Sunday, December 27, 2009

Deer Season 2009 Recap - Wolves and a Last Chance Deer

In the crush that is the holiday season, some things have fallen by the wayside and unfortunately, it was the Chronicles.

Arlene and I made a pact this deer season that no matter how few deer we saw or what happened, we would enjoy ourselves and have fun.

We had a great time this deer season. Mary and Tiny even came up for opening day and the day after and acted as my spotter at camp. I decided to hunt out of my pop-up bow blind this year as the weather was very mild.

We saw few deer during the season but had a relaxing time. We went to the Hessel casino quite a bit and tried to make the best of the deer scarcity.

We hunted 8 of the 15 days of the season and saw maybe 6 different deer. We did have two regulars, a medium-sized doe and her fawn. It was the only fawn we saw during the entire time.

The last weekend we were at camp was for Thanksgiving. Arlene had made our traditional turkey, mashed potato, turnips, dressing smothered in gravy "TV" dinner and it was scrumptious.

Friday night just as Arlene was getting ready to leave her shack, wolves began howling right behind her. She called me on the radio and I suggested that she stay put and I'd drive the Blazer back to her and try to spook them out of there but she declined. She pulled her 4-wheeler right up beside her shack to load up and for the first time ever, left her rifle loaded and put it around her neck as she rode out into the meadow.

Once out in the open, she stopped and unloaded it and came in to camp. It bothered both of us that they were that bold. Protected or not, if I feel that I'm in danger from a wolf, he's going down.

Saturday was our last day to hunt as we have to close up camp for the winter on Sunday. I decided to hunt in camp again and it was a long day with no deer coming in. I did some chores and puttered around in between hunting. I held out little hope that I would even see a deer with the wolves around.

Just at dusk, I noticed that a deer had trotted into the clearing and soon another appeared. It was the same doe and her fawn that we had been fattening up all deer season.

I called Arlene on the radio and said, "Guess who's here". She replied "it's our two little gluttons right?" I chuckled and answered her that it was.

Suddenly, from behind the east edge of the camp clearing, I could see a really large deer with it's head down, coming into view. I radioed back quickly to Arlene that I had something big coming in.

I was sure it had to be a buck. In the fading light, I peered through my binoculars at the deer's head, straining to see the antlers.

Damn! It was a huge doe.

Suddenly, another large deer appeared from the same spot. This had to be the buck. Again, I strained to see the antlers but was disappointed to see that it was another huge doe.

Dejected, I radioed Arlene to tell her that I had two huge deer in the bait pile but they were both big does.

She radioed back, "SHOOT ONE OF THEM!!!"

"Oh," I thought, "that would be a good idea".

So with less than 2 minutes of shooting light left, I lifted my rifle. The largest of the two does was separated from the other three deer and standing completely broadside. She immediately noticed the movement and I knew she was going to run. I quickly aimed and squeezed the trigger. Four deer scattered as I tried to follow her and mark her direction.

The radio rang and it was Arlene asking if I got one of the does and I replied that I had.

I quickly changed clothes, loaded my handgun (just in case) and grabbed my good flashlight and small spotlight. Arlene arrived at camp just as I stepped out of the trailer and I suggested that she drive to the east end of the clearing.

We checked for blood or hair and found none. Arlene suggested that we walk about 20 yards apart and check for a blood trail or tracks.

It was now very dark as we moved slowly up the hill behind the east end of the clearing. We had been searching for about 15 minutes when Arlene found a spot where the doe had stumbled and tore up the leaves. Until that point, I was beginning to think that I had missed. We changed direction and continued scanning for blood, or tracks or any sign at all.

Suddenly, very close by, the wolves began to howl. I panned my flashlight in the direction the howling had come and it immediately stopped. That worried us as my light shines out 105 meters.

I told Arlene that we had to find my doe soon before the wolves did. We were walking faster now. I had given up on the blood trail and decided to walk and pan the area around me with the big spotlight, hoping to find the doe by sight.

Just as I cleared a small patch of spruce and panned the spotlight ahead of me, I spotted my doe. "I found her, R" I yelled, "we have to get her out of here fast."

Quickly, we came up with a plan. I would stand guard and Arlene would try and get her four-wheeler up to where the doe was. She would have to drive back to the shed to get ropes and then get the big 4-wheeler up into a spot where we didn't have a trail. I could see that she was really reluctant to leave me there alone.

"R, you have to go," I told her.

After she left, I put my back against the biggest tree I could find. I took out the handgun and kept panning the flashlight around me looking for eyes. It was a really long 10 minutes until I could see the 4-wheeler lights returning.

Luckily, Arlene can really drive that 4-wheeler. She was working it around the big trees and smashing down the small ones as she powered up the hill toward me. At one point she had the thing up on two wheels but managed to right it and kept coming toward me. I was really glad to see her.

We got the big machine turned around and the doe tied to the hitch. Now the trick was to get her back out of there. We worked our way back down the hill and finally into the camp clearing.

Arlene went into to change into her old clothes to field-dress the doe. As I waited outside, my sister Cindy pulled up. I had forgotten that we had invited her for dinner. I quickly filled her in and told her to stay in the trailer but she wanted to help.

Arlene pulled the doe over to the clearing at the start of the short-cut road and Cindy and I took the car so that we could use the bigger spotlight that plugs into the car cell phone port.

Cindy agreed to hold the light while I helped Arlene clean the doe. It was hard for Cindy as she had to keep closing her eyes to keep from gagging but she was a trooper and held the light perfectly steady the whole time.

It didn't take Arlene long to get the doe cleaned and soon we had her back in camp and hoisted high in the air on the buck pole.

Finally, with all of our work done, we could get cleaned up and have dinner. It was delicious.


We got up early and gave Mary a call to see if she would come out and give us a hand. After coffee, we got busy packing up and loading the car. Mary showed up and really helped out carrying stuff to the car and helping me with the outside chores.

We lowered the big doe onto Arlene's 4-wheeler to transport her to the shed where we were going to butcher her.

The new kerosene heater came in really handy to heat the shed. It was a miserable day outside. It was snowing hard most of the time but the snow was that wet slushy heavy junk that gets you soaking wet.

Arlene is really getting good at butchering the deer into large chunks. Mary and I helped by putting the large chunks into ziplock bags and then we loaded the bags into large garbage bags to carry to the car.

Amazingly, we were done by about 2:30 pm and had camp closed up by 3:00 pm. It is always a sad time for us when we leave camp for the winter.

We were home and unloaded by 4:30 and eager for a shower and something to eat.

So, it is goodbye to Camp Chicken until we have to go up there this winter to shovel off the trailer and shed roofs.

Oh I almost forgot, here is a photo of Arlene on her 4-wheeler with her deer rifle. Her niece Crystal's son Hunter doesn't believe that his Auntie Mary (that is her real first name) hunts deer so this photo is just for Hunter.