Sandi saw it first, nearly invisible with only his head and antlers showing, bedded in a sagebrush filled draw.
He looked above average, but I’ve always had trouble judging light-colored antlers against a dark background and this buck, with his head tilted back as he watched us, didn’t make it any easier. He looked to be much better than average.
If you follow these muddled meanderings, you’ll remember that only a few weeks previously our lives, Sandi’s and mine, changed dramatically and she was, and still is, sorting out her medical issues. But she was insistent we go deer hunting when the general season opened, so here we were.
Sandi piled out the door, retrieved her rifle from the rack and started looking for the deer in her scope. Unfortunately she couldn’t find it in her scope. I probably didn’t help when I told her the buck was standing in plain view about 80 yards away.
When it was about to disappear into a deep cut, she told me to take it if I could see it. The deer went down so hard he bounced. Amazing how a .358 will absolutely mess up a deer’s day.
When we walked up on the buck, we discovered it was only a medium to small 4x4, sort of, with real wonky antlers. A 16-inch spread, mainframe and about 20 inches point-to-point. The headgear on the right side had a decent-sized fork on the main beam, a small brow tine and a couple of smaller trash stickers. What should have been the main beam was only a 5-inch tine growing forward a couple on inches below where the main beam forked. Kind of like a miniature rag-horn elk antler. Weird. The left side was way different, with a 7-inch split brow tine, a couple of small sticker points below that and a decent sized fork. Talk about confused DNA.
Fortunately I was able to drive up to the deer and Gary helped me toss it into the truck, which wasn’t a chore at all. Usually his deer are about the size of a yearling Angus, even the forkies. This one had a body a bit bigger than a doe whitetail that made his antlers all that more deceptive. Even the ears weren’t standard mule deer size. He butchered out to maybe 40 pounds of boned meat.
By now the hunting season was in full gear. Gary was hot on the trail of a large buck he’d missed opening day which, after a couple of days of waiting and watching, he killed with a single shot. A gnarly, older buck with a heavy 22-inch-plus mainframe and evenly matched four points to a side with good forks.
Sandi and I kept hunting for a buck for her and she tagged out a few afternoons later. We spooked a small buck out of a pasture, it ran into a brushy draw and stopped behind some sagebrush where it thought it could keep an eye on us. Sandi took the shot offhand and put it through the heart at 140 yards or so.
That was the good news. Bad news was that somewhere along the line, either dragging the buck across the snow to the truck or hanging it in the garage, I aggravated my old back injury. So now several weeks later, I’m still wincing a bit when I get up and sit down.
As anyone who is afflicted with chronic back pain can tell you, it ain’t much fun. At age 73, after chasing deer, elk and antelope all over the countryside for food and recreation for over half a century, it hardly seems worth it to go chasing deer around the countryside anymore.
Truth be known, it makes a lot more sense to buy a half a beef from one of local meat cutters. Somehow though, that just seems to go against my DNA. I’ll probably whine about the back until it heals up, and by next year it will be forgotten until it happens again.
Just to clear up any reader confusion, due to a recent letter to the editor belittling my concerns regarding wildlife running free inside the city limits, some background may be in order. Sandi and I moved to Cody from our home outside Bozeman over 43 years ago. Back then Bozeman was little more than a hick cowtown just like Cody used to be and way before all of these folks moved in from both left coasts and started telling the locals how to live. For a few years, we lived on Line Creek on 22 acres until circumstances forced a return to Cody in 2004.
During those times we lived outside city limits, we enjoyed (endured) the liberties taken by the deer, elk and rabbits as they munched our shrubbery and consumed our haystacks. We understood that it was part of the rural way of life and accepted it. Still, we thought Sandi could at least have some flowers out in the yard when we moved back into Cody.
The wildlife problem inside city limits came as a surprise because 40 years ago, when we lived in Cody there probably were less than a dozen deer inside the entire city limits. It wasn’t a problem then.
During all the years we lived in the county, we refrained from intruding our opinions of how the adjacent cities should be run as we weren’t tax-paying residents of those towns.
County yes, city, no. There is and needs to be a distinct difference recognized here. Perhaps it would behoove certain county citizens to refrain from becoming involved in Cody’s residential concerns, especially since they don’t actually live inside the city limits and have to deal with the same issues that actual residents have to deal with. Rural residents expect a certain lifestyle with local wildlife involved in their homesite plans. City residents shouldn’t have to put up with the nuisance.