Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chapter 37

In the fall of 1945, we had arranged for a 30 day leave. The leave was in October and November which are the months for hunting in Utah. Before leaving Texas, I had written home and asked the family to send me a deer rifle. I had already collected a couple of shot guns and a W.R.F. 22. This was going to be a vacation dedicated to hunting. I had worked hard with my young pointer pup to get her trained to where I could control her and she would retrieve. So with 2 sons, a dog, and Sybil, I loaded everything into our Chevrolet and started North, arriving in Utah well before the beginning of the deer season.

Deer season is a big event in Utah, and most everyone going hunting at the season opener and it had become a social event as well as a hunt.  The Bryson Clan always hunted in a little valley about 30 miles northwest of Eureka, Utah. This was to be my first hunt with the clan. When I was home, I was too busy with football or farming to go and now I had been away 5 years in the service.

When we arrived I was told that Red, my brother-in-law, had a gun for me. Being eager to get the gun and do some practicing, I drove to Santaquin, 6 miles away, to get it. This was 1945 and no civilian hardware of any kind was available so I expected a secondhand gun of some kind. However, I got a brand new Winchester model 70 that had been made in prewar period and hidden in some dealer’s back room for the duration. Red had found it and talked the dealer into selling it to me. It cost a whopping $97.00, which was quite a bunch then. I couldn’t let Red down and besides I was tickled as a kid with a new toy.

The day before the season opened we took a horse in the truck and my two oldest brothers, Dick and Merl, my nephews, their sons, both named Glen, and I went to the desert to hunt. We were the advance party and others would join us later. When we arrived at Little Valley we unloaded the horse and she helped us pull the truck over the last ridge. There at the spring were more of the groups of hunters that hunted the valley. Three families hunted the valley: the Brooks, the Robinsons, and the Brysons. My oldest brother, Dick, had opened the first road into the valley with Wes Robinson. Wes was now the marshal of Eureka, Utah, and Dick was his deputy.

When we parked at the spring, Dick told me and another fellow to fetch a pair of bed springs he kept out at the valley. When we went to pick them up, up pops Wes. He hadn’t seen me for five or six years when I was a skinny 130 pound kid. Now I stood 6 feet and weighed 215 pounds. Wes said, “Those belong to Dick Bryson and you leave them alone.” We knew Wes, but he didn’t recognize us. So we just grunted and kept on walking. He charged over and got in front of me and was ready to whip me right there. Only Wes was about 140 pounds soaking wet. Things were getting interesting when Dick looked up and hollered over to see what the trouble was. Then Wes recognized me. He was out of his weight class, but the little guy was willing to try.

That evening, we all sat around talking about past hunts and other hunting tales until just after dark. Then to bed until about 2 a.m. About that time, the Brook clan rolled in and woke everyone up. After a big breakfast, we packed lunches and started up our respective trails. The Brysons hunted the south ridge, the Brooks the north ridge. As we climbed the ridge, we soon reached the backbone of a long ridge running from east up to the west until it ended at a huge solid sandstone knob that was near 10 thousand feet in altitude. As we climbed, the older members of the family would stop off at regular intervals each at his favorite spot. Dick had killed his deer from the same rock for eleven consecutive years. We newcomers were forced to take the highest post of the ridge and none of us knew exactly where to set up, but found plenty of room. Eventually, everyone was in place and quietly freezing when daylight first started.

Just at daylight, the legal time to hunt, the Robinson family spread out across the valley and started hunting up the canyon. Up where we were, we could only tell this by the sound of the guns. You could pretty well guess that every time one of those old fellows pulled the trigger, a deer dropped. As the Robinson family hunted further up the canyon, the sound of gun getting closer and closer. Finally you could see deer start moving down in the canyon and up the other side. But we knew the Brooks were over there. Finally, I heard a clomp-clomp-clomp—recognized as a bounding buck. With nerves taut as fiddle strings, my numb hands working to get circulation going to keep nimble, I suddenly shifted my gaze along the ridge and there’s a buck!  Mine! Suddenly my hands had become nimble as ever and I moved so quickly, I didn’t know I was moving until I remembered to be calm. By now the sights were on the butt of the ear and I squeezed off one shot as he disappeared over the ridge. But I heard that 180 grain slug hit home and knew something’s hurting. I ran to the top of the ridge over which he had disappeared. There stood my stunned buck, spraddle-legged with head down, quietly bleeding to death. To make sure he didn’t decide to run again, I put another slug into his head from a dead standstill. He toppled over, never to run free again.

My first shot had been slightly low and I had shot off the entire lower jaw and part of the neck, leaving the jugular vein very neatly severed. I did the remaining knife work and set back to admire my first deer. He was a nice one about 200 pounds, I guessed, but they always look bigger when they are first down. He really dressed out at 183 pounds.

After the excitement of the kill, you don’t mind the work of drawing him. Out there on the desert, you make the smallest possible incision to keep the dirt out because it is a long way to camp. Not many people will carry 180 pounds of deer. By the time I was finished the field dressing, I was calmed down enough to quit shaking. If it’s your first deer, you can’t wait to get it down the mountain to show big brothers. You can do it too. The morning had been beautifully clear and the desert sky was clear as a bluebonnet. Now a few clouds were rolling over the main ridge above and in a few minutes it started snowing. That made footing on the steep mountain sides precarious, but it made sliding a deer much easier. After a few slides and a few falls and a lot of hard pulling, I got the deer back to camp only to find everyone else in the family had already limited out and they were waiting me to go home. I found I didn’t get the biggest, in spite of my first guess, but I did better than some. Bryson deer hunts never take more than one day and today the rest were eager to get before the storm got worse. We put the deer and the horse in the truck and took off for home.

Bryson Clan
After the deer hunt was finished, we went to California for a few days to stay with Syl’s folks. Then back to Utah for the pheasant season.

Pheasant hunting isn’t quite as strenuous as deer hunting and Syl agreed to hunt with us. Merl had an old black dog that loved to flush birds and I had a well trained young pointer that held the birds, instinctively. We spent a couple of fun days with my dog finding the birds and Merl’s dog running out ahead to flush them and everyone seeing who could shoot first. We all limited and had much fun.

The deer season was still on so we decided to try a last hunt in Nephi Canyon for the deer on Syl’s license. She didn’t want to shoot a deer, but I was quite willing to do it for her. On a warm, sunny afternoon, we drove up the canyon until we saw a deer herd climbing up the side of the mountain ahead of us. I jumped out of the car and took off after them, just as they topped the ridge and disappeared over the top. Since it was completely open and Syl could see me all the way, she followed me up slowly.

I made the top as fast as my old cross-country legs would take me and just as I reached the top, a nice buck jumped up and started running down a path almost straight away from me. With one shot, I castrated him, opened the paunch and split his brisket, making it very easy if a bit messy to clean him out. By the time Syl reached the top of the ridge, I had him dressed and was starting back down the ridge. This one was a smaller 3 point and I elected to carry him out across my shoulders. In twenty minutes, we were back down to the car and in another hour we were back home. Never could I convince Syl that deer hunting was hard work.

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