Saturday, November 05, 2005

Deer HuntED

by SonDog

"You called down the thunder and now you got it!! Now run, you kur!!! You tell them the law is coming!! You tell them that I'm coming!! AND HELL IS COMING WITH ME, YOU HEAR!?!? HELL'S COMING WITH ME!!!!!"

Indeed, the black-tail deer population of the eastern foothills of Northern California had to be quaking with fear. This, after all, is my one time out of the year where I can feel the awesome power of a 30.06 rifle between my otherwise weaponless businessman hands. It's the one time where I can see a defenseless and altogether helpless animal through the crosshairs of my powerful scope, and tell him to say his prayers before picking it off with a twitch of my finger. If that sounds gruesome and wholly unnecessary, well, in truth, it is. But, that should take nothing away from how fun it is to participate in this annual, family festival.

You see, for one weekend, I (Bob III) can mosey around the cabin and wander the vast expanse of our ranch with my dad (Bob Jr.) and grandpa (you guessed it, Bob Sr.). Additional family members and close friends participate, but it is the weekend of bonding with my dad and grandpa that I look forward to most. The actual "hunting" is truly just a small part of the enjoyment. Sure, I love to hike around trying in vain to provide feed for my family, but it is the conversations, mentoring and debates with my dad and grandpa that make the trip great.

Bob, Bob, and Bob

That being said, Friday morning began in usual fashion. My dad and I decided to do our typical quarter-section hunt as it has always been the most rewarding. Being the young buck (no pun intended), I drew the longest, most difficult part of the hike. You see, SonDog actually has a different meaning for my family. It means that I get to scour the bottom of the canyon, plowing my way through miles of juniper and manzaneta thickets in order to kick out as many deer as possible. Basically, you play the role of a dog. You're probably not going to shoot anything (let alone SEE anything) but at least you can kick the trophy bucks up to someone else in your hunting platoon. Sounds fun, huh? Some day, my son will play the same role. Until that time, I am Son the Dog, born to disturb peaceful insect and wildlife habitats.

About an hour into our hunt, my sense of invincibility and empowerment vanished. The hackles on my neck stood up straight. My courage took the fetal position faster than anything imaginable. After breaking through what felt like a two-mile jungle of juniper brush, I stumbled upon a vast connection of natural lava caves and rain-sheltered dens. It was at this time that I was overcome with the frightening feeling that I was being watched. Sure, my rifle was loaded and my buck knife was drawn (insert mental-picture here), but I've learned in my time that it is awfully hard to shoot what you can't see. It appeared obvious to every sense in my body (other than my eyes) that no longer was I the hunter. Rather, I was now the prey.

Class exercise: Take a common, household table in your hands. Pretend the table is SonDog's invincibility. Now, as quick as you can, turn that table around. See how quickly invincibility becomes ytilibicnivni (Latin for "paralyzed with fear")?

Before expanding on what exactly caused my sudden change in mood, I feel I should provide some background. For years, as legend has it, a giant black bear (who I will henceforth refer to as, Dr. Death), has roamed the mountains of eastern Tehama County. It's worth noting that the black bear population of the eastern foothills is exactly, one (as in... 1). Nevertheless, Dr. Death has terrorized a plethora of hunting camps, cattle ranches and oak trees in his day.

So why was I overcome with fear on this peaceful morning? Well, as I burst through the thicket, I stumbled upon/into/in the middle of... Dr. Death's home. The funny thing about a bear's den is that they refuse to clean up after themselves, and they don't think they need to use an out-house.

My first indication that I was in unfriendly territory was the 47 piles of bear crap that I nearly fell into. Obviously, I was in a bad spot. In fact, after quickly adding a bit of my own to the bear's excrement pile, I looked for an exit. While my curiosity was getting the better of me, I knew that I needed to escape. He was around, and he was watching me, I could feel it. For what seemed like an eternity, I hiked out of his home with my head on a swivel. I must have looked like the little girl in The Exorcist as I huffed it out of the den. I don't know how long he watched me, but I knew he was there.

None of those red piles are from me, rather, it's the mark of Dr. Death

This story dominated the porch discussions for the remainder of the weekend. I found Dr. Death's home, and I lived to tell about it. And while I came home from the trip empty-handed (fired a couple of shots, missed badly), I have a story that will last a lifetime.

The beautiful thing about hunting trips is that as years go by, the stories grow. You hear the same stories every year, only they get bigger and better annually. Someday when I'm telling my son and grandson about Dr. Death, his home may be the size of three football fields. Maybe I will remember outrunning him through the canyon. Doesn’t really matter. For now, I just can't wait for next year.


Anonymous said...

You didn't shoot nothing? Sonny c'mon, what's your family going to subsist on through the cold and dark winter? And, you call yourself a man! No wonder you were trembling at the sight of some bear poo. But I'm happy that you lived to tell the tale. Welcome home. DMo

Arctus said...

I love the bear 'crap' imagery. Very funny.