With two thirds of October gone I am out deer hunting, but I can’t help but think this is kind of like going to the grocery store. The isles look a little different than the Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, or Food Lion I am used to. But make no mistake, I am meat hunting. The weather has been warm, in the 70’s, and I know that if I take a deer, I will have to quickly skin and get the venison cooled down. There is no thought of big chocolate horns on a whitetail buck here. (I know they areantlers; I just like to say that for the people that worry about such things.) In fact, antlered bucks aren’t even legal in this season. We are in a four-day antlerless “doe” season here in West Virginia and I am browsing in the meat department. The mountain men called it “makin’ meat”.
In the gone forever days of the mountain men, the fur trappers that opened up the American west, hunting was a matter of survival. No doubt many of these men enjoyed the hunt at times, but if they killed no game, they went hungry. The pursuit and hunting of various game animals along with the processing and transportation of the bounty of their hunt became known as makin’ meat. The mountain men no doubt had deer, elk, and buffalo in numbers we cannot envision, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t experience hungry times. Try to imagine being in a camp with several starving partners and a successful member of your party comes in with a fat elk or deer, he has made meat and now you can feast.
200 Years later a new group of hunters is makin’ meat. For many experienced hunters taking game, processing it, and adding this meat to the larder is old hat. It’s just what we do. In the past few years however, a new meat hunter has come on the scene. A younger, hipper, crowd has discovered the advantages of wild venison and other game. A trend toward eating healthier and looking for free range meat with no man–made additives has led locavores (they want to eat local foods, I had to look it up) and even Vegans who are tempted to jump off the wagon for a backstrap on the grill, right into a deer stand.
Yep, that’s right, the skinny jeans, cool beards, horn rim glasses, and goofy hat wearing crowd discovered those cute deer that run-in front of your Volvo are simply delicious. And guess what? Those guys that wear the blaze orange in pursuit of the deer aren’t so bad after all. In fact some of the new deer hunters come to the old salts for advice and mentoring. I think it’s great. At a time when we are all trying to boost hunter numbers, they are a Godsend.
Another result from Covid19. Hold on to your hat, but there is another group out there besides the “hipsters” which want to cash in on the bounty of the “free” low fat, high protein meat. I would say these people are already hunters, but now more than ever they are seeing the advantages of going to the field and harvesting their own steaks and chops.
Most of us are beyond tired of the fiasco of the past several months compliments of the Corona virus. Mask wearing, cancelled events, and bare shelves at the grocery store have many of us taking a new look at food sources and being prepared for emergencies. Meat shortages have made many casual hunters think more seriously at filling freezers with wild game. Again, we are talking about meat hunting here, those big antlers are pretty on the wall, but no one has found a way to make them very palatable.
Deer hunt with a suppressor and live better. If you think about it there are no disadvantages to deer hunting with a suppressor. What are the advantages? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The shot. It is late evening, almost too late. With the warm temperatures I know the deer may not move until almost dark. I slip down an old woods road and try to avoid the dry leaves. Crossing the little creek, the field starts to come into view. The opening of the gate could make some unwanted noise and I pause to survey the brushy field before me. It is so quiet you could hear a mouse pee on a cotton ball.
The low light has me concerned but I quickly spot two small deer to my right, maybe 125 yards. If I am going to make meat this evening this is it, there is no time to look for something better. After a brief appraisal I think, “Something better? There is nothing better!” A yearling doe is exactly what we are looking for. What they lack in quantity will be made up for in tenderness.
A fence post will have to serve as a rest for the rifle. When the crosshairs of the scope settle on the deer’s shoulder I find I am not as steady as I want to be. I start to take the slack up on the trigger but stop, the sight picture is not right. “What’s the matter with you?” The nagging little voice pops up in the back of my head. I hate to admit it but he’s right. This isn’t a 6×6 elk or even a heavy horned whitetail. It’s just a choice little doe in the meat department, in the back by the deli. “OK, just settle in and do it,” I say to myself.
And that is what I do. I steady the rifle, take in the traditional breath, release half of it and start the slow, steady squeeze. The shot goes off without a hitch and I am struck with the same thought every time I shoot the Mossberg 6.5 Creedmoor with the Omega 300 suppressor. “That sounded more like a .22 Magnum.” The shot felt good but my heart sinks a little as I watch the deer run off towards the woods. It is the feeling every hunter gets when you fear you have missed or worse yet only wounded the animal. I try to watch it closely in the gathering gloom but don’t see any signs it may be hit. Every hunter that is honest has felt this, the old worry deep in your gut, you may have wounded the animal and there could be a long recovery, or not at all.
I stop for a minute, rerun the shot in my mind, and put it all away. The shot felt good, I know the rifle is zeroed and I felt sure I heard the bullet hit. I just need to go look. It takes a few minutes to find a good blood trail and the deer ran maybe 75 yards. In truth I am hit with the same mix of wonder, exhilaration, thankfulness, and a hint of sadness as when I come upon any animal we take. It’s just what I feel, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is what it is.
All of this drifts away as I think about the work ahead. I need to skin and quarter this deer and get it cooled quickly. I look over the muscle groups with the hide still on it and think about the tender steaks and roasts to come, not to mention the wonderfulness of the backstraps. I have made my run to the woodland grocery store and done well. There will be other deer this season but there may not be one as good as this. I have made meat.
Gear list: Mossberg Patriot Predator rifle, 6.5 Creedmoor. Vortex 4×12x40 DiamondBack scope. Federal Non-Typical Whitetail ammo. German Precision Optics Passion ED 8×42 Binoculars. SilencerCo Omega 300 Suppressor.