LET’S GO DEER HUNTING
By Jim and Shirley White
In the dim night- light of the bedroom, I pushed my knees up against the mattress to rock the bed gently, my sleeping wife too. “It is 4 am…time to get up” I said to Shirley. A moan with an angry “what time is it? I said “let’s go deer hunting”. “It is snowing on your chickens and they have fallen and can’t get up” I often say that to wake her…since she then has to think what is really happening. She looks at the clock and slowly starts her move to get up and get ready for our planned “deer hunting adventure”. She really won’t know what we are really going to do until she walks in to the kitchen for that first cup of coffee.
We eased the jeep down the Ponderosa Way below Foresthill in a very low gear. The road is rough, dirt and with no guard rails. Not a road to put a tire over the edge with careless steering in the poor light from the jeep’s headlights. It is a long way down to the canyon below…so steep in places one would have to use a rope to get back up. That is if you could still stand and walk after that fall. We are going to stake out a hundred yards of open land where the deer trails are everywhere, mostly from deer going down to water in the North Fork and then coming back to feed and bed down for the day. Our plan… to intercept the big buck we saw two weeks ago in this very spot. My Nikon D-600 with the 80-400 zoom attached lay across my lap, ready to fill the frame with that beautiful 4 point rack on that nice fat buck…now we need just enough daylight so I can hand-hold this camera and lens very still, without shaking from all the excitement.
When it is light enough to see, I see movement on the ground. It is a covey of Mountain Quail. What the heck are they doing down the mountain at this low elevation? It has been so warm and dry this October that most of the high mountain species are still up high. It is the very first time I have seen Mountain Quail at this low elevation, ever! Our first “payoff” for getting up so early” I say, slurping on another cup of coffee from our thermos. “Let’s drive up and down the road and see if there are any deer moving” I say. We do our up and down and see nothing. Back to our clearing and while we are still moving we see them! A doe with this year’s fawn, and a little forked horn buck. They see us in the dim light and start a little dancing back and forth….as if to try and see us better. I kill the engine in the jeep, parked at an angle so I can shoot out of the window if I need to. The dance continues and I peer thru the viewfinder and read “¼ sec. at f5.6”. The shot will be blurry or soft at least at this slow shutter speed. I need more light. Shirley fires a time or two thru the windshield, “You’re wasting pixels” I growl. “Try to shoot out the window, but we need more light” The buck and doe dance around with the buck mostly trying to hide in the tall grass behind the doe. They don’t really know what we are. The fawn is somewhere but in the tall grass it is hard to see. A little lighter and the camera meter reads 1/20th of a second at f 5.6. I start shooting, bracing the heavy lens on the window sill. Maybe the new improved “sharpen filter” In the new Photoshop CC will save the day…but I don’t think they are going to stay where they are much longer. First I shoot the buck and doe together, then the buck, several times. Then I shoot the doe by itself. Looking at the LCD screen it sure looks drab! No color for sure. Well maybe I’ll make B&W’s out of them. We have got to come out of this effort with something! Dam…there they go…up the hill. Straight into the brush. We are done for this day.
We are parked in front of the “Dash and Dine” in Colfax. Before I get out, I ease the Winchester Model 94 in its gun case out of the front seat into the back of the Jeep along with the shell belt I have around my waist. 30-30 shells in a gun belt might draw attention in the restaurant. My huge skinning knife on my belt comes off too. Shirley’s says “are you glad you did not shoot”? “Hay man” I say. “I ain’t about to shoot no young buck in front of his mommy and sister” So I guess we eat beef this winter again.