First this disclaimer. If you are not inclined toward harvest of wild game, then this post is not for you.
Move along and come back another day.
It's part of what we do here... what surely has been done since the Native Americans lived on the banks of the river and every generation since. Venison is a part of our diet. We know where it comes from. It is hunted for that purpose. None of it goes to waste.
This morning, about 6 am, I was sitting in my chair having my morning cup of coffee, warm pup at my feet.
As usual, the house was quiet, the tv news was on, but nothing was really stirring around.
The oldest boy* was in the woods hunting, like many mornings this time of year.
* The oldest boy is a grown man, in every respect. Definitely not a child, but he is my boy, a child of my heart, my first son. He'll always be my 'boy'. For the rest of this story, he'll be referred to as my boy.
A solid hard frost was still lingering after our first good freeze.
Suddenly, my cell phone rang.
What did we do in the world before cell phones?
I do remember those days, but will admit to 'needing' my connections through that phone.
Anyway, I answer and it's my boy. He's hit a doe, she went down and then got up and ran. He'll wait a few minutes then track her. In just a few minutes, I get the call that she is maybe in the gully.
Now, for the uninitiated, let me explain the gully. In the early part of the last century, this property was farmed in cotton. Not a big plantation, mind you... but the kind of cotton you'd grow and harvest with your family members, to sell and pay for the very few things that you didn't raise or grow yourself. Horticulture wasn't then what it is now. Very few soil amendments went into the large fields and the topsoil and ecology of the land suffered. Rains came and erosion began and huge, gigantic gullies,,, great chasms of dense red soil, deep enough to sit a large house in... grew. And they grew all over the south... not just on this place. With many years of consistent hard work, we have managed to stop the erosion and now the steep hillsides began to grow pines and brush.
So, we have a deep, steep brush and pine filled gully. The perfect place for a deer to hide.
The boy knew that he'd delivered a kill shot... so we have to find the deer.
So I ask, "Shall I bring the dog?" Here I am referring to the soft warm pup at my feet, not quite a year old, one week out of surgery to spay her, but very smart, very trainable and very willing to do work.
I put on my bathrobe... my purple polarfleece bathrobe. and some tennis shoes. Otherwise, I'm wearing my pajamas.
I leash up the pup and we head off to the site of the initial hit.
My boy meets us. Flushed with warmth, he looks like an advertisement for country living.
Tall and striking, gun slung over his shoulder, he points to where we need to start the trail.
The pup takes the hint and nose down, starts to track.
I hand over the leash... thinking that I'm going back in to finish my coffee.
There's a fire in the fireplace, all cozy and warm.
I want to sit beside it.
And for about 15 seconds, things are fine. She's tracking off in the right direction......
... then I turn to leave.
And she looks back.
And then she sits down and refuses to budge.
She begins to whine and fuss and try to run to me.
NOOOOooooooo.... I think.... No. No. No.
I do not want to take a hike about the back 90 acres... I do NOT.
And there they stand... beautiful boy... beautiful dog... beautiful frosty, clear, clear cold field, dense, thick woods...
... deer down somewhere in the woods close by that needs to be prepped and on the way to the freezer.
So, looking very much like someone's mother in a purple bathrobe, I join the search party.
Through brambles and bushes, up hill and down vale, we track.
At some point, I realize that she's tracking where the boy has gone looking for the deer.
We go back to the last point on the tracking trail where there was blood, and give her her nose...
and were suddenly off in a new direction. Less than 20 feet away, we found the deer.
In a very short time, the doe was off to the processor and the very excited puppy and I were sitting by the fire...
... thinking how invigorating that it was to start the day, in the freezing cold, hiking about the place...
... picking out the thorns and twigs.