Tuesday, January 26, 2010

If you're squeamish, don't read this.

A car in front of me hit a deer. It ran off on three legs. I marked the last place I saw it. By coincidence the driver was a boy I know. We gave the deer some time to expire or at least weaken, then set off to spoor it.

Quickly found where it had lain down, thrashed around and bled quite a bit. Then spent two hours and covered about two miles trying to puzzle out where it had gone from there. Lost the trail several times among other tracks, but by following individual trails for a distance we were always eventually able to find a speck of blood, or a spot where it had fallen, or where it had knocked off the brittle lower branches of pines. (Healthy deer are much more careful than that.)

At one point we came to someone's back yard, and the fellow was out on his deck with a pair of binoculars. I called to him, told him what we were doing, and asked if we could cross his yard. He told us that he had just seen the deer and that it looked fine, but that we could follow it if we liked. We almost quit at that point, but in retrospect I'm glad we persevered. I don't think he was looking at the same deer.

Happened across some other interesting tales in the snow, including a spot where coyotes had recently eaten another deer. The life-and-death dramas that happen every night in the woods are a lot more visible this time of year.

We knew we were getting close when we started finding spots of blood that hadn't frozen yet. The tracks started up a steep rise, and we came to a spot where the deer had fallen, then turned to go off at a downhill angle. I looked back at my young friend to tell him that it probably wasn't far ahead of us now, and realized with a start that I was looking right at it. It had fallen again, only about ten yards away. As soon as we made eye contact, it jumped up scrambling. I drew the pistol I usually carry for personal defense and fired four rounds. Ever see those videos of cops-and-robbers emptying their pistols at each other across the hood of a car without hitting anything? I've been to a number of shooting schools - military, law enforcement and civilian - and I practice and requalify regularly. But only one of my four shots connected. Handguns are far more difficult than shoulder arms to shoot well when the adrenaline is flowing. I was a good lesson for me.

Anyway, one hit was enough.

Turned out to be a good-sized doe with a compound fracture of it's right hind leg, and some massive contusions in several places.

Curious about how the bullet had performed, I went through the gut pile pretty thoroughly. Never found it, but I did find a tiny fetus.

By then we were tired and had no idea where we were. We didn't want to backtrack all the way to where we had started. We could hear occasional traffic, and dragged the deer down to that road. Once we got our bearings, we were surprised at how far we'd gone.

Finally consolidated boy, dented car and deer at his parent's house. His mother cooked the heart for us with onions and garlic, and his father sent me home with the backstraps, some home-made beer, and eggs from their henhouse.

The kid's an aspiring hunter. Too bad he got his first deer with a Toyota instead of a Winchester, but at least he learned some things about tracking, field-dressing and butchering.

It was a very satisfying experience to stay on those tracks like hungry wolves to a successful conclusion.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I can't help but picture this (aside from taking the deer with a vehicle) all as something that happened in a bygone age. It's nice to know it's still happening. I loved the part where the boy's mom cooked the heart for you fellas!

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

Great writing, good to hear you persevered and did the right thing by the deer.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for a fine story Oblio. I'm sure you gave the lad a firm foundation of ethics that day!

Bitmap said...

Can't legally keep road kill in my state.

Anonymous said...

Awesome respect. Thanks for taking the time to share this great story/event. Like the others have posted, way to do the right thing by the dear and to show the boy proper ethics.