Buckmasters Magazine

Once in a Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon

By Russell Thornberry

A story of what usually happens when we ignore the voice of reason in our heads.

If two full moons occur in a single month, the second one is called a Blue Moon, which is something of a rare event. Thus the saying, “Once in a Blue Moon.”

I was working in my office and wrestling with whether or not to go bowhunting one evening before I had to leave home on business for 10 days. I knew I shouldn’t hunt since I had so much unfinished work to do before I left. Then I heard Tracy, the office manager, say, “Wow, tonight we have a Blue Moon!”

A Blue Moon! That could be really good or really bad. My resolve to forgo my first bowhunt of the season was weakening.

I had been getting regular pictures of a real nice 8-pointer on one of my trail cameras the previous few weeks. He was showing up quite regularly, and I reasoned that it might be better to strike while the iron was hot than risk him changing his travel pattern while I was gone. Maybe the Blue Moon was an omen — the key to putting an arrow in him on my first hunt.

Sure would make a great story, I thought. After all, I am a storyteller, right?

Sensibility said, “You need to stay home. This is not practical.” So I did what I usually do when common sense collides with impulsiveness in my feeble brain: I ignored it.

By 6 p.m., I was in my treestand in a tall spruce.

The property I was hunting is private, and I was conditionally allowed to hunt there as long as I agreed not to take any motorized vehicle on the property. That was okay with me because it meant there would be no ATVs racing around while I was trying to hunt.

Out where I live, Hell’s Angels have traded their Harleys for quads, and they seem to delight in destroying everything in their path. I was delighted to hunt where there was some peace and quiet.

As the sun settled like a soft golden blanket on the treetops, a few does and fawns trickled out of the timber to feed. I didn’t expect the buck to show until nearly dark.

There were no more than 15 minutes of shooting time left when I spotted him easing through the timber like a dark, wary shadow.

Wow, I thought, this Blue Moon thing is working out like a charm!

His tall rack, still in velvet, looked even larger than on my trail camera photos. Could this really be happening to me – the guy who never bags a buck on opening day?

I assumed a shooting position 25 feet above and waited for him to step into the clear. After loitering a few minutes behind a clump of small spruce trees, he walked slowly out in front of me, offering a 25-yard broadside shot. What luck! The shot was perfect, and I had my Blue Moon buck! What a story this was going to make!

A short tracking job confirmed my shot, so I set up a little tripod, mounted it to my camera, set the timer and jumped back and forth from camera to deer until I finally got a photo that had both the deer and the hunter together. By then, it was 9:30 p.m. and the work was just getting started.

Since I was not allowed to take a vehicle onto the property, I had a little deer cart in the back of my truck, parked in the ditch beside the highway about a half-mile away. I sent a text message to my bride to inform her of my success and let her know I would be late.

That, my friends, was an understatement. By the time I retrieved the cart from my truck and got the deer loaded, along with my bow, pack, etc., it was pushing 11 p.m.

Hauling the loaded cart through thick timber, over deadfalls and rough ground in pitch dark was exhausting work. I paused periodically to catch my breath and remind myself what a great idea it had been to go hunting.

It’s a small price to pay for such a fine buck, especially on a Blue Moon, I reasoned.

It was after midnight when I reached the barbed-wire fence bordering the highway. By then, I was really pooped but grateful to have completed the grand adventure.

I lifted the bottom wire of the fence with one hand and tugged on the buck’s antlers with the other until I managed to get his head past the wire. Finally, I pulled him into the ditch. Next, I lifted the cart and the rest of my gear over the fence.

My truck was only about 40 yards away, but I was quite finished dragging that deer. I simply walked to the truck, unlocked it and started backing toward the deer and hunting gear in the ditch behind me.

Suddenly, I heard a loud whooshing sound. My command of the obvious told me that something had gone very, very wrong. I hit the brakes, exited the truck and walked to the rear where the mystery whoosh had originated.

I had backed over the tip of the buck’s right main beam, anchoring it to the ground and forcing the next point through the sidewall of my right rear tire. Thus the whoosh I had heard as all the air formerly contained therein escaped into the chilly night air. I looked at my watch; it was 12:30 a.m.

Next came the crushing realization that I had no jack or tire tool in the truck.

Guess it’s time to call my bride, I thought. She isn’t going to be impressed.

No answer on the cell phone, so I called the landline. It rang endlessly with no response. She was already asleep. Ugh!

To say that rural highway in central-western Alberta was empty and devoid of all vehicle traffic would be an understatement.

I sat in my truck considering my options — no, make that my ONLY option, which was a long walk home.

But what if someone comes along and burgles my truck? I reasoned. I can’t lock the tailgate on the topper, so the burglar would not only find my abandoned truck, but my Blue Moon buck and my deer cart, and my bow and …

I decided right then I would have to pull the buck back uphill, out of the ditch, back under the fence and into the timber where a passerby wouldn’t notice it.

But then there was the problem of coyotes finding it before daylight. So I covered the buck with my camo jacket and safety vest, assuming that the human scent would ward off predators.

Next came the deer cart and all my gear, back into the timber from whence it came. Time: 1:15 a.m.

I was really starting to hate that deer.

I looked at my cell phone, and the battery was seconds away from dying, so in a last ditch effort for rescue, I texted my bride and simply said, “Flat tire. Am walking.”

My hope was that somewhere in what remained of the night, she might realize I was missing and check her cell phone. I doubted she would find the circumstances surrounding my dilemma amusing at that hour, so I didn’t bother with details.

High-topped rubber boots are something less than ideal for walking down the middle of the highway. Ker-flop, ker-flop, they blubbered as I marched eastward, trying to maintain a positive attitude.

On the brighter side, that huge Blue Moon lit up the lonely highway, so at least I could see without a problem.

Later that night, or perhaps I should say, early that morning, as the novelty of marching down a dark highway was wearing off, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a distant set of headlights. “Dear Lord,” I prayed, “please let that be Sharleen!”

As the lights got closer I realized that it was indeed she! When she drew near and saw me, she slowed down and rolled down her window as the car came to a stop beside me in the middle of the highway.

“Get your butt in this car,” she snapped. I obliged without comment and we drove home in blissful if not strained silence.

My initial appraisal of going hunting on the eve of a Blue Moon replayed in my mind: Wow, a Blue Moon! This could be really good or really bad.

But there was a third option, which I had not yet considered.

It could be both!

If you have followed my hunting escapades, which have appeared on the pages of this publication now for more than a quarter century, you are aware that I endure my unfair share of insanity for the sake of the hunt. A smarter man would have given it up for a lost cause long before now, but look at all the fun I would have missed.

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This article was published in the September 2014 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd