Hunting Memories

Day-Care Deer Story

"You have to be home by 9 a.m.," was the last thing my wife said to me when I asked to go deer hunting at a friend's ranch on September 20, 2002. I had only the first two hours of this day to harvest an A Zone buck, and that would be it for the rest of the season. I almost didn't get out of bed for a lousy two hours of hunting, but the image of an elusive California monster coastal buck that was missed by the landowner's relative the week before gave me the extra motivation needed.

I was atop the ridge by daylight, where the best hunting on the ranch is to be had, with no deer in sight. I found myself looking/hunting into the sun and decided to drop off the backside and start back to my truck on the still-shady, west-facing hillside. I couldn't help but to be too noisy as the oak leaves crunched under my most well-placed footsteps. As I cleared the woods the going became quieter on the softer, dry grass. My watch read 8 a.m. I thought I heard some rustling on the far side of the canyon, near a spot where I arrowed a trophy boar the year before. Next came the unmistakable "blow/snort" only a large boar could make. I had decided earlier I would not shoot a large hog as I was by myself and had only a short time to get back home. As I scanned the far hillside, all I could see was a forest of oaks, thick and steep. There was one small clearing maybe 50 yards by 50 yards, so I dropped to my butt and rested my elbows on my knees and took a look through my Leupold 2x7, not at all prepared for what came next. A series of five or six blows preceded the buck's entering the clearing. I don't know if he was trying to wind me or challenge what he thought was competion, but his swollen neck and gray coat complimented his impressive rack. He not only walked into the only clearing on the hillside, but stopped broadside as well. One shot from the Remington 700 dropped him in his tracks at 200 yards. He slid down the hill into the steepest canyon on the property, and came to rest in the dried-up creek bed. My watch now read 8:20 a.m.

I made my way to the buck — heavy beams, matching eyeguards, and a pretty 3-point rack greeted my arrival. I quickly dressed the animal and began the haul to my truck. I soon realized I was about to be very late getting home to baby and wife. I decided to hang the buck in a large oak, propped open the cavity, and covered it up with a tied sweatshirt. I hustled down to the truck and zoomed home to a not-so-happy wife who was now late because of me. She took off and it was myself and baby, and a hanging deer. Of course all my local buddies were somewhere else, so I was on my own with the temperature climbing into the 90s. I grabbed the baby backpack and headed back to the canyon, wondering how to explain all this to my wife later! How was I going to drag the buck down/through steep hills with rocks and low-hanging branches with Boo Boo on my back?!?

As I took the exit off the freeway, the answer fell right in my lap. With the wine grape harvest ending, there was a sea of workers on the corners looking for any job available. I had long admired the men who tried so hard to find work, but never had the means, or a reason to help. I did now. Two brothers hopped in and off we went to the ranch. I threw Boo Boo in the backpack and up the hill we went. As it became too dangerous for the little one, I was able to point out the tree where the buck was hanging unscathed. Down to the truck we went, everyone smiling along the way.

Mommy arrived home shaking her head while Daddy got to work skinning and caping the deer. Not a bad day for this day care dad!

Michael Patt
Sebastopol, California

Editor's Note:
We should add that it took Michael 20 years to finally get a buck with his rifle. He told us that last year he missed a very large 4x4 up in D6, as he was winded and had no rifle rest. He went home disappointed but never gave up.

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