Saturday, January 20, 2007

Deer in a Pond, or How I found out we have Beavers

I'm a deer hunter, when I am able. In this part of the world we hunt with dogs. Still hunters say it isn't sporting, dog hunters say still hunting isn't sporting. I've done both and still don't know. I do know it's way harder to hit a deer running across a narrow road than to ambush one in an opening. Oh, bythe way, don't think the deer is scared. The deer knows it can easily run away from the dog at any time. I've seen them just play along, or believe it or not , stop and wait for the dog. Our state has more deer now than when the state was settled, so the manner of taking shouldn't be an issue. In areas where hunting is forbidden the deer are the size of big dogs. If anything in this story sounds cruel, it is no more cruel than starvation, disease, and death by motor vehicle. I know people who have hit two deer in one night, on the way to work. When predators are not tolerated, overpopulation is certain. A heard of deer will strip a bean field in a night. Farmers can't raise enough to live and feed the deer too.

Down east, if you are hunting in the bays, best have a dog if you plan to eat venison. The swamps and thickets are impassable to anything taller than a Walker hound, and sometimes a Beagle will have to back track. There are ways through, but a man can't use them.You also have to contend with the frequent peat bog. A peat bog is a morass with no bottom, that occasionally turns into a pond or lake, black water. The only place to put a road is on a sand ridge, the forestry almost lost a bulldozer in Red Run, trying to cut through to Big Bay. We lease pine plantations for the hunting rights. Our club has eight to ten thousand acres, which isn't as big as it sounds. It does back up on a large nature conservancy, what that means is the bog couldn't be developed, planted, or otherwise generate income, so someone sold it to the state. It's thirteen or so thousand acres of hard ground to cross, and as far as I know, no one goes in there but me.

The paper companies plant trees, ditch, drain and other wise turn the land to their use. Pines of the fast growing type can't stand too much water, so ditches are dug to drain to creeks and water ways. Some of these ditches can be fifteen to twenty feet deep. Keep that in mind.

On the day in question ,November 26, we were hunting a block of land on the edge of the club. The dog guys had found a good track going the right way, and things were looking good for my stand. Then the deer crossed around the curve from me. I jumped in the truck went around the block, stopped on the next stand and got out in time to see the buck about to jump into the pine field across the road. He was on the edge of shotgun range and I fired one time before he was gone. I saw him flinch and knew I had hit him. The dogs were behind him and pushed him through the pine field and across the creek, or so I thought. I could hear them running up and down the creek, and then they stopped. The deer must be down, so off I go through the briar's and broom sage. I soon noticed water, getting deeper, to the tops of calf high boots. While I am standing on a tussock of grass looking for anything moving, I see a chewed off stick. Beaver? I've seen them before, but not here. Then the dogs start a fight with something.

We have bears, big ones, four hundred pound plus bears. I carry a .44 mag with eight inch barrel just for them. I stopped worrying about water then, the guys think of their dogs as tenderly as I think of children, and really don't want to spend a lot of time stitching up the pups.
It's off into the water at a run, until I feel my feet start to slide down an incline of unknown depth. Thanks to the down home engineering skills of the beaver.

I had just finished cold water rescue training, so I know exactly what is about to happen, and it ain't lookin' good for the home team. I had time, about a blink, to run through the etiology of cold water drowning. Not enough time to panic, just enough time to think about it. At this time I am wearing insulated coveralls, pistol belt and pistol, and carrying a pump shotgun, wearing rubber boots. Not what the well dressed swimmer would choose. Then my feet hit bottom, that's how you spell relief. Wow! I am now up to my armpits with the shotgun over my head, just like in the old movies.

Now I can see under the brush, and find that the deer is dead and the dogs have torn into it and are fighting each other. Well, shoo the puppies off and make my way to the deer, except the first deep water was the creek, and now I step off into the ditch. It was just as cold as the other one and just as unexpected. I didn't panic, I just wanted to pee in my pants to warm up, too late the plumbing has frozen up. Then climb out on the hill and pour the water out of all the guns, kick a dog or two, and get ready to drag the deer out.

Then I hear someone shouting my name, it's one of our older men. He's come to help get the deer, as long as it doesn't involve getting wet, I don't blame him. He is insisting that I bring my shotgun to them so I won't have to carry it. It's back in the ditch, back in the creek, out on the hill, give them the gun. Now back in the creek, back in the ditch and out to the deer. Now to drag him out. I mentioned the thickets, did I mention the hurricanes? We have those, frequently, sometimes several a year. They blow things over and don't pick up after themselves. Most of what they knock down is now in front of me. Oh well, I've got it to do and no help. I drag the deer, one hundred twenty or so pounds of him along the finger of high ground, to find that some clown has dug a square ditch, and I am on an island! Back in the water again, I'm getting really tired of this by now. Then the fun really begins, dragging this lump of uncooperative deer (just because I shot him) through a juniper thicket. That would be over, under, around and through blow downs tossed like pixie sticks in my path. When I finally got to the road I was talking to the deer like he was going to answer. I finally sat down at the edge of the road to wait for a truck to come around, and one of the dogs came up and growled at me cause I got his deer. I very calmly pulled the pistol and told him to come on.

When I finally got home I stripped on the back porch before going in and used all the hot water in the shower. The rest of the club, who didn't bother to help drag the deer, all showed up at the share out to get a little meat to take home. The bums.

1 comment:

Ambulance Driver said...

Damn DW, you've been prolific since I was here last! You're linked now.