I’ve always had this bizarre fantasy of going hunting in something like a late-1960s Lincoln Continental batmobile with fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and suicide doors in back.
Pile six deer hunters in there and plow as high up into the mountains as the beast can be lashed, Pearl Jam or mariachi music blaring out the windows. Tag a mess of bucks and throw them all in the spacious trunk. Roll back into town.
My fantasies tend to resolve themselves in refracted ways, however.
I did indeed find myself hauling a muley home from deer camp last weekend — in the trunk of my mother in law’s four-door Saturn coupe, Obama sticker on the bumper, a Wagner opera in the casette deck.
Not exactly your typical deer-hunting rig, but when it comes to getting over to Winthrop, Wash., and back for opening weekend, I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on.
Most years that’s meant driving my own trucks, or riding along with Dad in his, but this fall, with Amy due in about a month with our second, taking our vehicle to deer camp wasn’t an option. So I’d taken the Saturn.
My mother in law had warned me she didn’t want any dead animals in her car, and I didn’t think that outcome likely anyway. The reports from the biologist were that the number of harvestable bucks in the upper Methow Valley was depressed due to poor fawn recruitment. There hadn’t really been any major snowstorms to drive deer out of the Pasayten so far this fall, plus there’s all them wolves running around the area.
So of course I was tagged out by 9 a.m. on the opener, and by 10 was scratching my head about how I was going to stuff a stiffening carcass in the Saturn’s trunk.
Have the legs stick out one side of the trunk, head and antlers on the other with the hatch covering up the ribs?
No doubt some anti-hunter would take a picture of that and the license plate as we putted back to civilization, post it on the Web and thoroughly ruin my mother in law’s reputation amongst the lefties/animal lovers down in Oregon where she lives.
For awhile it looked like I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Saturday afternoon it rained and rained. And as much as I’ve learned to love the rain when muley hunting in Eastern Washington, I HATE camping in it. Same goes for Dad. He was ready to pack up his trailer and drive home on Sunday if the drizzle continued and dense fog stuck around. We could just throw the deer in his rig.
But by 7 p.m., the clouds had passed and we could see stars. Dad was staying.
We hunted Sunday morning, saw 19, but didn’t add any more bucks to our game pole. And with me needing to be back in Seattle to send files to press on Monday morning, we decided what to do: Line the Saturn’s trunk with a tarp, cut the deer — now wrapped in game bags — in half, and toss the head in last.
Worked like a charm. Even got a pic of it, complete with the End This War sticker my mother in law thought might convince the deer we were pacifists.
THE AUDACITY OF A DEER HUNTER, STUFFING A MULEY IN HIS MOTHER IN LAW'S SATURN. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)
Down at the Chewuch game check station, it didn’t seem like WDFW’s Scott Fitkin was expecting me to jump out of the coupe when I pulled up around noon, but he laughed as I popped the trunk, pulled aside the tarp and produced the buck’s head for him to take samples from.
While Fitkin’s among the most hated of game biologists among the state’s anti-wolf brigade right now, he became my new favorite when he told his helper to write the 2 1/2-year-old buck up as a 4×2, rather than a mere 3×2, thanks to an eyeguard on the left side.
After I mentioned the car was my mother in law’s, he went off to dig his camera out of his state rig.
We chatted a little more then I got rolling for the Westside. If I blazed over the North Cascades Highway and didn’t get stuck behind any Sunday drivers on the Mountain Loop Highway, I could be home and have the deer unloaded into the garage before Amy and my mother in law returned from a baby shower.
But I started worrying about smells. It wasn’t that warm and the deer had only been shot 27 hours before, but still … So I pulled over up near Klipchuck Campground and stripped a bunch of twigs off a pungent greenleaf manzanita plant and scattered them around the trunk.
At home, my plans to quickly unload the beast were thwarted when I realized I hadn’t brought my house keys. And since my neighbors are known animal lovers — both of their vehicles have those We Love Our Pets license plates — and I didn’t know how our landlords would react to news of a dead creature being hauled into their house, I decided against laying the chunks of carcass on the driveway.
Which meant the deer was still in the back of the Saturn when my mother in law, Amy and son arrived home soon afterwards.
Where was the deer, they immediately wanted to know. Ummmm … just move along, go inside, don’t look out the window for a little bit, OK?
A bit of blood had soaked through the game bags and tarp onto some sort of backerboard she was carrying around in the trunk, so I discretely set those aside in the garage and hoped she wouldn’t miss them. Then, a night later, after the manzanita had had time to soak in, I removed the leaves.
And that, is how the editor of Northwest Sportsman drove a very unlikely rig to deer camp and back.