“He’s the third one from the left,” I said, without pulling away from the spotting scope. Almost a quarter mile away, a herd of deer grazed on the edge of the field. Behind them stood a partially-constructed eight-foot field fence. Behind the fence rose a hill, crested by rimrock and dotted with juniper trees.
A small forked horn buck was feeding among a herd of mule deer does. From time to time, he would change positions, walking among the other animals. “Now he’s eighth in from the right.”
Ed Park had the rifle to his shoulder, but he had spotted movement on the hill behind the fence. “What’s that coming down the hill?” he asked. I swiveled the scope on the tripod and focused on a bigger buck. “Looks like a three-point.”
“What’s he doing?”
I squinted into the eyepiece and gave Ed the play-by-play. “Heading east along the fence now.” The deer was over 400 yards away and behind the fence, walking. It was not the shot to take. Soon the deer was out of sight.
We turned our attention to the forked horn buck and watched him change places again. Finally, he moved to the edge of the group, away from the other animals again. Broadside. Probably 340 yards away.
The wind was blowing in our faces and Ed calculated the distance and held his crosshair a little high on the body and pushed the safety to “fire.” He began to tighten his finger on the trigger. “Stop,” I said. “Don’t shoot. The big one is coming back.” Ed switched the rifle to “safe” again.
We tracked the buck’s progress along the opposite side of the fence through my Wind River scope. Should I have stopped Ed from shooting? I wondered. After about twenty minutes, the bigger buck had reached the end of the fence, made a left turn and trotted out into the field. “Looks like a four-point,” I said, grateful for the clarity of the scope that rendered small antler points I couldn’t see through my binoculars.
When noted outdoor writer Ed Park, had a stroke twelve years ago, it left him with limited use of the right side of his body. Hunting and fishing, which are his lifelong passions, are difficult now. When he shoots a rifle he uses his left hand and requires a rest for the fore-end and rifle butt. Shooting on his left side is made more challenging because his right eye is dominant and his left gives him some trouble.
Fortunately, the State of Oregon makes it easier for people with age or injury-related disabilities to hunt and fish. Ed’s license allows him to hunt from a parked vehicle if the vehicle is off the road or parked on a private road. Also, a controlled buck deer tag, in the possession of a disabled hunter, becomes an either-sex deer tag.
The law also allows an able-bodied person to assist in the process. An assistant can finish up a wounded animal, if necessary, then drag the animal back to the road and field-dress it. For information on ODFW’s Permanent Disabilities Permit, see the Oregon Big Game Regulations.
Seated on a folding chair, Ed used the tailgate of my truck as his rifle bench. A bipod elevated the fore-end of the Ruger 243 while a rolled-up sweatshirt provided him support for the butt. He pulled the rifle tight against his left shoulder.
The buck stood broadside now. I heard the click of the safety going to “fire” again and watched through the scope as Ed took a half-breath in, held it, steadied the crosshair and squeezed the trigger.
There is some debate about the use of the word “harvest” as it applies to hunting. It can never be more appropriate than when used in the context of hunting deer that are fed on a rancher’s crops. Ed’s 95-grain Winchester Ballistic Silvertip connected the hunter to his harvest across 310 yards of alfalfa stubble.
We knelt to admire the animal, a 3×4 buck, while the sun sank low on the horizon and a rosy glow filled the valley.
For a few minutes we sat and listened to elk bugling from the rim and watched the stars appear as the sun went behind the Cascades. This deer, well fed on alfalfa, would provide good meat for the winter. The photos will provide a good reminder of a warm October evening and the good, hard work and satisfaction of another deer hunt.
On the way home, Ed talked about past solo adventures for bears, moose, and sheep in Alaska. Rising to meet the challenge was the key to his success then, as it is now.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you find yourself unable to hunt like you used to, if age or impairment has slowed you down, don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Many people like to help.
If, on the other hand, your abilities are not impaired, and if you have the time and inclination, offer your help to someone else.
If your club or organization needs a project, consider finding hunting and fishing access for elderly or disabled sportsmen and matching able-bodied assistants and landowners with hunters and fishermen.
And landowners, if your property has game habitat of any kind with a huntable population of wildlife, consider offering access to a disabled sportsman.