There is always a degree of caution that comes from sharing information with “BB”. We had arranged to meet up in the White Mountain Reservation around the Maverick Camp. For some unexplained reason “BB” had sent me a text stating that plans had changed and that we were to now meet along the border of 3C and the Reservation along the fence line at a spot that we had met previously. His text was terse and I was curious for the reasoning, but I figured that all would come out during the interview.
I hauled the Tundra out of mothballs and headed up to the high country. I also had a little news for “BB”, since I had
received in the mail just the previous day, a bull elk tag for unit 3A-3C for the early season archery hunt. I was confident that just the news of my getting another tag would throw him into fits of fear, but hey, you never know with “BB”.
As I wound along the 300 road towards our secret spot, I marveled at how so little had changed since the previous fall when I had helped Gary Matchinsky try and bring in a bull elk with his archery tag. While Gary had opportunities, he had ultimately not been able to down an elk. Wind, luck, a missed shot or two had all contributed to his not filling his tag. We had a ton of fun chasing the bulls around and had a great time, but still there was no meat in the freezer. Visions of how things might go differently this fall filled my head. Optimism has never been in short supply for any hunter when the season is still in the distance but the tag is in your pocket.
“BB” was doing his best to hug the fence line just into 3C when I parked the Tundra in a small turnoff. I had to pick my way through a small wash and as I crested, I could see his big head munching along the new fresh shoots of spring. “BB” raised his had and tried talking through a mouthful of grass. The only words I heard were “—damn—you—here.” I laughed at “BB” and pointed to his head. Gone was the rack of last year and this year he was sporting the new basket that would later hopefully become a large rack. I pointed at his head and said, “That sure looks like a small raghorn to me “BB”. Got any ideas on what you will grow to this year?” “BB” shook his massive head and growled “Ya know boy, if brains were a hot commodity you’d be left standing in the cold. This here rack may turn out to be the best I’ve ever had. For as supposedly educated person you sure don’t know squat about antlers. Come here and take a close look.” I walked as close to him as I probably ever have. I looked closely at the new growth and to me it looked all jumbled with velvet going everywhere. “Just what am I supposed to look for “BB”. It looks like a bunch of sprouts going all over the place. “BB” got that semi-disgusted look on his face and started in with his lecture. “Okay, take a look at how far apart my pedicles are now. See how they’ve sloped all the way over on each side? That’s gonna give me a wide spread this year. Now take a look at the tines. These fronts are already out 8 inches, which since it’s still just late March means these bad boys could go all the way to 15 inches by summer. Now look at the right side. See that little thing growing downwards just a tad? That is going to be a drop tine that will really dress me up. I will be one damn fine distinguished looking bull by the time the growing season is over.” I had to admit, I was impressed by his acumen regarding antlers, but then I quickly realized that he grows the darn things every year, so why shouldn’t he know what was going to happen. I decided to start with the fear factor and I said, “Well “BB”, that makes me so happy to know that I can tell who you are by that drop tine. You see, I have a bull tag here in 3C for the September archery hunt. I can pick you out and I know just what you look like.”
Whatever response I had anticipated diminished when he started rolling around on his back chuckling the whole time. “Whoa boy…you finally got another tag…oh that’s funny… you think you have a shot at me?” He started that damn chuckle of his and he would not stop. I listened for a few seconds and then got a little indignant. “OK “BB”, just what the hell makes you laugh so much? I had a tag in here 8 years ago and got myself a decent bull. What gives with your attitude? “BB” finally stopped with the chuckle and said. “I’m sorry boy, you got the low end of the gene pool back in ‘05, and look at you now. You’re 8 years older, 8 years slower in reflexes, 8 years worse eyesight and you haven’t lifted a bow in eons. What the hell makes you think I should be afraid?” I had to stop and think about that one. His disrespect was obvious but he did have some valid points. After reaching 50 I had thought that all good things were behind me but the next 10 years were fruitful. Now into the dreaded 60’s, I know that the effort to maintain a physical standard requires a much higher commitment to workouts. I didn’t want to play my hand too much, so I let “BB” do his chuckling and rolling around making fun of me. When he finally finished his insults I pointed out to him that I had a new bow. He was curious and asked where I had gotten it. I mentioned that it had been Gary Matchinsky’s bow and that he had thrown it into the garbage after his last hunt. Now he really started to howl.
“Oh that’s just great. You pick up a dumpster diving special and it’s cursed on top of that. I can just see your arrows this fall flying all around but never hitting anything. I’ll bet you a bale of alfalfa that you come up empty handed this fall!”
Sadly, I bit on the bet. My pride was wounded at his assessment of me, my bow and my abilities. So for all the readers, here is a heads up. If you see me carting a bale of alfalfa up north in October then steer clear of any conversations with me. However…the other side of the bet was that if I did get a bull, then Mr. Smarty Pants “BB” had to buy me two good bottles of merlot. If any readers are running into Heber in the dead of night this October and they see a magnificent 6 X 6 bull with a drop tine carrying two bottles of merlot strung over his neck, then you all will know that cunning and planning defeated old Father Time at least for one more year. Best of luck to all who were blessed with tags this fall. May your arrows be true and your face to the wind whenever you encounter brother elk this fall.