About Ethics, Perseverence and Getting Help

I enjoy a good hunting story.  That generally involves a fair amount of hunter effort, a deep respect for the quarry, a clean shot and meat made for a family.  Under five percent of the time, in my experience, something in there goes awry, and we get to see how well we have taken our training and responsibilities to heart.  “Gone awry” can make a good story, too.

This is what triggered the story I just got from friend Stan Wills, out Sprague way.  We have both coached a lot of new and experienced hunters, and have brought a fair number of youngsters along.  We teach them to shoot and hunt, make clean kills and respect the critters they will eat.  And, as Stan says, “We preach ethics to our children, but you never know how it will turn out.”

“It has been a good deer season so far…4 does and 3 bucks with 10 hunters.  Two of them harvested their first bucks.  My son Troy did the ethical thing when he finished off and tagged a buck that someone else had wounded and lost, despite losing some of a hind quarter.  He had to go back to work, and my daughter-in-law Charity & grandson Toby stayed for the rest of the season. Toby and I spent a lot of time together while his Mom & Dad hunted.

“Yesterday after cutting and wrapping Troy’s deer I started cooking dinner.  Charity was out hunting.  She has become a good hunter, and hunted by herself on many occasions.  I knew she would be fine.  Dinner was just about finished when the phone rang.  It was Charity.

“‘Help…  Big Buck…  I am at…  Meet me…  Boom!’  Intermittent cell signals and being on the run resulted in her being hard to understand.  ‘Charity slow down. I can’t understand you.’ I said.  She blurted out again, ‘Big…  State… Help…’  Click.  Dial tone…

“Charity had a big buck somewhere and needed help.  She was on her cell phone with little or no reception.  She had been headed to the neighbor’s, walking across his property to hunt the public land next to his.  Two miles as a crow flies but a lot longer walking.  We had two other hunters, Joe & Chris, that were still staying, but were nowhere to be found.

“Everyone asks for help when all else has failed.  Some ask God, some a Guardian Angel and some a deceased relative.  When I need help I talk to my Dad.

“I loaded up Toby and we headed to where Charity might be.  6:00 P.M…  Driving down the road, we could see her hunter orange vest—about 3 miles.  I found Joe’s truck and left a note.  Toby & I headed down into the neighbor’s hay field and parked. Charity was out in the middle of scab rock country.  We would need packs.  I loaded up two packs and Toby & I headed towards her.  It was dark now.  Toby had his own little flashlight.  There was a full moon out and I did not need a flashlight.  That changed when I had to carry him.  We spotted Charity’s flashlight.  It took us 30 minutes to reach her.

“‘I just shot the biggest whitetail buck ever.  He is huge!’ she said.  ‘The last time I saw him was over there.  He jumped the fence and ran up that draw.  You can’t miss it, there are parts of him on the fence.’ I knew then she had hit him too far back.  We would be out there all night. We found the blood trail and followed it ‘til we lost it.  It was in the low 30’s, and Toby was cold.  I told them to go to the truck and wait.  Charity started crying.  I told her I would find it.  I worried that it was a mistake to let them go alone.  She would have to carry Toby.  I watched as they disappeared.

“I reached out for help.  ‘Dad I’m going to need your help tonight.  I have a wounded buck out here, somewhere.’

“Charity had given me some bread tie wraps to mark the blood trail, and I marked the last spot we found blood.  A wounded deer will travel the easiest way, most of the time. I took the easy fork of the trail for 400 yards and no blood.  I followed the other one for 400 yards, nothing.  I went back to the marker and started walking in a circle out front.  On the sky line was a draw I hadn’t seen.  I found a blood trail, easy to follow for 200 yards.  Then it disappeared.  Another circle search…  8:00 P.M…  Nothing.  I returned to the last trail marker, glad I had put new batteries in my flashlight.  I searched.  Nothing.  9:00 P.M…

“‘Dad I need your help here.  Should I quit?  Okay, I’ll search a little longer.’  Joe & Chris were suddenly on the sky line.  We couldn’t believe we found each other.  We each took a direction.  We returned to the marker and searched on hands and knees for blood, we each found nothing. I returned to the last trail marker and got down on my hands and knees and searched.  A spot of blood, and then another.  We followed the trail.  Charity & Toby returned to the house to wait.  We continued on the trail…  At 200 yards it disappeared.  He had to be close.  Another circle search, nothing.  Back to the last trail marker on my hands and knees again.  A speck of blood; he changed directions again.  This trail was easy to follow, but we were down to two flashlights.

“100, 200, 300 yards…  10:00 P.M. and the trail ended.  Again.  We started a grid search by moonlight.  We each took a direction.  Again, nothing.  Another hands & knees search.  Nothing.  We marked our last sign.

“At Midnight, we called Charity.  We walked the mile out to the road and met her at 12:30.  She started crying, ‘He deserved better.’  I told her we would take up the trail again tomorrow—even though I had a Tri Cities meeting.  No one slept that night.

“The next morning I woke at 6:00.  Charity was already up, no sleep and sore from carrying Toby out of the scab rock.  I left hoping they would find the buck before I returned.  ‘Dad we need your help on this one.’

“Charity called the land owner for permission to search for the wounded animal.  The owner said that it would be fine.  Then she put in a call to the neighbor’s daughter to watch Toby.  Chris and Joe were already out, headed toward the trail, and Charity sped down the road to catch up.

“That afternoon, as I pulled into the house, Charity was outside smiling.  They’d found our markers and tracked for 4 hours over another mile.  We’d have never found the buck last night.  The coyotes had.  A perfect 5X5 whitetail head, with antlers and bones.  Of course, she tagged it despite not having any meat to recover.  It became the most memorable hunt of her life so far.

“Thanks Dad.

“Jim, my son and his wife did the right thing. I wish more hunters would do that. That is why I wrote the story.  Good hunting.  Stan Wills—Hunter”

Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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