Why is it that the natural inclination when looking at a mountain is to assume that there is something worth seeing or doing up there? Why as a hunter do I assume that there is a giant buck or bucks bedded just under the ridgeline? A mountain’s temptation is too much for me and eventually I find myself putting one foot in front of the other, toting my bow or rifle and heading for the unknown bounty of game so far out of reach of the masses. Usually the first thing I find is a couple of beer cans. Well, obviously that guy stayed down low and didn’t climb up where the deer are.
About halfway up the mountain, after working up a good sweat and scraping off a good portion of skin off of my lower legs due to constantly climbing over deadfalls, I break through a small screen of brush onto an old gravel road. Now it’s obvious the road doesn’t get much use but it does show fresh tire tracks, maybe even from this morning. This is a little disheartening as I have spent two hours beating the brush and my legs, and now there may be a truck and other hunters on my mountain. I did manage to jump two deer in the deadfalls, but only caught a glimpse of their tails bouncing over a log into the brush. I heard a lone rifle shot down in the valley. It’s funny how the sound bounces around in the mountains almost sounded like it was up top.
Looking up at the towering cliffs that show here and there through the trees I decide that the hunting up top should still be good. This decision is perhaps to counter the growing feeling of déjà-vu concerning other similar mountains that turned out differently and weren’t worth climbing ever again. This was bound to succeed, right? About this time I realize that the rumbling noise isn’t my growing hunger, but a truck coming back down the mountain. I didn’t recognize until later the impish grin on his face when he asked if I wanted a ride back down to my rig! The indignity of it was too much. “No, I’m up here hunting.”
“There’s pretty good hunting on down the road,” he said with a wave as they started to pull away. My jaw dropped at the large 4 point in the bed of the truck. I started to stop them to take a look, but they were on down the road. Good hunting down the road my foot, they’ve already been there, I muttered as I cut up into the timber. I’ll go straight up this way and see what they spooked around the mountainside.
I must have been off in my estimation when it looked like a small ravine cut up between two cliffs because an hour and a half later I found myself in a precarious situation usually only encountered on the south face of the Matterhorn. My rifle was slung across my back and useless as I used my fingernails to ascend the “ravine between the two cliffs.” About this time something moved above me. The bewildered look on the buck’s face was almost priceless. He didn’t expect to see a hunter down there I guess. As he strutted off, I almost caught a hint of that same impish grin the guy in the truck gave me.
A half an hour later, as I crested the hill, the feeling of victory and accomplishment was tempered by the torn fingernails and scraped elbows. Nonetheless there had been a nice buck about where I had figured he should be. Although I would have loved to hunt the beautiful ridges and draws around the back side of the mountain, the daylight would be slipping away in an hour and a half and the truck was miles away. I figured if I hurried I could make the road before dark.
Two hours later in complete darkness I stumbled into a large blackberry patch in an attempt to go around the blow downs. The pathways led a good ways into the blackberries and I was optimistic I could find my way through until I realized they were bear trails. Although bears and I get along well during daylight hours, the thought of coming across one in the dark in tight quarters made me grip my battered rifle a little tighter. I had already crossed one ridge I didn’t remember in the dark and my patience was starting to wear a bit. Wish I could have gotten a shot off at that big buck, maybe next time. About that time a branch broke near me and everything became a blur. I have seen coyotes move quickly through black berries; however I made pretty good time myself. In retrospect I never saw the bear but his presence was obvious at the time.
When I finally reached the safety of the truck I was almost all in. I clutched at the water bottle I had forgotten on the seat. I congratulated myself on the safe descent and wiped off most of the blood before getting into the truck. I have to tell you though that buck up there still haunts me. Thinking of his rack sauntering majestically across the hillside above the cliffs makes me wish that was a more accessible hill. The drive back home settled me down some and sanity slowly faded into plans to go after the old buck on the mountain next weekend.