Three Tags, Three Deer

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Mar 27, 2014
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Three Tags, Three Deer

Hey, all -

The story will be meandering and possibly a little tedious, but it will be my story, and it does have a happy ending for everyone involved; well, everyone except for three deer.

Two of my cousins came up from Glendive this past Friday to do some hunting over the weekend; also on Friday, my youngest son, Roger, bought his tag. With three tags to fill, I decided to hold off on buying mine until this coming weekend, so that I could put my efforts into helping these three family members succeed in their hunts.

We set out on Saturday morning, November 5th. I was a bit concerned, because when I made it out to my parents' place, I thought that Roger and I were late. Due to a couple of SNAFUs in getting ready that morning, we were a little slow getting started. It was just past sun-up, and I could just imagine how everyone had already left without us. As it turned out, my fears were unfounded; I got out there and the house was as quiet as a graveyard - everyone was still asleep.

So I banged on the door and got everyone up, shaking my head at the absurdity of the situation and wondering just how wild Friday night had been after I left. A few minutes later, my cousins and my dad were up and dressed; the coffee was on, and I figured we'd fill some thermoses and get going.

Well, not so much.

To my dismay, my dad pulls a frying pan out of the cupboard and grabs some bacon and eggs out of the refrigerator.


I was starting to wonder if Roger and I should just go on our own, but then I remembered that The Beautiful Mrs. Tas would probably not appreciate any freshly-field-dressed deer in the back seat of our 2008 Ford Taurus, so I held my peace and grabbed a couple of strips of bacon. I offered to go out and start up the ‘79 Chevrolet pickup, since it needs a little while to warm up, but my dad was too busy cracking eggs to hear.

Eventually, we hit the dirt road, a few minutes before 10:00 AM; Roger, my dad (also named Roger) and I were in the old Chevy, while my cousins drove a newer Ford pickup. I am one of those people who think that if you're going to go hunting, you'd best be out there as the sun comes over the horizon, and I figured that by now all of the deer in the county were either already dead or in hiding - I distinctly remember thinking to myself, well, there's always tomorrow.

But, in my overly-dramatic lamentations, I had forgotten that the areas where we were going (a mixture of private and state land) are actually very lightly-hunted, and huge; I wouldn't be surprised if the total land available to us could be counted in a few hundred square miles, rather than mere acres - all of it excellent country for both whitetail and mule deer. Another cause for optimism was the quite-plausible possibility that they had probably been almost completely un-hunted for the past week.

This was confirmed just a few minutes later, when - before we even got to where we intended to hunt - we spotted a nice herd of at least a dozen mule deer, including a serious pig of a fat buck with a high, wide rack sporting at least 5 points on each side. This was on private land belonging to neighbours of my parents; they had given us permission to hunt this land, so there were no worries there. They were within sight and not worried about our presence, even though they surely must have heard that old 350 Chevrolet engine banging away.

We pulled off to an approach that was relatively obscured by a hill between us and the deer, and my son got out of the pickup with my Marlin m336 .30/30, which was hand-loaded with 150-grain Speer HotCores. My cousins, Dennis and Dale, elected to let Roger have his chance without any worries about who was shooting what or a possibility of a blown stalk due to too many fingers in the pie, so they stayed parked while Roger advanced.

For a 14-year-old, Roger is a pretty good stalker. He's been hunting with me pretty much since he was a toddler, and he learned long ago to stay low, stay quiet and stay out-of-sight as much as possible. Last year, he pulled off a beautiful 200-yard stalk on almost level country, carefully using a very shallow drainage and knee-high brush to slowly close within 60 or 70 yards and shoot his first deer. He did this totally on his own, while my dad and I watched from far behind. I knew with certainty that he could do this, and once again, he did a good job. He crept along, using the small hill for cover, then crawled up it carefully until he was maybe 40 yards from the deer, who were not the least bit alerted to his presence. My dad was actually starting to get impatient about it and wondered why he (Roger) didn't just go up there and shoot the deer. The truth is that Roger probably could have done exactly that, but the boy was trying to test himself and sharpen his skills and I have to admire that.

He finally crested the hill, slowly, right behind a clump of sagebrush. Taking his time, he positioned himself for an almost-textbook prone shot. There was a very pregnant pause, and my dad was wondering aloud whether the deer would die of old age instead of lead poisoning when the .30/30 went off.

I need to pause here a moment to inform you of a crucial plot point. As Roger was getting out of the pickup, my dad told him, "Now Roger, they (the landowners) let us hunt here, and they like to get their bucks, so you just leave that big buck alone and shoot something else." This is true, as a couple of years ago, the landowners had made this request, so that their sons could get some big bucks for the wall. It's no big deal to us, because we hunt for the freezer, and the does get really, really big around here; but please do keep this little factoid in mind, for later.

So, we knew that the big buck (I'll call him Old Smokey) was safe. The year before, Roger had told me after his stalk that he picked the biggest doe of the group and shot at her, so I figured he would do the same here.

Instead, as the rifle went off, we saw a smallish doe (or so we thought at the time) go down.

Weidmanns Heil!

Roger jumped up and ran toward his deer. Incredibly, the other dozen deer, including Old Smokey, just stood there, alternating glances between their dying comrade and this large, upright beast lumbering toward them carrying a thunder stick. Finally, they decided to skedaddle and ran off down the coulee as Roger got to his deer.

Meanwhile, I was proud as hell over such a good stalk ending with a deer down after one shot, and was heading over to congratulate him, with my dad, Dennis and Dale close behind. My dad was actually carrying his coffee cup, which struck me as kind of funny, for some reason.

As it turned out, Roger jerked the shot just a bit, hitting the deer at the base of the neck, rather than in the heart/lung area as he intended, it would have been dead in a minute or two, but he feels an incredible empathy for animals and as a result decided to put the deer out of its misery with a shot to the head.

The first question he was asked when we caught up with him was, "Why did you shoot the little doe? There were so many!"

His reply was classic, and it had us all laughing. "Well, it looked a lot bigger in the scope!"


It was discovered at this time that he'd shot himself a young buck (I’ll call him Bucky); it barely had any antlers, although it had a fairly big body for its age. No worries - good eats in the freezer!



After the field dressing and the drag back to the pickup, we set our minds on continuing the hunt. My cousin Dennis decided to stalk around and see if he might find one of the deer that had absconded after Bucky was shot. Dale, on the other hand, was on his first hunt in quite a few years, so he elected to wait until we went to another area, so that he might have a chance at a large buck.

We made our way to the top of the coulee where we discovered the first herd of deer, and Dennis started working the brush-filled draws coming up from the creek bottom. It wasn’t long before he spotted a large mulie doe and her two fawns, perhaps 200 yards in front of us, standing near the top of an outcropping between two draws. I’m not sure how big the fawns looked in his scope, but the doe must have looked even bigger, because she is the one who jumped when he shot his Remington m700 .30/06. She staggered over the back of the outcropping and dropped quickly out of sight.


When we got to the top of the draw and looked down, there she was; she had made it to the bottom of the outcropping, and that was it for her. Her fawns, old enough to take care of themselves, stood watching us a safe distance away.

Weidmanns Heil x 2!


We dressed and dragged the deer in short order. Dennis didn’t feel that a doe was worth any pictures, but I got a couple, to preserve the moment.


By now, the fawns had sauntered off and no other deer were likely to be found closeby; besides, Dale was hoping for a buck, so we decided to proceed to another area a few miles away; the place that we had actually intended to start our hunt earlier. It a sizeable portion of land, with plenty of rough country for mule deer and creek bottoms for whitetails - and brush of all kinds for both. We hunted in the same area last year, and I took quite a few nice photos, many of them worth framing, I’d say. We also saw plenty of signs of large deer last year, including a very large carcass with head, hide, and all quarters, loins and tenderloins removed. Apparently, such “field butchering” is getting common these days. It’s not my thing, but it is legal, I guess, and it is probably practical for some folks.

We spent the rest of the day beating brush, working coulees and generally putting in some good hunting. There were a few opportunities that were passed on and a couple of other opportunities for respectable bucks that were blown, but Cousin Dale kept at it. He likes to hunt, and he likes to work for it, so it was a challenging but rewarding day.

Sometime during the day, I noticed a curious (or maybe not-so-curious) thing. At random intervals, it seemed that it was “unofficially necessary” to stop wherever we were and have a 15- or 20-minute “strategy conference” over what to do next. I’m not simply talking about a “Hey, there’s some deer, let’s go this way and that way to try to get one” kind of thing. No! That would be understandable. This was something that started off with spotting little tiny dots of deer a few miles away (far from land that we could hunt on), and wondering if they would meander their way here, there or somewhere else. All of this while perfectly good, unexplored coulees, draws and brush were right in front of us. Then, for no reason that I could see, the planning session would proceed onward to some random topic - say, gout - and how it was important to just face the music and get the Allopurinol, because So-and-So at my dad’s work (whom none of the rest of us had ever met and who I think might have departed the earth several years ago) had absolutely refused to take the Allopurinol and was dedicated to simply “eating right.” Said unfortunate soul was always having a massive flare-up at the worst times, such a right before or during a hunting trip, and would have to get the acute treatment (Indomethacin) instead, when the maintenance medication (Allopurinol) would have kept that from happening. After a few twists and turns, we’d find ourselves back to the issue at hand, and someone would finally say something like, “Hey, that draw over there looks like there might be worthwhile; let’s go take a look.”

In the middle of one conversation about paddlefishing, we actually saw a small herd of deer rise up out of a creek bottom and move along some brush to an area toward us. Of course, the country between us and them was completely open, so a stalk had almost no chance of success, but we tried anyway, of course, with predictable results.

Before long, poor Young Roger (with considerable anxiety, considering that his tag was already filled) started referring to these interludes as “Old Man ADD Moments” and observed that the deer around us didn’t have much reason to worry. I mentioned that we’re older than he is, and need to stop and rest now and then, but he countered that more than one of these conferences had taken place while we were “driving around from one end of the world to the other” and asked if the old Chevy needed to rest, too. It was all in good fun, and typical of the banter that will be found in my family, but with a sharp wit like that, I wouldn't be surprised if the boy might be a lawyer one of these days.


Once, while crossing through a gate comprised of wooden fence posts and barbed wire, I noticed that the end post of the gate was rather old, rather weathered, rather thin and rather bowed; because of this, I tried to be gentle when opening it, but it was also rather tightly wired to the fencepost. My dad, not realising this, came up to “help.” He opened up with something like, ”You gotta wiggle and jiggle it around sometimes, like this….” He then proceeded to demonstrate, rather enthusiastically; and while doing so, the post snapped in half.

Par for the course!

We made a note to fix the gate the next day, and continued our hunt.

Right about the time that the sun was going down, Dale had one last solid opportunity for a pretty good sized mulie doe, but he decided to pass on her and see what could be found the next day.

We went back to my parents’ place, washed out the cavities of Roger’s and Dennis’s deer, and set them up for “cool” storage for the night in a place that was safe from all of the half-wild cats that are hanging around. The cats can’t just eat the food that my dad puts out for them, because the skunk and her three babies have more or less usurped the food dish. The funny part is that my dad complains about both the cats and the skunks, as well as the deer that get in his tomatoes and trees. Miles and miles of wheat, barley and alfalfa all around us, and they seem to prefer chewing on his pine trees and eating his tomatoes. I observed that the deer, skunks and cats were all alive, in good health and well-fed, and he replied, “Yeah….”

Roger and I then went home for supper, but we came out later to visit, play cards and plan the next day’s hunt. Dennis mentioned that they would have to leave around noon on Sunday due to some commitments back home, so I figured that we would be hitting it early the next day.

Overnight, the Daylight Savings Phenomenon kicked in; as a consequence, the next morning found Roger and me frantically rushing around getting ready as the sun came up. On our way out to my parents’ place, convinced that everyone might have already left without us, we stopped at the local convenience store for coffee and hot chocolate, so that time wouldn’t be wasted on an extra pot of coffee that might have to be made.

I was just putting the lid on my coffee when I heard a familiar voice behind me say, “Uncle Roger’s making pancakes!” Sure enough, I turn around, and there’s Cousin Dennis, who found the local grocery store closed and dropped in to pick up some syrup for the pancakes that my dad is somewhat famous for in the family.

Jesus wept.

Resigned to the fact that we were going to get a late start, we followed Dennis out to the house, went through the breakfast ritual, warming up the pickup and so forth - only this time we had to fill it up with some gas, too. Luckily, my dad had 6 gallons there, so we didn’t have to waste half an hour going into town, seeing someone we know, shooting the breeze with them, etc. &c….

Finally ready, we set out again, maybe a little earlier than we had the day before. By this time, Dale had decided that a doe wouldn’t be so bad after all, so all options were on the table.

Within minutes, we saw a doe by the side of the road; presumably Bucky’s mother, looking around and seeming confused. We drove on.

Things were about the same as they had been Saturday afternoon: drive to a damned good-looking spot, get out, walk some coulees and draws, beat some brush, discuss this or that, spend some time watching deer that were nowhere near anywhere we could hunt, and so on - only this time we also got to re-hash the stalks and events of Saturday, as well. Roger took a little ribbing for his “it looked bigger in the scope” comment; Dale took a little ribbing for a blown was a good time. We checked out a couple of very likely spots, but didn’t see anything except a rather large jackrabbit and an owl, who probably didn't appreciate that we scared the jackrabbit into some cover.

At about 11:30, Dennis and Dale figured that they’d better start heading back to the house so that they could hit the road in time to be back in Glendive at the appointed hour, so we loaded up and started back. On the way, we decided to have one last, quick look at the coulee where Dennis and Roger got their deer - and sure enough, it wasn’t long before we spotted two does and two forkhorns just one draw over from where Dennis had shot his deer the day before. After planning a stalk, Dale set out in pursuit while we waited behind and watched. The deer had moved off a bit out of sight, but we could still see Dale in the distance.

Eventually, we saw him drop to a knee and shot one of the bucks with his 7mm Remington Magnum; the one he chose had spindly antlers, but a bigger body than the other. The shot landed a little far back for whatever reason, exploding the liver and then nicking the heart. This resulted in a little bit of tracking and waiting while the deer went off and bled out, but it wasn’t too long before Dale was able to dress him and tag him.


Weidmann’s Heil x 3!

Side note: dragging the deer back, we had to cross a rather wet area that was actually running off, which is unusual this time of year. My dad, who was carrying nothing (not even his coffee cup), elected to be the “scout” and find the best place to cross before we headed nearly straight up the side of a fairly high draw. Everyone else made it across the drainage in good order; however, I stepped in a bad spot and unexpectedly sank straight up to my knee, causing me to drop the rear leg of the deer that I was carrying. This wouldn’t have been too big of a deal, except that for some stupid reason - perhaps because we were in such a rush to hurry up and wait for pancakes that morning - I was wearing tennis shoes instead of honest-to-goodness boots. Pulling my foot up, I realised that I was on the verge of losing my shoe to the mud, so I called Roger, who was carrying the front leg, to come back, reach down and grab my shoe. For whatever reason, he couldn’t pull it out of the muck, so Dennis dropped the leg that he was carrying and came back to get the job done. I was slightly embarrassed, but thankful that I hadn’t eaten chili the night before. The other shoe wasn’t stuck as badly, so I pulled it out of the incredibly-deep muck, took it off, and proceeded up the hill in socks; along the way, I managed to step in at least three patches of prickly pear cactus that were hiding underneath some grass that was leaning down.

Par for the course!

On the way back, we saw the landowner, who was tending to his cattle. We stopped, thanked him for the access, and chatted a bit about the hunting. Roger, who has known the landowner since he was about 4 years old and spent his first years of elementary school with a mild crush on his (the landowner’s) granddaughter, said, ”I left a really big buck for you to get when you go out.” The landowner replied that he appreciated the thought, but next time Roger should just go ahead and shoot Old Smokey. So, Roger is already making plans for next year.

The rest of the story is pretty easy to tell; my cousins hit the road a little late, but they were successful. Dad, Roger and I fixed the broken gate, replacing the broken post with a newer, more solid one. We brought Roger’s deer into town and hung (hanged?) it up in the shed; it’s been a little warm, lately, so it will probably only hang a couple of days, instead of the usual 10 or 14 days, before we get it cut up and in the freezer. It gets good and cold at night, so all will be fine.

So, a successful weekend. My son Roger tagged his deer, my cousins tagged their deer, and all ultimately within a few hundred yards of each other. Best of all, we had a great time and made some real memories. No big trophies, no “wall-hangers,” just some good, honest hunting and plenty of deer in the freezer. I’ll be getting my tag in time to hunt this coming weekend, and my dad even said he’d probably get one, too, so the adventure will continue.



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Feb 10, 2008
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Reed City, MI
We don't have the wide open spaces here, but I know that usually, unless you are in a very remote section of land, once the shooting starts, all bets are off on where the deer will be and what they will be doing. It almost doesn't make sense to try and plan on any particular deer for opening day of rifle season.

I think that is one reason bow season is more popular with a lot of guys here. It's more like hunting and less like shooting something that you're lucky to have walk in front of you.


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Jun 11, 2015
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Nice write-up. Just read this in my stand lol. I shot a small 6 and a doe so far but the big guys are elusive around these parts. Plenty of trail cam pics though..