The hail mary pass

Edmonton Sun - - TRAVEL -

I’ve been search­ing my un­ruly book­shelves with­out a lot of luck for one I bought in my younger days seek­ing sim­ple solutions for com­plex co­nun­drums. Sadly I still am.

It was writ­ten by Rus­sell Tins­ley and called Hunt­ing the White­tail Deer.

And, if my mem­ory serves me well (and some­times I’m not so sure) it was chock full of il­lus­tra­tions show­ing wannabe deer hunters where to take a stand to way­lay deer as they tran­si­tioned from their bed­ding ar­eas to feed­ing fields. Bambi’s myth­i­cal meadow.

The coun­try por­trayed was a dead ringer for the lit­tle farms and hills around Roscoe, New York where I spent a few days trout fish­ing in the his­toric Beaverkill River.

And a long, long way from what’s con­sid­ered typ­i­cal Al­berta white­tail coun­try.

It turns out Tins­ley was the out­doors ed­i­tor for an Austin, Texas news­pa­per who had a place out of town in the Hill Coun­try.

Which also is sev­eral light years re­moved from the Catskill Moun­tains draw­ings that some ed­i­tor had in­serted in his deer hunt­ing book those many years ago.

My rec­ol­lec­tion of Texas white­tail hunt­ing was on the long drive through the West Texas mesquite scrub­lands on the way to a small­mouth bass float on the Devils River, where the high­way is lined with hunt ranches with the deer en­closed be­hind es­cape-proof un­gu­late fences.

Fir­ing lanes are bull­dozed through the brush where feed­ers on timers are erected.

Tri­pod blinds are set up close by.

The deer soon get con­di­tioned and come out of the chap­ar­ral when it’s sorghum time.

The “hunter” gets camoed up — al­though I’m not sure why — and mounts the lad­der to the en­closed tower.

And when the feeder kicks in, it’s skin­ning time.

Which is even fur­ther away from Wil­drose white­tail hunt­ing.

Reg­u­lar read­ers may have fig­ured out by now that my deer hunt so far has not gone ac­cord­ing to plan.

I’ve been see­ing deer com­ing and go­ing to my com­mu­nity pas­ture deer stands.

But when I’m ac­tu­ally on sta­tion with my trusty 30-30 Winch­ester close at hand, crick­ets.

There are Al­berta hunt­ing sea­sons that tran­scend Christ­mas and stretch well into Jan­uary in some Wildlife Man­age­ment Units.

But for me, big game hunt­ing ends a half-hour af­ter sun­set on Nov. 30.

And it was the morn­ing of Nov. 30.

Time to pull the goalie, swing for the fences, throw the hail Mary pass.

I had noted a lot of deer move­ment dur­ing an ear­lier West Coun­try ruffed grouse hunt­ing trip.

So I headed west on High­way 39 to my long-shot last stand.

Only to be con­fronted with an­other predica­ment.

Fresh snow lay in the road ditches when I turned off the main trunk and en­tered the myr­iad of in­dus­trial ser­vice roads known as “oil­patch.”

Ran­dom deer tracks led here, there and ev­ery­where.

Oil coun­try — which in­cludes well sites, pipe­line rights-of-way and lease roads — has cre­ated a salad bar of white­tail deer habi­tat.

All con­sid­ered Bambi’s meadow and none, if I re­call, por­trayed in Rus­sell Tins­ley’s book.

So many mead­ows and so lit­tle time.

I drove around a bit, then set­tled for a lightly-main­tained road lead­ing to an old dead well with the pump­jack re­moved.

There were deer tracks down it and I had seen a doe cross ear­lier in the fall.

Here I would throw the hail Mary and wait it out un­til ei­ther a deer came along. Or it was closing time.

The Chi­nook wind sighed in the lodge­pole pines and the sky shone robin’s egg blue.

The sun was angling be­low the tree tops when I spot­ted move­ment. Two whiskey jacks flew into the sec­ond growth aspens.

And that was it.

The sun set to the south­west in a blaze of glory.

I jacked the shells out of the gun and wound the lock­ing ca­ble around the ac­tion lever.

On the drive back to town I spied eyes in the ditch and braked.

The lit­tle white­tail had its ears up and was pre­par­ing to cross.

NEIL Waugh pho­tos/ed­mon­ton sun

Neil on a deer stand be­side an oil road.

White­tail deer tracks across a well site.

with Neil Waugh

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