OK, full disclosure, this was not my first hunt this season. Given that it included a stupid, exhausting, ultimately futile slog through the pucker-brush that culminated in losing my new hunting knife and wrenching my back we will draw the curtains of charity across that sorry day. Call it the ‘Beta test.’
Since I had decided I would be using my U.S.Arms Abilene .44 magnum revolver as my weapon of choice for this year’s hunt I needed a good way to carry it. Large holsters tend to interfere with things like sitting in a blind and can be difficult to access while sitting I opted to construct a chest-rig; it’s handy, comfortable and doesn’t interfere with things like sitting. It also fits under an open jacket or hunting-vest, providing some protection for the gun and holster.
Given that I lost the hunting knife I had just made for myself (I virtually never have the opportunity to make any sort of knife for myself) I naturally needed another, and took some time while my back healed to build one.
With that done and my back reasonably healed I headed for the Happy Hunting Grounds. A friend of mine has 50-some acres near Pe El Washington, only a couple hours away. It is surrounded by a five-foot wire-grid fence all around and is prominently posted ‘No Hunting.’ It has a few acres of pasture, where she keeps a horse and a modest herd of goats, a stream and a bit of marsh, woods and a lot of dense brush.
It also has Blacktail deer. Rather a lot of them, and they cross the fences back and forth onto state land. There’s also a Black Bear, but he keeps to himself and they leave him alone. The plan was to build a blind overlooking the pasture and another along the top-line of the property.
The driveway traverses open fields; the HHG is up on the hillside a bit, which has been useful when the Chehalis River floods. It then crosses the Willapa Trail, an old railroad embankment turned into a trail that runs sixty miles from Chehalis to Pe El. This was also useful during the flooding, as it is just elevated enough that they could ride a horse into town when needed.
I was driving in, going slowly on the gravel drive, I spotted a flash of movement by the trail. I immediately thought, ‘A deer!’ then mentally chastised myself for being buck-crazy. Of course it wasn’t a… oh wait, it was a deer! It was a doe, and she moved up the trail a bit from the crossing and disappeared into the bushes on the far side of the trail. Hopefully a good omen…
As I pulled in and parked Steve, the property owner’s roommate, approached and informed me he’d just walked down to the mailbox and back and had seen deer in the lower pasture, not far from where I’d seen the doe. They weren’t there by the time I drove in, so they had likely retreated into the pucker-brush.
I consulted with JoAnne, the property owner, about placing the blind overlooking the pasture and discovered something important… this wasn’t a hunt. It was a HIT. The intended victim? A spike-buck who had been raiding her Currant bushes and garden. She wants him dead, because he’s a nuisance and is “too stupid to live.” This year any blacktail buck is fair game owing to a population spike, so this young deer will soon be ‘sleeping with the fishes.’ I mean the fish in my chest-freezer.
This little cuss hangs out with his sister in the lower southwest woods; we’ll call them Bonnie and Clyde for convenience. They come up along the driveway, cross south of the house and either head across to the garden to the west or raid the apple tree by the house.
Now, these deer are not shy; a few days ago Clyde was happy stripping the Currant bushes, and she had to approach within ten feet, yelling, before he sullenly deigned to move away. This punk has no respect. It is in fact common for them to come right up next to the house; the apple tree there has no apples remain below about six feet.
This being the case JoAnne suggested that rather than building a blind I could simply sit behind the tomatoes along the southern fence of the garden, and looking things over I had to agree; they make a pretty good blind, and these two delinquents will walk right past on their way to commit their nefarious deeds. She is also of the opinion that once Clyde is out of the picture his sister will realize the error of her ways and join the northern herd along the top-line and into the state property. Time will tell…
They invited me to join them for dinner, and we passed a pleasant evening on the porch and feasted on Cornish game hens, Chantrells they had harvested locally and squash from their garden, roasted with Parmesan cheese and herbs. Delicious! Eventually I retired to my van, where I was to sleep for the night. We just bought an airbed that fit nicely in the back and I brought a couple of comforters, but forgot a pillow. I learned some valuable lessons last night, chief among them being ‘Don’t fully inflate the airbed.’
I woke after a couple of hours feeling like I had been sleeping on fist-sized rocks. Lesson number two was that my pack was a lousy excuse for a pillow. Being a man of a certain age I was desperately in need of a bathroom, which meant getting up and trekking to the house. It was about 33 degrees, and with my back feeling like I’d been beaten with a board I struggled out of my warm nest into the freezing cold to take care of business. Returning I turned on the van and ran the heater until I was toasty-warm. I settled back in in a seemingly comfortable position and drifted off. Two hours later it was ‘rinse and repeat.’ Eventually I let some air out of the bed, which was better but altogether it was a miserable night.
I woke up around dawn and it was 36 degrees and foggy. JoAnne, God bless her, had coffee waiting. After some coffee and breakfast of Linda’s home-made sourdough and some artichoke/Jalapeno spread I threw on my ‘please-don’t-shoot-me-orange’ vest and had a seat behind the tomatoes. As the hours passed the fog burned off and things warmed up. Bonnie and Clyde never showed. They usually come along between ten and eleven, but not that day.
Mid-afternoon I took a break, walked down the driveway looking into their usual haunts, but no luck. I deflated the air mattress, rearranged the interior of the van, deciding I’d rather sleep in in one of the seats than try to make the mattress work.
I spent a couple more hours in the blind after, but the deer never showed. With the prospect of a storm blowing in the next day and a powerful desire to visit my wife and take a shower I headed home… knowing full-well that if the storm didn’t blow in on schedule the deer would show up while I wasn’t there.
So of course they did.
I’ll be headed down in the morning for another go, and will be out over the weekend, properly showered and shaved and well rested.
There are bigger, more impressive bucks running the top-line, and odds are if I built a blind up there and was in it at first light I’d bag one. That’s been a thing that worked in the past and likely would work again. But they’re up there doing deer stuff; this pair is making a nuisance of themselves, eating JoAnne’s food and frankly being a bother, so unimpressive or not, Clyde it is.
Driving out I caught a glimpse of a black shape in the brush between the upper and lower pastures, which I assumed was a stump or suchlike. I looked again to make sure, and it was moving; pretty definitely the local bear. Not big as such things go, but with JoAnne’s goats running in those pastures it might be a thing to keep an eye on.
I’ll let you know how it goes, and if you’re out hunting also I wish you well.
Michael Tinker Pearce, 23 October 2020
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