Friday, June 6, 2014

The Deer Suit

I have written several times that I no longer hunt.  My body just can’t do it any more, but that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it.  One of the things I often think about is my last deer hunt.

It was a simple affair in the mountains above San Bernardino, California many years ago.  I had two tags, one for bear and one for deer, and I had set up a small camp where I could spend a few days if I found it necessary to stay that long.

I arrived in the late afternoon to set up my camp, and later I grabbed my rifle to do some exploring.  I walked around for a few hours, returned to camp, ate dinner, and crawled into my sleeping bag.  By 6:30am the following morning, I was about a mile from my camp looking for deer.  A bear would be bonus, but even if I saw one, I don’t believe I would have taken it.

When the light became bright enough to distinguish the details of my surroundings, I slowly shifted my position for a better look around me.  There was a small clearing a few yards away, and just beyond that was a small flowing stream.  I waited.  And waited.

By late morning, I gave up and moved a few hundred yards uphill and a few hundred yards to the east.  From this position I could see down a long brushy slope to a grove of trees about 250 yards away.  It was a good spot, but the weather was a little warm, so I guessed the deer wouldn’t be moving around for another few hours.  I dug my lunch out of my pack and enjoyed the scenery for a while before taking a nap.

I awoke about 4pm to the faint sound of cracking twigs.  It wasn’t a big noise, but it was not the sound of a branch falling from a tree.  It was the sound of something being stepped upon, and I started searching for the point of origin.

I used my field glasses to examine the landscape around me, and I saw some movement in the shrubs about 200 to 220 yards downhill near the trees.  I focused in as sharp as I could with those 4x glasses, but I just could not tell with certainty what it was that was moving about.  I could tell from the movement of the vegetation that it was big.

I watched it for about 10 minutes before I could finally see a set of antlers moving about.  At first I thought it was just some twigs, but they were closely matched and moving in tandem.  It had to be antlers.

I exchanged the field glasses for my 30-06 and watched the movement through the scope just waiting for a clear shot.  After a few minutes the antlers began to sway side to side, and then they turned around as though the deer’s head was spinning 360 degrees.  Something wasn’t right.

I zoomed my scope to its full 10 power and looked as closely as I could at the deer.  Now I was really confused.  No deer I had ever seen was the golden color of dyed buckskin leather.  I made sure the safety was in place on the rifle, and exchanged it for the field glasses again.  I watched for maybe 15 minutes before the deer stood up on its hind legs, reached up with its front legs and pulled off its head revealing a man with a beard bushier than my own.

What was he thinking?  If I had possessed less patience and had decided to go ahead and harvest the deer I was seeing, the man could have been severely injured or dead.  I could go on a rant for many pages here, but I won’t.  I’ll just say that dressing up in a deer suit and running about in front of other hunters during deer season isn’t the smartest thing I have ever witnessed.

I immediately returned to my camp, loaded everything into my car and drove home.  I’ve never hunted since.

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