Friday Classic – Green Machine: A Hunter’s Story
Toeing the dirt reality set in. No one else was around. The ranch was deserted. For a thirteen year old with a short attention span that spelled trouble. A whitetail doe tag was burning a hole in my pocket and I had hunting on my mind. Four and a half miles of dirt, and a nonexistent driver’s license stood between me and good whitetail country, but I had an idea.
Grabbing a halter I went into the coral and caught Butte. He was a strong bay horse with a long forelock. Roughly 8 years old at the time, we had picked him up as a four year old from someone in his namesake town. He was always one of my favorites. I saddled him, put my rifle in the scabbard and made sure I had a rope in case I needed to drag a deer. We headed out the front gate at a trot.
Covering the ground in under an hour, we arrived at the lower ranch with a couple hours left of shooting light. I tied Butte with a mule knot to a post near an old hay shed. Shouldering my Remington Model Seven in 7mm-08, I began walking. Moving slowly between junipers and into some large cottonwoods. It wasn’t long before I spotted three does grazing. Fifteen minutes later I was within 75 yards and in position for a comfortable shot.
With my heart pounding, I sat down and rested my elbows on my knees. Gaining control of my breathing, I put the crosshairs over the neck and slowly pulled the trigger. The doe dropped in her tracks. A flood of emotion raced over me. It was only the third big game animal I had taken, and the first without an adult nearby. It was also my first neck shot, something my uncle had done for years when he had a good opportunity. He preferred it so he could save as much meat as possible. Pride filled my skinny frame. But I was also saddened, I have never become callus to killing an animal, but it was particularly hard for me at a young age.
Holding my hand against the still warm body, I sat for a moment. Then I pulled out a fixed blade knife that had been given to me by my father. Carefully I slit open the deer as I had been taught. With my hands inside the animal and light begining to fade, I lost direction. My education and experience no longer served me, my progress came to a halt. Sweat built up on the back of my neck and I felt as if I could no longer breath. Working for what seemed like an eternity the mess only became worse.
Feeling terrible for failing in what was an essential part of the hunting process I didn’t know where to turn. Finally I gave up. Covered in green stomach contents, I did my best to wash it off with dry sage, which was all that was available. The smell was terrible. Dejected I walked back to Butte, with my head hung down. Surrounded by darkness we traveled together back to the main house. After turning Butte out for the night I washed my arms in cold water and fell asleep on the couch.
Nearing midnight my uncle arrived. We had planned to hunt over the weekend. Explaining my predicament, he was more gracious than I appreciated at the time. Together we drove in his rusted out brown F150 back to where my deer still lay. He teased me a little, but mostly he took care of the mess. Little meat was ruined and all it took was a skilled hand to finish the job. Once the doe was hung he turned to me and said “your the Green Machine”. The nickname stuck.