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By Ralph Shaw
In an effort to control numbers of deer in agricultural and urban areas, the Ministry of Environment has implemented a generous three-deer limit. You are allowed to take two bucks and one doe or two does and one buck, but not three of one sex.
For a quick reference to the area I hunted, look at Map A22 in the regulations. It is a Bow or Firearms Using Shot Only area. It covers farmlands, limited forest areas and includes Denman and Hornby islands. The vast majority of this area is privately owned and it follows you must have the owner's permission if you wish to hunt in this area. I sought permission and received it, and for the generosity of the landowner I am most appreciative.
Last Friday morning I told Elaine where I was going, which was a small forested area that serves as a woodlot and source of firewood for the farm family.
Hunting deer in our coastal forests is an intense activity that requires all the senses to be focused on the task at hand. It means walking ever so slowly through the woods, pausing at frequent intervals and looking around you for signs of game.
In the process you see small birds, squirrels, and are constantly listening for any unusual sounds such as that made by quick movements. You also cast your eyes on the ground for fresh deer tracks and are able to tell if the deer is jumping or walking in an undisturbed manner.
The path I was following had several deer tracks on it and one of them was made by an unusually large deer. Then all of a sudden I was bought up short by a very large wolf track clearly imprinted in the soft soil. The thought that crossed my mind was that I had some real competition and possibly I would not see any deer if it was moving them around in its hunting pattern.
Fresh tracks made by bears, cougars and wolves always give me a special little thrill that runs up my spine and make me doubly aware. It is one of the essential elements of the hunt that forces the hunter to pause and survey his horizon for any movement out of context with his immediate environs. It is powerful stuff.
I progressed slowly through the woods and came to a small clearing. It was a suitable place to stop for awhile and do some rattling with a pair of antlers I carried for this purpose. I stayed there for about 40 minutes and saw no indication of game except a small flock of juncos that were busy getting their meal from the forest floor. They paid me no heed. As I started to leave the clearing I suddenly found myself looking at a small spike buck.
What followed next was quite reflexive as a result of decades of hunting. I quickly shouldered my gun and fired, the deer fell down, then promptly regained its feet and ran off. It left a clearly marked trail to the trained eye and I quickly followed and finished the task at hand, and gave a silent thank-you to the forest for the gift.
After I gutted the deer and carefully saved the liver, heart and kidneys I had time to pause and reflect on the task ahead of me. I am over halfway from my eighth to my ninth decade and moving even a small buck is just a bit of a challenge. My truck was about a half hour away through the forest.
Fortunately I had planned ahead. I pulled the deer out to an old logging trail, left and went back to my truck. I enjoyed a cup of tea and sandwich, took my wheelbarrow from the back of the truck and returned to my deer. What you see in the picture is a prime example of "easyology" learned by old farmers, fishers, and hunters.
As I put the deer in the wheelbarrow a raven came and sat in a tree and I think he said thank-you for his dinner.
I hade just taken a deer in fair chase that had all the magic connections to nature that we associate with fly-fishing and in the process harvested some high-quality, local Vancouver Island meat.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.