Mule Deer, Elk and Western Big Game Hunting -

"So There I Was..."
Written by Daniel Cass

So there I was... OK, so it's a little cliché, but seriously, there I was sitting under a juniper tree on a warm day in late October in central New Mexico, hunting mule deer during muzzle loader season. As I sat there scanning the short, broken field of vision I had, and listening for the sound of footsteps of my father-in-law, soon to be approaching from the east, I heard a rustle not fifteen yards to my north. I realized at that instant that this was the moment I had dreamt of since last deer season. I had been sitting perfectly still for twenty or more minutes after walking directly into a light breeze that had surely been strong enough to cover my scent and most likely the sound of my footsteps as well. I'd like to say that this spot was specifically chosen for an anticipated ambush for its excellent concealment directly adjacent to a well-worn game trail leading from the dense junipers of the top of the mesa to the fertile alfalfa fields next to the river below, but the fact of the matter is that was not the case. In fact, it was pure luck, chance if you will. I had spent the previous two days walking from sun-up to sun-down trying to kick up muleys from their beds under junipers on top of a massive mesa and this morning, most of which had faded into memory, was my last shot.

You see, I'm not some fat-wallet big spender with money to blow on a guided, private hunt with a 160-class guaranteed kill. Oh no, quite the opposite. I am the perfect average of a room full of average guys. I have a beautiful wife, two kids and one more on the way. I drive a stripped down Chevy truck, mainly because I come from a Ford family. I hunt in my combat boots from basic training because no other boot has ever covered so many miles on my feet. I'm you. I'm your buddy John or Rick, or your Uncle Walt. But that day, I was different. That day, I would do the amazing. That day, I was a hunter on the prowl. My father-in-law and hunting partner, Max Sanchez, an average guy who still owns and drives the 1979 Chevy Silverado he bought new in '79, had asked a friend and neighbor if we could hunt black powder on his Spirit Haven Ranch again this year. Just to make things clear, Fred's little patch of heaven is not some professional hunting ranch with timed feeders and such. No, it is just a gorgeous chunk of God's creation; high desert brush lands straddling the Pecos River in central New Mexico and mule deer seem to love it. Max and I had tromped back and forth across the mesa for two and a half days because 40+ years of hunting this area has taught Max that deer don't simply vaporize at 8:45am every morning and reappear at dusk every evening. Nope, they are there all day long waiting for guys with stones enough to hunt them where they sleep. This particular pass was to be my last for the season. This thanks to my kindhearted boss who felt the need to cancel my leave for the last two days of a five-day season, which I had projected for nearly a full year. See, I told you I was average.

As I waited for Max to finish his pass along the front edge of the mesa and work his way to meet me at the back corner of the fences, "it" happened. That's right, "it" happened to a guy so average he had to put his hunting license on his credit card. What was "it"? "It" was that movement in the brush, that glimpse of grey working its way through the nearby junipers, the snap of twigs in the dirt. "It" was a small, grey New Mexico Roadrunner. That's right, a bird hopping along at the base of the brush. "It" was the fact that I was not let down. In fact, I was in awe of the creature I occasionally caught a fleeting glimpse of along the highway. Would I have loved to have had a monster muley buck amble out from behind the tree instead of a bird? Sure, I was hunting deer, wasn't I? But when I thought about it for a minute, I was proud. I was proud that my hunting skills had proven themselves. You see, where I live you see mule deer quite often, but you rarely see the reclusive roadrunner. I had successfully worked my way into position and waited without this keen bird even realizing I was there. Did I get a buck this year? Nope, but I got that rush just as if that bird had had a rack big enough to make a chandelier. That's right, "it" had happened time and again on this hunting trip and I have a whole slough of new "So there I was" yarns just waiting to be spun at the lunchroom table.

"So there I was"... four little words used so often to start the weaving of a hunting tale. Why are they so often used? I believe it is because they erase the need to get into the details. It removes the need to express the common in such excruciatingly fine detail. This is not to say that the person, place and time are not important. Quite the opposite, they are the integral constant. Does it matter if you are hunting mule deer on family land in New Mexico or boars on a small lease in South Carolina? Quite frankly, it doesn't matter at all. You could be dove hunting in the cotton fields of southwestern Oklahoma, instead, but the feeling is the same. "It" does not change. Hunting is not about the kill, but rather the thrill. Whether you walked out your back door to hunt quail or drove twenty-two hours to hunt elk you waited fifteen years to draw out on, the reason is the same. You do it because of that intangible gut-wrenching sensation you get when you know you are about to flush a covey of quail, which is the same feeling felt when you roll into your elk camp the night before opening day after driving straight through from work and roll down the truck window to let out a little bugle on your new call, only to have three different bulls shout back at you from the ridges above. That, my friend, is the draw, the feeling, the sickness that keeps us up the night before opening day and keeps us coming back for more year after year, season after season, species after species. That is "it"! That "it" is why I say "So there I was". You don't need to know me, my rifle, or even my hunting spot or game of choice, because you know "it". You know the feeling I had while the details were unfolding, details which, by the way, included 31 does, 2 small non-legal bucks, too many jackrabbits to count, 2 coyotes, and one lonely roadrunner, but no "shooters". "It" hit every time one of God's creatures sprung up in front of me and nearly made my heart stop. "It" is why I can honestly say, "No Shooters, No Problem".

For those of you who know what "it" is, thank God for his creations, one of which is "it". For those of you with thousands to drop on a set-up hunt, trust me, you don't know "it". If you would like to find out what "it" is, please do me a favor. Next season, find an offering plate somewhere and write that same check. That afternoon, head down to the sporting goods counter at your local Wal-Mart or True Value hardware store and look me up. I'll be the guy standing there at the gun rack with the glazed look on my face, dreaming of a new rifle or shotgun. I'll more than likely be wearing work boots, jeans, a t-shirt and a ball cap. Strike up a conversation with me. Don't worry, I won't bite or spit at you. I'll help you find "it". Because no matter where you are on God's green earth, "it" isn't far away, you just have to seek "it". Oh, and leave your checkbook and platinum card at home, because God made "it" for us all to enjoy and mule deer don't care what your credit limit is.

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

Click-a-Pic ... Details & Bigger Photos

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