Under the summer sky, we drink scotch and talk about the consolations and I wonder how our ancestors followed the stars to guide them in their travels. Cygnus the Swan spreads his wings over us as he glides across the sky, and to the North, Cassiopeia is tied to her Throne.
I wake to the sound of a rumble, the morning train heads north on the track. Ron fires up the stove to start the coffee brewing. We fill our mugs and grab a bagel. I ask Ron if we should pack a lunch, He replies “we should have that Buck by daybreak.” I still throw some Oreo cookies and trail mix into my pack.
This summer I put in for a Mule deer, buck tag, in West Biggs. This is an area in Central Oregon that starts on the West side of the John Day River, and ranges to the Deschutes River. Some of the best places to hunt are in the Deschutes River canyons. The terrain is rugged, steep, and slippery. Ron Walp, a veteran hunter and fisherman on the Deschutes has taken me under his wing. Ron is a man that loves the outdoors; he has the greatest respect for the life that surrounds him. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to hunt with Ron and gain his knowledge of the river.
Ron started running a 50 HP jet boat up and down the Deschutes River to Macks Canyon in 1969. He and his friends have hunted Mule Deer in almost every draw and ridge from Macks Canyon down to the mouth and fished every inch of water . Each night under the stars Ron points out the constellations and tells us stories about his friends as if it was yesterday, and all the bucks they have taken from the tops of peaks that take hours to pack out.
I hope we find a “River Buck” so the pack is within view of the boat.
We load up the boat and head to a spot where Carol Chapman, (Ron’s significant other, has a buck tag too) and Ron have seen two buck over the last few days. We get out binoculars had scan the hillside, nothing in view, they could be bedded down in the draw. Carol and I throw on our packs and sling our guns over our shoulder and plan a recon mission to the first point on the ridge overlooking the draw. Every few steps we stop and scan a section of hillside that comes into view for us. We try to be stealth but the basalt shale slides out from under out feet.
We reach the ridge and hide down under an outcropping; we see Rocky Mountain sheep in the distance but no Mule deer. Ron suggests we hike up the draw to the top and go down the backside into another draw. I have a fair amount of hiking under my belt, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Over the next few days I hike up ridges and side step down shale faces, toes are pressed against the front of my boots, they ache with pain and become numb. By the time I reach camp, they feel as if someone has taken a hammer to them. The country I’m scaling is rugged and meant only for animals with hooves. I’m physically challenged beyond belief but the rewards of seeing new country, and the wildlife that inhabits this magnificent place, and watching the behavior of coyotes, sheep and deer form a distance grazing , hillsides ramming heads is worth every step.
It’s not about the harvesting, it’s about the camaraderie of friends, drinking scotch under the stars, and getting out experiencing life greater than us.
My bag is packed and I’m ready to go again.
Carol harvested a nice buck the next day. She said she was shaking so bad she could hardly stand up. Way to go Carol!!