The deer slayer |

The deer slayer

Buckeye Butch Austin

        My granddad owned a ranch just west of Steamboat Springs, Colo. The ranch lay in three levels. The house, shop and barn lay on the flat. Then there was a steep oak brush hill side with a road going up to the hay meadows. The hay meadows were flat and gradually sloped up to the rock cliffs which surrounded them. When my mother was small they actually raised hay but after moving to Craig, the fields were pastured.

      Local sheep ranchers would pasture their bucks in the spring and summer. Every other year they would sell off the old bucks and buy new ones. On those years the hay would get 10 feet tall. Granddad said it was over 6 feet so it must have been taller than I thought. The deer had trails all through it so it was a myriad of trails and intersections.

       Now my granddad believed the best time to shoot a deer was whenever he needed one. This philosophy sometimes or most times did not coincide with the seasons. Hunting at night had proved to be a bad move as the law could see both his tail lights and his spot light from the highway.

        Granddad felt like he had hit on the perfect solution when he saw the deadly silent hunter advertised in Popular Mechanics, a crossbow. We grandchildren loved retrieving the arrows from the target and the ground, as many hit the target and then fell out. I guess we all assumed that plywood was harder to penetrate than deer skin. Now the only place to hit a deer was right between the eyes so as not to ruin any meat. Granddad had become expert at hitting the bull’s eye on every shot so we all figured the meat was in the freezer.

        Meanwhile granddad found a nice four way intersection in the hay field and kept it baited with corn. My grandmother said the price of the corn and crossbow would have bought a lot of beef. Granddad told her to hush and get the skillet ready for some fresh deer steak. Armed with high hopes granddad, my cousin Donald and I headed for the ranch in his 48 Willies Jeep station wagon.

         I think it was the shortest deer hunt in history but for an 8 and 10-year-old the minutes drug by. Granddad said later it only took 10 minutes before the smallest two point in the world showed up. Donald and I wanted credit since we moaned and groaned so loud we figured he wanted to see what all the commotion was.

         Now wasting meat was an absolute no no in our family, a head shot was always required. Donald and I held our breath as granddad took careful aim and slowly squeezed the trigger. We all watched as the arrow sped toward the target. I loved it since you can never see a bullet or even a BB and I could clearly follow the arrow much like you would a football, only slower.

The arrow stuck right between the horns just above the eyes, as the buck munched on corn. The buck’s head shot up, he let out a loud snort and shook his head furiously. The arrow fell to the ground and the buck went back to munching on corn, until the laughter reached his overgrown ears. The buck vanished into the tall grass, while a stern look from Granddad silenced our laughing.

        Quit rolling around on the ground, get my arrow and go to the jeep. Donald and I slapped each other so much on the way to the jeep I turned black and blue the next day. The drive to Craig turned into a somber occasion as granddad said he would kill the first one to talk. Donald being older and wiser finally broke the silence. Granddad you are not going to kill us. And why is that replied granddad? Because the only weapon in the jeep is the crossbow laughed Donald. No, grumbled Granddad, but it might sting. Not wanting to go unnoticed I whispered, not much.

         Granddad decided to build his own crossbow out of a car leaf spring. The problem with that he could not latch it. Both my dad and his brother were required to pull it back and latch it. When you pulled the trigger the cable bow string shot forward with so much force it shattered the arrows. Once again we all rolled around on the ground laughing. The cross bow hung on the garage wall until the day of his death. I think it was a warning to Donald and me that he did own a weapon powerful enough to mangle our little bodies.

        After the cross bow incident granddad tried a bow but that turned out to be a bust. The first compounds could be pulled by pro football players and weight lifters but not held much longer than the time it takes to cock one. I still have his compound and every time I get a craving for hospital food I try to shoot it.

As one old cowboy to another, keep your heels and your eyes along the skyline.

This is Buckeye Butch, Fruita, Colo., signing off until next time

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