Monday, June 16, 2008
Hunting with Pa
After I wrote my bit about my father for Father's Day I called up some stuff about how my dad hunted before and after he lost his leg. Apparently Pa was the meat gatherer for a fair portion of the mill workers families during the Depression. According to Pa he had killed 149 deer prior to WW II. That would be over a period of 10 to 12 years. I guess folks would tell him they were out of meat and a few days later he would deliver a dressed out deer. He once told me that he usually shot barren does and avoided those with fawns. After the war Pa lost his leg well above the knee in a logging accident and was fitted with an artificial leg that was held on by straps and a waist belt. He soon found that he couldn't walk on rough ground with his prosthesis because the toe would hook on brush and rocks and the knee wouldn't lock and he would fall on his face. Some guys in the Carpentry Class at OTI built him a peg leg to wear while hunting. Unfortunately the peg would sink into soft sandy soil and occasionally sink into a gopher hole and go clear to the basket for his stump. When that occurred he would have to unstrap the leg, balance on his good leg and pull the peg leg out of the ground. My brothers and I became Pa's gun bearers and he switched to clamp on crutches for hunting. As we aged and got old enough to hunt by ourselves the next son would take over the job of gun bearer. I recall that when it became my turn to pack Pa's gun I was really excited. I knew that he would teach me how to hunt. And he did. The hard part was after he had made a kill I got to pack the deer to the road, and failing that, go find one of my older brothers to help with the pack. After we had all become hunters on our own Pa continued to hunt by himself. He rigged a sling for and old model 94 Winchester 30 30 and wrapped 50 ft of rope around his waist. When he made a kill he would tie the rope to the deer's hind legs and walk to the end of the rope and pull the deer to him. Then repeat the process over and over until he reached the road. When I moved to Vale, a pheasant hunting mecca, he and Ma came over to visit and go hunting birds. We put him on the end of a corn field and drove the birds to him. When I came out of the corn he pointed out where the birds had fallen. He said that he could have gotten more except that every time he fired the shotgun recoil would knock him over. He was standing on his one good leg and the crutches were hanging from him forearms as he swung on the bird. He didn't miss a shot. His last deer hunt was a year or two before he died. My brothers and I were all married and living far from home, so he hooked up with a local rancher to hunt on his ground. They put him on a stand and drove the deer toward him from horse back. The only problem was that the deer didn't go where the riders thought they would and they went down the other side of the canyon. No problem, he killed both of the bucks that he saw. The rancher paced off the distances of the shots...one was 450 yards and the other was 600 yards. Pa was a pretty good shot.