Title: Chapter Two - The Last Rifle Hunt
Tags: Rifle Hunt Deer Hunters 30-30
Blog Entry: Those years after my first buck at age 11 were a straight turn-around from the years before.   I got excellent grades, played sports, got a job and worked hard.   I dressed conservatively for a kid and didn’t get into trouble.   I kept on the straight and narrow.   Never smoked or did a drug.   Each year I’d go out and hunt deer.   Each year I got a little better at it.   I hunted with friends, relatives, and people I didn’t know.   It was always the same.   We’d organize a team and move out into the wilderness.   “You head out along that ridge, and Bill and I will push up this draw”.     Years went by as I listened to these guys whisper their plans to the team and everyone nodded and headed out. Meanwhile, I would get out away from everyone with the sole purpose of finding myself a comfortable spot to pull my hat over my eyes and take a mid-morning nap.   The sound of the wind in the pines and trickle of water through the creek brought me great peace of mind.   It was one of those mornings up in the high country around Diamond Lake in Oregon .   We were in the middle of a six year drought and hunting central and eastern Oregon was pretty bleak.   But a bunch of us drew tags for this unit and decided to head up there and take a look.   When we arrived, it was obvious that the entire hunting population of Oregon also drew tags for this unit.   The campgrounds were full of RVs and camp trailers.   Generators hummed and people threw wood on campfires.   Dogs and kids running around everywhere.   It would be a miracle if I could even see a deer with all those hunters combing the area. I was putting my life at risk.   A sea of bright orange hats and thirty ‘ought sixes with scopes.   I was olive green with an open sight lever action 30-30.   I needed to really think this one through.   On opening morning we were up before daylight.   We had ten people in our party and planned to do an organized hunt through a bunch of logged off units with timber stands in between them.   As usual, I let someone else take the lead.   My strategy was to focus on where everyone else was going to be.   Where they would walk, where they would sit.   With all those hunters, including us, the only possible way to have a chance was to let them do the hard work and make sure I put myself in the best spot and wait.   Safer that way, too.   Off we went in a couple pickup trucks.   I could taste the dust of ten other trucks that left before us.   We reached our destination and piled out.   Splitting up, we hiked in the directions whispered to us.   I took survey of the area and drew a mental map of the vast logged off units, timber stands, low areas and high areas.   Calculating the approximate time it would take for each person to get to their areas and the directions they would travel to circle back.   I checked the wind direction, and proceeded to find a strategic place to settle in for the long wait.   About three miles in, I was lucky to happen upon a perfectly spaced open area on the outskirts of the units that cut a wide path through the thick timber.   Loggers probably cut this path to get their equipment in there.   It was about thirty feet wide and a mile long.   This was the perfect spot at the edge of the units everyone would be walking through.   Wind direction was toward me.   Any deer in those units would spook and head this way to the thick timber.   So I spent about 30 minutes figuring out where to place myself.   I finally settled on a sunny spot beside an old snag where the brown grass had grown up about three feet.   I took my daypack off, jacked a shell into the chamber of my 30-30, sat down in the tall grass with my back against the snag, pulled my cowboy hat over my eyes, and took my morning nap. The warm sun slowly chased the below freezing morning temperature away.   I awoke about three hours later to the sound of gunfire in the distance.   That faint “powwww” echoing against the hills.   I focused my eyes on the rocky crag of Mt. Thielsen until my vision was no longer blurry.   The screech of a blue jay nearby cut through the silence as it spooked at my movement.   Then another gunshot; this time closer.   Followed by four more in quick succession.   Two from one side of a unit and two from another side.   Then several more from a smaller rifle farther back on the other side.   I checked my mental map and made note of the location of the gunshots.   I re-evaluated my position in my wide spot in the forest and decided I was actually in the best spot.   All of a sudden I could hear brush popping and branches cracking as something or someone was moving very fast in my direction from the units.   My adrenal glands kicked in and flooded my body with energy.   The hair on my arms stood straight up.   My muscles tensed as I drilled a hole through the wall of timber and brush with my eyes.   I was in the center of the clearing so the edge was only fifteen feet from me.   Whatever this was, it was coming in fast judging by the sound of breaking branches and brush moving my way.   Mentally, I crossed “hunter” off the list of possible suspects.   It was either a bear, elk, or deer.   The mystery was answered in less than a second.   Out of the wall of brush and timber suddenly came a wide eyed, freaked out, muley buck! It was running for its life from the sea of orange hats and thirty ‘ought sixes pushing through the units.   He didn’t see me at first and was about to knock me on my butt!   I lifted my left arm and frantically waived it around.   This surprised him so much he fell down on one front knee as he tried to change direction out of a dead run.   He regained his balance and was somehow able to make a frantic leap to my left.   His momentum carried him to the middle of the cleared out area about ten feet from me.   This whole process took about two seconds.   In those two seconds, I had only enough time to raise my 30-30 to my waist and swing it around to my left, following him as he ran.   I squeezed off one shot from the hip.   That Marlin lever action punched back at my side as the heavy explosion of 170 grains of powder sent that 30 caliber bullet flying.   Newton ’s Law of Motion:   For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.   The impact from a 30 caliber slug at close range knocked that buck around sideways, ripped through both lungs, out the other side, and buried into a stump about 15 feet out.   The buck was running fast as it was thrown sideways and did a three quarter forward tumble with legs and hooves flying every which way and came to rest in a cloud of dust not ten feet from me.   It died instantly.   As I always do, I knelt beside the buck and placed my hand on its front shoulder about where his heart would be.   I thanked him for his bravery and congratulated him on earning three points on his antlers despite the sea of orange hats and thirty ‘ought sixes that invade his home each year.   It was then that I noticed his right eye was clouded over.   It had been blind in one eye.   One of the tines of his right antler was broken off and it had a deformed hind foot.   This poor buck had a tough life.   The drought, the hunters, the predators, and then more hunters.   He might have made it had he not ran straight for a guy in green taking a nap in a clearing.   I was the only hunter in the entire campground to succeed that year.   One blind, dilapidated, and deformed deer on opening day.   After a week or so, the hum of generators quieted and people packed up their kids and dogs and headed home.     With all the hunters out there, these creatures didn’t stand a chance.   The purity of hunting was lost.   I had gotten away from what I enjoyed most, which was the challenge of the hunt and closeness of nature.   Heck, with so many hunters, it was getting tougher and tougher to take my naps.     When I returned from that hunting trip, I cleaned my rifle and placed it in the gun case.   I told myself that would be the last time I ever hunted with a gun.