those deer out there? See the smaller one? Burt here shot it. Went to get it,
had only one horn. Went to drag it, horn came off. Looked at the horn: covered
with velvet. Guide goes to dress the deer, and the deer is a lesbian."
I am handed an
ashtray from the mantel, with a skinny, seaweedy six-inch antler in it, a
horned doe. It seems a bad start.
We breakfast in
another sitting, never seeing the guides or discussing the plan of the day,
praise the indifferent scrambled eggs and go out with jackets, hats, gloves,
rifles, some with day-hiking packs, and pile into a school bus.
Wait a minute. A
school bus? Inside the humpbacked blue-and-yellow vehicle a sign is stenciled:
NO EATING ON BUS. Frankly this type of travel seems a little metropolitan.
But for such
hunting, tight, linked, uniform drives with minimum opportunity for the loss of
the large accounts, it is the cat's pajamas. McVean will drive along the roads,
stop at a runway, say, "Gimme a scope" or "Brush gun," and to
the hunter who clambers forward, "Get up on that knoll. Deer will be coming
from over here." Then he drives on 200 feet and places the next man. Well,
I think, these guys aren't really rich. They're customers.
But on my first
watch, after a comfortable half hour of stillness, the deer explode, running,
pausing, turning. Seven pass me. Thirteen are seen. On the second drive, two.
On the third I see four, weaving under high ledges before me, shouldering
together, overrunning each other, finally rock-scrambling up like mountain
sheep, knocking down flints that clatter like a bunch of tin plates.
The impression is
of things belonging, completing the warm wet day on long hillsides under the
pillars and crowns of large poplars. You sense the weight, breathing, warmth of
the deer, you see briefly into their lives—even if you do it exactly as a
doorman. By God, it is good to see the creatures in this quantity.
The total count
is more than 30 deer, many of them seen by five or six of us. But that's much
fewer than five years ago, and no bucks. Some of us walk in after the last
drive, and I talk with McVean about the herd.
deer. This was exceptional today. He doesn't blame the winters. He blames the
doe permit and the night hunters. The state is responsible for both. The doe
permit is some desk rider's dimwit idea, not applicable to this area of the
Adirondacks [the state finally realized this, and as of the 1974 season no
longer issues such permits], and the poaching goes unpunished.
Stan used to
enjoy catching poachers and running them in. "Hunting men is twice as
exciting as hunting deer," he claims. "But you can't be afraid to pull
a gun on them, and that's just what I am now." Liable to end up talking to
a judge himself for threatening human life or some damn thing.