Deer Hunting and the Cougar

Short Story about a cougar, a deer and young hunters in Oregon

As usual, when deer hunting season came, the men in the family all took off hunting. I couldn’t wait for this, it was going to be my first real deer hunting trip. Some would say those days would be bonding moments with your dad. One thing for sure, I do remember this one occasion quite well.

In our group of fellas, there were uncles and some of dad’s friends from work. The air was crisp and the fire felt real good in the morning. Everyone decided where they were going to go and gradually departed in that direction. Dad and I went for the large mound about a quarter mile away, out near an open meadow.

Being young and ambitious I climbed a the mound a little faster than dad could, and as I came up over the top I spotted 4 deer standing in the brush below. Buck fever hit and I panicked, I turned and ran back down the hillside to where dad was coming up. There are some deer just over the ridge I told him, at least 4. “Any bucks he said?” My reply was “I thought I saw one!”

Hurriedly we scurried up the side and slowly came around a big rock. There right below us were 3 Doe and one big antlered buck. When one of the Doe saw us, they all started to scatter. I told dad to shoot, they were getting away! He fired maybe three times and of course he missed. But the excitement, oh my I couldn’t move! Finally, after all the ruckus settled down, he sat down and said “the next time you see a buck, hide and don’t let him see you.”

Later that afternoon when everyone else came back in, we exchanged stories of what we encountered. Dad told everyone about our surprise encounter with the 4 deer over that mound earlier. Dad’s friend Al said he knew something was up because of all the shooting. But no else one had even seen one. My uncle Cecil saw one but it was a Doe and said he didn’t have a Doe tag.

deer-in-forest
Just to be clear, this is not a Doe

It was hot that afternoon so it was decided it was time to give it up until the next morning. The boys pulled out a 22 caliber pistol and started to do some target shooting at some old cans they found. After all that was over, I went over and picked up the empty cartridges, just for fun. We built a fire and I dropped several of the cartridges into it, never thinking there would be a problem. After the fire started it didn’t take too long before one of those cartridges exploded with a very loud pop.

Everyone thought it was pine pitch in the wood. But there was a problem, Al had been hit in the lower jaw with a fragment and he thought it was a small piece of rock. When uncle Cecil took a look, he spotted a small piece of brass and said it wasn’t a rock that hit him. They figured it was an old cartridge that had caused it. I felt bad because I knew that it was me who had dumped a couple of old 22 cartridges in the fire. I thought these guys were gonna tie me up and put me in the back of the truck for the rest of the trip, but they eventually calmed down and let me stay outside.

Of course several days later, the group had managed to shoot two bucks and had them hanging from a long log strung between a couple of big trees away from the campsite. Al had the camera and wanted to take pictures. I asked if I could stand between the deer and get my picture taken too. It was alright with everyone else so I walked over and wrapped my arms around the carcasses.

When dad went to pick up those pictures for Al, the guy behind the counter said he had a surprise for him. He came back with an enlargement of one of the photos, the one of me with the deer. He gave the small picture to dad and asked if he saw anything. Dad and I took a look and we didn’t notice anything odd.

The fella put an enlargement up on the counter and pointed to a large branch way up in the tree above the hanging deer . He said “see that?” At first we didn’t see anything but a closer look at the enlarged photo showed it plainly, a big cougar was setting on the branch right above the deer and me. I wish now that I still had that photo.

Read more about the controversy between predator vs. prey from the Oregon Outdoor Council.

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