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>> Steamed Up :: By Marshall Stanton on 2001-02-03
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A bitter cold snap had come early to the Idaho Panhandle, and temperatures hovered in the single digits all day, with nights falling below the zero mark. About eight inches of snow had fallen prior to arctic air putting us into the deep freeze, and winter had tightened its icy grip in mid-November. Idaho Panhandle deer season opens the first of November each year, and runs until the first of December.

Conditions couldn't be more ripe for a seasoned old buck to commit suicide while pursuing the call of his hormones. Consequently, a firearm always goes along when we're traveling during these times. We live about twelve miles out of town, and when we go there, we drive through some spectacular whitetail habitat.. This particular morning, the temperature still hadn't risen above zero, and the air was a dead calm, with dazzling bright sunshine sparkling off of the crystallized winter wonderland.

My son had spent the night at our church with his youth group, and I was on my way to town to pick him up. The roads were very icy, and I was driving about thirty miles per hour. A woman in a restored '58 GMC 4x4 pickup passed me like I was backing up! She flew around me, then pulled back into our lane, only to throw on the binders! I was fuming at the stupidity of passing with those kind of driving conditions, then to just slam on the brakes. It takes some nerve! I couldn't see any reason for her to slow down, until a massive whitetail buck sauntered across the road immediately ahead of the GMC!

He was breathtaking! I didn't count the points on his rack, there were too many of them! His rack with my full broadside view of him extended at least twelve inches ahead of his nose! They were at least two and a half times the height of his ears, and as big as my wrists at the base! My son and I had hunted this big bad boy for the entire week prior to this, then he meanders across the highway like he owns the place! This buck would go 180+ B&C points! He must have weighed in at 275 or 280 pounds. He had been running it appeared, as I could see his tongue hanging from his mouth as if he was winded.

I was already going slowly, and immediately slammed the car into second gear, and ground to a halt on the shoulder of the highway in a matter of feet. I think I was out of the car with my Rossi .357 carbine before the car came to a complete stop. There was no one coming either direction on the highway, and I could clearly see his tracks where he went into the blackness of the lodgepole thickets on the west side of the road.

Visibility in this lodgepole pine jungle is limited to less than fifty yards, and this morning the shadows cast by the low slung sun made discerning detail difficult. I charged into the timber knowing it was useless trying to be quiet in the snow with a quarter of an inch of crust on it. After getting into the timber about forty yards on a well used game trail, I stopped. I knew that this mossy horn would be watching his back-trail. I stood totally motionless for what seemed an eternity, watching, listening and hoping for a glimpse of my dream buck.

Finally, over the tops of some chest high firs and lodgepole pines I saw steam rising in the frigid morning air. Then, as I looked I finally made out the white tips of a multitude of tines attached to the main beams of my buck! There, looking at me over the young trees, was my buck, all I could see was his head, rack and the white spot under the chin on his neck! Scarcely wanting to move, I slowly raised my carbine, pulling back the hammer slowly with the trigger back so as to not make any noise, then I released the trigger once the hammer was fully rearward having successfully cocked the gun without so much as a click. My buck stood at attention and motionless as I centered the sights on that white spot under his chin.

I carefully double checked my sight picture and squeezed the trigger. SNAP! No silence shattering kaboom! No recoil! My lifetime buck waved the proverbial good-bye with his flagging tail while the realization hit me that I hadn't chambered a round when I excitedly, and hastily left the car.

The Lord had shown me my deer, and given me the pleasure of seeing him over my sights... just what I had prayed once the week before, that I would have the opportunity to look at that buck over my sights with the hammer back on my rifle! Yes, EXACTLY what I had prayed for! I hadn't asked to kill the buck, just look at him over my sights. What a dummy! It reminded me how faithful The Lord really is, and that he does indeed answer our prayers... so I'd better be more careful and specific the next time I petition heaven!


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