Blacktail Clyde Remains at Large…

…but an accomplice has been ‘apprehended.’ Went out again yesterday morning and sat in the cold all day without luck. Walked the property a bit, but the deer didn’t show until almost literally the moment it was too dark to shoot them.

Deer blind… with tomatoes!

I slept in the van last night, which was OK but I woke with a blinding migraine. I don’t get them often anymore, and this one was making up for lost time. I spent the first hour I was awake praying I’d be able to move enough to open the door if I needed to puke. Realizing that I’d left my medication in my please-don’t-shoot-me-vest on the porch, I eventually staggered over that way about ten am. I don’t make my best decisions when I have a migraine, and I grabbed the Abilene as I made my way to the porch with the morning sun driving red-hot ice-picks into my brain.

Before I could even take my medication Steve popped up, pointed at his eyes and then towards the garden and held up two fingers- two deer were on the other side of the garden! I was not excited. In fact my reaction was, ‘Oh, of course they show up NOW.’ There were a few more words involved in the sentence actually, but they aren’t fit for family consumption. Again, my mental processes were not working at a hundred percent, but adrenaline is a wonderful thing. Grabbing the vest and gun I walked around the garden, my head threatening to explode and squinting in the light.

Sure enough there were two deer under the crab-apple tree about twenty yards away, a small one and a larger one. I peered at them, trying to see which, if either of them, was my target. After a minute the smaller one, a doe, looked at me with a bizarre blood-red grin. I was a bit taken aback until I realized she had a whole apple in her mouth. OK, not a psycho demon-deer. Good to know. The other one had something on his head, so I figured he must be Clyde. Bigger than I thought, but I’d only seen photos of him.

He was mostly behind the doe, but I did have a nice front-quarter shot. If I’d been at my best I’d have gone for a head-shot, but I was aware I was not so I took a shoulder-shot. The 270gr Keith bullet took him square on the joint and he almost went down, He staggered in a half circle which took him clear of the doe, and gave me a rear quartering shot. He was going down, but I wanted to speed things along before pain bled through his shock. I made a heart-shot and he dropped.

Weirdly the doe was still standing there trying to figure out what was going on. I actually walked past her to get to the downed buck and put a third bullet through his skull. Not necessary, but cartridges are cheap and I didn’t want him to suffer. The doe didn’t actually take off until after the third shot, and then only because Steve was running up.

The deer was not Clyde. Clyde is a spike, and while this fellow had the nubs there was no antler showing. Befuddled by pain I started cussing myself out for shooting the wrong deer. Steve reassured me, and I told him I had a migraine and needed my meds.

“No problem,” he said. “Get your meds and have a seat; he’ll keep.” Given that it was 33 degrees I figured he was right and went to the porch and had a seat, unloaded the gun and took my meds. Steve brought me coffee, and I sipped that to speed things along. After an hour or so I was sure I wasn’t going to puke, so Steve got his pickup truck and drove over as close as he could get, and we manhandled ‘Not-Clyde’ into the bed. I cut the scent-glands off, washed my hands with hand sanitizer and Steve gutted the deer. I helped with handling and steadying the deer.

I used two knives processing the deer- the hand-made hunter I’d just finished and an old case slip-joint with a spey-blade. The Case used to be a Trapper, but the clip-point blade had broken so I got it cheap. I took it apart, removed the broken blade, it’s spring and the center-liner and reassembled it as a single-blade knife. The hunting-knife has a honed zero-edge, the Case has a fine edge with some tooth, which works better for me for caping.

When Steve started skinning I joined in. With two of us working we finished in short order, and he laid the skin out in the sunlight. They’ll keep the hide and process it; I don’t have the knowledge or inclination to do it myself. With that done we drove around front, filled a tub with cold water to rinse our hands and knives as we worked and set to butchering. After removing the skirt-meat we separated the spine at the base of the rib-cage. He took the top, I took the bottom and in about an hour we had everything cut down into manageable portions, bagged and in the cooler.

Some lessons here- I had no business shooting that deer. I wasn’t drunk, but I was impaired; neither my vision nor my thought processes were up to snuff. I have a rule (Linda-imposed) that I don’t work in the shop when I have a migraine; the disaster-factor is not worth it, and the same goes double for hunting. It had never occurred to me that I would wake up on a hunt with a migraine and immediately need to shoot something, so I didn’t have a rule. When confronted with deer first-thing I didn’t have the sense to leave be. I have that rule now- no shooting with a migraine.

I also violated my Prime Directive for hunting- you do not shoot unless you’re sure what you are shooting at. Ever. Period. I’ve passed up a half-dozen shots over the last few years because I wasn’t absolutely certain what my target was, and today I didn’t. I was fairly sure, but I was impaired and should not have even been holding the gun. It worked out OK this time, but that was more luck than judgement.

Good lessons- the chest rig works a treat; I am old and fat with a bad lower back. Carrying a big gun like that on my hip all day for several days would have screwed up me up royally. With the chest rig it was no problem.

Second- even impaired there was no issue with shot placement. The first shot broke the joint exactly as it was supposed to, and the second shot clipped the bottom of the heart and severed the aorta. Good to know if I absolutely have to I can shoot with a migraine. I’m kinda’ proud of those shots even if I should never have put myself in a position to take them.

Third- all three shots were pass-throughs, which is fine, but I think next time I’m going to use a hollow-point. Black-tails aren’t all that big, and a hollow-point might have done enough extra damage to have dropped him clean with the first shot.

So, Clyde remains at large and with a one-deer limit someone else will have to shoot him. But for all the issues with this hunt there is one less crop-munching bastard preying on the defenseless vegitation, so that’s all to the good. But next time if I get a migraine I am down-checked until it’s gone.

The other effect of the migraine was that I felt no post-successful-hunt elation. I was just unhappy with myself for shooting while impaired and glad I didn’t screw it up. When dismantling the deer and seeing the effect of my bullets I felt the satisfaction of a job well done, but for taking my first deer in thirty years and my first ever with a handgun I was hoping for a more satisfying experience. I mean, the only thing this ‘hunt’ challenged was my patience and judgement. Well, one out of two isn’t bad. Anyway this time was more about pest-control than hunting, so it worked fine on that level.

No, there is no ‘Trophy Pic.’ I’ve never done them and saw no reason to start now. No judgement- I actually enjoy seeing other folks pictures, I just find the idea of doing one myself repellent. Just a weird quirk, I guess.

After arriving home Linda and I washed, divided and sorted the meat, bagged and labelled it and got it into the chest freezer (which is now at capacity!) There’s a three-pound roast soaking in brine, and tomorrow it will going into the Sous Vide with herbs and spices for 36 hours at 135 degrees, after which we’ll sear it under the broiler. I’ll let you know how it comes out.

Michael Tinker Pearce, 25 October 2020

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