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The Adams County Record
Council, Idaho
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November 28, 2012     The Adams County Record
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November 28, 2012
 

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Page 16 Wednesday, November 28, 2012 The Adams County Record orse eaven P BY DALE FISK We haven't too many hunting stories from folks, so I thought I'd throw in one of mine. It's too long to include in one issue, so it will be serialized. It all happened 40 years ago last month. The October sun had just peeled the early- dawn gray from the peaks of Oregon's Wallowa Mountains, making them look artificially sharp and bright in contrast to Hells Canyon in the shadows at their feet. I was deer hunting down a broad meadow called "Horse Heaven" in the Seven Devils Mountains. It was like literally being on top of the world. As far as the eye could see in almost any direction, the tops of the mountains seemed to reach no higher than eye level. My beauty-induced trance was abruptly broken by a flash of movement to my right and the tell-tale "thump thump thump" of several running mule deer. My breathing stopped. About 75 yards away, a buck sporting what looked like the biggest pair of antlers I'd ever seen bounced out of a patch of timber. Time and space went into that strange hyper-drive state where there is no sound, and everything seems to happen in slow motion. I saw the cross-hairs of my scope come onto the front edge of the buck's chest, and I pulled the trigger. My .270 "silently" recoiled, my right hand automatically chambered another round, and the cross-hairs found their target again. He was still up and running. Walter Mott, an avid New Jersey hunter, was on the ridge farther to my right. He had come along on this outing with dreams of bagging just such a buck. Walt was a college friendof my long- time friend and hunting buddy, Dan Brown. Dan had graduated from Council High School that spring of 1972 and was now a freshman at the University of Idaho. Dan and his uncle, Clarence Gould, had taken a trip into the Horse Heaven area a year or two before and had seen a number of deer. That trip had sparked the idea for our expedition. Walt and Dan had driven down from Moscow and joined my brother, Larry, and me at Riggins a couple of days earlier. By the time we Speeds up to 2MBPS Now Available (with 2 year agreement) Call or stop by our office had reached the trailhead at Heaven's Gate and loaded our gear on the packhorse, it was late in the afternoon. And so, on this fall day of 1972, I was the horse wrangler of the group. Even though I was raised on a cattle ranch and grew up on the back of a horse, the and life in general-- ignoring the fact that the sun had retired for the day several hours earlier. Before our youthful minds conceded to the we had set out on an adventure that we would all remember fondly for the rest of our lives. All four of us were still wet behind the ears. Walt was the old man of the group at the grizzled age of 22, with the rest of us stair-stepping down the scale of life experience at two year intervals: I was 20, Dan 18 and Larry 16. job experienceportion of my packer resume was very short. I didn't have a clue. Numerous stops were necessary to adjust the tangled maze of ropes and knots that I thought was necessary to keep a load on top of our packhorse. (It would be years before I learned that one rope and one knot, used with the proper hitch,-would suffice.) We hiked along, lightheartedly sharing our vast knowledge of hunting, the outdoors, reality of the situation, it was dark. Not just the "Gee-I-wish-Igcould-see- better" kind of dark, but the pitch black, can't-see- your-hand-in-front-of- your-face variety. We had no idea where the trail had wandered off to. Being experienced men of the world who were confident we could handle any emergency, not one of use had brought a flashlight. As each of us explored our disorienting local universe like the blind men and the elephant, Dan wandered off to the... well, he wasn't sure what direction it was. After a few yards, and not having fallen off of one of the many cliffs in the Rapid River drainage, his judgment got the better of him and he stopped. Instinctively, Dan put his hand out in front of him to feel for anything recognizable. He was not disappointed. Just six inches in front of his face his hand met a solid wall of rock. Just as in telling a joke, walking in pitch- blackness is all about timing. Meanwhile, back at... wherever I was in that inkwell, I realized that one of the horses was wandering off. Dusty was a knot-headed mutt of a horse that had received the benefit of my extensive knowledge of horse training. I had taught him everything he knew, and he seemed intent, at every opportunity, to prove my efforts an unqualified disaster. Finally, after much stumbling around, I managed to catch Dusty. Using the Braille method, I tied the horses to something solid and we found what felt like a semi-level place to throw our sleeping bags. At daylight, we awoke to find ourselves on a hillside m the middle of the rockiest patch of ground we could possibly have found if we had spent half the night looking for one. We laughed it off over a quick breakfast, and started up the trail with most of a 12-mile journey still m front of us. To be continued. In Adams, Valley, and Washington Counties $40 per year Out of local counties $45 per year Out of state $50 per year