Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Déjà vu

     A new year comes with new adventures and new stories. For us, stories sometimes evolve into many segments: the Cutt Slam, or an elk hunt that takes many attempts. I want to add the second chapter to something that started almost exactly a year ago: my forays into deer hunting.
     This was Stub’s (The Ranger’s younger brother) first deer hunt. We went back to the very same ranch where we had so much success last year. The very same voices of Robert Siegel and Audie Cornish drifted through the radio as we drove through the dark of southeastern Wyoming. A sense of déjà vu descended, and I looked at Stub as I remembered my deer hunt a year before. I wondered if he felt the trepidation that I felt, or the inability to sleep I remembered. Then, I noticed that he was asleep. I guess he wasn’t having that problem…
     As soon as we got on the property, in was game time. It was COLD when we got there at sunrise - about -8 F. We shivered outside the truck as we put on the final layers of clothing and discussed our gameplan. We would drive along the dirt road through sunrise, hoping to catch the deer as they made their way from water and feed to the sand dunes where they spend the day. Our lineup went as follows: Grandpa as driver/spotter, Rangerdad as front passenger/spotter, me at left rear passenger/shooter, and Stub at right rear passenger/shooter. It went exactly to plan. We just passed the property line when we saw three or four doe whitetail, not a hundred yards away. So Stub got out and very calmly made a great shot on one of the bunch. She dropped. With that, we began chasing one of the bunch that had separated and not gone very far.
Stub and Rangerdad
     We chased her for several hours. She stayed pretty close, sometimes allowing me to get a shot in and every time she came out unscathed. By the time she finally darted into the neighbor’s property, I had fired six or seven pretty easy shots. This had shaken my confidence pretty badly. Before, I thought I was an okay shot, but after that I was regarding myself as the worst shot in the history of humankind. But after taking care of Stub’s deer and eating lunch, I convinced myself that I was just feeling a little off that morning and things would get better later in the day.
     We headed up to the sand dunes that afternoon. On the way, I took a shot at a little bunch about 200 yards away, within easy range for my .243. Again, nothing happened to one of the deer. By the time I had jacked another shell in, they were 400 yards away and running. I was once again trying to find a fault in my shooting to fix, and I couldn’t come up with anything that might cause me to miss entirely.
     When we got to the dunes, Stub was feeling sick so he and Rangerdad stayed at the truck while Grandpa and I went walking. We nearly had a repeat of last year, when we stumbled upon a doe and a yearling at the same blowout where I shot my deer last year. I was a wee bit wobbly this time, so it was no surprise to me that I missed my first shot but the others I was bewildered at. I had missed four shots at no more than 200 yards. Simply put, it was not good. I had similar experiences with another three or four groups. We decided that there could only be two possibilities: 1. I was really bad at shooting or 2. My rifle was really off. We decided to test this, so we found the nearest target (a rabbit 10 yards away) and tested it out. It was around five inches off. While that doesn’t sound like very much at first, until you do the math - if that stays a constant, at a 100 yards away, I am 4 feet off. With that, we decided that I should switch to the backup gun.
     We walked around a bit more but saw nothing and after it got dark, we headed out. It was a good day in the field (after all, any day in the field beats a good day anywhere else), and after a stop at the local gas station for a Coke and one of their gigantic hot dogs, we headed home to get some rest for the next day of hunting.

-The Apprentice