Trail Diary 2:

To start this diary entry, I ran the roads at 5:40 to try to catch animals out in the dark. There’s nothing; no tracks in the road. This is crazy. This time last year, I was babysitting two herds. I saw them with my eyes and was following their movements. No such luck yet. Long, steep hike in front of me today. I have to cover as much ground as possible.

I’m taking a fun walk through a snow brush grove. This stuff is awful – like rhododendron, that is more dense, lays sideways, and is a hardwood. It hurts. The best I can do is hold my gun, critical with the scope against my body, to protect it and just push through.

Three miles, 4 hours, sore all over, with one big goose egg. Again, I know where they are not at. I’ve only done this hike two other times with Gary as a guide. This time I brought the GPS, thankfully. I got turned around deep in the forest time after time. But, I now know “how not to” operate a GPS. My knowledge and confidence continues to grow with each hike. I’m pooped… time for some grub.

Putting in one more smaller, yet very important, hike in before I head for a shower. Four days is long enough without a full shower. Walking in, I notice boot prints going in, also. I always look for evidence that the hunter also came out. I don’t want to walk right in the middle of someone else’s hunt. I’ve done it once accidentally. It was very scary to see this guy tucked away scoping me. (That means he had his rifle up, pointed in my direction, and watching me through his scope.) I found his exiting prints, so I will head in and poke around.

Boot prints coming out. Good – I’m safe to enter.

Boot prints appear on the ground

Old dirt spurs, like this one, made many years ago when this area was logged, provide valuable information. You can’t hunt on them because you are right out in the open. It is very noisy; covered with old sticks and pine cones but great to scout. For instance, knowing that it rained Saturday night, I can tell that the elk have not been back because the tracks have been rained in; however, the deer are using this area day and night like a highway. I can tell what they are feeding on.

It makes for a great area for animals to bed down next to the trees because it is like an amphitheater. They can see, smell, and hear virtually 360-degrees in an area like this. If you scout it in the early morning, use your nose looking for fresh urine smell. As the dew raises, so does the smell. Start looking for a bed because they pee when they stand up.

Also search for spider webs. If the area is covered with them, the place is barren of game. If pretty clean of webs, animals are moving through.

The hunter who went into this area knew this. He cut over to another dirt spur, too.

As I write in this diary I’m kind of surprising myself that I’ve learned so much of this. I use senses that most people take for granted in their everyday life. Putting my training to the test, like a musician playing a gig. Practice, practice, practice to stay sharp.

Searching the ground for tracks.

I stopped by another camp full of other hunters up here. Sometimes you can get information, sometimes not. However, since I’m up here alone and there are two women in their camp, I thought that it would be good to cultivate some female “allies”. One of the gals asked me what would I do if I actually shot a deer. Well… many things ran through my head. The first thing I thought of was our original game plan which was to call Gary and he would take care of it.

But after a check-in call with Gary, I vocalized a new plan. Depending on the time of day and location, I would do what Gary told me to do: “gut it, prop the cavity open with a stick, and return in the morning to finish the job.”

One of the guys asked if I really could do that. He went on to explain what to do, but the voice in my head was louder than he was. I don’t truly know how to field dress a deer. I’ve only seen an elk done twice. No self-respecting hunter would call for help. So… out came my trusty guide that my oldest son bestowed upon me. It’s been one of the most useful gifts I’ve ever received. For three nights now, I’ve been memorizing the field dressing section of various animals. If you kill it, you eat it. No waste!

So, it’s time I pull up my big girl panties and learn how to do it all, not just the tracking, stalking, and killing – that’s the easy-to-learn stuff. Once an animal is down, that’s when the work begins. The proof is in the pudding, so I need to take the next steps myself and stop depending on others to do the hard part for me. Frightening thought! (There is no box, Roberta. “You can do this,” says that voice in my head and now the words in this diary entry.)


Thanks for reading trail diary 2!

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