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Why I quit hunting. . . .

June 1, 2021
Mule deer doe.


Today is my grandson George Roberts’ birthday.  I was with his mother at the hospital when they delivered him by C-section years ago.  I think it was 12 years ago, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been reading the folk novel, Monkey, by Wu Ch’eng-en, translated by Arthur Waley a bit before 1943.  One of the characters returns a fish to a stream, good fortune. 

Made me reminisce about my own history hunting and fishing.  Hunting, specifically, for mule deer bucks.

Do you remember the story about how I used to play with my grandpa’s hunting rifle?  He had a 30-30 Winchester carbine.  My cousins and I used to take apart the bullets and light the gunpowder.  Anyway, my brother sold the carbine to finance his high school graduation tour de United States.

I told that to my kids, and Robert had always wanted to replace the rifle.  He won one in a lottery and, well, . . .

My son Robert gave me a rifle a few years back, a 44-magnum carbine.  A lever-action cowboy rifle.  I’ve not owned any firearms since high school, but I was trained as a marksman in the Marine Corps, where I served from 1969-1976.

During those years of military service I qualified annually as a shooter of the M-14 and M-16 rifles.  I think both of these firearms are obsolete now, but I learned how to hit a 24-inch target at 500 meters with iron sights.

We called them iron sights, as different from telescopic.

Toward the end of my marine experience I got quite good at shooting.  I learned to shoot with a rear peep sight and a front sight blade.  In fact, I didn’t know how to use a scope. I have lots of good memories. A guy with a cigarette behind his ear announcing that he would now smoke a tobacco cigarette.

The carbine my son gave me had a kind of sight with which I was unfamiliar.  It had a rear sight notch and front sight ball.  I didn’t think I could hit anything with such a strange arrangement, so I purchased an adjustable rear peep sight online.  I attempted to find a gunsmith to install it, but ended drilling and tapping a screw hole myself in the barrel.  I did a pretty bad job of it.

Now I had a rifle with a sight I could use.  I didn’t really adjust the sight, except crudely, in the garage.  Then I got a box of 44 magnum bullets.  Then I got a hunting license and I was ready to sight in.

Only I didn’t.  Before I had a chance to practice sighting in with the Rossi (maker of the carbine), Robert invited me to hunt with him out west of Columbus, Montana.  I had bought a bag to carry the Rossi and a few bullets.  I wore snow boots and a parka.

We struggled up a long, long hill through snow up to our knees.  Bob thought he saw a small herd of elk about a thousand yards up the hill, so our plan was to go up the right flank and get them when we reached their level. He had tags for a mule deer buck and an elk buck.

Wet with sweat, boots full of snow, this was real struggling.

Bob went on ahead, so I found a rocky outcrop and sat down to rest.  “CRACK!” came from Robert’s direction.

Bob didn’t see any elk, but he did find a small herd of deer.  He brought down a buck.  He and I struggled across the ravine downhill and up until we reached his quarry.  I watched as Bob blessed the animal with a prayer, then gutted it.  A young buck.  I dragged it for him. It was too large to carry on my shoulders.

We started back down the ridge where the buck had been shot.  There was a fence line.  A couple hundred yards downhill we spotted some deer back across on the side of the ridge we’d just clambered up:  A buck with a few does.  I looked at them through binoculars.  They seemed nervous, walking into and out of some brush.  The sun was setting and it got darker and darker.  I knew if I was going to get a buck I’d need to act soon.

I unzipped my bag, removed the carbine, pointed it across the ravine, chambered a round, flipped up the rear sight.  

If you haven’t shot with iron sights, you might not know that the correct way is to locate your prey downrange, then you focus your eye on the tip of the front sight.  The rear aperture is close to your eye and you make a sight picture:  Front sight is centered in the aperture.  You place the front sight at six o’clock on the target, which is necessarily out-of-focus.  I had always been told not to focus my eye on the target.  That’s what the drill instructor called “chasing the bull.”

I waited until the deer walked out from behind the brush, then I aimed.  I made the sight picture, squeeeeezed the trigger, and “BLAM!”  The distant deer dropped after perhaps a half-second.

Long story short:  The deer was a doe, not the buck I had permission to hunt.  Bob said my shot was at least 600 meters.  He slogged across the ravine, gutted the doe and dragged it down the ravine.

Meanwhile, I dragged Bob’s buck down a long ridge to the road, to the car.  It was dark and snowing and I was soaking.

Bob got my deer stuck in a creek at the bottom of the ravine.  We returned next day and he couldn’t get it out of the creek because it was wedged into rocks and limbs.

I have not hunted since, and I don’t plan to go again; I don’t like venison, never did.  I’m sorry I made an illegal kill.  I don’t even like shooting that much, although I confess I’m pretty good at it.

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One Comment
  1. Blaine Ackley permalink

    A good decision, Dan! You are secure in your skills so there is nothing left to prove to anyone.

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