Archive for November 22nd, 2014

CRAZY MOUNTAINS – Part 4

From: Meridian, ID:

(This post is the fourth in a series. If you wish to read the story in proper chronological order, start with the post for November 19, 2014.)

So Wednesday morning dawned and the morning routine goes smoothly. We have two deer tags remaining to be filled – Jerry’s and mine – and four elk tags to be used (hopefully). I don’t remember for sure what George fixed for breakfast…I think it was just regular eggs to order, bacon, coffee, and toast. Ho hum! Isn’t it amazing how quickly the human animal can be spoiled into boredom?

(Porch hangin' with Jason, Jerry, Erik, Carl, and Greg.)

(Porch hangin’ with Jason, Jerry, Erik, Carl, and Greg.)

As usual, we spent the evening before with a combination of “hanging out” on the porch and more “hanging out” in the living room, made toasty by the wonderful wood stove in the corner. (I’m not sure why we call it a “wood stove;” I’m pretty sure it’s actually made of cast iron.) Part of the attraction of the porch, no matter the temperature, is that there are two or three smokers in our group…and the very last thing we would think of doing would be to light up inside someone’s house. The other attraction found on the porch is the beer keg. As of Tuesday night, we were still on the first one, although by then it was getting close to empty. No worries, though…the second one awaits.

(Hangin' in the living room, with Greg, Jerry, and Erik.)

(Hangin’ in the living room, with Greg, Jerry, and Erik.)

Until a few years ago, the wood-burning stoves – one in the living room and the kitchen cook stove – were the only source of inside heat, and during the span of a week in November, we could go through quite a large portion of that wood you see stacked on the porch. Now, since Deanna had electric power run to the cabin, there are electric wall heaters that take care of most of the interior heating. If nothing else, it cuts down on the time required to replace the wood used from the porch stacks.

As Jerry, Erik and I ride down towards the lower coulees again, we still couldn’t help stopping to glass the several big bucks we saw along the way…all safely rooted on property on which we cannot hunt. (Sometimes, honestly, I think they actually know the property lines.) After checking out a couple of our favorite spots with no sightings, we decided to take a look at the eastern beginnings of Chicken Creek Coulee. Walking the southern rim of the coulee gives one a great view into the bottom, where the creek meanders through swamp grass and, in places, a few scrub trees. Suddenly, I made out three deer lying in the tall grass and sagebrush about halfway down the south-facing slope, enjoying the warmth of the sun…and one was a buck. I was a bit disappointed to see in an instant that he was not a four-point, but he was a fairly large-bodied deer, with a nice, wide three-point rack. I could see that he “made me” right away, and as Erik wheeled up behind me in the pickup, it seemed as though the buck was curious about that, too.

(Bud and his Montana mule deer.)

(Bud and his Montana mule deer.)

But despite the activity in his field of view, neither he nor the two doe near him chose to move. My pet theory about such behavior is that when you come upon a deer standing or lying motionless, its instinct is to assume it is invisible…as it quite often is, or might as well be. In other words, remaining motionless is quite often its best protection. Unfortunately for this fellow, that instinct was the wrong choice in this instance. As soon as I got myself steady, and in a fairly comfortable position, I shot him. Jerry later lasered the distance at 170 yards, downhill. Not a fantastic bit of shooting, but I was happy with it. There’s always a bit more pressure when one knows there is an audience, you know. The buck never got up from his morning nap, although the two doe – and a small forked horn buck I hadn’t seen – quickly lit out down the coulee while the shot was still echoing in their ears.

(I was just pretending to be exhausted by the climb out of the coulee behind us.)

(I was just pretending to be exhausted by the climb out of the coulee behind us.)

I knew there was no convenient pickup access to the north rim of the coulee, where we could have gotten to within 20 yards of the buck. That meant we were going to have to get him first down his side of the gulley to the creek, and then back up the higher southern side. That operation sounded to all three of us like a job for, you guessed it…”mule tape!” Besides, Greg had earlier insisted that when/if I got a deer down, I was to call him to field dress it and haul it to a place that a pickup could get to. I have to admit to some significant embarrassment that I’ve reached an age where I would ask someone else to take care of an animal I had killed, but there you have it. In the first place, Greg does a much, much better job at the work of processing a deer or an elk, and in the second place, I knew it would take me all day and most of the night to gut that deer and get him out of the coulee by myself. I should certainly mention the fact that Jerry offered to get started on the field dressing, but again, Greg and the “boys” had happily offered…and through the magic of Garmin CB radio (and/or cell phones), they were already on their way. It’s likely that Erik, with plenty of supervision from Jerry and me, could have carried the pieces of a chopped up deer out of the coulee and up to the stubble field where the pickup awaited, but again, it would have taken him many trips. I suggested we just wait for Greg, Carl and Jason…and the mule tape.

(In addition to helping with the uphill drag, Carl saved the day, afterwards, with some cold Hefe!)

(In addition to helping with the uphill drag, Carl saved the day, afterwards, with some cold Hefe!)

And the beer! Can’t forget the celebratory bottle of Hefe! The two-pickup, “snatch block” system of deer retrieval by mule tape worked perfectly, again. Come to think of it, with the stubble field stretching out south of the coulee, I guess we could have just pulled it straight away uphill, but we had all become so comfortable with the system we had already used, we just naturally set up for repeating it.

(Four Montana Mulies.)

(Four Montana Mulies.)

Once we were all back at the cabin, Greg, Carl, and Jason wanted no interference with the hanging, skinning, quartering process. And because they got none, everything went smoothly. I do sort of miss the days when we kept all the whole deer hanging together…it just seemed to look more cool! Know what I mean? I mean more cool than a bunch of smaller bags, holding one or two quarters each. Not that a “meat curtain,” as we’ve taken to calling it, isn’t cool…I just think hanging with the antlers still attached is, somehow, cooler.

(The "meat pole" in November, 2012.)

(The “meat pole” in November, 2012.)

So here’s a picture of our four deer in 2012, all hanging from the meat pole. What do you think? Ah, well, it doesn’t really matter, I guess. Handling the quarters is a lot easier than handling a complete carcass…and, I suspect, quite a bit cheaper at the meat cutter’s shop. I’m sure the “boys” will continue getting better at it, although that doesn’t seem possible while I’m watching them.

At this point, four of us in the party would have only one full day left in Big Sky Country. Greg, Carl, and Jason would stick it out until Saturday…and they would be rewarded for doing so. Read all about it in the next Blather. Bud