When you’re drowning, so “they” say, your whole life passes before your eyes; even worse, I submit, is sitting in a mobile ground blind waiting for the sun to rise on opening morning of deer season when we haven’t seen any sun at all for at least two weeks.
It was a foggy morning much like this for my first pheasant opening day 60 years ago.
Reluctantly, the Guv took his eager son out, but quickly took us back home again when it was obvious there were too many hunters blasting away at anything they couldn’t see on the canal he had selected for us to hunt on our own land.
My first deer opener was only 40 years ago. The Sunday evening before my father accompanied me with my son, John, in a backpack, to scout some likely public land near Pine Lake.
It snowed that night and the morning was frosty.
In the dark I slightly missed the frozen stump overlooking a game trail crossing I had selected to sit on.
The result: just at first legal shooting light I could hear, but not see a deer swishing through the bush down the trail while being nagged by a magpie.
I checked before I left for the office, and a calling card of a mound of deer doo steamed on the trail, centering the wide, dragging tracks of a lone buck.
In 1979 I resolved to put some venison in the freezer quickly because, as a Bencher of the Law Society of Alberta, the Petrasuk and Litnaisky hearings would leave little time for hunting.
Opening morning I sat against “my” aspen on land also near Pine Lake, owned by fellow Red Deer lawyer, the late Ninian Lockerby.
Just as I could see the major trail along the draw below me, a big, dry, white tailed doe stepped out and I sent her to the freezer.
While I was field dressing the doe I was scolded by several deer that came into the field, stamping and blowing, including two nice bucks.
Just as I finished and was wondering how I was going to load the carcass into my rig, the deer fled just ahead of the late Sid Mah, a friend of Ninian’s, and Sid helped me.
After that, even though I knew of the importance of “harvesting” does to the health and balance of the deer herd, it was never again a personal practice that appealed to me.
The last deer I can recall taking on opening morning was also the victim of my crowded work schedule and remains the only mule deer I have ever taken from a tree stand.
The ladder stand was on the brink of a deep coulee full of blow downs.
At first light of a Monday opening morning, the prime 3X2 buck came from behind and to my left and was dead at the shot, but rolled and slid all the way to the bottom of the coulee.
There was no Sid Mah, nobody, and I can’t believe today that I was ever strong enough to wrestle the carcass over the logs to where the line to my winch would reach, augmented by all my extra cable, rope, snare wire, maybe even dental floss.
I had to halve the carcass to load the deer into my rig, then tethered them in the creek to clean and cool while I recovered with lunch at the cabin, vowing never again to blow my mule deer tag on opening day unless on the huge mule deer buck — Horseshoes — I have been hunting forever….
Something moves to my left out there in the dark: my old hunting buddy, Mac Johnston.
We had both been staking out the premises of Doctor’s EyeCare to get checked by Dr. Gerry Leinweber before he was off to Jamaica for more of his good works.
Inside Mac and I marveled that an opening morning had come to this.
Actually my vigil was intended just to be a detour on my way west for a belated opening day.
But, outside again, the ice fog was worse, so that I wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway, even with my newly checked out vision, and the AMA was reporting bad highways in central Alberta.
So I took my packed lunch home and ate it there. It was not my first opening morning absence owing to weather, but the first in some years.
Two days later, it was almost as bad, but Mac got out west and saw nothing but the passing and re-passing parades of road hunters.
Sunday, Nov. 4, the first sunny day in two weeks, Herself and I got out there.
The only wildlife I saw was a whiskey jack and a coyote carrying some goodie from the hide and other debris that some dolt had dumped right beside the pavement.
But the new snow on my favourite hidden alfalfa field was heavily tracked by browsing deer: obviously the place for a delayed season opener.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at email@example.com.