The last few days of deer season are tough. Those final days for me occur at the close of the ‘muzzle-loader season” when whitetail deer are almost finished with the ‘rut’ and bucks are returning to normalcy, not acting so much like the sex-crazed idiots they are in October and November.
In January, deer gather together and ‘yard up’ and lean toward being nocturnal. When you find them they are apt to be in heavy cover during the day, coming out at night to feed and move from one spot to another, then finding cover for bedding down, just at daylight.
My daughter Christy went with me to see if my old muzzle-loader would really kill a deer, and that tendency of deer to ‘group up’ displayed itself. That cold morning we were walking slowly down an old fenceline in the middle of the woods and I saw about 10 or 12 whitetails coming toward us about to cross the fence. Two or three jumped over it, and I drew a bead on a doe, and fired.
Quite often, in deer that were born together as twins, there is a dominant twin and the other one is prone to shadow it. I believe that is what happened when I killed two does with one shot. It made me feel bad but I only saw one.
The old rifle belched smoke and fire and she dropped in her tracks about 40 yards from us. Then came the surprise… a second deer had also been hit, and it too was dead, right behind her. That .54 caliber slug had hit each deer through the heart. I hadn’t seen the second one, but they had to be standing perfectly side by side. Christy had already used her tag by then, but the second deer was not wasted. A friend of mine tagged it. Both were the best of venison, each one a three-year old doe. Amazingly there was a hillside behind them where I dug out the slug and I have it on a shelf in my office.
Killing two gobblers at once happens on occasion but I never knew of killing two deer with one shot. Anyway, I have a witness, my daughter tells the absolute truth, no matter how often I have asked her to exaggerate just a little. Strange things happen in the woods, and over the years we have both witnessed a lot of them.
During the muzzle-loader season, which just ended, I came across a totally black skunk scurrying about in the woods in mid-morning as they sometimes do in the dead of winter when food is scarcer. It was pure black, with just a white patch on its forehead. Long before I was born, my grandfather was a river trapper after mink, beaver, raccoon and muskrat. His young sons ran dry-land deadfall lines. Those produced feral cats, possums and skunks. Killed by a deadfall, a skunk almost never released its scent. In the thirties and early forties, a trapper could get a dollar or so for a possum hide. A skunk with the white stripe was worth about 2 dollars, but any skunk that was totally black was worth twice that.
At fur houses they called those rare individuals ‘star-blacks’ because they always had a little white star on the forehead. None of the trappers in the pool hall ever had seen a complete total black skunk without that little white star. I thought I had finally found one that day in the woods but not so. When he finally turned I saw a little white star not much bigger than a silver dollar. If I had anything but my muzzle-loader I would have been tempted to shoot him, knowing how many ground nests he will destroy this spring; quail, woodcock, meadowlarks and others, including the wild turkey. And I would have skinned him out and have the hide tanned. I would like to have put his unusual pelt in my upcoming museum. Star black skunks only made up about 1 out of 50 skunk-hides at fur houses long ago.
There is only one predator that will kill and eat a skunk with no concern for the skunk scent it will be blasted with. I will bet that only one out of 50 readers will know what that deadly predator is. I’ll give you the answer in next week’s column… with a humorous story about my grandfather’s attempts to sell more of those star-black skunks in the 1930’s.
Please read other columns I write on the Internet at www.larrydablemontoutdoors. Much that I write cannot be printed by some of the 40 newspapers or so that use this column so I put them on that website. I want you to see a photo I took recently that is one of the most amazing pictures I ever got. It will be on that website and you won’t believe it.
I will also have some new information about my “Big Piney” museum that I hope to open in the spring. You can see some of our recent progress. We are about to put a roof on it when it warms up a little.
I intend to open it about the first of June, and it will be free for everyone to enjoy, no charge.