Like a bad rash, I have returned.
I came through the door last night about 8:00, said hello to the family and headed straight for the shower. After a debrief by the wife of the events I missed while I was away, I gave her the high and low points of my trip and went to sleep. For any of you who have spent a week or more sleeping on the ground in a freezing tent, you know the joy of slipping between the cotton sheets of your own bed. I am just now getting to my bags for unpacking and laundry. Yes, I am being lazy today, if that's ok with you. Or even if its not.
I did not get a buck.
Am I disappointed? I little.
Did I have a bad hunting trip? Not at all.
When my friend Mark picked me up at my house and we drove my Jeep onto the car trailer, we had hopes that we would be able to get into some tight places that we could not reach with a full size pickup. That was the plan. The plan started coming unraveled around the town of Maxwell when one of the wheel bearings on the trailer started spewing white smoke from the left side. Crud. On to plan B.
We decided the best course of action would be to limp the trailer back to Mark's house in Arbuckle and proceed to Alturas to meet up with the rest of the party at our friend's house. We gathered my gear from the Jeep and headed back up the road towards Modoc County. I kept telling myself that when it comes to deer hunting there are the essentials and everything else is just makes the trip more comfortable. The essentials are - rifle, ammunition, hunting license and deer tag. I made sure those went inside the pickup and threw the rest of my gear in the back.
We spent the night at my friend Stig's house in Alturas. He moved from Yolo County last year and knows the area we would be hunting. I could have used a good nights sleep but Stig wakes up at 4:00 every day, so I joined him for breakfast and we talked about his new place and life in Modoc County. Before he left he gave us some much needed fire wood and we drove up into the Warner Mountains in search of a good spot to camp.
We found a great spot back in the mountains to make camp. This little stream was a few hundred feet from camp and we would find deer grazing there in the mornings as we went for water.
We set up both wall tents and my dome tent, we had planned to use the big wall tent as kitchen and dining hall if the weather turned bad but after the first night's rain storm it was clear and cool all week. We spent the rest of the day looking for deer sign and a good spot to hunt for the morning.
Mark and I ran into a few does and fawns on opening day but no bucks. The next day we hooked up with Dan and Larry and decided to walk a ridge down into a valley. That was a good idea. Mark and Larry killed nice bucks about forty yards from each other. When we finished skinning and dressing the bucks and had them wrapped in deer sacks we stopped and had a toast to 'bucks in camp'.
The next few days I hunted with my friend Dan. We hiked, walked and stalked the Warner Mountains without seeing a legal buck for a day or two. At that point we decided to go check his cows down in Madeline. It was a two hour drive from camp down dirt roads with small sections of asphalt thrown in to break up the dusty, bouncy trip. We found most of his cattle at a small windmill in a high dessert meadow. I love the high dessert, some people see sage brush and rocks, I see the beauty of it. We counted the cows and calves and wrote down the ear tag numbers and went back to Stig's house for a real shower.
The next day we set out to hunt a small piece of unburned timber close to where Larry and mark had shot their bucks. As we finished our hunt I decided to see if there was anything back on top of the ridge and Dan was waiting below as I saw the flash of horns that belonged to a big buck go crashing down the side of the ridge. I knew the shot had to be Dan's and I went down to see if he had gotten a clean shot. He did. This was the only buck I saw on the trip. I was only able to see the top of his head for an instant before he ran down the hill, but I a glad that Dan was down there, I doubt if I would have had another chance at him.
I was now the only guy in camp without a deer. Every buck our party had taken was within one hundred yards of me. I had just been on the wrong side of the ridge or pushed the buck to the shooter. Oh well, I still had a few days to hunt.
I must have walked 20 or 30 miles in the week at over 6,000 feet in elevation. I came down from a hike to find a truck parked at the bottom of the hill and talked with two hunters. They said they had watched me walk down the ridge and through a small valley, but I didn't push out any deer. The one guy said I was 'the walkinest fat guy' he had ever seen. I said thanks, I think.
The next day Dan and I drove into Likely for grub. Likely is small town, and this is coming from a guy who lives in a small town. Likely is a bar, a cafe and a general store. It's just like the town I grew up in, minus the bar and cafe. On the way we were held up by a local traffic jam. An outfit was pushing a few hundred cows and calves down the road. We stopped and offered the cowboys a cold one, but they said they would wait until they were finished. It reminded me of being a kid pushing cattle down the road, smiling at the city folks who were furious at us for using 'their' road to move our cows.
The last evening I had decided to take more pictures of the trip. I always wish I had taken more photos that I did on any trip and thought this might be my last chance. I took this shot of Eagle Peak and slid the camera back in front pocket, at least I thought it was pocket. It wasn't.
My Kodak Easyshare CX7530 went crashing down the thirty foot cliff I was sitting on and I was sick. I though I had lost all the pictures of our trip and I spent the next hour walking up and down a freakin' cliff trying to find my camera. Just about dark, Mark came to pick me up with his truck. I told him what happened and he started climbing the rock face to see what could find. He found my camera snagged on a log in the rocks, it still worked. We drove back to camp in a great mood. I didn't get a buck, but I did have the pictures of our trip. Those seem to last a lot longer than the venison.
I may post more photos of the trip if I get permission from my friends to put their mugs on the internet.