MUSHY'S MOOCHINGS: THE CRYSTAL FOREST

Monday, April 07, 2008

THE CRYSTAL FOREST

Do you remember the wonderful scenes in the ‘Ice House/Palace’ in Doctor Zhivago? Well, back in January of 1989, on the last hunt of Catoosa for the season, I hunted a day in the woods there that was reminiscent of those scenes. The only difference was that instead of everything being covered in snow, which in reality was wax, everything that day was encapsulated in about ½ inch of ice!

I remember the prism like effect the ice had on the rising sunlight, refracting it into the full spectrum of colors, and making everything appear as if it was all part of a giant Christmas display - a kind of crystal forest. The light danced and sparkled off the ice that began to be too much for some branches to hold, and the normal quietness of the forest was periodically broken by the crack and crashing sound of some falling to the white floor of the woods.

It was January, the second week in January, a time that if it is going to snow at all in Tennessee this was usually the week it happens. About four inches of snow had fallen the week before, and most of it still lay softly waiting something else to happen. What happened was an ice storm!

I had also hunted the week of the snow, and was nearly caught in the Genesis Road valley that lay between the management area and the way home. However, having learned how to drive on snow years earlier from my dad, I made a slow steady climb out of the valley and made it the thirty miles on home.

That day was not a total loss, because I had a 5-point buck walk within ten yards of my ground stand between two huge oak trees. Completely concealed behind the camo material I always used, and the branches of small scrub bushes, the buck walked slowly by without as much as a casual glance. I had him perfectly framed in my scope, through which he appeared close enough to poke with the tip of my rifle.

I scanned his small, non-typical rack counting its five points, and compared it in my mind to the 8-point rack that hung over our dining room table. I had become somewhat of a “trophy hunter” and was determined not to shoot anything of less value to me than the 8-pointer, so I watched him pass and bid him good health.

So, on the day of the ice storm, I sat in the exact spot mesmerized by the light display and thanking God for his wonders, when a tinkling sound came from about 100 yards away. I immediately dropped off my little stool onto one knee and pushed off my safety and peeped through the mesh of the fabric and around the tree to my left. More tinkling sounds came and grew louder, but now with the distinctive sounds of heavy feet breaking through the frozen snow covered leaves!

Suddenly, there appeared a deer, no a buck, and my heart began to pound as it always did. I slowly raised the rifle and lowered my head to the scope. It was the same 5-point buck I had allowed to pass a week or so earlier. Damn,” I thought, “What shall I do?”

I surmised that if fate allowed this same buck to pass me again that I was bound to shoot him by some unwritten law of deer hunting! Okay big boy, you had your chance!”

I waited until he passed the tree to my left, just 10 yards or less, and I squeezed off the 150 grain round. I was so close I actually saw the impact on his right shoulder and the resulting ripples that dissipated about 18 inches from where the bullet hit!

The buck charged forward into a ticket, making crashing sounds like you would imagine a “bull in a china shop” would make trying to find his way out, and then there was quiet again.

I sat there, breathing hard and listening to see if I could tell which way he was headed. However, I did not hear anything and grew afraid I would lose him in the dense under brush.

I ejected the .270 round casing and pushed it deep into my pocket, stopping to smell of it first, and then injected another round just in case I had to finish him off at some point.

I could wait no longer, so I stood up and began inching my way toward the narrow gap in the thicket, through which he had gone. Immediately I realized I would have no problems in tracking the buck. There on about every other bush was a frozen icicle of blood, like colorful ornaments on a holiday tree. I walked forward, following the bloody spike markers, until I cleared the thicket completely.

The 100 pound buck lay motionless in a small pool of icy water just feet from the edge of the thicket. I knew that wounded deer often seek water to soothe their wounds, but this was the first time I witnessed such an event. However, the deer had died just after lying down…my muzzle touch on his big brown eye confirmed it.

I have heard seasoned hunters say that it is important to take out the inferior genes from the deer herd and that they needed to be culled, so I suppose this was my contribution to the future of the Catoosa deer population. His rack was non-typical, uneven, and may not have improved with additional seasons or food, but one thing for sure; he never got to add to the gene pool, good or bad.

So after field dressing the buck I sat for about thirty minutes, with my hand on the buck’s head, feeling the remaining warmth, just listening to the forest crackle, watching the light show – just enjoying my own private crystal forest.

12 comments:

BRUNO said...

Aww, ya' HAD to mention ICE on TREES, didn't you? I'm still dealin' with nightmares this year left behind for me!

But, did ya' ever notice while hunting, how cold it WAS NOT, inside that crystal forest you mention? Or, at least it seems that way to me. Kinda like the ice is actually insulating you from the bitter cold air.

Suldog said...

There's nothing in the whole world quite so beautiful as seeing the whole world you're in enclosed in ice. I've had the distinct pleasure of awakening to such a sight outside of my window a few times, living in the northeast. Spectacular. One of the joys of winter.

Misty Dawn said...

Oh yes, when we had the ice storm here in December, my breath was taken away by the beauty. (and I've got LOTS of photos of it)

Buck said...

Yeah... ice storms are beautiful to behold, ugly in their impact. A week or so without power can make one wish you NEVER see another ice storm, 'cept maybe on teevee or in the pages of NatGeo.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

A beautiful story brother, beautifully told. Damn I'm glad you didn't really quit postin' this sort of stuff.

My only experience with ice like that was in Missouri in the early 70s. I'll never forget the magic of it.

Maybe one of these days I'll have a similar story to tell.

Mushy said...

I have one more deer post...I know, most of you don't lik'em, but after that I'm lost.

Any requests?

The_Mrs said...

You and my husband would get along wonderfully!

He is a huge hunting fan and in fact, I haven't *had* to buy beef for almost 20 years. Our chest freezer in the garage has all the venison it can handle.

:)

Any good vension recipes to share?

Particularly deer steaks? My husband loves them, but to me, they taste gamey. I can manage to get the gamey taste out of the others cuts and the ground venison, but the rib eye deer steaks still have that wild taste to them.

Any suggestions?

Mushy said...

Sorry...I had the same problem, but maybe someone will post some tips.

Jose said...

Great post as always Mushy. I had never heard of an Ice Storm until today. Mexico City, Los Angeles, and Phoenix don't get that kind of stuff. However Mexico and Los Angeles get permanent smog storms. lol, and Phoenix does get sand storms.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

My cousins taught me to cut venison into cubes, marinade it in Italian dressing, wrap it in bacon on a skewer and grill it. It's wonderful that way.

They also said that if you soak it in cold water for a while it takes a lot of the gamey taste out of it.

david mcmahon said...

Prism effect - you're a poet.

Becky said...

Almost like you had the yin and yang in that day. The crystal forest would be a sight to see.