So I’m standing over the illegal spike buck and unwilling to take photographic evidence of the kill. I thought, ‘No, I can’t have any evidence of this deer or big trouble could erupt.’ I called Clark back, “Hey, the she was a he.”
“Oh no, it’s that spike buck I saw yesterday. I should’ve told you about him. Dang it, Quazi.” He’s taken to calling me Quasimoto from the Hunchback of Notre Dame. I have no idea why and suspect he doesn’t either. “For now just get away from it and I’ll be over with the tractor.”
Ten minutes later he arrived on foot and we inspected the shem drag stag. “Yep, it’s illegal alright.”
“What are my options?”
“Well, I can get a hatchet and we can cut the spikes off. That’s illegal if you get caught. You can just not report it and that’s illegal if you get caught. And then you can call the Game Warden and see what he wants to do. I think it’s a $50 fine and the loss of the deer. You think about it while we get the tractor.”
In the meantime we gutted the deer and drained off the blood. Not a pretty sight, my blushing blogoiters. I held its heart in my hand briefly. It was larger than my grip. All sorts of organs and shapes huddled in a steaming pile. “The buffet is now open, Coyotes.”
We slogged slowly back to the house and the outbuilding that overhangs the tractor. No rush. We had some coffee and I decided to call the Game Warden. Clark was sure the spikes were five inches. I was sure they were three. Off we went with the tractor to retrieve the carcass. I measured the spikes with a dollar bill, which I know is six inches long. Exactly half way up the bill the spikes ended. Clark was unimpressed. “It’s illegal, Quazi.”
I read the hunting manual about Mistake Kills and figured that was what I had on my hands. The fine is only $25 and the loss of the carcass. I thought that was fair, so I called. It was around 9:30 by now and Officer Dustin Bender said he’d be by the house at noon. Okay. We left the deer in the front yard near the road.
The house/cabin is being remodeled– new roof, siding, an added bedroom, porch, laundry room. Plus new windows and cabinets. Around the perimeter was a mess of roofing pieces, soffit cuts, vinyl siding pieces, and various other pieces of construction waste. For an hour and a half we gathered up the pieces and sorted them into aluminum and scrap metal and burnable junk. The difference was amazing. Suddenly it looked like someone actually lived there.
We threw down on lunch– pork loin, sweet potato, applesauce, and cheese. Good grub for hunter gatherers like us. At exactly noon the Conservation Officer arrived and proceeded to back up in order to load my deer. As he opened his truck door I could see he was all ready to write up the citation. I said, “Hey, uh, before you write that citation, would you mind measuring the spikes on the deer. We measured three inches. “Sure”, he replied and took out an official looking metal rule. “Three inches on the money. HMMM.”
I looked at him. Clark looked at me. I looked at Clark. Officer Bender looked at the deer and then at us, looking at him. “Tell you what, fellas. Since you called us and you’re trying to do the right thing, we’ll just call this an antlerless deer. You put your doe tag on it and keep it. Okay?”
“Alriiiiight!” I smiled. “Now I can feel good about the shot. I hit him at about 50 yards but its ears were bigger than its spikes.”
“Oh yeah, I know what you mean. Honest mistake. No problem. You guys have a good day.” And away he went. I was tickled.
“Well, let’s get butchering”, I offered. Clark brought the tractor back out of the shed. As he had put it away earlier he’d said, “If I put it away then the Game Warden will surely let you keep the carcass.” He was wrong about the spikes but right about the tractor parking.
Now this is grisly stuff, my blog puffs. If you have a weak stomach or like to hug puppies, you should walk away from the monitor now. If you are still reading, then you have given implied consent from here on. We wrapped a chain around the neck of the young buck and hoisted the carcass into the air while attached to the tractor bucket. Not a pretty picture, let me assure you. But it gets worse. Clark gathered up the knives and hacksaw for the butchering and we began the brutal and ugly process. A psychic switch is thrown to stay task focused and not relational with this creature.
“Cut the legs off, Quazi.” I complied and put them in a bag for my dog Johnny.
We cut the fur around its neck and pulled down while cutting the thin membrane between muscles and fur coat. The neck is dozens of maroon muscles that allow the animal to turn its head and nod and shake. I focused on muscles and not on the entire entity. Never looking at the innocent and beautiful face.
Eventually we had peeled all the skin off, leaving a mass of drying flesh hanging from a chain. Clark lowered the bucket and we began cutting out the backstrap muscles that run along the spine. Those are prime cuts because they are not heavy duty muscles, therefore they are tender. Then we cut off each shoulder, which was remarkably easy to accomplish.
The carcass was disappearing quickly as Clark sawed the rump away from the rest of the spine and rib cage. I was supposed the catch it, but I did not. The rump fell onto the gravel and dirt beneath us. “Tenderizer” I justified.
In an hour we were cleaned up and had venison where a young buck had been. This was a clear example that the sum of the parts is not equal to the whole. The buck has been separated from his life force, then his guts, then his other parts. But he did not die in vain. He died in Warfordsburg.