To Deer Camp And Back, In A Saturn: Part I

I’ve gone to deer camp in many different General Motors products, but never one so out of place as a four-door Saturn.

The gas mileage was pretty damned good, lemme tell you, but it just doesn’t match the manliness of pulling into Okanogan County in a black-smoke-belching Chevy Silverado HD diesel towing a boxcar-sized trailer.

And then there were the opera casette tapes on the passenger’s seat and the Obama, “End This War” and donkey stickers on the car’s bumper.

Not saying that there aren’t any classical music lovers or Democrats or liberals who hunt, but I’d warned my mother-in-law, who’d kindly lent me her Saturn for the weekend, it might come back from camp with bullet holes.

That was fine, she said, just as long as it came back all in one piece — and I didn’t haul any dead critters home in it.

No worries, I said, everyone knows the wolves ate all the deer in the Methow Valley, it’ll just be another armed hike — one that promised to be a wet one too with the rainy weather forecast.

Indeed, the only bucks I thought I’d see would be those in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers which I planned to stop along the way and fish for steelhead.

SO ON FRIDAY MORNING, I threw my float and spinning rods, waders and deer hunting gear in the car, and headed out for a cast-and-blast weekend. The fishing reports have been good, but the Wenatchee was pretty low and clear when I pulled aside below Tumwater Dam.

With brilliant fall foliage burning above, I took a few quick casts into a tailout and pool with big boulders with a spoon then a jig, then moved well downriver to Riverfront Park in Cashmere. I worked a riffle with a spinner then the slightly deeper water below with a marabou jig.

No takers tho (not counting the rocks, of course), so I continued east to the Old Monitor Bridge. The water immediately above the bridge looked interesting, but I didn’t give it much time. Dad, his truck and trailer were already up at deer camp and he could use a hand rousting up some firewood, so I peeled out of the WDFW access and headed north up the Columbia as fast as I could get the Saturn to go — which wasn’t all that fast.

At Pateros, I turned left and headed up the Methow, giving both rods a little workout here and there, but with nothing really to show for it (and even less gear than when I started).

Around 2, 2:30, I gave up on catching anything and cruised up Highway 153’s big sweeping curves along the river.

A little past Carlton, I saw the first buck of the trip.

Not an angler carrying a steelhead back to their rig — rather, the real deal, a buck deer in a field.

It was the funniest damned thing ever: The small muley was being chased across a field by a herd of gobblers. He’d wheel on them and they’d bring up reinforcements and his nerve would break and he’d run. I braked hard (the Saturn shook), turned around, fished my camera out of a sack and tried to take a picture. But the turkeys were so persistent that they chased the buck over a hill and out of sight before I could.

Argh.

I drove on, and the closer I got to Winthrop, the more excited I became. Dad and I have been coming up here for over a decade, and while we haven’t had the best of luck, there’s just something about coming into this big broad valley as the aspen leaves turn from green to gold, and the town swaps its summer tourist trade for hunters.

While the car might have fit in more with the few folks out windowshopping the town’s boardwalks that afternoon, I crossed through and headed into the hills for camp.

The good news was that dad had already taken care of most of the problem of firewood with his chainsaw, but the bad was that the green pine rounds needed splitting, which is where me and my back came in.

But it wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t long before we saw our first in-country deer — a doe and a yearling headed straight for camp. Dad saw them first, and they approached to within 20 yards before the younger animal got skittish and bounced away.

Later, telling my mother-in-law about that, she suspected that the deer saw her “End This War” bumper sticker and told the rest of the muleys in the woods not to worry about us, we were pacifists and wouldn’t shoot.

To be continued …

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