Rhonda's A 'Muse'-ing Rambles

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Archive for the ‘Shooting sports’ Category

Home for a week

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on June 23, 2010

What a wonderful, busy month this June has been. I started off the first week with a guest visit from CJ West as he started his virtual launch tour for the book, The End of Marking Time. Next, I flew off [by plane] to Colorado and drove up into the mountains to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. While there, I attended the International Hunter Education Association convention and awards luncheon. At the luncheon, I received the award for International Hunter Education Instructor of the Year, sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition. Does it look like I am having fun? [Thank you Heidi Rao of TPWD for providing this picture]

After five days in Colorado, I flew back home, unpacked, repacked and in about 12 hours found myself on another plane, along with my son, bound for my home state of Missouri. There I had a sad reunion with my father who currently resides in a well staffed, clean and caring VA home. He is not doing well as his Dementia and Parkinson’s disease leads him to the final sunset of his life. So hard and so sad to visit. I will never take my son there again – this is not the Grandpa he remembers and shared so many fun summers with.

While in Missouri, my son and I had many wonderful visits with family and friends. We have a large and mostly loving family and my son was depressed he wouldn’t have so many wonderful cousins to hang out with in Texas, but that’s not to say he doesn’t love the couple he has in Texas. Oh, and I won a little over $200 in a casino – can’t complain there!

So, then another rush flight home, this time with a 24 hour turnover before I needed to leave again. This time, it was to drive up to near West Texas and attend an NRA Training Counslor workshop. Now I am proud to say I have some new credentials, as well as a new hat to wear! [Literally and metaphorically]

Given a little time, I may actually catch up on some work this week before I hit the road again. I should already be working this week at a Boy Scout camp, but they are doing just fine without me and I have my tax business and writing obligations to catch up on. Plus a couple [eeek] past due bills to pay.

That’s it for tonight folks. I can’t wait to get my fingers busy with all the stories I need to record, books to review and interesting [to me] tidbits of life and living to share.


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Meet Author CJ West

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on May 14, 2010

As a prelude to his ‘Who Wants to Be a Hero?’ book tour, I thought I would give you a brief look at author CJ West. First, you should go visit his web site at http://www.22wb.com At this site, not only do you get a glimpse of the books he has crafted for our reading pleasure, you also get a treat in the video he has posted on a driving event with a professional driver – BACKWARDS through an obstacle course! Be sure to check out his Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/22westbooks

Some of the upcoming tour includes lessons in Texas Hold ’em Poker, talks and signings, and my personal fave – a day on the range learning to shoot! This is one author that believes in giving his audience a live feel for some of the action his hero goes through in the book. Not only do you get a wonderful feel for these well developed characters, you get to experience the action up close and personal.

Posted in Heros & Guns, Shooting sports, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

I’m Back!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on July 19, 2009

For a little over a month I have been gone; working at a Boy Scout camp called Lost Pines near Bastrop, Texas. We had so much fun, but I would pick one of the hottest summers [and dry] on record to go. Many people, including myself, suffered from dehydration, but my own personal case(s) of it were easily treated with LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS of water. I never fell sick as many people did.

What was I doing? In addition to working on the various shooting ranges [Archery, Rifle, Shotgun, Pistol and Muzzle Loading] I was also training a few instructors, Hunter Education students and range masters. Although my main purpose there was to train people and provide certified supervision, my main ‘pay back’ for my time was to make some of the best new friends and memories. And collect stories, of course! ArcheryPrank

One of the various pranks that were played on each area is this cute one on the archery range. If you zoom in, you can see about 300 golf balls scattered about the range and spelled out on the targets are the words, “Archery is hereby banned for it interferes with the practice of Golf”. One of our instructors had earlier made a similar decree about Golf as we kept finding golf balls on our range; he had stated, “Golf is hereby banned for it interferes with the practice of Archery”. Now you get the picture!

Some of the other pranks were cute and hilarious. They include a geometric pattern made by placing the canoes on top of each other, a real Tipi set up on TOP of the dining hall and a paddle boat hanging 5 stories up on the climbing tower. Much fun was had by all! Another good time was the ‘Christmas in July’ party for staff – also known as something like, ‘Our Non-denominational mid summer gift giving extravaganza’. In addition to a great feast [fajita buffet]; the gift giving was funny. To get your secret santa gift, you had to go up onto the porch, then you could not leave until you had opened your present and either ‘eat it, drink it, wear it, use it or abuse it’. No tools allowed – fingers and teeth for opening. Gifts buried in coolers of ice, whip cream, buckets of sand, wrapped in saran wrap or tightly covered with duct tape made this a fun [and too long] night. Drinking from a bottle of tabasco sauce or wearing lipstick [on a guy] or playing [ABUSE IT] with a stuffed doll were some of the highlights. The porch got messy, to say the least.  Good times and good memories!

Posted in Daily Life, Shooting sports | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Where have I been???

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on June 22, 2009

For those of you following my blog on a somewhat regular basis, I apologize. I just haven’t been here for you – or ME for that matter! So where have I been?

May was a month of illness, a combination of many things but mostly female problems that happen to us as we get a little older. But also a bought of depression and a flu type thingey that was probably brought on by over work during an extremely busy and successful tax season. Thank God for job security.

Speaking of which, nope, hubby still hasn’t found work unless you call that monster garden & orchard of ours work. Oh wait, that IS work. We enjoy the bounty and I am amazed how much money I am NOT spending at the store except for the essentials: eggs, a little meat and milk. And chocolate [sugar free of course!]. Is chocolate an essential? That’s debateable unless you are a female or allergic. For me, it is purely a comfort food, but there ARE a lot of benefits to this.  When I eat a lot of carbs, even the good ones; I’ve noticed by balancing it out with some fat content that my body has an easier time processing it. [Of course bacon works just as well – another one of those ambrosia comfort foods] Another thing – I stay away from caffeine, but for just a tad found in most chocolate confections, I get a little extra boost. So, sugar-free, a little fat, a little caffeine and a lot of taste – make this the perfect picker-upper for myself. My family, on the other hand, can’t deal with it so well – these boys get ACNE. I don’t think it is the ‘chocolate’, per se, I think it is the fat inside. But they can’t resist it. If I make or buy something with chocolate in it – even my sugar free types – it sure disappears faster than I myself seem to be eating it. Same with the meal replacement drinks. I buy 4 at a time so that I have something when I run out the door in the AM to run errands. By Thursday, I have used one up during the week, but there don’t seem to be any in the ‘fridge????? Maybe I’m sleep-drinking. [not]

Ahhh…back to ‘where have I been?’ This past week, and here and there for a few weeks before, I have been working with shooting sports. This time, it was at Boy Scout Camp; which I work a week or two every summer for the past several years. Instead of the long drives I usually have to take with a half dozen smelly, stinky teen boys, I had the pleasure to go BY MYSELF and almost close to home; or at least under two hours! I spent a mostly wonderful week training young men on the gun & archery range – some to be instructors, some just to get merit badges and some in a highly intense competition to ‘be the best’. I am proud of the efforts of these young men and happy to say there is now a new Certified NRA Instructor & Range Safety Officer around to make sure that our youth stay safe and have another reason to be outdoors and have a good time. And two young men who persisted until they achieved their goals – one to get a perfect score, and one to just qualify even though he was very very small in stature. The smaller boy – my God you should have seen the smile on that face when he finally made it. He even hung around an extra day just to watch others shoot with a HUGE grin on his face, but not wanting to shoot himself. He was happy just to meet the goal and had no need to do anything more than soak of the happiness of the others as they pressed themselves to ‘do more-better-faster-higher’. “T” is a gem among boys, no, make that young men.

If I had a camera on hand, I would have gotten to show you a scene that was incredible. The most massive dust devil I have ever seen in my life came in and picked up a small shed, twisted it’s metal roof off and splintered the wood, then tossed it all around the archery range. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. And many people are glad the old shed is gone so we can build a new one. [The old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was in play] Now, a new, better, larger one will take the place of the old shack. There was a picture on the Weather Channel a couple weeks back of a tornado forming that started as a little dirt tossing around, then a brown cloud rose up from the ground and started flinging things around. That is EXACTLY what this dirt devil was like, except ours was more a choking cloud of beige/white caliche gravel and sand. It was about, oh, 20 x 30 yards when it formed, then it ‘blew out’ all over. Never seen one so large in my life. Many people were awed by the sight.

As for camp itself, well, there’s camp food. And a lot of walking. And 100 degree days. Only got a couple itchey bites – not bad. No sunburn. And my roommates – well, the scorpions were pretty easy to shoo away, no snakes this week and the one human was – um – nice and friendly and may read this blog sometime.  Now if a BOY, or young man, were to cry over something – I could sympathize because sometimes things at camp are pretty dang tough. The heat, no electricity most of the time, the bugs, dirt, strange food, mostly people you don’t know – it can break these young guys in amazing ways. An adult that volunteers to do this stuff should be able to handle it or know when to walk away. You don’t bring your problems to camp – you are there to help others ‘grow’. I actually LIKE camp, most of the time and it gives me a healthy respect for coming home. Now, if I could just get PAID to do the things I like……

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Heroes & Guns: Jamaica Wild

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 27, 2009

I’m having fun in this on-going series as I have the opportunity to get out and try or revisit some guns, including the holsters, saddle slings & other equipment; I get to reread work from my favorite authors and I get to discuss what I am reading with others. Wasn’t it someone from TV’s old series, “A-Team”, that said, “I love it when a plan falls together”?

So for my latest installment, I am pulling from two separate books of Sandi Ault’s Wild series. You must go visit her website at www.sandiault.com and see the gorgeous pictures of her wolves and read about all her extensive research. Meanwhile, enjoy:

Jamaica’s Pistol

In Wild Indigo, Jamaica is called upon to use her handgun to protect herself from a desperate Pueblo man and to  rescue a little boy. In the ensuing struggle, the Pueblo man, Hunter, throws a rock and knocks the gun from Jamaica’s grasp. As she scrabbles to the corner to get the gun, he grasps her legs and a hand to hand battle is on. ‘He moved toward the edge [a cliff] as I kicked and wriggled. He swung backward, ready to hurl me over the side, and I threw my arms behind his head and grabbed on tightly. Hunter roared again, and then suddenly released me onto the floor of the ruin. I dashed to the fire pit and grabbed the gun. I turned it on him and he raised his palm as if to stop the bullet, the other hand clutching his chest. We stood gasping, both of us, staring at each other, gulping air, the rain and hail pounding us.’ [Wild Indigo by Sandi Ault, published January 2007 by Berkley Prime Crime]smwildindfcoveronly


Again, in Wild Sorrow, the gun comes out as Jamaica, her wolf Mountain and her horse Rooster are caught out in a blizzard and need to find shelter with a murder victim they had discovered in an abandoned Indian school building. Not knowing if the murderer is still around, ‘I led Rooster through a blinding whiteout to the door. Once I had tied the reins to the door handle, I opened my saddlebag and grabbed a flashlight and my LED headlamp. I drew my handgun out of my pocket, then slid through the narrow opening and looked around…’ [Wild Sorrow by Sandi Ault, published March 2009 by Berkley Prime Crime]wildsorrowcoverwebsize_jpg_w180h269


What is this gun that Jamaica has to pull several times from her under coat or belt holster? Her gun of choice on and off duty is a SigSauer P229. The day of the six shooter is becoming a fast retreating memory as American law enforcement agencies are readily accepting the semi-auto pistol. This particular gun combines high round capacity together with a serious big bore cartridge that is readily and commonly available, and it does it in a package that is both light to carry and reliable to shoot.


There are good and bad sides to the equation, “Is this gun for me?” or more importantly, “Is this a gun that Jamaica should carry?” I think, absolutely. Let’s take the bad first: The only true slight downsides I’ve found with this gun are when taking it out on the range for a couple hours of practice, the recoil when using the .40 SIG can be fatiguing and the P229 is a bit larger and heavier than what I would consider for recommending as a conceal carry gun for a person of smaller build. For Jamaica, a woman in great shape, this would not be a problem. On the heavily weighted GOOD side of the scale, it has a double action trigger pull with a decocking lever that is simple and easy to teach to those shooters who formerly carried revolvers. Once you have your own particular gun sighted in and your chosen stance, you cannot blame this gun for bad accuracy – that would be what I call, ‘user error’. The gun impressed me with its accuracy, even in a quick moving tactical course. The grip is well designed, comfortable and serves a double purpose of making the rearward recoil push more straight back than can be felt in some competing models. The P229 comes in models for 9mm Luger, .357 SIG and .40 S&W, all of which ammo is common to purchase and easy to reload. The patented automatic firing-pin lock gives an added safety advantage and there are no complicated firing sequences with the double action/single action semi-automatic. This is a seriously good self-defense and law enforcement pistol and a gun I would want to carry in any of the action packed scenarios experienced by BLM Agent Jamaica Wild.

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Heros & Guns – Jamaica’s Shotgun

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 16, 2009

With special thanks to author Sandi Ault and her book Wild Inferno. Visit her site at www.sandiault.com

In Wild Inferno, the Hotshot crews are getting a briefing before they go out to fight a wild fire that is blazing through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. While on patrol, Jamaica herself often carries a Remington 870 Super Magnum Pump-Action Shotgun. Here is a brief excerpt from Wild Inferno showing one of the uses of this gun:



The wildlife agent took over the briefing: “This she-bear may be reluctant to take her baby near the highway or down through the black where it’s already burned. And they’re starving. We’re going to try to get up there and bait some traps so we can capture them and transport them to someplace safe. But in the meantime” – he held up a double-barrel pump—“we need to talk about these shotguns—a couple of these have already been issued to the crews in that area”.

            Some of the firefighters laughed and joked about bear hunting season being open, but the wildlife agent held up his hand to stop them.

“These shotguns will only be used to fire a beanbag round. That’s a strong nylon pouch with about forty grams of lead shot inside. The beanbag is inserted into a standard twelve-gauge shotgun shell. When that shell is fired, the bag is expelled at around two hundred ninety feet per second. In flight, it spread out and distributes the impact over about six centimeters of the target. It is meant to deliver a blow that will minimize long-term trauma with no penetration, but will briefly render the animal prone and immobile. Now, this beanbag round has a maximum range of around sixty-five feet, but it’s inaccurate over about eighteen or nineteen feet. The idea here is to stun the bear and give you time to get away, not to harm the bear.

“This is just for your safety….” [Wild Inferno by Sandi Ault, Publ. by Berkley Prime Crime, Feb 2008]


As a defensive tool, the Remington 870 is a fantastic choice for Jamaica and, often, may be found in use by BLM agents, Forest Rangers, military and even your local police department. The beanbag round mentioned is a common device used for putting down wild life, or even persons, when you wish to stun or impair them, but not necessarily to do permanent, penetrating harm. The gun has versatility, reliability and a very dependable action that make this one of the most sold and highly praised shotguns in today’s market.


My personal experience with this gun can be summed up in one cliché, to borrow an advertising term> ‘it takes a lickin but keeps on tickin’. First of all, my shotgun of choice for hunting and for personal protection is a pump action. They are easy to learn and easy to use. The 870 uses a bottom-loading, side ejecting receiver which, after 1000’s of rounds, does not seem to jam easy unless there is ‘user error’. Yes, it is a very rugged gun that functions reliably under the very worst of conditions and is durable enough that after a hard life with you, it will still function well for the person you pass it on to – with an almost guaranteed bang for every trigger pull. It’s heavy enough to absorb the shock but not too heavy that it puts an undue strain on you. There are many variations of the Remington 870 with availability in 10, 12, 16, 20 gauge [also a 410 bore], barrel lengths from 18 to 30 inches and weight from 7 to 8 pounds. A handy tool or a sportsman’s friend, this pump action shotgun has a 4 to 8 round internal tube magazine that can chamber up to the 3 ½ inch shell. Because its components are produced on high-speed production machinery, the gun has far out paced the earlier guns that required precision machined parts and hand tooling that made earlier guns much more expensive and time costly to produce. Parts are readily available and interchangeable should something break. It’s affordable, simple to maintain, easy to learn use of and just plain fun to shoot. Jamaica has my stamp of approval on her personal choice of shotguns.

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Heros & Guns

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 22, 2009

Many of you that check in to my blog know that I am an avid outdoors person and teach many classes that involve hunting and gun safety. I am not a gun nut or an expert in any way, but I do get out there and work with a lot of people on safety. I can’t stress safety and training enough. Guns (and knives and bows as well) do not cause injuries – unsafe use of them is the problem.


In addition to teaching safety courses as a certified instructor, I also love to read. Now, if there were an expert title for book readers, I would rank in the top 2% of the world. In many fiction and non-fiction books, guns are mentioned. Our heros and heroines pull out their trusty XXX gun and blow away the bad guys, the attacking bear, the snake threatening our child; even at times, to blast the links to the chains holding our victim! I am going to critique, with absolutely NO expert qualifications, some of the guns used by the characters we find in our books. Many authors have probably had people ask them what type of gun their character uses and want to know more about that choice. How fun to take some of my favorite authors & characters and explore their choices! I give credit to the authors where credit is due and only am expressing my thoughts, good or bad, as to why or what in specific I like about this gun. I do not intend to insult any author or manufacturer, but I am sure I will generate some controversy and discussion. I am an open minded person and you are entitled to your own opinions, whether they differ from mine or not. My mind can also be changed if the facts are there to contradict me, but again, these are just my own personal feelings on the issue. I’ll start with a very easy one, as follows. Please enjoy this new series, ‘Heros & Guns’


Cussler’s Five-seveN

One of our favorite adventure/thriller authors, Clive Cussler, has a book released in 2008 titled, ‘Arctic Drift’, I noticed the main character has had a change of his hand gun of choice. Maybe he had made the switch in an earlier book, but I was surprised to see a main character pull out his trusty new Five-seveN, a hand gun manufactured by a company called FNH. Last year I worked with the NRA as a Pistol Instructor at an event called the Women’s Wilderness Escape. My task there was to help teach women a taste of the softer side of shooting. The event I worked with was hand guns–a revolver [S&W .22] and a semi-automatic called the Five-seveN. We’ll focus on the 5-7 (my abbreviation for it, not its true name).

FNH USA Five-seveN

FNH USA Five-seveN

This photo courtesy of the web site: www.fnhusa.com


The 5-7 has many good features, but I want to point out from the start that I think this is the wrong gun for our hero nor would I recommend it for personal protection or for our protectors on the streets to carry this type of gun. There are two basic types of ammunition available for these guns – a restricted military/police type ammo and the over the counter civilian version. The m/p version has a bunch of lethal stopping & penetration power. With Dirk’s resources, in his make believe world, of COURSE he has the lethal, vest and helmet penetrating version, or anything he wants manufactured in their handy dandy workshop! In the real world, the civilian version of ammunition is all he would be able to acquire. This version of ammunition, well, renders the gun slightly underpowered as far as stopping power goes; maybe just a bit more lethal than a .22. If you are reloading your ammunition, you will find the shell casings extremely difficult to work with. So, Dirk – put away your 5-7 in the gun safe and bring back something more efficient for this role, say a 9mm?


On the other hand, the 5-7 has some great selling qualities. The gun is easy to disassemble, clean & reassemble with only 3 basic parts. In the thousands of rounds we put through these guns, not a single misfire, jam or other incident occurred. The magazine release is on both sides of the grip as is the slide lock, making the gun easy to use with either hand. The magazine is relatively quick and easy to load, although the spring gets very tight when you are trying to squeeze the last round or two inside. You almost cannot load the magazine incorrectly as the ammo will spring back up and jump out if you are doing it the wrong way. The weight/balance ratio of the gun made for ease of holding for long periods of time and the gun’s grips are extremely well situated so that there is little chance of injury should you grip it incorrectly and the slide doesn’t jump back to attempt to slice your thumb web or knuckle. (Several guns in the past, with just the slightest inattention or lack of familiarity have caused battle scars on both hands). The recoil is very light. As for accuracy? Fresh out of the box, about a dozen guns had great aim with no need for any adjustment from the factory setting of the sights. Even the smallest, most timid woman out of 50 students had no problem mastering this gun with relatively good accuracy. It is a very fun gun to shoot and easy to learn to use.

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Happy New Year!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 2, 2009

I want to wish all my friends and family a happy and prosperous New Year. Many people at this time of year set out to make new resolutions, often failing in their attempts to keep them. Instead of making a new resolution this year, I am going backwards. I am going to ‘finish’ the old year. Instead of starting new projects, I will put the finishing touches on old projects. I don’t need to pick up a new book, I have old ones that need to be finished or reread, some even need to have their reviews finished. Instead of finding a new craft project to start, I will pick up one of the projects that I haven’t completed and finish it. I hate to admit that I have several of these, so it may take some serious time to complete them to my satisfaction. Among them are a rug, a crocheted afghan, a couple of weaving projects, a crewel embroidery project that my mother left half finished before she died, a scarf to knit, two pillows to make, a small pieced quilt for my son and half a dozen unfinished ceremics that need final coats and touch-ups of paint. That’s just handicrafts – the writing too has several directions I can take. My memoir has two new chapters that need to be fine tuned and added to the manuscript. A great poem needs polish, a magazine article needs to be edited with photos added [and sent in to the editor!]. More chapters can be written in my two fiction pieces – one a sci-fi/fantasy piece [see Tales of As’r here in the blog], has outline that can be fleshed out and added; the other [see Tales of Dina] has a couple of short stories that are hand written and need to be added to the computer.

And work can’t be forgotten! After an entire year has passed, I still have a couple of tax returns that require a little more client input before I can finish them. One more contact with the clients can’t hurt if it gets me the info I need so I can get these out and I can finally say, “I’m done!”. After all, this week all the new returns will start pouring in, starting with W-2’s and payroll taxes, then quickly following with tax returns that need to be filed quickly so people can get their refunds or at least prepare themselves for the blow of what they may owe. This is going to be a tough tax season I feel as many people lost much of their savings and investments, lost their jobs, their homes and, in some cases, the lives of loved ones. I’m personally in the same boat with nearly all of the above. My husband is unemployed, we’ve lost much of the value of our retirement and other investments, many friends and family have died and money is tight.

More on the work front includes planning and setting up my pieces of a Shotgun Instructor class that I am assisting with this month and assisting in setting up a Mountain Man Rendezvous complete with period costumes, black powder guns and wilderness skills.

Above all, I need to find a way to make more money and get insurance for my family. Although I have the certifications, hands on skills, college degree and more for a variety of jobs in business management & tax law, my age and lack of current work in the public sector makes it hard to come by a good job with the economy stressed as it is now. There are just too many people [younger] out there that are willing to work for less wages because they too are starving and losing their homes and needing money to put into retirement.

Not only do I need to clean house with unfinished work – but I literally need to clean house. Months and years of pack rat accummulations need to be sorted and either put into good use or disposed of. Old files need to be shredded; but require fine review before they meet the teeth of the shredder. Old clothes, blankets, coats and boots need to go to a deserving charity. Old chipped or broken things need to be mended or thrown away. Books need to be sorted and in some cases, recycled. This is one chore I will LOVE – since it means I can replace them with other books.

So, instead of diving into a New Year with new work – I am going to clean the slate and finish the old. It is so refreshing to complete something that has been sitting there emitting a little weary cry in the back of my mind “Finish me…..”

Posted in Daily Life, Shooting sports, Tales of As'r, Tales of Dina, Tax Talk | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The Perfect Shot

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on November 5, 2008

I wrote the following piece today to present to my writing group. Enjoy!

I’m not ashamed to say I am a hunter. I am a grantor of dignity to those creatures God has sprinkled throughout the planet, and I am on the hunt for that perfect shot.


As the sun winks its single eye over the eastern mountain edge, I can see the faint tracks through the still grass. The sun, just winking briefly before, now starts its daily rebirth into the sky; a stunning miracle not often evidenced by the urban masses anymore. Only those of us who still wish to live by the natural rise and fall of earth’s breath bear witness to this renewing birth of glory.


This narrow edging of light at an angle that shows the dew’s absence from tracks won’t last long, but it will show me clearly as a flashing strobe the path I need to follow. Most people don’t know how to read the signs, but I can show you through my eyes.


As the sun probes its fingers through the trees and brush with a soft glowing touch, the light frost and dew glow as if lit by inner warmth. Where the slight moisture has leapt up to cling to the passing legs of some warm blooded beast, I can follow not muddy prints or bent foliage – but a trail depicted by the absence of the dew. Where dew has kissed those legs, behind remains a trail for me to follow. With only a few brief moments of perfect light and angle, I swiftly let it lead my eyes in the direction my feet will soon follow. I can see a wider spot where my prey has paused, shuffling it’s hooves, maybe, perhaps to sniff the air and check its back trail for danger before proceeding onward. At first the tracks bear straight on, then suddenly they veer right to hug the welcoming shadows cast by trees and shrubs.


As a hunter, I am important to nature; I complete and pass on the circle of life. Without the presence of hunters, there could be needless suffering – and death can be slow, brutal and unheralded – leave taking with no glory.


I know this area as I am not wandering blindly after the deer; but following through to a sunlit hillside I have scouted the past few days. I’ve seen the herd here before along with the signs they’ve left for me to follow. It’s as if they’ve been drawing upon the earth a treasure map for me to follow through with a promise of the perfect treasure buried deep in the woods. The males are not yet in full blind rut, so they still are allowed to hang as guards on the outskirts of the herd. Magnificent specimens with broad chest and lordly tines keep watch over the does, spikes and a few late born fawns.


As the trees gently shed their teary drops of dew onto my shoulders, I push through the shadows along the trail; careful to keep my step soft and my prey off to one side. I see where the tree line breaks and the trail beckons me up to and over the rocky edge of a ridge – then directs my eyes down into a waking grassy valley where my prey have drifted to feed. I stop often to listen, drawing in deep the crisp clean air and appreciating the colors and fall of shadows draped across the landscape. The area provides music to my soul and I savor the flavor of earth on my taste buds.


As I proceed through the stands of wood, I’m careful to keep both my breath and step soft so as not to disturb the pastoral scene. I proceed slowly and carefully so I don’t get out of breath or trip on a tricky root. My breath clouds in my face, only to disappear into the nothingness of the mist that hangs still in the air. If the deer hear me stumble or even labor in my breath, they will flee away quickly before I’ve captured my prey perfectly in my sights for the shot. I don’t want to stumble upon them and lose this moment I’ve long planned and prepared for.


I almost lose my track as the trail turns rocky and mists serve up strange shapes and distractions. I have to be more careful so as not to twist an ankle or tumble a stone and make sounds that would alert my prey to my presence. Their sense of smell too is much keener than mine and I must take extra care that a slight breeze might come up and waft my scent towards them.


Slowly, I still myself and study the map painted on the landscape; sure that I will be able to once again puzzle out the trail to the treasure that awaits me below. I look about me and finally find a spot where the rocks and leaves are disturbed, the lighter patch of dry ground shows up, clearly ringed by darker leaves and stones that retain a spot of moisture and show me that X does indeed mark the trail where something has descended – sure footed – into the mists. Further along, droppings and a dark spot mark where some animal had stopped to urinate on the trail. I smell them now, that unique mucky odor with a slight bitter tang that leaves a bite on the back of my tongue.


I feel like I am one with the woods and its wild life – alone, but also surrounded and embraced by life. You can’t get this feeling in the city where odors are more often a stench and the whisper of leaves covered by the electrical hum and jarring cacophony of our daily lives. With their acute senses, deer can spot movement on the horizon and although I’ve taken care to camouflage my self, they may still see my outline were they to look up the hill at their back trail.


Dropping to my knees, I quickly uncap the lense on my scope so the movement won’t be detected just prior to my shot. On knees and elbows, I make my way to a spot I’d cleared on prior scouting. I had previously cleared most of the dead rustly leaves and rocks that may click together at the slightest touch and send a betraying sound. I’d hoped the animals had stopped near the same grassy edges of a wet meadow where I’d spotted them before.


Gently, I part the wild grasses before me and to my relief, I spot the herd. The closest of the bunch are less than 200 yards away – an easy shot. I hold my breath as one of the bucks, a majestic 12 pointer, glances in my direction. I am so close I can see the light reflected in the moisture of that very dark eye. He settles then, taking a step away, and I slowly, soundlessly let out the breath I had been holding. A breeze is kicking up and for a moment, my eyes tear. A few rapid blinks clears them and I smile at my good fortune that the wind is in my face; blowing my unfamiliar scent back up to the ridge and away from the deer.


The large buck is now off by himself at the edge of the meadow, with his broad side presented to me as if he were modeling for a center fold. I frame him in my sights, but hesitate to take that first shot as I know the slightest sound will scare them all away. I hold my breath – position my finger – and CLICK! All heads pop up and the buck jerks as I take the shot. Now spooked, the herd dashes off, followed by the graceful leap of my treasure buck. I quickly snap a few extra shots off with my camera and say a blessing that I’ve captured what I know will be a perfect photo.


My freezer back home is full and my trophy will be in print, so there is no need for me to make any kill of these beautiful woodland denizens. Today, I’ve captured their dignity on film and I can return home comfortable with the beauty I’ve witnessed today. I can feel the peaceful chill in the air and return home happy to my family, my dogs and warm cozy fire.

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Curious Antelope

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on August 29, 2008

Had to share another picture, this is a Pronghorn Antelope by the road at the NRA Whittington Center. We were blessed with visits from the Antelope, Mule Deer, Elk and more. This big fellow decided he wanted to come up to the trail and take a gander at us. It was nice of him to pose for a picture before he gracefully bounded away to eat – about 20 yards. They had no fear of us at all.

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