sunset from behind the wire

sunset from behind the wire

Monday, September 16, 2013

Little Elmer

I lived in Northern Virginia and while there I met some of the moneyed gentry from the Old Dominion, some of whom I worked with. So it was that they found out that I liked to hunt deer. These old money types had a "hunting lodge" in Blue Ridge country that abutted an agricultural area. I'd left my personal rifles at home on the West Coast and they said, not to worry, they used buck shot and would loan me a shotgun.

My arrival at the lodge was somewhat later than most of the dozen or so hunters and a lot of them had gone to bed. I set my alarm for 4 am to get out well before first light. I was dressed, and ready to go by about 4:15 am and nobody else was around. I looked outside to see if some of them had left without me but the cars were all there. So I went back up to my bedroom and waited. At about 8 am (broad daylight) I heard people knocking around so I went downstairs and a maid had arrived and was making breakfast.
white tail deer

By 10 am, everyone of these Virginia gentlemen had breakfasted. I figured the best part of the hunting day had passed, but since I was the honored guest, I kept my mouth shut on the subject. Still, they all seemed intent on hunting. In a gathering of all the prospective (and now fed) hunters, the organizer, a senior member of America's Clandestine Service, announced that the target of the hunt was, "Little Elmer". Little Elmer was a buck white tail deer that had been causing a disturbance at a local farm. He showed photos of Little Elmer, an 8 point buck, to aid in identification.
As a mule deer shooter from the Rocky Mountains, I couldn't have been more shocked. I'd never heard of hunters naming a particular deer (among thousands). Mule deer antlers are identified by the number of tines on one antler. White tail deer antlers are counted by ALL of the tines on both antlers. Thus a Colorado four-point is a Virginia eight-point. There is such a thing as brush shooting (snap shots) as you flush deer, but most West Coast hunting consists of long range shots exceeding 100 meters and sometimes as far out as 500 meters.
I was driven on hardball road to a point and led through about fifteen meters of brush to a trail and placed there. It was explained that Little Elmer was known to use that path.  I racked the shotgun and waited.
Every area requires different hunting methods, however, mountain and desert hunting generally requires that the hunter walk. Not in Virginia, it seems. They wanted me to wait. Other hunters were positioned in tree stands ...chairs in trees so you can shoot down on the deer.
mule deer
Roughly half an hour later, I heard something walking down the path and sure enough, it was Little Elmer. I fired one round of OO Buck from the Remington 870 and that ended the depredations of the offending deer. Normally I'd clean the deer where I shot it, but my host instructed the hunters that they should pull the deer to the road that paralleled Little Elmer's favorite route. On the hoof, Little Elmer didn't weigh much more than 120 lbs. A full load-out military (special forces) ruck weighs 105 lbs, so the weight difference wasn't all that much. I tied a few loops of 550 cord around Little Elmer's rear legs, piercing the legs above the joints through the tendons and dragged him to the road. 

Maybe five minutes later, my host drove by and said, "I thought that was you shooting." We put Little Elmer into the back of his truck and started picking up other hunters along the road. I asked why they didn't continue to hunt. He said, "You got Little Elmer, the hunt is over." I checked my watch. It was just about noon. My host said that the maid would be putting out a lunch for all of us shortly. We were driven back to wash up for the noon meal.

I said that I planned to clean the deer, but my host said that had been arranged. Unknown to me, a butcher was standing by at the lodge to clean and butcher Little Elmer.

After lunch, the assembled Virginia gentlemen drank a lot of very good whiskey,  toasting my victory, and discussed past hunts, and difficult shots. (with the underbrush a long shot would be about 20 meters) Dinner was served in the by and by and I went to bed, blooded by the kill.

East Coast hunting is different than West Coast/Rocky Mountain hunting.

15 comments:

  1. ...decades later...I woke up on my first Sunday on the east coast, which was the first Sunday of the NFL season. I went downstairs to the TV room at about 0900 and flipped it on. No football. No pre-game talk. Another west coaster came down and asked, "Why don't you have the game on?" I said that it wasn't on...and where was everybody else? We waited about an hour, flipping channels, until somebody told us about Eastern Standard Time.

    The next day I found out why my cousins would watch Monday Night Football until after after midnight...because they were still playing!

    Things are definitely different back east...

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    1. And they don't have tri-tip, the cut of choice when I'm BBQing -- what happened?

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  2. Hunting rituals are interesting. A very good friend starts the season with a very early morning feed (his timing lines up very closely with yours). He usually has 10ish friends that join and they hunt a couple hundred acres around his home. Shotguns or .45 cal or larger are all that are allowed during "shotgun" season. By noon most tags are filled before a lunch of venison chili. By the end of the day all but one or two tags will be filled. It's a good day. In Iowa there is rifle hunting is some of the very southern counties. Of course there are a couple bow seasons and black powder as well. A distance shot here would be 100 yards, but that's rare - most are less than 50. The whole thing starts for the year with youth bow next weekend.

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    1. I used to hunt black powder with a Brown Bess, which would be an easier hunt with the ranges you're more likely to encounter. I like to hunt archery simply because it's a greater challenge. Your friend's hunt sounds like fun.

      Honestly, it's more fun just being out with the guys than it is killing (and having to clean, etc.) the deer.

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    2. I think that most West Coast/Rocky Mountain hunters have to work a lot harder to fill a tag on average.

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  3. It's the gentlemanly way to hunt. Maids, butchers, cooks and deer assassins.

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    1. The major variable in my experience was snow/no snow because the hunt was completely different depending on that single variable. Snow tends to move deer to lower elevations and it makes them easier to drag. They're also easier to spot and track. Heavy snow makes going hard for both hunter and prey.

      I used to set out with a pocket full of freshly made oatmeal cookies (food) for the day as soon as it was light enough to shoot - about 5 am. Usually colder than a witch's tit (really cold), and would warm up as I walked. Maids, butchers, cooks and butlers were never part of my hunting ritual.

      But as I mentioned above, the opening of rifle season was an extended family event. While it was always nice to get a big buck, the memories are all of my family. We looked forward to it all year -- sitting around the fire, telling hunting lies, predicting where the deer would be (usually wrong), etc.

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  4. So, who kept their pet after you shoot him?

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    1. I'm sure that the head ended up on somebody's wall.

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  5. You murdered that poor dear? Shame!

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    1. I always wanted to have a taxidermist mount the head of a deer that I shot. Mount it near the entrance to the house and sling a sign around it that says, "If you feel lucky, punk, you're next."

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  6. Reading of the circumstances that led to your take down of "Little Elmer," something jarred my memory, popping Abbotobad to the center of my consciousness. How very strange, huh?

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  7. That is not hunting, that is suicide by shotgun... Been shot at enough times by "hunting club" guys to take all the interest out of going...

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    1. Usually the so-called "California hunters" are the ones who shoot merely on brush popping near by rather than on identifying the brush popper as a deer. But I'm with you on the hunting club types. They're almost always over anxious and under prepared.

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