By Jim Deeming
Hunting is a fleeting thing.
For all the dreaming, planning and preparation, the hunt itself is only a few days out of the entire year. The sore feet may last a few days longer. The hole in your wallet may take a few paydays to backfill. And if you're lucky, the meat will last you a few months more.
Then it's all gone.
The only thing about a hunt that truly lasts are the memories....the stories.
I spent New Years Eve with my hunting partner, Troy, under the hood of my truck replacing an injector pump. Not much fun, but we cheered ourselves recounting the year and all that happened.
Although neither of us tagged our 2007 archery bulls, we both agreed that by every other way we measure it, this was one of the most memorable and successful seasons we've had. In spite of the heat and relatively quiet bulls, we mounted what were probably our best (read "hardest") efforts yet and as a result had numerous encounters and opportunities.
The stories from 2007's elk hunt are many, and for us will make the season last a long, long time. You can't ask for more than that.
Also in 2007, I lost one of the most important figures in my life, at least in terms of my family's hunting legacy. He lived life to the fullest, and I thought one of the best ways I could honor him was to tell his story to other sportsmen.
For a variety of reasons, hunting was not a part of my growing up years. My Dad made sure we knew how to safely handle and shoot firearms, but we were into motorcycles, fishing and other things.
Dad and Uncle Roy taught me how to ride dirt bikes and we had a lot of great trail rides down at Rampart Range, but we never did go hunting - at least not until much later.
The closest I got to hunting before I turned 20 was the stories...and what stories they were! They all revolved around the same four larger-than-life characters: Grandpa, his brother Leonard, my Dad, and Uncle Roy.
My young head was filled with tall tales of hunting wild-sounding places like Indian Creek, Troublesome Creek, Piceance Creek, and Sleepy Cat Mountain back in the '40s, '50s and '60s.
In addition to the hunting itself, the stories almost always contained some kind of misadventure - the kind of thing that made the story really stick in a kid's mind.
- Like the time they hunted Sleepy Cat from my Great Uncle Leonard's 1932 Nash. It had snowed deep and they hunted all week with wet feet in their worn out army surplus boots. The transmission was ruined by the time they got that old car, loaded with elk, out of the snow and that infamous Colorado gumbo mud.
- Like the time they were hauled in on horseback for a drop camp, tagged out opening morning and spent all week waiting to be picked up. It snowed heavy and my Dad got giardia. In spite of being sick, to pass the time Dad and Unk set to work with their knives and hatchets and built a big toboggan to ride down the hills on.
- Like the time they paid a drunken cowboy to let them access Troublesome Creek from below through a private ranch. When they came out a few days later the same cowboy, now sober and cranky, denied having allowed them in, accused them of trespassing, and said they could just set there 'til the boss got home and get the gate key - or a bullet - from him.
From there, that particular story gets a bit fuzzy, but it involves the cowboy being occupied long enough for the fence to get cut. I don't know exactly what happened, but I recall Unk asking me one time if I knew what being hogtied meant. I ain't saying it's a fact of the story, but somehow the words "occupied" and "hogtied" are filed in the same folder of my mind from away backů
- Like the time Uncle Roy warned a guest hunter in camp that the next time he mishandled his firearm, he would be asked to leave. Later, while climbing a steep hill, Unk turned around and found himself staring down the barrel of the guy's rifle while he was bent over stumbling on loose footing. True to his word (and needing no further words) Roy turned the group back toward camp, got the greenhorn off the mountain and sent him packing. Roy had a rebel streak in him sometimes, but safety was a rule that didn't bend. Ever.
Motorcycles ALWAYS required helmets, and guns were ALWAYS treated like they were loaded.
My Dad never told a story about hunting with Uncle Roy without saying "Roy always had to go to the end of the roughest road, climb to the top of the highest mountain and hunt in the deepest snow. It didn't matter if there were plenty of elk down low."
And always somewhere during the telling of one of those stories, Roy would just laugh - that ornery Deeming chuckle - the one that let you know it really was as bad as it sounded, but made you wish you had been there anyway.
The impact Roy had on my passion for hunting cannot be measured, or explained in words. I do not ever build a campfire, shoulder a weapon, or harvest an animal without thinking of both my Dad and Uncle Roy. So it is with some sadness I have to say that on September 6, 2007 my Uncle Roy, at 84 years young, lost his final battle with cancer.
It was hard to say goodbye, but I take comfort knowing that all four of my heroes were men of faith and knew where they were headed. Now they are riding the same trail once again.
I know I'll see them again some day - because I know where to find their camp...
Somewhere way past the end of the golden pavement, at the top of the highest mountain, in the deepest snow, Saint Pete may walk by a campfire and hear some ornery sounding Deeming Chuckles.
Maybe he'll hallo the fire, sit for some coffee, and hear some tall tales.
Betcha before long, he'll wish he'd been there too...
In memory of Roy Frank Deeming
November 11, 1922 - September 6, 2007
About the author:
Jim Deeming is a lifelong Colorado native who writes about his 20 plus years of hunting and guiding adventures. He publishes a free newsletter with tips, tricks, and stories of elk hunting, aimed primarily at the public land, do-it-yourself elk hunter.
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