Montana Wolf

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From Zero to Hero

Darkness descended on the cusp of the October full moon. Cold drizzle had ceased as Wood Tick and I prepared to turn around on a mountain two-track. We were creeping along, looking for deer when I spotted a doe feeding amidst lodge pole and ponderosa pine. I announced the rangefinder's conclusion of 44 feet, good enough for Wood Tick and his bow. He stepped from the truck and positioned his body. This was a first for me. First bow hunt. New approach to game. Unfamiliar sounds as the arrow snapped and zinged. The doe kicked up her back quarters and ran. Was she hit? We weren't sure.

We hurried to where she had stood. No blood. No arrow. No deer. We walked further, looking for her in desperation. A yearling deer came into view behind me, from the direction of the parked truck. The little one approached, stood and starred at me across the grass. Eye to eye, she called me to spiritual task, as I questioned every element of that moment. Scenes of "Bambi" flashed through my mind.

We found nothing; headed back to Wood Tick's house in the dark. I was nauseous; my nerves on edge. I'm alright with killing, in reverence, for a freezer full of meat, but slow death and possible waste ran counter to every grain of my being. We entered the house, I retreated to the bedroom and burst into tears. Then I questioned Wood Tick's judgement as we both  flipped out. He said it wasn't the best angle of a shot, that may be he shouldn't have taken it. "Bad things happen out there in the woods," he said. We vowed to return first thing in the morning and look for her. I tossed and turned under the rising moon, quintessential madwoman.

The drizzle continued off and on the next morning as we loaded the dogs into the truck to aid the search.   The drive was slick with mud and deep puddles of water. Wood Tick was full of remorse. He talked of hanging up the bow for good. "I should have practiced more," he ruminated. We departed the truck and followed a game trail on the opposite side of the stream from where he had taken his shot. Within five minutes Teak's nose went into the air. "She's got a scent," I said. Wood Tick spotted the doe off trail about twenty feet, in  long grass by small pine. She had run a short ways, crossed the stream and fallen. His shot had been a perfectly placed, quick kill. His relief was palpable. He'd gone from a zero to a hero.

He knelt next to her glassy-eyed body, solemn, as I laid my hands upon her and gave thanks. Then Wood Tick pulled his knives from his pack and began to field dress her as I held the hind legs taut. She had not been nursing. The yearling that had darted off the night before did not reappear. I  prayed the young one had learned not to trust a halting pick-up truck.

I understand and admire the necessity to eat wild meat and place myself within the food chain (grizzly attacks in Montana are not uncommon in the process of field dressing); but I admit that when Wood Tick stepped out of the truck for his shot, I had opened my window, lowered my arm and waved, hoping the doe would dart away, out of reach.


  1. Good story. I too, don't criticize those who hunt for food, but have a problem with those who do it for "sport". I remember the time that I asked a gentleman why he didn't hunt since he came from a family of avid deer hunters. He said" Years ago I went hunting with them and I shot a doe. She looked me in the eye while she lay dying. I was done." Enough said. I didn't ask any more questions about hunting.


  2. Yes, Sandy. Thanks for the wonderful story. I shoot only with my camera and there's a part of me that wishes everyone else would do that too. Many folks in mountainous Montana get themselves through the winter on the fall hunt. Many trap (which I have a hard time with.) Only bow hunters get to shoot does. Rifle season is bucks only. A friend just butchered their turkeys which they were attached to. It's a tangled trail, isn't it?

  3. Oh Christina, thank you for your witnessing. Glad the story had a happy ending. Yes we harvested our turkeys and this time did it well and smoothly. Served our lady with honors for thanksgiving dinner and have eaten her every day since - so delicious!!