Closing the Book on Val (Feb 14, 1994- Nov 25, 2008)


I stood facing away from the other patrons with Val’s leash and colar in my left hand and a receipt for $89 in my right. I tried to maintain some kind of dignity, but there was no way to stop the tears. I’m a cryer, but I thought I might be able to hold it together on Val’s last trip to the vet.

It hit me when the vet stepped into the room – the fact that this was the end for Val. Her official birthday  – February 14, 1994. I always suspected it was really only close to February 14th and the date was moved as a marketing gimmick. It really didn’t matter anyway, so we named her Valentine. (I also wondered if all the pups in that litter ended up with the same name.)

The Vet tried to talk to me, but I just kept repeating, “It’s time, yes it’s time.”

And, she went peacefully.

Val was high octane when it was time to play. She was one of those dogs that never quit – always putting something in your lap, or at your feet. It was annoying, that was just Val.

She was a very good retriever, not great, but she took hand signals well and I could get her to most birds – even if she didn’t see them go down.

She had watery eyes all the time and she hunted pheasants best if I gave her half a benadryl (?) tablet before hunting. I think she had cronic sinus problems, so she didn’t have a great nose.

Like all dogs, she was a loyal companion.

Val’s first retrieve was on opening day of duck season in 1994. Three of us knocked down eight widgeon from a large flock at a salt pond on SF bay. She took after after a couple swimmers and retrieved two of the eight. I think we retrieved seven of the eight, with one disappearing.

Val’s final retrieve took place at Mayberry Farms on the last day of the 2006/07 waterfowl seasson. The bird she brougt me was a double-banded greenhead with a $100 reward band.

Nice upgrade Val.


Late Season Nevada Mule Deer Hunt


The late season finally arrived and four of us set out with high hopes for bagging a monster Nevada mule deer. The country was wide open and the mountains steep. We were prepared with spotting scopes, ATVs, backpacks and good attitudes.

We were especially pumped after visiting a neighboring rancher and viewing his collection of wall hanger bucks. But, reality would arrive after a few days of climbing, glassing and hunting.

We still hunted, we glassed we climbed but the monster bucks didn’t appear. On day one, I had a chance at a nice 4×4 buck in the low twenty inch wide class. He was a big boddied buck and was tending a group of does, but he didn’t quite fit the order.

The weather started out warm the first half of the trip – could have hunted in shorts. But the second half of the trip was completely different. By the seventh day I was ready to close the deal on a good buck and surprisingly that’s what happened. Putting down an ATV trail in a deep canyon, a large buck climbed out of the canyon and stopped overlooking me at 130 yards.


His antlers were medium size and his body appeared huge. I decided that this mature buck would be appropriate. I held on him off hand and hit him with the first shot from my model 70 Winchester in .300 WSM. He didn’t go down so I fired again and this time he took a few steps before falling.

The others were holding out for bigger bucks and I wondered if I had made a mistake. I had a bit of buyer’s remorse at first, but by the next day I resolved the fact that he was a good buck for me. I spent quite of bit of time dressing, boning and caping the buck. I’ll decide later whether he will make the wall, but he’s the largest buck I’ve ever taken. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to upgrade next year.

The others continued to look for a large buck and on the last day two of my partners shot bucks, but not the wallhangers we were all looking for. It was a great trip with all the aspects of mule deer hunting that make it so attractive to me.

The rut started during the last few days of the hunt and most of the does were courted by some type of buck, many of them impressive in size, but not quite big enough for our fouth hunter who held out to the end and went home without filling his tag.


We were amazed by the numbers of wild horses that roamed the hills with the mule deer. The are nice to look at, but compete with native wildlife like deer and I wonder at the decision land managers have made to let them remain.

This was the third filled rifle deer tag of 2008 for me and each was different from the others. Having been an archery hunter most of my life, filling more than one deer tag in a season was almost unheard of. My late-in-life switch to rifle hunting has been very interesting and now I understand how people bag those big bucks during the rut.