The following is a one-sided telephone conversation, what you would have heard me saying early yesterday afternoon when my old friend Eric Bell called to tell me about the muley he shot the day before just uphill of where I got mine on opening weekend.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“How wide was he?”
“Holy ––, 25 inches!”
“Five and a half years old! Whoa.”
“Mother of god.”
“He’d been shot in a previous season too?”
“Yi yi yi.”
“Well, congrats, that’s a heckuva nice buck, man.”
“Yeah, send me pics, definitely.”
“Jesus, babe, Bell shot a ––– monster up at camp, claims it’s the size of a small horse! I knew I should’ve gone the second weekend instead of the first!”
With that, I headed to the store to buy a cheap pan to bleach my buck’s now, umm, incredibly teeny tiny rack.
IT’S ACTUALLY SWEET REDEMPTION for Bell. The particular spot he was hunting has some sour personal history. It was in October 2004, I believe, that he ambled over to me with pursed lips as I drove into our hunting camp in the upper Methow Valley for the second weekend. He showed me a cartridge.
With a dimple on the primer.
And the lead on the business end still jacketed tight.
Should’ve been a 4×4 hanging in camp, but his bullet had misfired.
Bell should also have jacked it out of his .30-06, because instead of bounding off, the buck had hung around. Nothing happened the second time he pulled the trigger on that shell either.
He’s had similar poor luck for years. I credit him for driving a herd of does plus a 3×4 around the mountain to me in the early 2000s. He flushed a Newport, Wash., whitetail to another friend.
Bell has also had – and I couldn’t make this up if I tried – a buck sneak up to within 10 feet of HIM. Granted, it was like a 1×2 and not legal where we were (not far from his missed 4×4 or 5×5), but still …
And it is, of course, the same Bell I wrote about in Northwest Sportsman last winter, the guy whose emails to me were becoming more and more unbalanced as first A) he struck out in the general season B) and then in the permit season as C) all the while deer rubs showed up at the end of his driveway then progressed almost right into his garage.
Indeed, since the misfire on the muley, the Granite Falls hunter has seemingly become obsessed with getting a blacktail.
He spent the first three or four days of this season hunting well-scouted state land near his house, and while he says one clearcut he was in sounded alive with animal noises, he didn’t see a thing in it.
Which doesn’t surprise me, especially if it was the same cut that he and I glassed late in last year’s hunt. I’d gotten tired of watching it so I crashed through it while Bell stayed behind to hose down whatever scampered out the sides. There was plenty of deer sign in the patch, but when I got back to him an hour later he reported that he hadn’t seen anything come out, though he’d caught glimpses of me – at least once or thrice.
And how, again, were we supposed to see any deer that, at best, are only two-thirds as tall as me?
SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I wrote about a kid from Grays Harbor County who came out to our Eastern Washington deer camp. He hated it. The countryside was too open, the deer could see too far off. He left early and has never come back. I used the incident, however, to illustrate that far more blacktails were killed in a certain coastal area – despite all the brush – than units in more or less open western Okanogan County.
Well, you know what? After this season’s success and despite the Lookout Pack of wolves, you can keep your blacktails and your damned statistics. I’ll be back in the Okanogan next year – on the second weekend, when the big boys come through (Dad had a 4×4 coming at him in the fog last Friday before it wheeled away).
And I suspect Bell will be in camp too, hunting on Eric’s Bench which is just above Andy’s Saddle. Here’s hoping he’s got another dud cartridge in the chamber when that 5×5’s brother comes over the ridge!