Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jesse the Wonderpoodle, Chapter 10

Three days before leaving for Colorado I hit a deer with my truck doing $1800 dollars in damage.

This year I got a couple of friends to go to Colorado with us. Dennis thought I was pulling his leg when I told him that I averaged ten miles a day. But he soon found I wasn’t, he averaged eight miles a day and on the last day (the day we packed up and left) he walked seventeen miles before we loaded the truck for our nonstop trip home (1200 miles).

Luckily we got to cross Nebraska in the dark.

Because of the drought most of the elk had moved down to the farmers fields looking for food making the hunt iffy at best. The day before opening I showed Dennis and Darin a couple of places to hunt (being that we got out there so late they had to rely on my advice). Darin sat down the fork of the stream were I seen the seven mulies the year before. Dennis was in a meadow just over the ridge were a herd of elk had been seen feeding a few days earlier. Their dad (Joel) was in the meadow behind camp (don’t think this is a bad spot because in years past we’ve taken several elk and mulies off this meadow).

I had bought a new pair of boots just a couple of weeks before leaving and they still weren’t broke in. Like every year I climbed the mountain across the stream where I would stay until about an hour after sun up. Then I’d slowly start working the ridges (if there was any elk up there I’d either hear them running off or see them and if the wind was right I’d be able to smell them) trying to get the elk moving. After a couple of hours my feet were killing me (I vowed to never again buy that brand of boot).

While stalking I ran into another hunter who was heading out for lunch. It had been a miserable day for hunting (I don’t think the temp. dropped below 80 degrees while the sun was up). The only thing he had seen was a 4x4 mulie (count the points per-side, /while the animal is facing you left to right)and that was it (it was better than what I had seen). I left him after hearing his story and with the lack of gun shots I could tell that every body else was having just as much luck. YEE Ha I’ve got a day to play with and off to the gulch I headed which turned out to be both my nightmare and obsession.

That night, just before sundown I heard a shot. When I got back to camp it was well after dark (I had six miles to go when I heard the shot). It had been Dennis who shot and believed he got it but didn’t want to try tracking it in the dark. I said that I’d help track it at noon the next day (that would give me the morning to slowly make my way there). The next day I was up on the ridge making my way down to a meadow on the north side when I heard a noise and slowly went to check it out (there was no quietly with all the dry pin needles). As I got closer to where the sound had come from I heard another noise (like quick moving feet). I slowed my movement down even more, to the point were I was giving myself cramps trying to not make any noise. The next thing I know there’s a noise to my right, I looked over and seen an elk running across a clear-cut (old logging site) and it’s a bull, and it’s legal (the first legal bull elk I’ve seen during season). Buck fever set in, I calmed myself and pulled up (I was 30 yards in the trees, so window’s of opportunity were limited) put the cross hairs on his shoulder and touched one off. The elk spun around trying to find where the shot had come from. In my excitement I only pulled the bolt up half way while trying to eject the spent round making a very frustrating few moments. I got a new round in the chamber and pulled up to take aim but the elk had moved to a spot were I had a pine tree blocking my view. I dropped to my knee to get under the branches only to have the roll of the hillside make the elk disappear. I quickly got to my feet and started running for the tree line, throwing my shoulder into a small pine to stop my momentum, pulled up, put the cross hairs on its shoulder one more time and touched it off. The elk started running, I bolted in another round and again with the cross hairs on its shoulder touched it off (to give you an idea on my frustration, with this gun I can put three shots into the size of my thumb nail at a 100 yards and now to miss three times at 75 yards). I bolted in my last shot and took aim, I touched it off just as he was entering the tree line on the other side and was gone.

While looking for blood my uncle showed up (the reason the elk came around that side is because my uncle was coming up the draw. So when I pushed him out he ran into my uncle and came back around) and we spent close to half an hour looking for blood. Hell we’d been happy to find a track in the hard ground. We didn’t so I headed off to meet up with Dennis to help track. While crossing over a mountain (hill) I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, stopped and pulled my gun up. I looked at it through the scope but because of the brush behind it I wasn’t able to make out its antlers. So I lowered my gun saying “its just a damn cow (female elk)” then it started running with the sun glisting off its antlers. I sent a whole herd of profanity chasing him off the hill, I may not have got to shoot him but I’m pretty sure I hurt his feelings. A short time later I arrived at the meadow were Dennis was supposed to be (Dennis had got his elk, it had gone just past the tree line before dieing). I waited there for about half an hour before heading out.

The next couple of days were very uneventful. A couple of us decided to walk from the road in and push the gulch. It turned out to be the most god-awful three miles of the area. First, I was walking on broken slag along a steep slop holding onto sage brush and praying that their roots would hold until I could grab the next one. Then the terrain changed to jagged rock with treacherous footing before turning into a plato with no trees to block the sun (I drank two canteens of water before I got to the top of the gulch). When I got to the gulch I found a spot and started climbing, I was almost to the top when I ran into another hunter who told me that the only thing he’d seen was a couple of mulies. I turned around and went back to the bottom, once there I fired a shot into a stump to get any animals in the area moving.

I walked along the bottom for a ways until I found a spot that looked climbable and headed up once again. Shortly after starting up I heard what sounded like a war up on top the ridge. By the time I got to the top all the shooting was done and Joel had got his first elk (like father, like son they both shot there elk in the hind quarters making them members of the not so popular club of “ASS SHOOTERS”). All the rest of the shooting was because a bull had ran across and just about every body opened up on it (fifteen shots) and only wounded it. When I got to where everybody was they pointed to where the bull had entered the trees. The Sawyer boys, Dustin and myself went to go track it. The wound was so slight that the elk had walked into the woods about twenty yards, licked the wound clean and headed for the high mountain.

I was told later when they came out that one of the hunters from our camp was in the woods relieving himself (taken a crap) when Dave yelled to him saying “if you want to get some shooting in you’d better get out here”. The guy came waddling out, his rifle in one hand and his pants in the other. Took two shots and quickly waddled back into the trees.

The last day of the season Mike shot a beauty of a 6x6 elk. While we were getting it deboned we were trying to decide if we wanted to walk back the five and a half miles to camp along the stream or go two miles to the road down a vary steep mountain side. By unanimous vote we choose the slope. Every body had blisters of one degree or another and walking down this slope with about an extra sixty pounds of meat on our backs (per person). Every step made your feet slide forward in your boots ripping open the blisters and my knee was really starting to act up (two days before I had stepped on a branch that catapulted up into my knee, it wasn’t the hurt right away deal. NO! it didn’t start hurting until I stopped moving giving it time to swell). By the time we got to the road no one was lifting their legs to walk.

After we got back to Minnesota we had a couple of weeks before rifle season started. Being that I wasn’t rifle hunting this year I volunteered to skin deer at the locker. This gave me something to do and a little spending cash.

On one morning after skinning I got up to do chores and had this incredible pain in my side. At first I though it was a pulled muscle or that I had ran my ribs into something that seemed minor at the time. It wasn’t until later that day when I took my shirt off to take a shower that dad noticed the bruise on my side and asked “what the hell did you do to your side”. I looked down at it (I hadn’t figured it was worth the time to check out). And noticed what looked like hairs sticking out of what looked like a puncher wound and my only thought was “how’d I get deer hair in there”, as I looked closer I noticed that what look like hairs were attached to a body. I had to use both hands to pull the tick off.

Once the tick was off we were able to get a good look at it. It was a deer tick and the dimes size bulls eye bruise around the bitten area was the tell tale sign for lime disease. I grabbed my shirt and quickly drove into the clinic to get it checked out (now don’t start thinken that I run into the hospital every time I get a boo boo. But this lime disease is one thing you don’t want. Once the damage is done its permanent–it attacks your joints and lower back. Being that I didn’t have insurance the nurse’s didn’t do the test (witch is only 30% accurate). They just gave the cure. I had to take enough antibiotics to kill a horse for two weeks and I still have a little red scar were it had bite me.

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