In a lifetime of hunting and fishing with a variety of partners, I have collected a vast repertoire of weird stories. Some of them are even true. The ones I am going to write about in this column are so factual that very little embellishments were necessary.
Story No. 1: The Cousin from L.A.
Years ago one of my cousins had just moved to Oregon from downtown Los Angeles. Her only son, (my 2nd cousin) was about 13 years old, and according to his parents, he was God's greatest gift to mankind since the Virgin Birth. The first thing they asked of me was to take their son trout fishing where they knew he would excel as he did in everything else he tried.
What they didn't realize, and I was soon to discover, this young lad had never walked on anything but floors, sidewalks and asphalt. The reason I had a reputation for always catching trout was I would hike into deep canyons where other fishermen seldom went. So there was no trail into the creek bottom where I took my city-bred cousin, and it was logged-over land. Therefore, it was a veritable obstacle course of sticks, stumps, rocks and brush.
I instructed my cousin to follow me closely and we would be well rewarded when we got to the stream. It turned into a nightmare. Every 10 or 20 yards I would hear a crash and look back, my supposedly precocious cousin was on the ground. He had never had to learn about proper foot placement, so he tripped over every stick and stumbled over every rock. Patience with incompetence is not one of my virtues. Finally I yelled at him to try to fall forwards as far as he could so that we could gain a few yards on each tumble. The trip turned into a disaster and our relationship went even farther downhill than that.
Story No. 2: The Pack Horse Rodeo
We had a neighbor who moved by our ranch in Upper Prairie Creek that was in the insurance business. He loved horses and had enough acreage to keep a couple even though his equine talents left much to be desired. After living there a few years he decided he was ready to go on a pack-in deer hunt with his equally in experienced horses. The following is his story as told to me, and knowing the circumstances, I found it quite believable.
When the neophyte horse wrangler got a long way from camp, he lucked out by shooting his very first buck. But when he tried to load the whole deer on his horse, his untrained pack animal threw a fit.
Finally he took off his shirt and used it to blindfold the horse. This seemed to work, so he was soon on his way to camp to show off his trophy and packing skills to his hunting buddies.
Everything fell apart down the trail when the blindfold came off. The panicked horse broke away from him and threw a bucking fit that would have scored in the 90s at any rodeo. When my neighbor caught up with his horse a mile down the trail, he couldn't believe his eyes.
The antlers of the deer stayed tied to the saddlehorn, but the hind legs came untied from the saddle strings behind the cantel.
That allowed the horse to kick the carcass with his hind leg until he shredded all the meat off the ribcage and shoulder, plus pounding the hindquarters into hamburger.
Luckily, they found his rifle the next day along the trail where it came out of the scabbard.
Story No. 3: The Elk that Wanted to Die
This final story is totally true as I witnessed and participated in it on an elk hunt in the Blue Mts. of southeast Washington.
My hunting buddy and I were hunting elk along a ridge top when my partner saw a spike bull running over a hogback a couple hundred yards away. Being a crack shot, he got off one round before the elk disappeared from sight. We hurried down the ridge in hopes of getting another crack at him.
Sure enough, when we looked down canyon, there he was, standing broadside with his head down and ears drooping. We thought,"He's been gutshot!"
My partner finished him off and we headed down to what we thought would be a messy job. We were amazed to find he wasn't gutshot.
We couldn't even find another bullet hole in him until we rolled, him over onto his back. The .270 bullet that my friend had first fired at the fleeing elk had entered the inside of one of his hams causing the bullet to mushroom. From there it sliced off his scrotum as slick as a rancher's pocket knife could castrate a bull calf.
It appeared to us that this bull elk was so dejected from losing his manhood, that he wanted to die rather than live his life as a steer. I have many other such stories, but I'll save them for another column.