May 13, 2016

The Salt & Pepper Fallow Stag

During the lead up to the April rut for fallow I had been trekking 4-5kms of the same, hilly circuit on a favorite block of public forest or Crown Land as it's known as here in Australia.  I'd do this circuit at least once a week- sometimes after work as well since it's less than an hour from home.  Week after week I walked and walked and watched the scrapes develop and the number of rub trees increase along the deer trails.  As the croaking of the fallow stags in rut came to an end so did my tired legs.  I saw a few stags getting some action on their ladies but never got the perfect opportunity to take the shot in all that walking and stalking.  I decided that this next morning I was just going to be seated with a book and my bow- to read, relax and wait for the opportunity to come instead of work so hard as I had been doing the previous weeks.

I went in as dawn broke and sat in the same exact log seat that I shot a sambar stag from last year and many fallow does over the past months- each one bringing my culinary skills to the next level as I prepared the humanely harvested fare for the family table with friends. This log seat was a 'producer' at exactly 20m off of a dry creek giving a great view of the sloping hill on the other side where the deer approach from.  Within 100m each way of this seat are at least a dozen deer trail crossings that are used almost daily. 

From this log seat last year, a week before the huge sambar stag graced me with his presence, I passed up the shot on a very young fallow that had the most striking white spots through his coat and a salt-and-pepper tinge to the common brown base under those striking white spots.  He was young but 'old enough' for the table.  He passed me at about 12 meters and though I could have probably harvested him cleanly but I think I was just so mesmerised by his coloring that I continued to just admire him.  His antlers were only about 12 inches from the base to a forked top on one side, but what antler he did have also looked a bit off balance- one was longer than the other and palmated just a bit more.  But it was really the coat that had me vexed.  Was it the lighting?  It's so odd for a fallow to have a blend that almost looked like an Australian shepherd or blue heeler mixed in the brown.  That next week I was hoping to see him again but instead was blessed with a sambar stag the size of a horse.  For over a year I have wondered what that coat would look like if I ever saw him again.  Would it change with his maturity?  

It was a bit past 7 before I reached my seat.  It is only about 150 meters from the dirt road I park on.  It sure makes for easy packing out of meat.  I walk in on a circuitous route though which takes me about 20 minutes of slow stalking to get there.  After reaching the hollow, standing log that makes my back drop I reached up inside it carefully to grab my tripod folding chair that I keep stashed.  Sometimes I sit on the chair and sometimes I sit on the log that is laying in front of it.  Today I wanted comfort for my legs.  I always wonder if the next time I reach up into this log I'll get the fangs of a spider into the back of my hand, but it's part of what we live with here in Australia.  After setting up my seat I took off my day bag and boots, removed my Tight-Spot quiver and placed my bow across my lap.  I grabbed an arrow and before nocking it I ran a homemade strop block over the sharp edges of the 220gr Outback Supreme gleaming on the tip.  I tested the edge by filleting off a bit of skin from the tip of my thumb.

I then enjoyed the next hour or so in silence reading those obscure short books at the end of the old testament off of the bible app on my phone.  Only an occasional interruption from a mob of roos broke me from reading those old words.

About 8:30am small groups of hinds started trickling into the forest from grazing in the farm paddocks all night.  One group had a small stag with them and I watched as they came down to cross the dry creek bed.  If they chose one of the trails within 50 meters of my seat I would look for the shot.  I stood at the ready, but they ended up taking a trail that crossed about 70 meters from me.

I contemplated putting my boots on and trying a quick stalk behind them to 'work for an opportunity'.  I wrestled back and forth within myself for what seemed like an eternity until I finally said, almost out loud, 'No, I'm just going to sit back down.  I could be on the hunt after them for a kilometer or more before I would decide to just come back.  No, I'm going to sit.  If God wants me to bring home meat today He will present the perfect opportunity and it will just be right."

I repositioned myself on the tripod in front of the log.  Having just got settled down again I watched half a dozen Western Grey kangaroos bound through a deer trail as they do.  One stopped and I gave him a quick laser range at '51m'.  I already knew the distance was 50m but I like to keep checking my range estimations in the 'heat of the moment' to gain the confidence I might need to take whatever shot may present itself.

I watched the roos bound up the hill past me and then I turned back to where the action comes from on the other side of the creek.  I couldn't quite believe what I was witnessing.  It felt like time was in slow-motion as I watched a solid-racked stag following closely after a solo hind.  His nose was real interested in her and they were making their way right down into the primary lane I was sitting on!
This was my sambar lane from last year.  This couldn't be more perfect.  This is exactly what I was picturing.  This scenario is what I always picture when I'm in this seat.

Once they cross the creek they are at 20 meters, I thought to myself.  
And as they continue up either side of the forked, primary lane they remain at almost exactly 20 meters.  

I love this spot.  
I know this spot.  
This is ridiculously perfect.

Whenever deer take this primary lane it makes for easy estimation when they finally get broadside.  This lane gives plenty of opportunities for the perfect, unforced, unhurried shot.  And what's even better is that there are only two deer here right now.  Only four eyes to see my movements.  Only four ears to hear if I do happen to rustle some leaves as I get a better position.  And only two noses to smell me… but one set of nostrils is pre-occupied and buried up the hind end of his partner this morning.  This is going to be perfect.

Just be cool.
This scene started less than a minute after the roos shot through, and two minutes after deciding not to pursue the small stag amongst the earlier hinds.  I couldn't believe what was about to be presented to me for just staying faithful to the plan of 'relaxing'.  In fact this stag had a bit of salt and pepper on his coat from the front shoulder up to the head.  This is the salt and pepper stag from last year.  He's lost a bit of his color that I admired but this is him.

But they stopped short of crossing the creekbed.  
She veered off the main line just 5 meters or so up the embankment on the other side.  
What?  Why?  Wind is right -everything is right.  Just cross the creek lady and he will follow!  What are you doing?

I reached for my rangefinder and tried to get a perfect bead on him but there must have been some very small branches in the way from the two trees that were framing his broadside stance for me like a perfect picture.  Time became reality again and I raised the bow.  I don't remember drawing back. Something in me just pulled the bow back and put his body behind my sight-pins.  I stood motionless estimating the distance as seconds seemed to be ticking fast now.  I calculated a bit for the downhill angle.  She was motionless and maybe looking at me- I'm not sure.  I just knew he was standing broadside at what I was thinking was 23 meters.  Once I made the determined calculation time slowed again.  It's cool to realize the transitions the brain goes through during the times in this sequence of sighting game, determining distance to drawing back.  It is a transition of the mind from unthinking to thinking and back and forth again.  Each task in this sequence of flinging an arrow perfectly is either an out of body experience that comes naturally from practice or it's a very calculated equation of the present reality.  The brain has to be able to switch in and out of both for the whole process to work.  Pass shooting birds on the wing is just zen.  Taking the 280 meter rifle shot on a fox is calculated reality.  Using your bow to take down large game is most often a constant push between both.   It seemed like I had all the time in the world to make sure my peep and sight were lined up perfectly, that the crease of skin that blends the foreleg into the ribcage was sitting in the exact ratio between my 20 and 30 meter pins for a 23 meter shot... 

…while calculating all this I also knew at some point I had to loose the arrow because all these factors within this calculation could change at any moment.  

I let the arrow loose without thinking about it.  I'm sure I clicked the release but when I go through this procedure properly in the field, seeing the arrow fly is almost a surprise to me that wakes me back up.  My entire, relaxed body unconsciously sent the 612 grains of arrow toward the stag- and the one I had been picturing for almost year now from this exact spot.  He let out a barely audible grunt as both of them went opposite directions.  He went back up toward the road where he had just crossed.  Spooked deer will almost always return the exact way they came because they knew that trail gave them safe passage just minutes ago.  

His stride wasn't fast -just a quick walk really.  But he only took about ten steps before his front legs raised up off the ground like a horse in a movie poster.  But they didn't find the ground gently again.  He toppled a bit to his right and I knew I had placed the arrow in the right spot.  From my vantage point, about 35 meters from his prone body, I watched his white rib cage clearly rise and fall only twice against the backdrop of the dark ground of the hillside.  He expired within 30 seconds of being hit.  I knew this truly organic meat was going to be beautifully unstressed- no adrenalin pumped through it- just lovely venison, humanely harvested.

I dropped to my knees in an odd mix of emotion.  

I've never felt elated in the moment of bringing an animal's life to an end.  Death is still a very sobering experience and I pray I never lose the edge of my personality that feels the somber reality.  

Never do I want to get to the point in hunting where I fling an arrow without first thinking through all the consequences of such action and doing so while respecting the life given to the family's table.  

But in this particular moment I felt myself smiling as I dropped to my knees and buried my head in my hands over my neck.  Not smiling in the pleasure of this stag's death but smiling in the experience, the timing, the refusal to strive of my own accord and chase after the first group, the decision to rest, to sit back down and to consciously say 'If the Lord wills, then I will harvest today', and of all the stags He could present to me it is one I had been admiring and picturing in my mind for several seasons, and then to make the connection so purely, so perfectly, so humanely brings this experience to another level.  It's not the biggest stag I've ever flung an arrow at.  It's not the largest animal I've ever harvested.  This fallow isn't even that difficult of a challenge.  The part I won't forget is how I just trusted in relaxing and waiting for the perfect shot to give itself to me instead of working so hard.  


I used the 'timer cam' app on my iPhone to snap some pictures of this moment.  I hardly ever have anyone with me when I hunt.  So I thought I should at least have this timer app in case I want to get some pics at some point.  I am not really that interested in having pictures of myself with death.  It seems odd for me to smile with a 'conquered life' in my hands or at my feet.  But this was one time I wish I could share the experience with my buddy, Toby, back in the states.  He might enjoy my thoughts behind it.















The hide still had a bit of the salt and pepper black, but the spots were still so very distinct.  Either way I usually save fallow hides and get them tanned.  This one will have a special place in our home.  I went up to the rig and grabbed a tarp to drag him out without damage.  



After getting the liver straight into an old, clean pillowcase I removed all the other internals.  I left the heart attached in the cavity, however.  My friends three sons wanted to be a part of the next butchering process so I knew they would be coming over to my house later today.  I wanted to remove the heart from the cavity with witnesses because I had a pretty good feeling my arrow was well-placed.



With Regan and my friend and his boys all around I reached into the cavity without a knife and removed the heart from the side of the rib-cage.  The upper ventricle showed me what I had suspected

I brine cure the neck cuts and shoulder pieces in the fridge for about 30+ hours.  It has clove, bay leaves, coriander seeds, etc in the boiled water mix…. let it cool and then put the meat pieces in.
rinse with fresh water for an hour or two to leech the nitrates back out of the brine and then put together a dry rub for the outside before smoking it to make pastrami.  I use this article for a guide on the dry rub:  Pastrami - Katz's recipe from NYC




I most often do the backstrap roasts in a juniper berry/coriander seed dry rub, salt/pepper, then a drizzle of sautéed garlic/rosemary with a dash of cumin.  Wrap that in bacon and roast for about 20 minutes then bring it to a sizzling hot iron skillet to finish the bacon for a few minutes.




I sure wish you were here to get a taste.


Jun 7, 2011

1927 Chevy pickup with Tri-Colour Cab

Cedar at the roof support, red oak down the cabin sides, seat support in a darker fir or hemlock, runningboards in hemlock or fir.  What to do?

Jun 5, 2011

1927 Chevy number plate deciphering

 1927 Chevy Capitol Number Plate

1927 Chevy 1-Ton Pickup Truck... Thanks StoveBolt.com

An Australian Stovebolt in good running order.  Just about to get torn down for some sanding to the cab and bed.


In the bed was a make-shift seat that we will be scrapping.


Mar 16, 2011

All Summed Up

Bro, Great to hear from you.

Life is ... really swell...  to put it correctly. 
Sarah and Brent just had their baby last night 7pm on the 16th.  She pretty much labored at home and went and checked in and had the baby about two hours later.  No muss no fuss.  Henry Gerald DeBoer.
But I'll be calling him Hank, especially during Moustache March.  Then maybe Tank.

My homies are fine.  Avery started Karate with a friend and loves it... I watched her without her knowing and my heart kinda melted.. never happened before while watching or coaching her.   Just having Avery throw punches while smiling is really pretty adorable but I reckon I'm biased.

Regan went that same night to "Girl Guides" with a friend.  Sorta like brownies or something... but came home kinda miffed that they "taught us how to hang wet clothes, and do ironing... and polish shoes... don't forget the shoe polishing."  That was her smart ass direct quote that made Lisa and I bust out.  Regan delivered it that way on purpose and was trying not to smile and be miffed.  Man she is funny.

Our stuff that we shipped will arrive this week from the US -that will be cool.  My motorcycle finally got approved for import and left last week and should be here around the first week of April.  I just purchased an unlocked 3G iphone and a 32gb 3GS iphone and an iPad from my connection back home and Justin will be shipping that over. this week since everything is twice as expensive here.

Lisa is trying to stay busy and now that we have little Hank that will be easier for her.  She and I have never been better.  Her schedule doesn't leave me waving to her car as I pull in from work, or worse I'm not dragging along to keep up with her schedule.  We hang.  With each other.  Enjoying each other's company.  Being great friends and the main focus for each other- refreshingly it is the kind of marriage I dreamed of having when I lived by my fly rod and convinced myself I'd never be married.

As for work...
I spent a little over a month on the motorhome line going from the chassis on up the line to learn how each part of the process goes.  I was asked to hang around a bit more to learn the "slide-out" installation and it was a brand new motor going in for the first time so that was cool.
Then a few days ago on this Tuesday I started my first jobby-job and that was to tear down an entire motorhome that had gotten rear-ended by a truck.  It was cool.  I bled for my employer, but it was great to have a job to do, and enjoy doing it.
I told Lisa, "They are paying me to dismantle a motorhome.  How cool is that?".  My hands are destroyed and small bits of fiberglass are embedded in my arms and cause annoying pain as the sheets and pillow rub it in at night but I'm so tired the pain is very temporary.:-)

I just finished it this afternoon and left the R&D shop to find a quiet place and write an email to you and kill a good thirty minutes before I head home and go meet Hank.

You should be on schedule to come over for a visit?  Isn't your time coming up?  Talk to someone.  Figure it out.  And once you guys get here we'll just have you chat with some people...  You'll end up staying.

Thanks especially with all your help on getting the Blazer games.  That has been a very stellar bit of servicing you have given us.

Really good to have you reach out.

Jan 15, 2011

Chutes And Ladders

This indecision's bugging me
If you don't want me, set me free
Exactly who'm I'm supposed to be
Don't know which clothes even fit me?
So come on and let me know
Should I cool it or should I blow?

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So you gotta let me know
Should I cool it or should I go?

To wrestle and battle with decisions small and large is the essence of the human condition.  Some find it easiest and most comfortable to work for someone else, be told what to do and therefore leave themselves enough energy to be able to make other decisions once they are told they can go home for the day.  I spent about 9 years just trying to figure out what I was going to do for a college major, trying this and that, going to school in several different states and lacking much direction.  The only thing I could really focus on was the location of the nearest place to catch a fish and hopping from bar jobs at night and sporting goods store jobs in the day to help me afford to get to the river.  I only recall odd snippets of my education for Trivial Pursuit and such.  Most of my good learning that shaped me came through trying to understand the "Third Eye" of the Tibetan monks, or the work-wisdom of Ben Franklin through Poor Richard's Almanac.  I didn't worry about what I was "supposed to do" in the eyes of the world, and had no inner turmoil due to this lack of "real direction" -that is until a few years into my first career-type job that took away everything I had in my heart for what I really knew I was "supposed to do" with my time I was given.
  The Hindu have a caste system that puts the people of society into different roles based on their previous success in another life.  I get that, but they might be missing the point of letting themselves get out of the current level in the life they are in and just improve on what they have going on today.  What I understand though is that we all have the ability to do or not do what we know insides ourselves to be the next step in our lives.  Some are called to wake up and go to a place where they make calls to sell something that someone else made and if anything goes wrong with the product someone else is handling the support for it so they can rest assured that they won't have to answer for the sale.  It is a comfortable way to spend their days on this earth, but that is not me.  I often wish it were me because life could have been so much easier.  I wouldn't have had to wrestle and battle inside myself to get out of the "caste system" that I was allotted.  My wife wouldn't have had to watch me spiral in and out of control while balancing the desires of my heart with our false desire for a plastic house in the suburbs of our home town.  She wouldn't have had to spend a few years telling our daughters to "be extra nice to daddy" and "he's not really angry at you".
We are all playing a game of "Chutes and Ladders" from the day we come out of the womb.  Whether we are born to a hunting tribe in French Guyana or the son of a cattle baron in Texas we all start out at the beginning and have nothing.  The difference is that some get to land on more ladders to skip some of the work of walking the board - i.e.- the son of the wealthy cattleman.  But I believe that for as many ladders as he gets to land on he probably has that many chutes he could choose to slide down as well.  The son of the hunter in Guyana with a bone in his nose, has less peer pressure to steal a car and wrap it around a tree after washing down a mix of pills with a martini at a night club.  The boards are similar and what we know as success at the end is respectively the same.  We just need to focus on our game and not someone else's lest we miss our ladder and end up slipping down a chute.

Oct 6, 2010

I need order before I can start.  I'll spend an hour cleaning my garage before I rip three boards lengthwise for 8 minutes and put sawdust everywhere.  It's a mental block I have.  There are just some things that need to be a certain way before I can begin.  There are certain things that need to be done in a certain order.  There is an order to the mundane trivial things in life that has to be followed.  Out of this curse is a blessing however.  I question the way other things are done and ask myself is that the best way, and I have no issues removing everyone else's preconceptions on the way things are supposed to be.

This way of thinking works great for design.  I built a deck a few years ago, and imagined the deck rail parallel to a small stream waterfeature that ran between two ponds.  My children were probably just walking about this time, but I designed a mixture of large structural deck railing going from side to side between the supports and strong enough so that the kids could climb up the rail and peer into the stream.  The norm on deck rails is vertical.  Many couldn't see my vision, but once it was complete there was no mistaking that my ability to see things in a bigger framework of life is better for everyone...
...most of the time.

When emptying the dishwasher, I could almost blow a gasket if someone doesn't start with the silverware in the open door, then slide the bottom rack out and empty those items, then slide out the top rack and put the stemware away.  If you start in any other order you get water on the dry dishes below.  And sometimes it is that gritty water that holds a bit of Cream-of-wheat still in the concave, upturned bottoms of your drinking glasses.  It just makes sense to do things a certain way.  Why is the rest of the world so oblivious to this?

Sep 21, 2010

A long drive to the middle of no-where

I stopped in Vernonia to grab the hunting regulations since I was in
an unfamiliar location on the border of the Scappoose Unit and Saddle
Mountain. At the Hardware/liquor strore/bait and tackle shop I
noticed coolant coming out like mad under my truck. The beginning of
a long day was ahead of me but I had elk on the brain.
I figured I should let the engine cool at the next gate I come to and
hunt for the day and deal with my truck later. I bought some coolant
and headed on out of town.
Engine temperature rose and I ended pulling off in a completely new
area that I hadn't planned on. Even through the steamy coolant smell
of my truck I could smell elk as soon as I stopped and stepped out the
door.
I had an amazing hunt stumbling upon two does right off the bat.
There was scattered fresh sign around each turn... bear, cougar, deer,
elk. I was "in it" all day. I found a great spot by being stranded
at this gate. I may have spent too long in one area and approached a
different area incorrectly but I know I can go back and do it right.
Earlier in the week I was reading a thread about "weird things in the
woods" on ifish.net. I remembered one guy posting that his friend
leaves golf balls up at intersections in the woods and trailheads.
Upon reading it I vaguely remember coming across them in years past.
Wouldn't you know it but I happened to come across one about two miles
into the back country. I had to take a picture of it. You can see
the ball in the lower left corner. It was a "2 SRIXON" whatever that
means. Label was facing up so I could read it without disturbing it.
At dark I headed to the truck. My long bow still felt light and my
legs felt strong. I hoofed it out in a hurry. It took me about 90
minutes to go 30 miles back to Vernonia. I could run the truck for a
while then had to shut it down. A guy named Allen came by and offered
to call my wife when he got into service. I had a new thermostat in
my truck, just no 3/8" extension to get the old thermostat out.
Neither did he.
When I rolled into the mini-mart where Allen told me to go, the girl
running the store was waiting for me. Allen had called ahead. When
she found out I just need a little tool, she made a call to Chief of
"Chief's Yota Builds" and he came over to the station and helped me
put my new thermostat on. He tells me he builds Toyotas and screaming
quads and such. This morning I looked for some sort of contact listing online for his business but I guess it operates a little more covertly.  He was a heck of a nice guy. The whole town seemed
to have pitched in to get me on my way. I guess it sometimes takes a
village to rescue the fatigued in fatigues.

FinChasers Half-Page

Timing is everything

Gerry in a nutshell

Here is some great video that may encapsulate the epitomy of "The Good" in a Clint Eastwood film. The guy that doesn't mention "These foals will probably fetch a few million bucks". Instead he says "Do you like horses? Would you like to pet these?".



And the horses roll like Sting in the 80's... "Don't stand, Don't stand so, Don't stand so close to me".