Wednesday, October 27, 2010

First Day Hunting

I missed opening day for hunting largely because I was in Denver at MileHiCon.  Sunday, however, I got back home in time to go out with my husband and begin hunting.  We both failed to draw doe/cow elk tags for our region, so we had to make due with general tags and mule deer buck permits.  Basically, we could shoot at critters with antlers.  In truth, I'm not particularly fond of buck/bull elk mainly because the meat can be a bit tough, but if you can score a younger one, the meat is pretty good.

The problem with my area is that the whitetail deer have pretty much disappeared.  I don't know why, but I suspect it's due to various predators since we have so many wolves, coyotes, bears and mountain lions. They may have fallen victim to two legged predators (poachers) as well, but I have no proof of that.  All I know is that a herd of some 8 whitetail does and 3 bucks dropped to 3 does and 1 buck in the spring and then dwindled down to a doe and her fawn, and finally just the fawn.  However, I've been seeing more and more mule deer and have counted at least two herds in my area alone.

Anyway, we went back into an area we've been to in the past and started hunting.  If you've never done it, it's a lot of using binoculars, sitting and waiting, driving, hiking and looking for animals. More often than not, you're looking for tracks, game trails and signs the animals are around.  It's a lot of work and those who tell you it's easy either went on canned hunts, poached or don't know a thing about hunting.  The average take in Montana is somewhere between 6% and 8% of the hunters getting something.  That's pretty abysmal odds, if you're a betting kind of person.  We've always been lucky and gotten something the past three years.

We got some information from some other hunters about a mule deer herd going down the mountain.  They had passed them up because they had only whitetail buck tags and they were looking for some deer with big racks.  The deer they saw had forks (two tines on each antler) which meant they were young and didn't have much in terms of antlers.  We're not proud and we hunt anything legal because it's meat on the table.  What's more, deer that are a couple years old are more tasty than those with those huge sets of antlers.

It happened that I spotted that herd and the deer that I spotted was a forked mule deer buck.  I directed my husband to shoot and he took the shot, hitting the animal in the lungs.  It ran and we waited.  Then, we went in search of it.  I ended up finding the buck about 100 yards down the trail. It's amazing how far an animal can travel even with a lethal blow.  We dragged him back to the car and brought him back home to field dress and skin.  The skin will go to the tanners and the meat is already at the butcher's.  We took the antlers and put them in the freezer and will probably do something with them.  We try not to waste anything worthwhile on the animal if we can help it.

The next couple of days, we hunted in the same place and Tuesday, I saw deer but didn't see a buck -- they were either not with the herd or were out of sight. 

Mule deer -- not the one we got.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, at least this year we saw bucks in our unit who weren't in town or in the State Park!

    Problem is, it was after dark, across a gravel county road from someone's ranch house, and the lovely little four points were munching on apples. Sigh. I suppose the rancher is munching happily on apple-fed venison (lovely old Gravenstein, down in the Imnaha. The Imnaha orchards are one of Wallowa County's best-kept secrets).