Nearly fifty years have slipped by since that day my father and I went hunting in the Big Belt Mountains. I was twelve. We left our truck in the deep blue before sunrise and clambered straight up one side of a steep mountain as the sun climbed up the side opposite.
We reached the top in full sun, finding ourselves in a stiff wind. The top of the mountain was something we call a gunsight pass—a distinct “V” shape at the top. The V was formed by two rims of hard stone muscling up from the grass and trees.
My father pointed to a small outcrop of rock near the very center of the pass. “Let’s go sit on the other side of that, out of the wind. We can rest for a while.”
My father had told me that buck mule deer often crossed through the pass. Not long after we settled in a nook out of the wind, my father poked me. He pointed. I stretched to peer overtop the stone at my back, my rifle held beside me. On the windward side, a pair of mule deer does were walking toward us. With the wind steady at their back, they had no scent of us. To my amazement, one of the does continued to walk straight toward the outcrop behind which we were resting. The top third of my rifle barrel protruded above the stone. She walked directly to the barrel and sniffed at it. She looked me squarely in the face. Her eyes were dark, unmoving.
She wiggled her ears.
I could have touched her.
After only a few seconds, she stepped back, joined the other doe, and they melted into the windswept stones and trees and grass. Not the buck we were looking for.
At sunset yesterday, this year’s hunting season for deer ended. Earlier in the day, that girl and I watched Dot, our friendly local mule deer doe, nosing around our deck. I worried about Dot making it through this hunting season. She exhibits no great fear of people. She has walked up to me while I am outside. She does not run off when I open the door to step outside if she is here. Honestly, I think she is a bit “simple.”
At dusk last night, Kevin called me. “Dot is bedded down here at my place,” he said. “Thought you might want to know.”
Good to know. One more year the doe has crossed-over gunsight pass.