Tag Archives: chokecherry

My High Desert Trip

I just got back from the high deserts of Northern Nevada. I was going to brush this off without a post, because it’s a controversial topic to some people. My mother drew a buck antelope permit in the lottery system, and I wanted to help her get one. This is a uniquely American animal, and is not one of the true antelopes found in other parts of the world.

I won’t post images of dead animals, like so many other people would. I want to talk about this a bit, and it’s my blog after all. There is a subtle writing lesson in here if you pay attention.

My parents told me where they were going to camp and since I grew up in this area, I decided to meet them in the field. When I got there, they were already out hunting. I had about four hours to myself with no wifi or phone service, and two locked campers. I found hundreds of mushrooms including one of the deadly amanitas. There were tons of nice looking boletes, but I only eat mushrooms I can positively identify. I took these photos to give you an idea of what it looks like.

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This was the view from our camp. August is traditionally the hottest month there, but it never got hot. We had to scrape ice off the windshields every morning. We even got pasted by a hailstorm, complete with lightning and thunder. The water in places was up to the top of our tires. It passed just as quickly as it arrived and we headed back to camp empty handed.

They’d hunted up in the mountains with no luck. I suggested an out of the way spot with rolling sagebrush hills. I still have faith in the area, but everything runs for cover when the hailstorm strikes. They wanted to try the most obvious spot next, and I warned them about competitors. There were plenty of antelope and plenty of competitors. It was a pretty drive though and we even saw a buck mule deer still in velvet. Mom stalked a herd of does and fawns with my brother, but a suitable buck wasn’t with them.

We grilled steaks over the fire and had a few cold beers. My brother wanted to go to the next obvious spot, and I suggested some more out of the way places. My plan prevailed.

Saturday morning we drove past several herds of antelope on the way to our next place. They were on private property and we respect the landowner’s wishes. We saw a pair of bald eagles along the lakeshore along the way. My brother spotted a lone antelope in an available place. We drove to a low spot, out of the antelope’s sight, to discuss strategy. I had no idea whether it was a buck or a doe, but there was only one way to find out.

Mom and I snuck toward a patch of big sagebrush for a closer look. (There are several kinds of sagebrush, but this is the only one I know by name. It’s actually called big sagebrush.) The antelope turned out to be a respectable buck, and he was looking right at us. This usually means the end of the hunt. Antelope have eyes like eagles.

I motioned for my brother and dad to drive the trucks on down the road. This really shouldn’t have worked, but the antelope fell for it. While he watched the trucks drive away, we snuck to the next patch of big sagebrush. The other brush was about eight inches tall, so imagine islands of six foot tall brush among a sea of the shorter variety. There was too much brush in the way for a fair shot.

The next move was to get even closer and avoid being seen. I hung my white cowboy hat on the last big sagebrush and we crawled the last fifty yards. The antelope bedded down for the day.

We crawled through sagebrush, flint, mud, and several cowpies. Keep in mind that mom is in her mid seventies now. She was really out of breath when we got as far as we were going to get. I told her to take her time, because the antelope was bedded down. When she was ready she placed one perfect shot with her .30-06, and harvested her antelope.

We spent the rest of the morning breaking down the meat and getting it iced in coolers. Then we had a midday breakfast that included Mom’s home made chokecherry syrup. I grew up doing all of this stuff, and chokecherry syrup was a staple in our house. My brother stayed at camp today to pick fresh chokecherries which are everywhere this year.

Our supper consisted of antelope liver and onions along with the heart. We don’t waste much when we collect an animal. We also cooked up a rack of antelope ribs for one person who doesn’t eat liver. The evening was rounded off with Sam Adams Octoberfest beer, a roaring bonfire and watching the bats flitter overhead.

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Me in my natural habitat

The camera adds about fifty pounds. This was the first time in about thirteen years I got to do this with my family. It almost had a taste of attending a reunion, but the stuff I hadn’t seen in years consisted of bats, antelope, chokecherries, and mule deer.

When I write about such things, I have a real basis of knowledge. There are guns in my stories, and I know what I’m talking about when it comes to the right way to use them. I know how to make a pot of beans or a Dutch oven full of sage grouse. I can make preserves, including chokecherry syrup. This is important when someone recommends writing about what you know.

This doesn’t mean writing about camping or hunting. It means to make the story elements genuine when you write. If one of my characters is a dressmaker someday, I may have to take a class. If she catches her own fish, I already have that knowledge.

The world around us is changing rapidly. Pursuits, like hunting, may go away entirely someday. I’m glad I got to experience it all, and I can feel my ancestors watching when opportunities like this come along. Some readers may take offense to this post. I can assure you that isn’t my intent, and everything we did is perfectly legal. My family might be the ones to know when the zombie appocolypse comes along.

I’m sure I missed some of your posts, and I’ll do my best to catch up. I also need to check the comments over at Ali Isaac’s place. She did a wonderful post about my writing and I want to participate in the comments. I have another work week ahead of me, plus my critique group, then my wife and I are off on another weekend trip.

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