It is always nice to do things as a family, including hunting.
My son, who is now in his 30s and lives in North Carolina with his family, grew up in a hunting family. My now ex-husband hunted throughout the United States as well as Canada, Africa, and England. I have hunted extensively in Wyoming, South Dakota, and England.
Many times, when my son was a teenager, it was his Mom, not his dad, who got up early to take him out antelope hunting before he had to be in school, drove 30 miles to take him fishing, and rode out with him when he went deer hunting on our family ranch.
One hunting season stands out in my mind. For some years Paul made the trip from North Carolina to Wyoming to hunt mule deer and pronghorn. One year, on the last day of archery season, he had his bow out, hunting for mule deer, and Paul comes back to the house, well after dark.
“Want to go out and help me find an arrow?”
“Now? How can we find an arrow after dark. Can’t we wait until morning?”
“It has a lighted nock.”
Well, Mom is sort of old school. “A what?”
“An LED light in the nock. It glows so you can find it after dark.”
Well, that changes things. This was several years before I realized that rattlesnakes don’t necessarily go into their hole and sleep at night. If I had realized that, I might not have been so anxious to go help.
“Ok. Where did you lose it?” I follow him to the pickup and jump in on the passenger side.
“Up on the ridge in the Devo Pasture.” The Devo is a rugged pasture with deep draws and cedar trees. The ridge is about 3 miles from the house.
Driving up the ridge, the headlights cut a swath in the night, and I’m glad Paul knows the road as well as I do.
He stopped the pickup on a high, windswept ridge and we got out. There was no moon, and the starlight made for dim illumination. But, it was warm and the breeze carried the smell of sage and dried grass. It was a beautiful night to be out. No sound except an occasion night bird call and the wind in the grass.
“I think it was here somewhere,” Paul said as we wandered around, checking out the sagebrush. “I shot a little low, but I think he was in this area.”
“Clean miss?” I ask, hating to think of a wounded deer running around.
Paul laughs. “Very clean. Went under him.”
Then, I see a soft, glowing light near the ground.
“I think it’s here,” I say, moving that direction. “Either that or the ground squirrels have lanterns. Maybe it’s an alien.”
We walk to the light and he’s right. It’s an arrow. With a tiny light on the nock end of it. Paul picked it up.
“Great. These are kind of expensive. I’m glad we found it.”
Always something new on the hunting equipment front. Glowing arrows yet.
The next day, Paul was out again, this time, as it was the first day of rifle season, he took his rifle as well as his bow. He left the house early in the morning, and about 9 o’clock the phone rang.
“Mom? How much do you love me?”
I sigh. Looking for a glowing arrow is one thing. Helping to drag a large, because I’m sure he wouldn’t shoot a two-point, mule deer out of a deep draw is another.
“Where did you shoot him?”
“You now the big cedar draw by Antelope Flats?” our name for a grassy slope that is loved by pronghorn. I know the draw.
“And you need help to drag him out?”
“Yeah, I couldn’t get ahold of anyone else.”
“Okay, you want me to meet you there?” Luckily, I drive a 4×4 as well. No Honda Civics for this old ranch gal.
“Yeah, I’ve got to gut him out anyway.”
A half hour later I see my son, waving me over. I walk down the ridge, and he points to a cedar tree about half way down the slope. I see the deer. At least it’s not in the bottom of the draw.
We sort of slid down the loose gravel on the hillside to the deer, a fine 5×5 mule deer buck.
“Yeah, I thought he was pretty good.”
We each grabbed a horn, and began the drag. The top of the ridge looks a long way up. Drag a ways; stop and rest. Arms and legs tire out quickly. Drag; rest. Drag; rest.
“Want a drink of water?” Paul took a bottle of water out of his pocket, took a drink and handed it to me.
The water was warm but wet. “Thanks. Water helps.”
Drag; rest. Around sage brush, over flat rocks; slipping on the loose dirt and starting a tiny avalanche of rocks and dirt. Finally, we topped the ridge.
We rested awhile, sitting on a flat rock, passing the water bottle back and forth. In the distance we could see the Big Horn Mountains, and the ridges and draws of the back pasture, dotted with green cedar trees and gray sage brush.
“Doing okay mom?”
“You’re lucky I love you,” I tease.
“I appreciate it.”
“I don’t think one person could do it alone. These are big critters.”
“It would be tough,” Paul agrees. “Ready?”
It doesn’t take long to get the deer back to the pickup, and between the two of us we get him into the back end for the trip to a nearby meat processing plant.
“Meat for the winter and a trophy as well,” I told Paul as he shuts the tail gate. “Glad you got a good one this year.”