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Shooting, gutting & skinning 101

By Bill Adelman
04/21/15 -- Just shortly after dirt was invented, my Dad took me out to the corner of my grandparent’s farm for my first experience with a gun, his .22 bolt action Remington. At age 11, this was a life changing event. A very successful life changing event in that I humanely killed two Del Monte string bean cans and one Log Cabin syrup container. At this point in my career it was not important to consume our harvest, rather just savor and enjoy it. I did however, have to retrieve my kills and return them to a place of rest on the ranch. Don’t recall if we buried them or just tossed them on the refuse pile for later disposal.

Fast forward, to 1959, where I was growing impatient with the growth in and around Los Angeles, my place of birth. Having asked for a transfer to a less populous area, the offer was either Woodland or San Mateo. As I had never been further north than Bakersfield, who knew? A California map solved the problem. Woodland looked more boondockie, so that was it. There were about 14 employees in the store and all of the guys hunted and/or fished. My first hookup was with a fisherman and our first outing was tossing a Rebel for stripers near Elkhorn. My catch, a king salmon, gave me pause, as it didn’t have the stripes on the side that the stripers in his pictures had. Fortunately, Ron knew the difference.

Next, while talking to the husband of one of my fellow workers, the topic of deer hunting came up. He knew a guy who was a hunter and could take us out for a day trip. OK I thought. Why not, as I was very successful with my Dad’s .22. How hard could it be? Point and shoot as I saw it. Point and shoot what? Hmmm. My friend had but one rifle, so I needed one. See how quickly I caught on back in the day. A night job at the local Mobil service station answered that question. The other employee there had a friend who knew someone. That someone showed up, after dark, with a Remington .762 bolt action sniper rifle with peep sights and a paper bag with some shells in it. The price was right, so I bought it.

This article appeared in the author’s hometown newspaper. Photo by author

Back to the hunt. We were to meet the experienced and know it all hunter in Sacramento at Oh-Dark-Thirty. He never showed up. We later discovered he decided to just not go. Thus, well after first light, our decision was to give it a try, two guys who had never deer hunted. Keep in mind that we were driving a Fiat 200, one seater. As we ventured up Highway 20 near Grass Valley, without a clue as to where to hunt, we spotted a woman hanging some wash outside of a side by side trailer. Cautiously we drove in, waving and trying to look friendly. We spoke to her through the car window. After determining our plight, she called her husband out. He listened and told us to go back the way we came to the first right turn, and hunt anywhere up that road. Finally something positive occurred.

At least it appeared positive until we came to the Bear River. At about 12 inches deep, it might have well been the Sac. Remember, a Fiat 200, one seater. We’ll hunt here. Pulling off to the side of the dirt road was step one in our plan. Step two was to get out and load up. It occurred to me that crossing the creek in my Converse tennies could be a problem, a problem I soon had to solve. As I gazed through the many pines, across the creek, a deer appeared, a buck at that. Without thinking, I pointed and shot and the deer dropped right in it’s own shadow. Now what? We knew we had to gut it, so I asked my partner if I could borrow his knife. Knife? Neither of us had a knife. Let’s go back to the nice guy and his clothes hanging wife and see if we can borrow a knife, assuming we could get the deer in the car.

Which we did, after removing the seat, laying the deer in its place and sitting on the deer. The husband must have seen us approaching as he exited the trailer asking if we couldn’t find the road. His utter amazement and surprise at our success was overcome only by his complete disbelief of our story. He told us to drag the buck out back and then showed us how to field dress it. That was easy, now let’s go home. Our deer still wore the hide, so what to do next became a concern. My barber was a hunter, so we called him and he showed up, with a knife, and assisted in that chore. Final stop was the butcher shop. From that point forward, I was a deer hunter, one who not only owned a Buck folding knife, but a pair of lace up black paratrooper boots as well.

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California. His work has appeared in the Fish Sniffer newspaper and MarketPlace magazine. He was a full time freshwater fishing guide for 20 years. Now retired he still likes to serve as a flyfishing instructor, rod builder, outdoor photographer and hunting mentor.

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