By Travis Roundy, March 2014
Remember back in the good ol’ days when there were big Mule deer bucks roaming from the low sage hills all the way to the high timberline basins? Deer were plentiful in all of the western states, and you could buy tags at the local gas stations and grocery stores on the way to the hunt. Almost everyone in town hunted deer, and the entire town, including the school, was shut down during opening week. Dodge Power Wagon pickups, Willys Jeeps, and International Scouts with tire chains, spare gas cans, and new bias ply tires lined up at the gas station to fill up and load a few last minute supplies for the hunt. Hunters dressed in blue jeans, plaid shirts, and work boots filled the cabs of the hunting rigs, winding their way slowly up dusty roads to hunting camp high in the mountains, only stopping to fill the water jugs at the spring that ran out of the hillside below hunting camp. Army surplus canvas tents with quakie poles and ropes holding up the walls were scattered along the dirt road in the usual patch of quakies with the meat pole lashed to a couple of stout trees alongside camp. The hitching rail was just farther out of camp where the horses were hitched and waiting to be saddled for the cold, dark ride up the trail in the early morning to the pass above camp. Firewood was split and stacked next to the grub box, and a coffee pot on hot coals steamed in the cool evening air while hunters laughed and told hunting stories about bucks that weighed 235 lbs field dressed with fat on their backs 3" deep. Open sight 30-30s and 30-06s and .270s with Weaver 4x scopes were cleaned, oiled, and ready for the hunt. The chill in the air and the golden leaves rustling in the wind were signs of fall and signaled that the annual ritual of the hunt was about to begin all across the West.
Some of you were lucky enough to experience deer and elk hunting during the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s when there were Mule deer galore and elk were not so widespread and numerous as they are today. Some of us are old enough to have been in deer hunting camp as kids, listening to uncles and grandpas telling the stories of the hunts. Some of you are young enough that you may never see or experience the old fashioned hunts that your father or grandfather cut their teeth on.
The fact is, hunters have evolved over time to a different breed of predator than they were just a few short decades ago. Applications for tags, rangefinding binoculars, long range custom rifles, turrets, angle compensators, ballistic smart phone apps, trail cams, camouflage, GPS, 20x scopes, 60x spotters, digiscopes, ATVs, custom ammo, sat phones, airplanes, radios, mechanical broadheads, carbon bows, landowner tags, 200", 400", and pre-season scouting are a few of the words that really never applied to hunting back in the good ol’ days! Sometimes I wish we could throw away all the gadgets, scores, and technology and just go back to the way the old timers did it. It would be kind of nice to put a handful of cartridges in the pocket of your blue jeans and a couple pieces of jerky and dried apples in your shirt pocket and head up the trail after a big, burly buck. I’m not talking burly antlers either, I’m talking a big, heavy-bodied buck that weighs over 200 lbs, maybe even 220 lbs, all dressed out and hanging in camp or in the tree in front of your house so all the neighbors can see that you got a nice one this year. The local sporting goods store sponsors a big buck contest, and the buck with the heaviest weight wins the prize. The size of the antlers doesn’t mean a thing.
I was lucky as a kid to have a father who hunted and taught me to hunt the old fashioned way. Growing up in southern Utah during the 70’s gave me the chance to experience some really good Mule deer hunting the way they used to do it. My parents have seven children, all boys, of which I am the oldest. Being the oldest was great because my dad took me hunting with him and took the time to teach me how to track deer and elk and how to read the sign along the way to understand what the animal was doing and why it was doing it. I have always loved tracking, and to this day I would rather track a buck or bull than hunt it any other way. The beauty of tracking for me is that I am matched up in a game of wits with an animal that is on his home turf and has the advantages of sight, smell, and hearing. It’s a real challenge, and I know very few people who even attempt to hunt bucks or bulls this way anymore. It is said that there’s no way to judge the antlers fast enough to tell if it’s big enough or not, so why waste your time tracking? I’m certain that sometimes that is absolutely true, but in the old fashioned spirit of the hunt I feel that there is a satisfaction in tracking down a wily old buck that lines out for 1/2 mile then jumps sideways off the trail and doubles back on his own tracks only to end up right back where you jumped him the first time out of his bed. It’s a challenge, and it’s the perfect way to experience the old fashioned kind of hunt that your grandpa used to do. It’s a short range type of hunt that lends itself to using a 30-30 or some other sort of rifle that isn’t set up to shoot halfway across the county. Binoculars can be handy, but most of the time they are of no use because to really be ready for action while you are tracking down a buck or bull you will want to have the rifle in your hands and be ready to whip it into action in a split second as soon as you glimpse your quarry making an escape in the thick cedars or pinyons. It’s really a game of wits and reflexes with the winner either bringing home the venison or surviving another season.
Old fashioned hunting is becoming more of a lost art, especially with the tags being so difficult to draw and the drive to take home bigger antlered bucks and bulls. I know there are still some of you Huntin’ Fools out there who know and appreciate hunting the way it used to be done. We are interested in seeing your photos and reading your stories of how you hunt the old fashioned way, whether it’s tracking, old time deer drives, horseback hunting, longbow, or any other old fashioned hunt. We have reserved a few pages in our magazine and on our website for “Old Fashioned Hunts.” If you have been successful and have taken a buck, bull, billy, or ram the old fashioned way, without all of the fancy new gadgets, camouflage, and technology, we’d like to see and hear how you did it!
To submit your story, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org, mail it to our office, or upload it directly on our website at www.huntinfool.com/storycontest. When you submit your story, please label it as an Old Fashioned Hunting Story Contest entry.