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With the coming of Summer, hunting possibilities change, typically for the better. Prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and gophers are all fair game. And so are pigeons, Eurasian doves, and house sparrows. Oh goody!

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Hunting solo, a nasty fall, and redemption

Started by Steelhead, August 15, 2021, 08:51:54 PM

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Steelhead

I hit the ranch yesterday morning for the rifle deer opener here in my area. I was unfortunately fogged in for the first hour and a half of light, so I retreated to a short creek bottom/canyon that usually keeps the fog out due to the tree canopy. It's difficult to hunt, especially solo, because it's nearly straight and down on both sides and you can't help but make noise moving through. Usually deer hear me coming and all I hear is the sound of hooves running through the oak leaves out of sight. Yesterday I tried a different approach and forced myself to stay on the creek bottom, even if it meant not being able to see up the hillsides in spots. I figured the tumbling water would help hide the sound and I made a conscience mental note to go slow.

A couple of hundred yards in I saw some of the free range cattle ahead of me. I didn't want to spook them and alert any deer, so I tried to sidehill a small section that would still leave me hidden. My foot slipped and I felled awkwardly to the creek bottom. I tried to keep from the gun either being tossed away or smashed, and in riding it out I took the barrel square to the end of my jaw. At the same time me knee impacted the river rock and the pain was overwhelming. I was seeing little birdies from the jaw shot, but the pain in my knee fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective) kept me from passing out. I had a moment where I thought, 'Please God make up your mind...either make the pain go away or let me pass out'.

I shook off the cobwebs, and hobbled over to the embankment to take inventory and figure out how bad the damage was to the jaw, the knee, AND the gun. It seemed like I had gravel in my mouth even though my face never hit the dirt. I spit some debris into my palm and it was then that I realized it was pieces of my teeth. Not huge pieces, but enough to rearrange the geography of my oral footprint. At this point I was deciding whether to: a) crawl into a brush pile and die alone, ending my misery b) walk out of the canyon and back to the truck the shortest route possible and call it a day, or c) grow some nuts and finish the hunt. I settled on option C. I was already in there and I was hunting generally towards the truck anyway.

Once I checked the various points of impact, I was relieved that the pain was starting to subside. I was not bleeding anywhere which I found hard to believe. I felt reasonably stable under the circumstances, so I took a few steps and turned the corner of the embankment. Wouldn't you know it, a doe and her two fawns were staring right at me and had been the whole time. She kept looking at me and tilting her head back and forth. Even in my altered state, I couldn't help but but add captions to the look she was giving me; "Holy shit, Mister. That looked like it hurt like a mofo. You sure you're okay?" The fawns kept looking up at her for reassurance and appeared to asking, "Mommy, is that stupid man what you and Daddy call a 'hunter'?"

It was very emasculating, and it was then that I decided to revert back to option B, start a leisurely walk out and live to fight another day. I had a family breakfast to attend at 9:00am so I headed out to watch my nieces and nephews get all jacked up on donuts.

I wait all year for deer season, like a lot of guys do. I was feeling very unfulfilled in the afternoon, so I decided to go out about 6:00pm and sit on a stand on another part of the ranch; a small section but one that's been productive. When I got out of my truck I immediately saw three deer at about 400-500 yards. I noticed one deer had a darker coat and after looking through the binocs it confirmed that he was a shooter buck. With a stiff breeze and non-lead ammo, I'm loathe to take shots like that. I have a budget gun (Remington 783) and combined with the loads I like to be closer. The buck saw me right away, but I kept walking quartering away to get some cover. Once I got it (big eucalyptus tree) I closed the distance to about 150 yards. From there it was chip shot and I planted him right on the spot. Meat in the cooler on opening day, and redemption for the morning's unpleasantness.

I'm grateful that I'm in a bit better shape than I was a couple of years ago, otherwise the outcome might have been different. Regardless, it was a good reminder to be careful, especially when alone. I'm going on a solo 5 day hunt in the coming weeks and having a mishap in that scenario wouldn't be as amusing.
Airforce Texan .308
FX Impact MKII .25
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Alan

I don't think "this" time was amusing!

I've hunted a lot by myself, and in most cases, never told anyone where I was going. However, one precaution I always took, was carrying my weapon without one in the chamber. I have a story I could tell about that, but this thread is supposed to be amusing.

Glad you're A-OK.
Alan

I have a Hill EC-3000 compressor. If you're a fellow Guild member, and you pass through Roswell, NM, I'll fill your tank as a courtesy (4,250 PSI limit).

steveoh

Kevin, You are a fantastic story teller. I heard the story from your own lips, but your writing just brought it all to life, and I swear my jaw started aching, and my knee hurting, as I commiserate your spectacular crash and burn.

Then I got to the doe and her fawns part and I giggled like some cartoon character who sounds like it has asthma and trails off with a little squeak. I'm still giggling.

Congrats on the successful deer hunt!

Just remember, pain is good. It lets you know that you are indeed still alive. ;D
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bnowlin

Nice story kinda like reading a Louis Lamour early Sackett book.
Bobn

Alan

As you might know Steve, it won't be long before Kevin will need a hot tub, just to get his old bones motivated!

I have no room to talk as I have one which I use everyday possible.
Alan

I have a Hill EC-3000 compressor. If you're a fellow Guild member, and you pass through Roswell, NM, I'll fill your tank as a courtesy (4,250 PSI limit).

Steelhead

I'm sure I will get a hot tub at some point, but it would be hard to not convert it into a live bait tank during the summer halibut season. I'm in a phase of my life where I'm into experiencing what I can, while I can. Hunting and fishing alone while in my 50's is part of that. If I wait for someone to have the time, balls, or budget to go with me I'll never leave the house.

I'm the oldest out of seven, and the closest sibling is a brother who's 8 years younger than me. Growing up on a ranch I did stuff alone all of the time. I'm not anti-social but I'm certainly not afraid of doing solo trips, especially short local day forays. I fish the ocean all of the time by myself, and I do my best to be extra careful. Always wear a PFD, leave an itinerary with someone letting them know where I'm at, etc.  Same thing when I do long walk-ins for steelhead. Is it riskier? Sure. But I weigh that risk against being able to go or not, and I vote 'go'. I've put in a serious amount of time learning my equipment and stomping grounds, and with age and wisdom I think I'm better off than being young, fast and stupid.

This coming trip will be the first time I've ever solo camped/hunted and I'm looking forward to the experience. I've reached a point where it's tangible how precious time and life is, and I want to taste as much of it that is within my grasp. Like Yoda says, "Do, or do not. There is no try". I don't have an infinite number of years (who does?) to do some these activities, and plenty of them are in my rear view anyway. I don't play softball, don't go free diving for abalone (closed for the foreseeable future anyway) or go spearfishing either just to name a couple. But I got to experience both of those activities numerous times so I don't have any regrets; just grateful for having been able to do it at the time.

Some things I'm doing now are very much like that. I'm still able to fish and hunt pretty hardcore, but it won't always be like that. I don't want to leave any effort in the dugout or feel like I missed on opportunity, so I'm trying to gently push my boundaries and soak it in so to speak.
Airforce Texan .308
FX Impact MKII .25
Benjamin Discovery .22
Benjamin Prowler .177
Texan .50
Sam Yang 909s Light Hunter
Born Wild Shooting Chair
Air Venturi compressor

rsterne

I love your storytelling, even the painful ones.... Hope you mend quickly and fully....

Bob
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Loren

Thanks for sharing the adventure.  No photos of the buck? 

This getting old is certainly not for sissies. We start to lose our bounce and recover so much slower. 


Steelhead

I have a couple of photos, but I can't seem to get them to post here. Steveoh can maybe do it for me...he has the magic.
Airforce Texan .308
FX Impact MKII .25
Benjamin Discovery .22
Benjamin Prowler .177
Texan .50
Sam Yang 909s Light Hunter
Born Wild Shooting Chair
Air Venturi compressor

steveoh

Quackenbush .58 Outlaw
Shooting Chairs
Vallejo Ferry Schedule
DAQ .458 LA Outlaw Rifle
DAQ .58 LA Outlaw Rifle
FX Streamline .25
FX M3 Impact 700mm Sniper .25
Benjamin Bulldog .357
QB-79 .177
Crosman 1322
Crosman 1377 - HoRodded 10 FPE
Diana Model 27 (childhood airgun)
Tolman Skiff
Airgun Calculator

Alan

Alan

I have a Hill EC-3000 compressor. If you're a fellow Guild member, and you pass through Roswell, NM, I'll fill your tank as a courtesy (4,250 PSI limit).

Loren

Nice looking buck.  Sure is dry there!  We are actually having a very green August here. 

Steelhead

Drought or no drought, it's always brown and dry here in the summer. Rain usually stops by May and won't kick until October/November. By the first week or so of June we are into the 'brown' time.

In the photo you can see the dairy in the background. The area I was hunting is barely 400 yards by 200 yards; a short corridor where there is water (creek), berries, and cover. The rest is wide open, barren grazing land. Because the ranch is surrounded in every direction by either a) a town with 60,000 people 5 minutes away, b) other ranches or 'ranchettes', or c) vineyards, deer don't really get old right here in this spot. They have to cross multiple property lines in their lifetimes and the odds run out from either hunters or cars. So that being said, I'm very happy to shoot any mature (3 year old or better) 2x2 or larger deer. Here in the Bay Area and in the shadow of San Francisco (I can see The City from the top of the mountain) every deer harvested is a blessing and I'm very grateful.
Airforce Texan .308
FX Impact MKII .25
Benjamin Discovery .22
Benjamin Prowler .177
Texan .50
Sam Yang 909s Light Hunter
Born Wild Shooting Chair
Air Venturi compressor

Loren

It is normally scorched earth here in August starting in mid-July, everything green except the weeds goes dormant waiting on the rain come fall.  Just very green this year.  We had rain last week and are expecting more this coming weekend.  The fall colors will be very vibrant in our area this year because of it.

That does have to be a tough life for deer in that area. 

Steelhead

Tough life for deer...not really. Food sources are really abundant. Acorns, berries dry grasses, etc.  They are really never hungry or malnourished. The 'middle zones' may be grazed down, but there are so many canyons, draws, rolling oaks, creeks and the like that it's actually a phenomenal deer habitat, coupled with the fact that we have mild winters with no snow/only rain and grass that grows all winter they have it pretty good.  :)
Airforce Texan .308
FX Impact MKII .25
Benjamin Discovery .22
Benjamin Prowler .177
Texan .50
Sam Yang 909s Light Hunter
Born Wild Shooting Chair
Air Venturi compressor