right when I turned a corner, and there, really near to me was a young buck (Don’t you be shooting no does in Idaho back then).  I stopped breathing and turned slowly toward the deer, (who seemed to be ignoring me) and, just as I got my new rifle to my shoulder, I heard (or sensed) two shots behind me and the choke cherry bush at my side or back seemed to explode.  I was suddenly aware that someone behind me could see the deer’s head above the bushes and was shooting through the bushes for a body shot on the deer.  I was also aware that I was covered in blood down my front, and though I hadn’t felt a shot, I was sure I had been hit.   I dropped to the ground, turned a let loose two or three shots  back in the way where the previous shots had come.  Suddenly, I became aware also that if I hit anyone with those shots, I would probably spend the next several years in prison so I stopped shooting, and hugged the ground for awhile.  I then began to shout (and I have a good shouting voice) and walked around the bushes to see if I had killed anyone.  There was no sign of anyone around so I walked back to see if the deer had been hit.  There was now sign of blood up where he had been standing, and then I began to examine myself to see where all the blood  was coming from.  I found a two inch piece of choke cherry branch sticking through my earlobe, and a little bit into my neck.  It was something like a major sloppy  job of ear piercing.  I removed the stick, applied pressure to my ear with a part of my jacket, walked back to my car and drove home.  The next morning, I put an ad in the paper and sold my rifle (actually at a small profit) and never even thought of going deer hunting for several years (actually until after I was married when I went hunting with some of my wife’s relatives—which is a story in itself that I will have to tell you folks sometime)

The strange thing is, that in Georgia, at this time, their are so many deer, that they recommend doe hunting, and you are allowed several does a year, but only one buck.  They hunt with dogs, and a good deer hound fetches a pretty price, and you can buy bait, (called deer corn, in 100 pound bags) and equipment  for baiting (pictures follow) and with all this, I think more deer are killed by cars than by hunters.)

Piles of "deer corn" for baiting, at Wal Mart 

Bags of deer corn for Baiting at Wal Mart

Deer corn feeders at Lowes

Barrel feeders for baiting at Lowes.


At 9:22 AM, Blogger Ed said...

Little did you know that shooting from skis would become an Olympic sport.

There are two many crazy people still hunting deer these days. That is why I just ask someone else to shoot a deer for me.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger Barry the Barbarian said...

Like Ed says: there are too many crazy people hunting nowadays. Some people are even pushing to make wearing orange mandatory.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger john smith said...

But sometimes it is better to become active and take the hunt to the deer, rather than waiting for the deer to come to us. Whitetail Deer Hunting


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