The Red Barn Hunt
Hunting in the west has rewarded me with some of the finest times I known. There is something so different about being out in that country, when living east of the Mississippi River. My first encounter with the west was in 1976. and I was talking one day with a good friend, "Herb Bohrer", when the subject came around to making a hunting trip to Colorado. I said to him. "Why don't we go"?. He looked at me and said. "OK! Lets do it". And so, started what became a long hunting relationship that has lasted 30 years, going into the west to hunt for elk and deer. First Trip
In 1985 I said to Herb, "I have a friend in Oregon and he says there is elk there and he would like for us to come out to hunt with him this year. He agreed and we made arraignment to fly to Boisie Idaho, where we would be picked up. We purchased the tickets several months in advance, to have them in hand, when we got to the airport. We were there at the airport about 30 minutes before time to board. Walking up to the ticket counter, Herb handed the tickets to the man behind the counter, . He took a look at then, looked on the computor screen, turned to Herb and said that our flight had been cancelled two months ago. Of course there was quite a conflict on what, why, how and what are you going to do about it.Why were we not contacted, etc. Is there another flight we can take that will get us there to meet our pickup person in Bosie? He looked and finally said there wasn't. We are in deep stuff because that person has already left, or about to leave, for Bosie, and it is a 5 hour drive one way, we told him. Suddenly, "how about to Portland", I blerted out to him. "Let me see", he said, as he continued to look on the screen. The lady working beside him, on the next computor, turned to him and said. "There is a flight boarding right now at gate number, and I don't recall the number. None of us even knew she was in on this but she was ease dropping and heard the situation and had already been looking into it. With this information I told Herb to book us, I would run to a phone and try to stop our man, from going to Bosie, and make the change to Portland. The phone rang and rang. About the tenth or eleventh ring, when I was just about to hang up, someone answered. "Sure glad I caught you before you left', and I gave them the news. Seems they were in the auto ready to leave when something made them hesitate for a moment and they heard the phone ringing. "I bet that's Dale calling", Joann said to Blair.
Blair, and his wife Joann, live in "Hines, Oregon". Thats next to "Burns", about central Oregon. Blair grew up in Fulton County Pa. and was raised, as an orphan, by my wifes parents and grandparents. A turn of events led him to Oregon sometime in the late seventies. He is in the building construction business there and has become a trusted name to many. When he invited me to come on a hunt I knew that I would be in good hands because he grew up as a sportsman in Pa. However, I had never hunted with him before.
When we arrived in "Hines", myself, Herb and Herbs son-in-law, Maurice, we were treated with royality. Blair and Joann made us to feel at home for the night. We made ready for the mountians the next day and headed up to the hunting grounds where we set up camp. Let me tell you about our camp. Did we have a motor home or camper. "No". Did we set up a Colorado herders tent? "No". Did we put up an army tent? "No". Did we have any kind of tent at all? "No". We cut poles and put up a "wig-wam". Yea. You heard me right. You might think that a wig-wam is Ok for four people. Not four. Seven!. Plus an open bottom sheep herders stove in the middle. No bottom. Sits right on the dirt. No stack out the top. Two lengths of stove pipe and that's all. The smoke is supposed to rise and go out the top opening, if everything is right. Only thing was, we didn't have an Indian to show us how to put it up so it would work properly. They had to have a gimmick. One night, as we were sleeping, I awoke to find the "Indian house" filled with smoke, so thick, it was hard to wave you hand. I was OK because I learned to raise the side, a little crack, and sleep with my nose stuck under, so I was breathing fresh air. Choking on the thick air, I opened the door flap, to the -10 degree heat wave outside, awakened everybody, and some were almost gone by then. One had to be dragged out and it took some time for his lungs to clear. We were coughing, gagging and spitting for a while, let me tell you. What had happened was, the fire was banked for the night Ok. But since it is fired right on the ground, the ground itself caught fire. It was tundra. Frozen but thawed out and caught fire. Or rather smoldered. Maurice stated several times on that trip. "If I ever make it back to W. Va., I'll never go west of the Mississippi again". And I think he has kept his word on that.
Every morning we would awake to a couple inches of fresh snow on the ground. The temperature was a constant cold. Below zero every morning. One morning in particular it was -35 degrees. So cold that you could see floaters in the air. That bone chilling cold. Fortunately the wind didn't blow at all, except on one night it tries to blow the "Indian house Hilton", away.
The anticapation of the first day of hunting was high as the dawn broke. Herb and I were drivers and were standing on the main blacktopped road, that ran past the "Red Barn" property, waiting for the drive to start. Nobody told us, as we was dropped off, when the drive was supposed to start. We were waiting for the usual signal, a yell from the nearest driver (s). We didn't hear any for so long that Herb started long before I did and I didn't know he had started, so I waited longer and longer. Finally I decided that something was amiss and began the trek up the steep slope from the roadside. When I finally got to a higher position, where I should have seen two or more other drivers, there wasn't any in sight anywhere, and it was rolling, open country at this location. I broke into a run, on up the now less steep slope, when I ran onto Herb standing beside a small pine. He began telling me about the huge bull he sighted across the way, about 500 yards from where we were standing. Of course, he wasn't there for me to see. He was telling me how he had watched him standing on top of that knoll, with his rack in the skyline. My adrienne was running at an all time high because I just knew that he would be pushed on out to the headers where the echoing sounds of gunshots would fullfill my desires of a good hunt. We pushed on through the drive which was now all timber. I was walking up a draw when a lone elk was walking to my left at about a hundred an fifty yards away. It walked behind a large tree and stopped with only its tail and back portion of it's rump still exposed. I rested my 7-Mag. against a tree trunk with the cross hairs on that tree area and the only thing visual was the tail. He then moved, ever so slowly, to where I didn't see anything. I waited and waited long enough to know that something had happened to that animal. Moving up to that point, without seeing it, I discovered that this was no hair-brained, stupid wapiti. It, evidently had seen, sensed or felt that something wasn't just right, because he, or she, went behind that tree and so slowly moved out of my sight, took a path directly away from me, that was out of my view, and disappeared. That tree compeletly conceiled its fleeing flight. Had that elk been a bull and stepped out on the other side, as he was supposed to do, well, lets just say, I would have had a good shot. This very same seniaro happen two times on this same hunt. Wonder how they learned to do this? Many years of practice, I suppose. After all. Those woods belong to them.
When I reached the end of the drive, following the elk trail that had crossed the road, there was no one on stand. They had gotten cold and were sitting in the Wagoneer, with the motor running, which was facing the other direction. That accounted for not hearing any gunfire. So went the hunting for a couple days. We were jumping elk but nothing coming out to anyone. Blair was beside himself wondering what was going on. He would stay awake nights trying to out think them or figure where they were. He was heard to say twenty times a day. "Where the Hell are they"? Every morning there were the fresh tracks of elk, in the fresh snow and plans were quickly put together on how an ambush might be made. On one particular morning, as we drove the roads, to scout for track, we came across the tracks of a herd that had just crossed the road. We surmised this by calculating that the snow had stopped only a couple hours ago and these tracks had no snow in them. As we crossed the tracks Blair jamed on the brakes, slid to a stop sideways in the road, jumped out of "the rig", that western for pickup truck, ran back and took one look into those tracks, told Herb to take the rig down to a point on the other side, that he was going to follow them to wherever they were. By this time he had narrowed down, crossed off, side figured them lop eared, moss horned, flat footed (S - B's) (his words) and was about to prove it.
We had probably sat along the road two hours when Blair finally arrived. He found them alright, and began telling the story. He followed them to where they climbed a short, very steep pinnacle that topped out to a knife like structure of rock. Attempting to scale the snow covered rock, he reached the top to just about where he could see over when he lost footing and slid back to the bottom. In the slide some noise was created. Blair turned over onto his back, not having anything to hold onto and keeping his gun up and out of the snow. He was all but at the end of his retreat when he looked back up and over his head. A spike bull heard the commotion, jumped up and looked back over the top to see what the cat hair was a-goin on. That was what Blair saw. Already with his gun pointed in that direction, took a wild shot from that position. No harm done, however. Regaining his poise, climbing, scratching and clawing to the top once more just in time to see a herd of saucer headed cows running in all directions. By discovery, it was disclosed that the spike had ducked and run around the lower end of that ridge to where Blair had slid to, when loosing his footing, whilse he was crossing the top to where the spike was. And Blair was thinking. "What kind of deal is this". He also found out that they are just as sure footed as any mountian goat, when excited. He saw one of the fleeing elk go up and over a fifty foot rock cliff, with a negitive degree of incline. It bounded against the side at high speed, found a small crevice and by hooking it feet on either side, in whatever was available for small foot holds, was able to scale to the top, where it hooked both front feet over the top and was able to get the rest over by working its hind feet accurately.
I had a similar incident happen to me on a W.Va. hunt. I was at the upper end of a deep valley, that run perpendicular to CaCapon mountian, where I was hunting, and ended in a complete vertical rise of about 80 feet. The ground above leveled out somewhat and I was against the rocks some 60 yards away from the edge. After there awhile, I heard the clatter of small rocks falling down the side of that cliff and wondered what crazy fool was climbing up there. When to my supprise the head of a nice buck appeared over the top. He too hooked both front feet over the top and worked the rest up by using his hind feet. After the shock of this occasion has passed, my trusty old 8-MM was on him like ugly on an ape. As he fully gained sure footing, he shook himself, and started to move off to my left. I held fire until I was sure he wouldn't fall down over that cliff. Touching off old betsy, he reared up on hind legs, walked himself backwards and fell, you know where. "What kind of deal is this", situation. He must have been dead on his feet, for he fell about 30 to 40 feet down over there, got his horns snagged on a small tree and hung there, suppended in air. He was probably one half way down. The only way to recover him single handed was by the rope I carried. I tied it around a tree at the top and walked myself down holding onto the rope. When I reached the deer, I tied him off by the horns, leaving just enough to tie around my waist and getting below so I could field dress him. I figured this would take off several pounds that I didn't have to hoist back to the top. I can still see those entrils falling to the bottom, Well! I don't suppose you wanted to hear that, Hmm. To get him back up I came upon an idea that was pure ingenious. Pulling myself back to the top, I untied the rope, tied it around me, leaving it to go around the tree, walked down that cliff same as it were level ground, passing the deer as it went up. Hu? Pretty good. Hu?
The "Chase", as Blair called such excursions, netted no game. He was not a little peaved at some of the drivers, that had walked through that area on at least two occasions, for they had walked the small trail along the side of that hill and not seen those elk, probably bedded down there all the time. All they had to do was look into those mullberry trees (more like oak brush) and there they were. Also, if we had known they were there, we could have stopped, at a certain place on the road below, and glassed them out, up on that hillside.
One of the guys that hunted with us was somewhat unsual in that he did things a little bit different. His name was Darby. Darby is a redneck of the seventh power, and Im' not saying there is anything wrong with that. But if you were to be around him for a couple of weeks you would see what I mean. He always had something going in camp. His attire was a little different from the rest and he talked a little different. He wore a cap, he made himself, that befitted him perfectly. I suppose you could say the cap was him. He even gave it a name. "Percerville" When a fresh elk trail was discovered, Darby would call out. I'll take the trail."Ole Percerville will sniff them out". Want to guess what he made that cap out of. 'Linx'. Yep. He had that thing on his head so'es the head and nose was a-lookin out over the front, eye balls and all. With that specialty adorning the top of his head, just being in his presence was like," I sure hope no one see's us together". When he first came up to camp the only cloths he brought along, and maybe thats all he had, were pants, shirt, regular coveralls and a pair of no string loafers, and no socks. Now, I done told you how cold it was there. He went out in the mornings that way, treading snow and all, in them loafers without any socks. I might mention that he spent a winter in Alaska and that is a story all its own. I'd have to let him tell that one. Blair finally sent his wife to town to buy him some cloths, boots and socks.
At this point in time Blair was not to far away from where the eagel splattered his droppings because I think it landed on both he and Darby.. Putting up a "wig-wam" is the evidence I' speaking about. Darby and Blair were just a few years off the rendezvous trail. You know. Where compeletly sane people dress up in buckskins, tote black powder rifles, and yes. Sleep in wig-wams. I could say a whole lot more about the way Darby done in this special way of life, but he's a good old boy and one of my kind of people. That is on the one side. Let just let it go as, I like the christian life style of the backwoods. I meet all kinds of different folks in them thar west woods, and some of them are a lot like Darby and then again, some of them cannot even come up to his standards. He has been around, if you know what I mean, and when he is one of the group of hunters he pulls his weight without wimper. Hats off to you, Darby. I should say. "Linx cap off".
The "Red Barn" hunt was the first hunt with blair and it turned out to be a lasting relationship that I have enjoyed many times over through the years. I didn't get back to hunt with him until 1994, when I took the two others of our group along , and that will be another story .
Thought I would give you a few pictures of the territory and I'll name them as the titles I gave them in my picture book.