Going it alone

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The first deer I ever shot was in the Rincon mountains east of Tucson, just a few miles from Colossal cave…it was my first real hunt and there were about 6-8 of us young married men out doing what young men talk about doing, killing things.

Our guide (another young married with more experience than the rest of us) had scoped out one of the hills/ridges across from us, I remember sort of panicking inside because when I glassed the hill where everyone was talking about the bucks and how many there were I saw absolutely nothing but rocks and shrubs…finally in a quiet voice I overcame my fear and asked my friend Steve who was lying in the brush next to me, “Where? I don’t see anything?”…he was patient and told me where to look and still I could not see anything in spite of his detailed description…finally he said “see that grey thing that looks like a rock? Watch it”…OHHHHHH…I see it now…I almost laughed out loud…

I had grown up in Oklahoma, I was expecting to see BROWN DEER…not grey…

Finally the herd moved over the ridge, we had decided that as soon as they were out of sight we would quietly as possible ALL rush around the ridge and it would be everyman for himself…since I was hesitant I sort of got the bad luck of the draw, two guys going right, three guys going left, one guy going down the ravine to the bottom etc…that left me to go over the top…which was no easy stroll…

About the time I crested the top I heard gunshots on the right, gun shots on the left and knew basically my chances were blown, deer have an unusual reticence about loud noises and are swift of foot to depart all places that have such oddities…so I sat down at the crest to recover my sucking lungs and aching side…

That’s when luck and possibly the kindness of yielding reaped a dividend…I heard a rock fall beneath me…in spite of two guys running right in front of me from right to left to go see the kill that had happened, and all the noise nearby a nice sized buck was slowly crawling away directly beneath me…see not all deer run, some freeze and THEN run, and if it is too obvious to run, they sneak…

He did not see me sitting atop my rock taking my time and with a premeditated prayer and a calm pull of a trigger I shot my first deer.

I had learned how to field dress one only the night before, one of my friends stopped by and admired the trophy and gave me some advice on dressing it out…and it was about this time that a stranger came up, he was with Game and Fish, he had a scope and saw my tag was in order, congratulated me on helping control the population from disease…I asked him, “Does that ravine go back to the Happy Valley road” (where camp was) “Oh yes he replied, it does”  and then he left…

This is a good place to tell you that there are no such things as short cuts…my choice was to either go back UP the breath-sucking ridge back track and walk back into camp, probably a couple of miles OR go down the ravine and find a nice flat walk to camp…like the young American male I was I went DOWN into the sandy ravine,  back pack, rifle, and what felt like 150 pounds of deer across my shoulders…

The two-mile walk into camp turned into a 5-7 mile all day journey that took me almost 12 hours to complete…once I found my way into the nice sandy dry river bed that was the gateway from the ravine it wasn’t but about a half an hour until the sandy flat bottom changed as I trudged in the hot Arizona heat…the walls of the ravine suddenly sprang up around me as I descended with ease…but once I got to the bottom it was obvious there was no going back, dragging that dead carcass and my gear back UP over the ravine was simply not an option…I had bounced down into my path with a certain amount of post hunt adrenaline, but now as the drudgery set in that adrenaline was gone.

I won’t bore you with the details about Cylindropuntia fulgida, aka “jumping cholla”, but twice I had to stop in anger throw everything to the ground, open up a knife and dig that wonderful desert flower out of my calves…it has an amazing property in that once it latches onto some moving object it’s needles actually dig in deeper with each bit of motion…

I did make it to camp, was one of two of the hunters to get a deer, found out that my wifes pregnancy was a BOY and OU beat Nebraska in football, so over all it was a pretty good day…but I don’t really remember the good as much as I do the lesson of shortcuts and going it alone.

Lately I’ve felt a bit like I was out in the wilderness, hunting something and expecting it in the wrong color…I’ve had a few fellow travelers correct my perception and now I can kind of see what I am hunting…but this brings up an interesting question that at this point in my life I am asking…do I really want to find any kind of victory alone? What good is the hunt if you end up in some ravine with cactus digging into your backside?

Many people in my situation and many of them saying “I don’t trust the others, I am content to take my trophy and get on with life back in camp”…but I hesitate here…not because I don’t understand, because I do, I do understand that others have left you to fend for yourself and maybe even took your trophy or disqualified your victory or…well I don’t know…I am not you and I have no right to presume why you would want to go it alone, OTHER than it is something our culture glorifies and revels in, the independent spirit, the lone wolf, the renegade who can do it all by themselves…but there is a subtle deception in all of that…

You did not find the trophy alone, you will not get to Happy Valley alone, and truthfully you will never be alone even when think you are, there are generations right behind you and in the womb that are either gonna follow you down or follow you up…

At this point in my life I am well satisfied to ask a friend once in a while, “Hey can you maybe carry my rifle or back-back for a short while? I am tired and there’s this thing digging into my leg…”

I didn’t see a single soul in that ravine once I entered it…it was a valley of unmerciful heat surrounded by lonely cliffs and punctuated by snakes and jumping cactus…

Two things I took out of that canyon…there are no shortcuts and going it alone was not how we are supposed to live…as usual your mileage may vary.

Oh yeah I also took my first and probably my last deer…I appreciate that others enjoy wildlife management by hunting and I can applaud the benefit they provide…but for me, I have come to find a much deeper appreciation for letting wild things live wild lives and am content to come close and simply adore it.

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