From: Meridian, ID:

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

(Erik, giving his opinion of Montana hunting.)

(Erik, giving his opinion of Montana hunting.)

For Monday’s afternoon outing, we all went back to the same general area we had visited in the morning. Not only had Jason tagged a nice buck early on, we had seen a number of others that were just as good. In fact, since our arrival on Saturday afternoon, we had all seen several really big bucks…as large as almost anything we have seen in our years of hunting the area. Greg, Jason, and Carl even took to naming a few of the beasts: “Black Chest” was a large buck with very dark hair on his chest; “Baghead” was an unfortunate younger buck – albeit with a four-point rack, typical of mule deer bucks – that had managed to get a blue, plastic shopping bag entangled firmly to his antlers; “Cactus Jack” was yet another four-point mule deer, but whose antlers were still in the “velvet.” There is more than one theory about this relatively unusual oddity, but most have something to do with the amount of testosterone the deer is producing internally. A low production of the stuff, for whatever reason, will cause the “velvet” on the bucks’ antlers to remain, instead of being rubbed off on trees, or knocked off by sparring with other bucks. In fact, it may also keep the antlers from being shed, as would normally happen, and in the springtime new growth and velvet would appear over the previous years’ antlers, creating an even stranger look to the rack. The term “cactus buck” is thought to have come into use because such racks are not only “fuzzy,” like some cacti, but may also have strange, knobby, velvet-covered tines, which can also resemble some species of cacti.

At any rate, none of these three bucks managed to get himself shot by a member of our group. So of course we are hoping for their survival until next November.

(Greg with his buck. A great shot!)

(Greg with his buck. A great shot!)

George, the cook, rode down to the hunting area with Jerry and me, glad to get out of the kitchen for a couple of hours. Erik went off with his brother, Jason and Carl. Once again, as the afternoon sun was getting closer to sunset, we heard radio chatter from the “boys,” indicating that Greg had knocked down a buck in Chicken Creek Coulee, just west of the deserted ranch house. We three hustled back to the pickup and buzzed on up to where we could see the boys tramping down the northern slope of the coulee. Sure enough, they were down there, almost to the bottom of the drainage, planning on how to retrieve the buck Greg had nailed with yet another 400-yard shot. He had taken a sitting position, with his Weatherby on a bipod support, and drilled the buck in the neck. (The head and neck were all he could see from his location…it was a very nice shot! I’m tempted to call it “lucky,” but Greg really is a very good shot.)

Once again, Greg’s mule tape would play a key role in getting the deer out of the coulee. This time, however, he would not be able to simply attach to the deer and pull him straight out…he needed to use the ball on my pickup’s trailer hitch as kind of a “snatch block.” He tied the tape to his own hitch ball, ran the tape around my truck’s hitch ball and attached the end to the buck. In that way, he could drive down the lane parallel to the coulee and, using the 90-degree pivot formed by my hitch ball, pull the deer up the steep slope to the lane. Although my hitch provided no mechanical advantage, as an actual two-pulley block would have done, the advantage wasn’t needed, anyhow. It worked just great!

(Greg in the driver's seat.)

(Greg in the driver’s seat.)

Let me tell you, if you hunt deer or elk or what-have-you, and you don’t carry 5,000 feet of mule tape in your truck, you are missing one of the handiest “accessories” you can carry. Of course the one necessity of using the tape is that you must be able to get your pickup within a mile of the animal you’ve got down, and that can sometimes be “iffy.” But when hunting the coulees that run through farm country it is not that difficult. I’ve drug and/or carried enough deer that I know I’d rather not have to do it again, and that’s for sure.

So dinner was a few minutes later than usual Monday evening at the cabin. The meat processing crew works fast – a heckuvalot faster than I work – but it still takes some time to get four deer quarters hanging.

There is still some discussion about the better way to hang a deer, head up…or hind legs up. I have always been pretty firmly in the “head up” camp, but I do recognize there can be advantages to the other way. One of the best has to do with whether or not one plans to have the animal’s head mounted. The “cape” of skin that most taxidermists like to work with is quite large…larger than you might think. In that case, the hide removal (skinning) goes easier if one can work down the animal from the rear…you don’t have the “cape” interfering with the process, as it would if the head were hanging upwards.

(Jason and Carl, with Jason's buck.)

(Jason and Carl, with Jason’s buck.)

The “boys” attack the skinning all three together, but fairly quickly get to a two working, one resting configuration. Once the skin is gone and the legs are taken off (at the knees), Greg begins taking off the quarters (with help holding the carcass steady, when needed). Once the quarters are taken care of, Carl jumps in and removes the “backstrap” and the “tenderloins.” It is fun to watch the three of them taking care of business!

(The operation was a success, even though the patient didn't make it.)

(The operation was a success, even though the patient didn’t make it.)

Most of us don’t just bring our deer rifles to camp…there is always an assortment of pistols and smaller caliber rifles, too. Which means that there can be target shooting from the front porch of the cabin, and we did that for a while. Of course when we’re doing it, we generally keep a “big gun” handy, just for the day that a 7-point “Royal” elk comes wandering through the Little Rock Creek drainage. There is no question it has happened, and probably happened often. But to date, it has never happened while we have been cooling our heels on the porch. Nevertheless, I have faith that it will…and when it does, I’ll be ready.

(Target practice on the front porch.)

(Target practice on the front porch.)

Anyhow, we set up a target on the slope beyond the bathhouse and started blazing away with my Ruger .17 HMR – my whistlepig thunderstick – and my .204 Ruger rifle, which I intend to use primarily for prairie dogs and other larger varmints, up to and including coyotes. We were only shooting about 60 yards off the porch, which is no challenge for either of those rifles, but fun, anyway. Of course when the pistols came out we had to move in much closer than that. The Lone Ranger may be able to shoot a gun from an outlaw’s hand at 60 yards (and farther), but normal humans would never take that shot.

(Greg gives Erik some pointers on pistol marksmanship.)

(Greg gives Erik some pointers on pistol marksmanship.)

We were really quite lucky with the weather during our stay in Montana. One snowstorm had already come and gone in October, and although we didn’t know it at the time, a “Polar Vortex” was getting ready to hammer the area shortly after we left. But while we were there, the nights generally dropped below freezing and the days usually hung around 40 degrees. I don’t think any precipitation fell on us while we were at the cabin. Thankfully, it was cool enough – we all figured – so that there was no worry about leaving the meat hanging from the gate cross-pole. There were a few flies that became active within the cabin, but we never saw any outside the cabin. And of course the meat was hung in bags, anyway, so even if there were a few odd flies buzzing around the odds of them getting to the meat (to lay their eggs) were slim to none.

(BSU Broncos Deluxe washable game bag. Thank you, Red!)

(BSU Broncos Deluxe washable game bag. Thank you, Red!)

And speaking of game bags, Jerry brought along a super nice surprise for my birthday. (My actual birthday wouldn’t come along until the week after we were all back in our homes, but his wife, Denise, figured it was close enough.) She had made Jerry a Seattle Seahawks-flavored muslin game bag the previous year, and when she heard I thought it was so cool, she made me one sporting the BSU Broncos logo and colors. It is made to be reusable, unlike most store-bought game bags. Jerry has, in fact, reused his Seahawks version. I didn’t use mine this year. For one thing, it was still too birthday-present-new; for another, the boys talked me into having them quarter my deer (as they had done theirs), so it was easier to use the commercial gauze bags I had brought along. I’m looking forward to using my Bronco bag next year, though. And hopefully, for a bull elk. (I don’t know whether Denise intended it to be used for two deer, together, but whether she did or not, I truly believe it is big enough for that. What a great BD present, huh?

So as the sun set on Monday evening, we had two deer hanging (in quarters) from the “meat pole,” and our stay in Montana just barely begun. Stay tuned…



2 Responses

  1. Ron Boy says:

    I am so staying tuned! Great story telling.

  2. Ron Boy says:

    And, I love the pics!

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