183. GWH Leaveth

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.

182. The Great White Hunter Cometh

Tomorrow night I return to the woods in pursuit of the venison I did not shoot last year due to a pair of small oversights– no bullet in the chamber and no doe tag. This year I am fully ready to slay a buck and a doe. I have ammo and will load in the light. I have had a year to ponder my errors, like the St. Louis Cardinals. I have my doe tag and I will not be denied again. It’s time to detach from the modern clock-driven world and re-attach to nature. So I’m packing my boots and socks and sweater and gloves. Bullets. Coffee. Okay, I’m good. A book to read in the evenings. And an attitude of reverence.

My buddy Clark got me into this business. I had been perfectly content not to hunt all my life. Then he got on me like a used vacuum cleaner salesman on an aborigine cave dweller. He persuaded me that I had to hunt or die missing one of the wonders of life. So I had to have this experience that had evaded me for 55 years. I ran the sweeper in my mental cave and had to have one. After I was successful and killed a fat doe two years ago, I became drunk with success.

Now I’m a drunk hunter with a vacuum cleaner salesman in a cabin, figuratively speaking. I have venison visions– deer approach furtively while I scope them from a tree stand 300 yards away. I site in the 10 point buck and KABOOOOOM, the 270 rifle report echoes across the hills as the buck drops. I run over the scrub and fences into the field to claim my fallen stag. Adrenaline pumps through every pore of my being as the animal’s heart ceases beating. It’s a strangely spiritual experience watching the life force leave one animal so that another may live. It’s brutal, grisly, and messy. And then it gets worse with the gutting and butchering that comes later. Through it all I want to honor the animal that has been slain. I think of the Indians and how they used all of a deer out of reverence and need. That’s not practical today. Besides, what do you do with a deer leg? My dog did enjoy the last one I gave him. But four legs? I could give them as Christmas presents to folks with dogs. “Something small and funky for your dog, Marilyn.”

We leave the carcass for the coyotes to fight over. It must be like winning the lottery for them when a huge unearned meal drops mysteriously out of the blue in the middle of their woods. Other animals that winter outside will take what they need from the carrion we leave. The life cycle continues and death plays a critical part. Birds, bears, rats, or bobcats can all drop in for a bite. I don’t think they take turns like humans at a deli counter. No, for animals it’s the quick and the dead in the woods. For humans it’s the patient and armed who survive to blog about it all.

And blog I will. Compared to killing wild animals, it’s so much more civilized to hygienically write about hunting. Like the cave men who scribbled on walls before zealous vacuum cleaner salesmen converted them to new religions. Those were the forerunners of hunting blogs. I know smart aleck archeologists claim that the artists tried to gain power over the spirit of their prey by drawing pictures on cave walls, but how silly an idea is that. Some of the scrawlings have recently been translated by hip anthropologists. One such sketch was found to translate, “Thad miss bison. He suck.” Another seemed to say simply, “OOps” as a hunter was gored by a rhinogiraffeasaurus. It has been theorized that the cave scribe was not actually a hunter. Careful handwriting analysis determined that he was one armed, apparently, and had a seizure disorder that caused him to fall into the fire pit frequently, which is how he discovered the medium of charcoal. He was half shaman, half artist, and half ambidextrously mad. Don’t you believe a word of this.

Two days later… I have returned from the cabin in the mountains where Clark resides sometimes. Day one was not a good time for the GWH. I saw only one deer the entire day, and I was out from 5:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. with a break for lunch. As dusk was coming over the ridge, a large doe dashed across the dirt road I was walking down. I drew up on her but decided not to pull the trigger since I could not get a good angle on her left shoulder. Twelve hours of nothing does not prepare you for the five second rush that is rifle hunting. I was cold, surprised, and on foot. Not the best combination for success.

Meanwhile Clark was farther down the road, deeper in the woods. He had only seen three deer all day, and those were in the last hour. He showed me his tree stand and suggested that I sit in it come the next morning.

So this morning I did just that. I watched the woods come to light again, like watching a very slow Polaroid picture develop from nearly total black into rusty leaves below India ink tree silhouettes that rise up to a pale blue sky streaked with early morning orange cloudstreams. The squirrels got busy in the dry leaves and made a ruckus, enough thrashing noise to be confused with the approach of deer. After a while I heard the stronger, longer thrashing that signified several deer were behind me. Unfortunately they were directly behind me, and I could not turn with my gun without spooking them. So I sat and waited for them to come to me. They played little reindeer games and left before I could get one of them in my scope.

Now I began to wonder if these would be the only deer I’d see today. I determined to take my next shot, even if it was not an ideal angle. Maybe twenty minutes later I heard a single deer treading slowly through the leaves about 50 yards over to my right. It appeared to be a decent sized single doe weaving between trees in no particular hurry. I scoped her and then waited for her to walk from behind an oak tree and into my crosshairs. When she did, I fired and down she went. ‘Well that was easy’, I thought to myself. I jumped down from the stand, reloaded just in case, and walked over to the fallen animal.

I called Clark to let him know I had one. He said I should sit tight and he’d bring the truck over at 8:00 a.m. Great.
After I hung up my phone, I began dragging the deer over for a cell phone picture, when horrors, two spindly spikes appeared between her ears!!! She was a he, a spike buck. I had an illegal deer on my hands and Lou Reed singing “Take a Walk on the Wild Side” in my brain. “Doot doot doot, dootadoot doot doot doot dootadoot doot…”

Whatever shall I do? I know, I’ll continue this blog post to #183.