Low buck numbers change plans

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Dennis Clay

This is the last of a two-part series about the 2017 Deer Camp.

The Coleman Power Cat, a portable catalytic heater provides early morning heat at The Hut. It is powered by a bottle of propane and a 9-volt battery. The gas heats it and the battery turns a fan.

Many campers keep such a heater going all night long, but this is not what is expected of a heater. The hunter/camper should crawl into bed and shut the heater down. The sleeping bag is expected to keep the camper warm during the night.

Food is a big part of Deer Camp each year. Rudy Lopez joined the group several years ago. He suggested cooking walleye tacos as one meal. As soon as the first walleye tacos were presented to the group, we demanded a second meal of the same two nights later.

Now every year we expect him to make walleye tacos for two suppers. This year he prepared the first tacos on the first night in camp. Rudy suggested deer meat burritos on the second night. They were delicious. Rudy is teaching us the ways of Mexican cooking.

There was a meal with hash brown patties, eggs and bacon. Another with fried potatoes, onions, sausage and eggs.

Rudy is also the cook for the salmon dishes. One evening we pan fried half of the salmon and the next night used a cedar plank and the barbecue to cook the other half. All delicious, I tell ya.

When alone, my favorite breakfast/lunch these days is a bit of leftovers, no matter what it might be, cooked with scrambled eggs and served in a tortilla.

While deer were visible most of the time 600 yards to the east in a winter wheat field, which we were not allowed to hunt, few were found in our hunt area.

Dr. Thomas Steffens was able to join us for a one-day hunt. Rudy hunted the first weekend and headed home on Sunday. He returned on the next Friday. My hunt time included the first weekend, plus Monday, but headed home on Monday afternoon, returning on Tuesday afternoon.

My hunting instinct had me Driving the Mow one day while alone. The Death Ram was stopped on the top of a hill to glass the area. A group of 10 deer was spotted heading in my direction. The deer kept coming, only to drink at a pond at the bottom of the hill at a 100-yard distance. There were nine does and one 2-point buck.

The group then relaxed a bit and fed on the dry grasses nearby. The lead doe started off in a westerly direction and the group followed. She then noticed me and kept walking closer, raising her head and neck, while sniffing the air, trying to figure out what the Ram was all about. She finally tired of this nonsense and took the group over the hill and out of sight.

Rudy and I were Driving the Mow one morning when we spotted a group of deer with a large buck. Rudy walked closer while I drove toward them. He fired and missed, I fired and missed. It was a shot of under 300 yards, which is well within range of my rifle.

This deer should have dropped. My hands were shaking after the shot. This is the type of hunting experience a hunter remembers for the rest of his life. This manner of experience can have a hunter waking up in the middle of the night screaming.

The deer headed over the hill and out of sight and most likely out of the area. We didnít expect to see them again and we didnít.

Rudy headed home on Sunday and my plans had me heading home on Monday afternoon.

Monday my hunting partner and I discussed the lack of deer in our hunt area. We decided to hunt a different area. There is a bunch of public land to the northwest of Odessa.

There have been many articles about hunting public land, so we decided to find a spot to hunt in this area. Partner knew where to go and park the truck. The spot is remote and this hunter would be hard pressed to find it again without directions.

We started to hike into the public land. Just over the second hill, we spotted a group with two legal bucks in a sagebrush thicket. We fired and missed and the deer moved off. At the top of the next hill they were spotted again at around 150 yards.

The largest, a 4 by 5, dropped to my bullet. The other, a 2 by 3, dropped at partnerís shot. The problem with shooting a deer on public land is having to drag them out. We were fortunate to be in the area at a distance of about a quarter mile. Both bucks were still in velvet, my first velvet deer. They are now hanging and a butchering party will take place in a few days.

Hunting private land is great, but not always successful when there is a lack of deer. Sometimes hunting public land is more productive.

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