November 04, 2010
By John "Maggie" McGee
When the Dumb Bunch goes deer hunting, the term "bag it" takes on whole new meaning.
By John "Maggie" McGee
Photography: John "Lefty" Wilson
"How long you been back here?" I asked my buddy Bear Breath as I opened the door on his pickup.
"I've only been here a few minutes," Bear Breath said.
"If you've only been here a few minutes, how come your truck is all warmed up and it's so hot in here?" I asked.
"I used the remote starter on my key ring to start my truck as soon as I got down from my treestand," Bear Breath said. "Man, is it ever cold out there. That wind chill must be about a hundred below zero. When I got back here to my truck I was shaking so bad if I hadn't had my remote entry button I wouldn't have been able to unlock the door.
"I figured since you weren't here when I got here you were either froze to death in your treestand or trying to build a survival fire. I know you couldn't start a fire with a blowtorch, so as soon as I got thawed out I was going back out to make sure you were all right. I can't believe we're still deer hunting in the middle of January. How come all the other guys have already got their deer and we're still out here freezing to death?"
"The reason you and I are still hunting when everybody else is home in a warm bed is because so far this deer season neither one of us has had our normal amount of chances to take a deer," I said. "I've only missed four shots, and you've only missed six. On a normal year we both would have a lot more misses than that. Remember two years ago when you missed seven deer in the month of November alone?
"Oh, thanks for thinking about coming out to see if I was all right. It was so cold I saw a whole flock of penguins walking under my treestand heading south. Then a little while later a herd of buffalo walked under me heading the same direction."
"There ain't any penguins or buffalo around here," Bear Breath said. "You probably fell asleep and started dreaming just like that time you said you saw Bigfoot in that swamp in Michigan. Man, you got any idea how dangerous it is to fall asleep when it's this cold out? You might not wake back up."
"I can prove I saw those critters this morning," I said. "They left tracks in the snow. After I get warmed up and get some feeling back in my toes we'll go out there and I'll show you their tracks."
"If you think I'm walking all the way to your treestand to look for some imaginary tracks, you better think again," Bear Breath said.
"If you don't go, I'll tell all the guys how you wimped out this morning before I did and then you tried to feed me a line of bull about a remote engine starter that works from half a mile away," I said. "You know what they'll do to you then."
An hour later we arrived at my treestand. I showed Bear Breath all the tracks in the snow.
Then I said, "Now what have you got to say, Wise Guy?"
"I'll say it's no wonder you can't hit a deer," Bear Breath said. "You obviously can't see the difference between a flock of wild turkeys and a flock of penguins or between a herd of buffalo and cattle. We've got to figure out a way to stay warm out here or else we're going to have to give up deer hunting for the rest of this season."
"We could go to Shifty Sam's sporting goods store on our way home and see if he's got any equipment that might help," I said. "It's only about 50 miles out of our way."
"That's worth a try," Bear Breath said.
When we explained our problem to Shifty, he said, "If you boys would have come here a couple of days ago, I had just what you needed. It's called a Heater Body Suit. I sold the last one the day before yesterday. It looks sort of like a sleeping bag, but it has straps inside and is made to quietly slide off your shoulders when it's time to draw your bow and take a shot. The things really work! Too bad I don't have any left."
Two hours later we were back at Bear Breath's house, sitting in his basement feeling sorry for ourselves because we missed out on Shifty's body suits. Bear Breath said, "You probably shouldn't be sitting on that box. It's full of old dishes that belonged to Laser Lips' grandmother. If you break any of those dishes they'll carry you out of here in a body bag."
"Eureka!" I said, popping off the box. "I've got an idea. Why don't we take a couple of our sleeping bags and cut armholes in them and make our own body bags? I'll bet you've got a couple of old sleeping bags around here we could use."
"I've got a better idea," Bear Breath said. "Why don't you go home and cut some armholes in your sleeping bag, and then if you can shoot your bow while you're wearing it call me and I'll do the same thing to mine. Then tomorrow morning we'll go hunting and give them a field test."
Three hours later I called Bear Breath and said, "It sort of worked. After I cut the armholes I put it on and drew my bow several times. I'm pretty sure I can get off a shot, but I did have one minor problem. When I tried to take my sleeping bag back off, the zipper stuck and I couldn't get out of it. Right then I got a sudden urge to answer the call of nature. I had to cut a big hole with my pocketknife to get out of it in time, so now I need another sleeping bag."
"Before I cut armholes in my sleeping bag, I want to know for sure if I can shoot my bow with it on," Bear Breath said. "Since tonight is our league shoot at the Primitive Weapons indoor archery range, why don't you bring your bag and we'll see if you can actually shoot your bow while you're in it? You can crawl into it through that big hole you cut."
At seven that evening, I was sitting on a chair in my sleeping bag at Primitive Weapons getting ready to shoot at a deer target. At that moment The Ferret walked in and said, "What's this all about?"
"We're trying to figure out a way to stay warm enough so we can keep on deer hunting in this weather," said Bear Breath. Maggie cut armholes in his sleeping bag and now he's going to see if he can hit that deer target while he's wearing the bag."
"Maggie couldn't hit that deer target if he wasn't wearing that bag," The Ferret said. "Haven't you guys ever heard of The Heater Body Suit? That's why you two are st
ill hunting this late in the season."
"Oh yeah, well you just watch this, Ferret," I said as I drew on the deer target and shot.
"Looks to me like you shot four inches over that deer target," The Ferret said.
"You were right, Maggie," Bear Breath said. "You can shoot your bow while you're in that sleeping bag. You came closer to that deer target than you did any of those real deer you've shot at this year."
The last two weeks of deer season came and went, and I had only one more opportunity to take a deer, a six-point buck 15 yards from my treestand. I waited until he was looking the other way before I drew my bow. I'm almost sure I would have nailed him, but the duct tape I'd used to patch up the big hole in my body bag made a loud ripping noise when it came loose, and that spooked the buck. Bear Breath saw several more bucks, but none of them came close enough for him to get a good shot.
The league shoot at the Primitive Weapons indoor range was still going on. Every week I shot two arrows at each target -- one for me and one for Owlface, because Owlface had to have cataract surgery and couldn't shoot his bow for three weeks. After the team shoot ended, The Ferret told me all the guys in The Dumb Bunch were going to meet at Primitive Weapons on Saturday morning to divvy up the prize money from the league shoot and to do a little practicing.
After all the prize money was given out to everybody but me, they all got out their bows for some practice.
"Did you learn your lesson, Maggie, and order yourself a Heater Body Suit?" The Ferret asked me.
"Not yet," I said, as I drew and shot one arrow.
"I thought you told Owlface you were going to shoot an arrow for him every time you shot your bow?"
"That was Owlface's arrow I just shot," I said.
"Then go ahead and shoot your arrow so we can get on with this," The Ferret said.
"I can't do that," I said.
"Why not?" The Ferret asked.
"I promised my wife, Three, that because we had to order a new sleeping bag for camping I'd do some work around the house today and wouldn't come here to shoot my bow."