Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The highlights (and headgear) of the '08 hunting season.

My hunting partner and I spent most of this year's hunting season out in the Lake Diefenbaker area of Saskatchewan. This is, practically speaking, my second year hunting. Jacob, my friend and hunting partner, spent some time hunting in Africa - but this was, for all intents and purposes, his first Saskatchewan deer hunting season.

We spent a lot of time at the beginning of the season scouting out the area we were hunting. We patterned the movement of some whitetails in the area, and on the morning of Nov. 11th we set up an ambush on the way into one of their daytime bedding areas. I got two antlerless whitetails that morning - both within about ten seconds of each other (we can get a good amount of antlerless tags for certain areas - but you have to fill two before you can get an either sex muley tag).

I went and purchased my either sex tag on the afternoon of the 14th. The morning of the 15th, we were out in the field well before the sun made its way over the horizon.

The country we hunt is pretty rough - at least for Saskatchewan. The lake edge is riven by deep, wide coulees and clogged with thick brush - it's an odd mix of vegetation - some juniper bushes, poplar or aspen trees, and some less friendly greenery - small cacti and various thorny growths.

Jacob found out firsthand, early in the season, that the latter do not, in fact, make for comfortable seating. I'm still grateful he didn't ask me to perform cactus spine removal . . .
His wife must be a good woman.

The coulees themselves are studies in contrasts - one side of the coulee is often dry and mostly barren, while the other side will be relatively green with lots of brush and trees. The coulees drop down from the surrounding fields 300-400 feet - sometimes gradually, sometimes in plateau-steps, and sometimes in 75-100 foot near-vertical walls.

It was at the top of one of these vertical drops that Jacob (my hunting partner) and I set up to glass the area. The rising sun slid light into the brush and trees immediately below our position.

At about 8:15 AM, Jacob, who was set up about 50 feet away, motioned to me - putting his hand to his ear in an "antler" sign. Sometimes when I've gone without benefit of my morning coffee as I did that morning, I'm a little thick, so I looked back and gave him the palms up "what are going on about" sign. After a little bout of frantic but subdued back-and-forth gesturing, I realized that he was trying to tell me about a big muley buck headed into the area (he didn't have his either sex muley tag at that point).

The buck was walking rather unconcernedly into the area. I waited until it was nearly broadside, and . . . completely botched my first shot. I don't know how - the whole thing felt right - maybe it had something to do with shooting at an extreme downhill angle. The buck started to move a little quicker - at first, a lively trot, then the typical muley "bounce." I did some quick mental recalculations, led him a little, and put the next shot through his spine at about 130 yards. He dropped in his tracks.

I don't recall too many moments when I've been quite that excited.

We made our way down to the buck, and realized that he was quite a grand old fellow. I'm guessing his live body weight was about 250 lbs. I know for a fact that the ribcage and quarters, without skin, head, and innards, weighed 180 lbs. My guess is that he was somewhere around the 7 or 8 year old mark - he had almost nothing left for back teeth (about 1/8 of an inch). It was, to say the least, quite the jaunt to get him out of the coulee.

Jacob, after coming up empty most of the season, finally got 2 antlerless muleys on Nov. 30th. He was also able to get his either sex muley tag, and downed another old bruiser, in the middle of a snowstorm, on Dec 6th - the very last day of the season.

For those interested in numbers . . . After drying for a while, my buck scored somewhere around 152 4/8 B&C after deductions - Jacob's hasn't dried yet, but it seems like it will score about 154 B&C after deductions. I was shooting standard Federal Power-Shok rounds in a Remington 700 in .25-06, topped with a Elite Bushnell 3200 4-12X40. It performed beautifully on all four of the deer I shot this season - most of the energy from the shot was expended inside the animal.

My Buck

Jacob's Buck

On Hunting and Heredity

I was having a phone conversation sometime in mid-November with my uncle Dwayne. In the course of this conversation, we mused about how it was curious that, despite my lack of upbringing in the hunting tradition, I had come to gain such an interest in, and enjoyment of, hunting over the past couple of years. Dwayne's thought was that perhaps my interest in hunting was hereditary. This was an interesting notion, although I wasn't sure what to make of it, or whether I fully agreed.

However, it did get me to thinking. My maternal grandfather (Grand-dad) passed on, if memory serves well, in 2003. In my own estimation, I was still at that stage of growing up where one's relationships with other grown up's are becoming more - well - grown up. In these more 'grown-up' relationships, at least to my mind, one of the things gained is a certain mutual empathy between persons. There is a sense, I think, in which as adults (although we can be at many different stages in life still) we share common (albeit sometimes mundane) concerns, like bills, and taking care of loved ones, and the serious questions of life, so the sorts of conversations we have change according to this mutual empathy (I'm sure this point could be argued - I don't mean this as a sort of sociological commentary - just an attempt at describing experience).
I never really got to have any of these 'grown-up' conversations with Grand-dad. I felt that, at the time of his passing, I was really just starting to get to know him a little bit as a person.

This is why it was interesting to me that, in the course of the same phone conversation, it came up that Grand-dad had been an avid hunter and outdoorsman. I had never really known that side of him. By the time I was self-aware, I think he had probably already hung up his rifle. As much as one can gain this feeling though a sort of 'second-hand empathy,' I felt like in learning these things about Grand-dad, I was allowed to know him just a little bit better, even after all this time. I seem to have acquired a love of hunting very similar, if descriptions are accurate, to Grand-dad's love for the same. As it turns out, I have no really pithy comments to end this blog entry with, so I'll just end as follows. I am thankful for the way in which I've been formed, and I'm thankful that I've grown up with the traditions and family that I have. I'm glad that my forebears were farmers and hunters and, most importantly, people of faith. I don't know what kinds of traits and dispositions are hereditary, or if they are, but at least if I want shoes to fill, I've got them.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Coyote Hunting

Those of you who know me know that I occasionally enjoy getting outside and doing my part to help out the local farming community. How do I do this, you might ask? It would seem that some of the local beef producers (and hobby farmers, for that matter) don't appreciate coyotes having "the run of" their farms. So, nice guy that I am, I burden myself with the grave responsibility of negotiating peace agreements with these marauding canines. I find it helpful to bring along a "translator" - inter-species language barriers being what they are, it can be difficult to make oneself understood with perfect clarity.

Below is a picture of a coyote, along with with one of my "translators." This is a post-negotiation picture: I feel that a very satisfactory understanding was reached.

Of what shall I blog?

I am not sure, to be honest, what the purpose of this blog is. I suppose the inherent nature of a blog defines its purpose somewhat. That is to say, it is a place where I can semi-publicly air my views, thoughts, experiences, or interests if I so wish. So perhaps I shall do all, or some of the above. And, as people read the blog, they shall get some picture, albeit (according to narrative literary theory) one that is deliberately constructed for a certain effect, of who I am. Perhaps there will be useful information interspersed with these ramblings, perhaps not. I suppose that is for the reader to decide.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On blog titles and the probable non-importance thereof

This is my first post in my first blog. On a whim, as much as on anything else, I decided to sign up for my own, unique, blog - something that would, no doubt, set the blogging world abuzz with . . . buzzing? All went well, until the second of three screens requiring completion in order to register for a blog spot. That is to say, all went well for about ten seconds. THEN, the second screen notified me that I needed to enter a title for my blog. Perhaps this would not have been an issue had I been expecting it, but, as it was, I was completely blindsided. A Title? I had not considered for a moment that I should have to title my blog. . .

Never one to be discouraged, however difficult the obstacle, I then thought that I should come up with a title that hinted at depth, at richness of meaning, and refinement (or, at least, should consist of more than the results of me blindly mashing my closed fist on the keyboard several times and pressing enter).

Several unsuccessful attempts at being clever with Greek words left me convinced that every last bloody aspiring blogger must have scoured the pages of any and every known Greek lexicon for blog titles, and so I abandoned that course of action.

To make a long story longer, I finally decided on "Ungratefulness." "Ungratefulness" is the title of one of my favorite George Herbert poems. In this poem he writes of one of the most important polarities: the overwhelming generosity of God, and the extreme selfishness of Man. So, I titled this blog after the poem, because the subject on which George Herbert so eloquently wrote some several centuries ago I try to keep central in my mind, and I hope it will be such in my readers' minds as well. The poem will follow.

In the grand scheme of things, I rather suspect that what I title this blog will be of little importance to anyone but me. One can always hope, though.


Lord, with what bounty and rare clemency
Hast thou redeemed us from the grave!
If thou hadst let us run,
Gladly had man adored the sun,
And thought his god most brave;
Where now we shall be better gods than he.

Thou hast but two rare cabinets full of treasure,
The Trinity, and Incarnation:
Thou hast unlocked them both,
And made them jewels to betroth
The work of thy creation
Unto thyself in everlasting pleasure.

The statelier cabinet is the Trinity,
Whose sparkling light access denies:
Therefore thou dost not show
This fully to us, till death blow
The dust into our eyes:
For by that powder thou wilt make us see.

But all thy sweets are packed up in the other;
Thy mercies thither flock and flow:
That as the first affrights,
This may allure us with delights;
Because this box we know;
For we have all of us just such another.

But man is close, reserved, and dark to thee:
When thou demandest but a heart,
He cavils instantly.
In his poor cabinet of bone
Sins have their box apart,
Defrauding thee, who gavest two for one.

-George Herbert