A young man’s first deer is a memory that lasts a lifetime, but this story has more than one first time.
The 25 Creedmoor project that I named Operation Quarter Lord, has taken down its first big game animal. But it doesn’t stop there either, it is also the first time a Blackjack bullets ace 131 has been used on a deer.
It started late one afternoon, after a heavy rain storm had passed through the dry desert canyons of Utah. Myself, my Brother, and a good friend of ours headed up into the hills to see if we could get on to a deer or two. Also in tow was my friends son Aiden, who was eager to fill his first deer tag.
Only a few minutes after setting up the spotting scope, we had eyes on a fine little buck who would fill the tag nicely. The gun obviously was new to him, it was still new to me for that matter but I was very confident in its potential due to much practice.
Aiden was quickly voluntold to get in position for a shot, and after a few moments he more or less said “shooter ready”. We all focused through our perspective optics, and waited for the buck to give us a good broadside shot. When he did, just a moment later, everything went quiet, and we all concentrated on the small buck, six hundred and ten yards away.
Thats no short poke, but this wasn’t Aiden’s first rodeo either. He has practiced all summer shooting further distances with a custom .223 Remington his father built.
Excitement was in the air, and even my own heart pounded. We waited silently as Aiden took his time to get a good hold, and calmly broke the trigger.
I watched as the ultra flat shooting Ace flew through the cool evening air, barely arching above the target due to the uphill angle. It found its mark, as I have found it always does, impacting the young buck behind his left shoulder. He staggered forward a few steps, looking as though he was going to take a dive, but since he didn’t, Aiden sent round two. Running the bolt on the Tikka like some kind of pro. The second bullet also impacted the bucks chest, and after a couple more staggers, and coughing up much blood, he rolled over and died.
The excitement was thick in the air, a Boy’s first deer, a Father’s first successful hunt with his Son, and ontop of that, my excitement for a project perfectly executed.
The deer was dragged back down to the truck, cleaned and inspected, then back home where he was summarily skinned and washed for butchering.
The excitement never dims, be it the first, or just another hunt. These adventures bring so much flavor to our lives, and tables. I can only hope it stays so.
A few days ago, I mentioned an unfortunate even that I chose to turn into a positive. As I returned home from my brothers house one evening, I noticed a young deer laying on the side of the small two lane main street of our rural town. I quickly pulled over to confirm my sad suspicions, the poor little guy had been hit by a car. I tried to access his prognosis, which turned out to be quite poor, both his back legs had been broken dooming him to to death. I contacted the local Police, so he could be euthanized quickly to end his certain suffering. But I didn’t want his suffering to be in vain, so I decided to turn this sad affair into something positive.
Following through of course with the legal requirements applicable, I called my brother, and we took the young deer back home, where I fully intended to butcher him to avoid further waste. In just a few minutes, we had him cleaned, hung in a tree, and washed him down with cold fresh water. The evening air is still quite cool here in the Rocky Mountains, especially as it flows down from the canyons no more than a mile away. So we left the deer hanging overnight, before putting him into an iced cooler for a weeks worth of aging.
That was a week ago, and this past Saturday morning, it was time to turn what could have been another foul roadside surprise, into something that would make even our Mother proud.
My brother and I set to work, with sharp knives, butcher paper, and my dog Benson staring with wide eyed attention at what must have seemed mountains of juicy and tender cuts. Benson knows a good meal when he sees it.
The deer was fairly small compared to the deer we were used to butchering. He probably was last years fawn, which didn’t leave a particularly large amount of meat. But I’m not one to sniff a gift fish. We quickly turned the small deer into a bunch of neatly little white wrapped packages, destined to become some of my critically acclaimed hamburgers, some savory Sunday roasts, and perhaps a spicy pot of chili. But we decided to save the very best for last, and for that, we needed a sawzall.
We left the carcass of the deer complete, stripping everything but the backstraps. And when we were ready, cut two complete bone in ribeye roasts.
With the deer now completely butchered and packed away safely in the freezer, we discussed this rare springtime delicacy. Its not often to have a fresh never frozen rib rack in the springtime, so I suggested to my brother that he turn this prize into an unforgettable Sunday supper. We discussed the hows and the why’s, and in the end, he bathed the little rack in a puree of garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. And thus it rested overnight in the fridge, destined for the next days dinner table.
What happened next involved much butter, and about twenty minutes in the oven above four hundred degrees. After searing the outside of the rack in hot butter, it was brought up to an internal temp of 130. Then rested, before being served with fresh vegetables. The delicate and delicious meat was then picked from the bones, even Benson got to gnaw the leftovers.
Its hard to beat such a fine meal, prepared with care and skill. But it was even more savory perhaps, because of the knowledge that we had turned what could have been a terrible waste into something that was positive and enterprising. I am still saddened at the suffering this poor animal endured, but grateful that we were able to stop it, and turn it into something beautiful. -CBM
Special thanks to my Brother Spencer for the help, the pics, and for sharing his talent.
I love to see the first signs of spring, the early dawn and the warming rays of the sun. The songs of birds and smell of grass racing out from under the grip of winter. But it also brings with it a touch of sadness, a sense of loss, of a season gone. The coming of spring is the official end of the normal hunting season for us, an end for old opportunities, and the start of fresh ones. This past season was one of change, challenge, and a mule deer buck that I fondly called Chance.
If you’ve followed me for long, you may be familiar with my adventures with my Father. As years go by, I treasure every adventure we share knowing any one of them could be the last. None of us will make it out of here alive, so make those memories, and make them hard.
Dad had come to stay at my house for the deer hunt, we had the week to spend chasing mulies in the familiar Rocky Mountains that are enticingly close to my home. It was late October, and despite an early touchdown of snow, our mountains were uncommonly dry. My focus this year, as it usually is, was to get both my Father and Son to fill their tag. The sooner they do, the sooner I get to focus on the huge monster bucks that I never, ever, see.
Opening day had come and gone, our high mountain canyons were much quieter than normal. Barely a shot was heard all day, and at 9,000 feet ASL the clouds had packed in. Visibility was terribly short, and the cold bit so hard that after a short time we figured the deer were smarter than us, so we moved out.
Two days had passed since the opener, and we were getting anxious for success.
As it often does, our plan changed last minute on a Wednesday morning. We decided to go high, instead of going low as planned. In the darkness we drove up the steep and winding road, rattling the whole way. The sun was just peaking through the distant clouds as we settled at the spot I had hoped would bring us luck.
The always present breeze was waiting for us there, it brought tears to the eye, and shudders to the legs. But I like to tell people Im a tough guy, so I stood out there in the icy breeze, glassing the ever brightening ridges.
I knew that for Dad to get a shot, we would have to find something moderately close to the trail. I didn’t like the idea of packing out two bodies by myself, one is bad enough. I scoured the brushy hillsides as the suns rays brought out their details, looking for the tell-tail sign of deer. And almost as if on cue, I spotted a patch of white in a small open pasture below us. I checked it out… squinted through my wet eyes… then I checked again.
This had to be it, a lone deer, casually strolling through an open pasture only a few hundred yards or so from our glassing point. I quickly signaled Dad to grab his gear, and make his way over to me.
Nobody gets as wound up as I do upon spotting a buck, and the only thing that will wind me up even more is for people to casually saunter around while shootable deer stand there, unawares and vulnerable. My Dad seems to take great pride in maintaining the opposite composure in these tense and exciting situations. By the time he put down his hot chocolate, picked up his rifle, and sauntered over, I had the spotting scope setup on the buck, and was in the process of explaining to Dad the ‘ol “see that tree? And the one behind it? And follow that line to the green bush…” Dad’s calm demeanor didn’t seem to help my tension, all the bushes are green, and there is hundreds of damn trees it’s a forest.
As Dad got into position on the edge of a steep drop-off, he aimed his rifle down into the pasture below. I often think that deer have a sixth or even seventh sense, to them it must feel like a hot ray of sunshine as a rifle comes to bear on them. This buck surely was blessed with that sense, no sooner had Dad aimed his rifle, than this buck began a hasty quickstep towards the edge of the treeline. If only he had the same saunter that Dad brought with him this morning, we might have been able to get a shot. But unfortunately, I watched him work his way into the trees, and into thin air.
My excitement soured a little, as I wiped the cold tears welling in my eyes from that icy breeze. Dad lay there, still behind his rifle, rolled on his side he gave me the “oh well” look. I kept looking into the trees, frustrated by our increasingly shorter time.
When your looking for deer, everything looks like a deer. But when you actually see a deer, there is no doubt that it is. As I stood there, over my Dad, ravaging the hillside with my eager eyes, a flash of movement caught my attention. A doe jumped from behind one of the hundred trees, but I quickly identified her as a non-combatant. Then out of nowhere, there was Chance.
He followed the doe downhill for a dozen or so yards, and stood there, with his twitchy tail pointed our direction. Using my brilliant landscape identification techniques, I again pointed out the buck to my Dad. Who quickly had a bead drawn on the handsome little buck. Chance continued to follow the doe, making his way a few more yards downhill. Our position on the ridge seemed perfect, there was no way for him to get away without us getting a shot off. But almost as though he had a hoof on my pulse, when my stress level was peaked, he decides to step behind one of the few little trees.
We both took a deep breath, and I knew that as soon as he cleared that small tree, Dad would light the fire that would strike him down.
Seconds seemed like minutes, and he finally came out of the tree, his young face looked on into the west. That is when Chance had run out, the hot breath of Dad’s .264 Magnum was already on its way. The shriek of the report was muffled by the Silencerco Harvester, the 140 grain Barnes Match Burner ripped through his left shoulder, he stumbled a few steps, then went down.
Dad slowly got up from his shooting position, and I told him what I had seen through the spotting scope. His excitement was hard to hide now.
I made my way down the steep hill, and Dad guided me into the Buck. He was a very handsome little four point, just the right kind of deer. After a few minutes of relaxing Dad slowly made his way down, and we set to work.
By the time Dad had made it to the deer, the sun was almost on us, and the morning had come alive with the sound of birds and the rustling of the breeze. The thin cold air that had enveloped the mountain all night long was finally carried away. Dad, and I sat there on the hillside, enjoying the beauty, cutting away the tender and savory flesh of this dapper little deer.
We took our time, finally warm in the sunshine. I watched my Dad as he sat on the hillside, snacking on a granola bar, sipping his water, it was hard for me to imagine him in a more happy place. I knew how much he loved being up here in these mountains, I knew he relished the time. He has been coming up in these mountains for sixty years now, and today was as good a trip as ever. His hands were crusted with the blood of another fine buck that would feed our family, shot with Grandpa’s old model 70. Im sure I was smiling too, but inside I was ecstatic about the great luck we had, and grateful again for another cherished adventure with my Father.
We finished cutting up the deer, and let him cool in the still drifting breeze in the shade of the pine trees. Then we slowly made our way back up the ridge, resting as needed, until we got back to the top. As we drove home, tired and satisfied with our hunt, I realized that momentous Chance had made all the difference.