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.