Fall 2016 Deer 


We thought let’s hike up the hill and see if we can come across anything. We had been seeing lots of deer and elk tracks and knew they were in the area, but hadn’t seen them except for first and last light. But they’ve got to be somewhere during the day, so it was just a matter of finding them.  

Corey takes the logging road as to hopefully be easier on his back and knee, and I head up the hill through the trees. We discuss where to meet as we’ve been hunting this area for a few weeks and I start meandering through the woods on animal trails. Following the freshest tracks of the kicked up larch needles while trying to keep in the general direction of where I’m supposed to be going. I get to the top of the hill, just after the switchback in the road, so I scan the area looking for Corey. Not seeing him, I figure he must still be slowing coming up the road. After spending a few more minutes watching the road and clearing above, I decide I should move ahead to the other side, since that’s where Corey should be coming up shortly and if anything was waiting until the last minute, hiding in the brush, before they are forced to go into the open, as we all know they do, they would walk right to me. 

 So I cross. Reassess the clearing from a new angle and still nothing. Then Corey appears, scowling and giving me hand signals that there’s two deer right next to me. I don’t see them. More hand gestures. Um, I don’t see anything. Frustrated, he gets up and starts walking the 50 yards to me and shaking his head. 

“There was two deer, standing right next to you.” Well crap. Because of my position there was a small hump that hid them from me. 

There were a few weeks left in the general season but with Corey’s knee surgery the following week, this was probably going to be our last two days hunting for the year. So we were definitely feeling the pressure to put some meat in the freezer. 

Corey suggests I walk up the road a half mile to the switchback and then get on top of the ridge to look down our side of the clearing, to be able to see the other side, but go slow and keep an eye out incase those deer were still in front of me. 

We made a plan for if one of us shot. He sat down at a tree and I headed uphill mumbling, about me being the one walking up there, bear scat right in the middle of the road, and something about knowing it would be fruitless; if anything I’d kick something down to him because of the wind. 

After about a twenty minute hike up the road, I reached the switchback and kept telling myself to just “get in there”. The brush was getting increasingly thicker with each step and I was getting more hesitant. 

Finally, I saw a game trail and decided to head up that way. At this point my rifle wasn’t shouldered and I was almost crouching to get through. 

Deer poop. Fresher deer poop. 

More poop. Beds. 

 Ok, this was it, I was in their house. Getting more optimistic with each step that it was turning back into “the woods” instead of thick brush, STOMP. 

Well shit, there he was, 50 yards in front of me, looking right at me. 

Other than my Texas buck, this was the largest whitetail I’ve ever had a shot at, but at that moment, I could have cared less. Looking back now, Steven Rinella’s words from MeatEater “meat crisis” is the state of mind I was in. As horrible as it is to say, I was thinking, okay Chelsea, you can’t wait for the perfect broadside shot, but you cannot let this deer go. I even think some of those words were mumbled out loud. And now he’s running off, probably because I’m talking to myself. REGROUP CHELSEA.

The fog is getting thicker and he’s moving through the trees. Without looking down, I chamber a round. There is no sound except for my feet moving through the fallen leaves. Just the same as it was with my elk the year before, it was just me and him, total tunnel vision. We do a dance between trees which seems like half an hour, but was only maybe a minute, if that.

Slightly quartering to me, the back half of his body covered by a tree. Free hand, shaking like a leaf, I slow my breathing and hold still, then BOOM. He turns, headed down the ridge. I take a quick look down to step over the downed tree, look up and nothing. Making a mental note of the tree he was last standing at, I run forward 50 yards. No white tail, no crashing off. All I can think is, where is he?? Before I get even more tangled up in the trees, I grab a pink ribbon and mark the tree next to me and then mark the one that he was at, making a straight visual line back to where I was when I shot. Looking feverishly on the ground for blood, nothing. Then Corey comes up the hill, as he took off running towards where I was after he heard the shot. He starts asking “well, where is he?” Almost in tears, “I have no clue.” Trying to point where I was and where he was and told him that I took one step, and he was gone. He wanders off mumbling. My focus is on the ground. There has to be blood. All of a sudden, “Here he is.” Wait, what? He wasn’t wandering off, he was following a game trail, another hundred yards from where I thought he was. He took two steps and died. In what seemed like a half an hour looking, was merely minutes. After putting my tag on him, we retraced the steps to where I shot. When I ran, I didn’t properly mentally mark which tree he was next to. 200 yard shot through the fog and trees. A wave of relief came over Corey and I. We had meat for the freezer. After taking a few minutes to be grateful, we made a plan that I would head the mile back to the truck and get the kids snow sled. With Corey’s back injection two days before, we needed to be able to get this guy off the hill.

Rifle on my shoulder, I head back. Almost to the truck, I hear a shot, I’m thinking, hell yeah, Corey got a deer too. So I take off running, get the pack and sled. Run the mile back to him and realize he’s field dressing my deer. Um, wait, I thought you were going to wait and let me do it. He’s like well I heard you shoot, figured you filled your elk tag. Not so much, but glad he could be so nonchalant about it.

It wasn’t until after we got the deer back to camp, and headed to the nearest gas station for ice, that I was able to take in what had just happened. I harvested a big game animal, alone. To some, that’s nothing, but it was a big moment for me.  

Corey’s injury and our state of mind. 

This is an excerpt from the book I’m writing. I will probably never get it finished, much less published, but maybe it’s more for myself and to be able to look back on our experiences.

Corey’s recent injury has been at the forefront of our minds lately. No it’s not a terminal diagnosis, or anything that severe, its broken bones and torn tendons, but it has been a huge blow to us, financially, mentally and emotionally.

He was walking from his truck to the front door, slipped on black ice, and fell, breaking the tibia and fibula in multiple places, dislocating his ankle bone, and tearing tendons in his ankle. A few days later they did surgery, putting in seven screws and a plate. Some bone fragments they couldn’t set or screw, so they are currently floating, in hopes they will heal on their own. As far as the torn tendons, we won’t know anything until he’s able to walk on that foot. Physical therapy will then determine if he will need to have surgery to repair the tendons. We have been told he will likely need the screw that’s holding the tibia and fibula together removed, will likely have severe arthritis, may need an ankle fusion later in life and could walk with a limp. Again, not life threatening, but it’s not a simple broken bone and healed in six weeks.

Part of the reason this has been such a huge blow to us, is that we were just starting to get back on our feet again, pun intended. Corey had his knee scoped and a back injection three months prior, and we felt we were getting him healthy again and would finally be able to be healed up and wouldn’t have pain interfere with work and hunting. The other part, is that we were getting to a better financial state than we had been in a long time.

In 2015, we lost our house. The house we bought together six days after getting married. The house that we started a family in, grew as a family, healed from shoulder surgeries, cervical cancer, taught our kids how to ride bikes, and the list goes on. I’m not much of a sentimental person, but this house meant the world to me, more than I can express in words.
After losing my job on my maternity leave in 2009, and then again in 2013, we tried everything we could do. Sold stuff, put payments on credit cards, borrowed from family. Without being able to find a job, I started SOS. It was allowing me to have some income, but that was going right out the door for expenses. We got behind on a few mortgage payments, and were never able to catch up. After exhausting all options, we were forced to sell the house in August 2015 as a short sale since we were facing foreclosure.

We have been living in a 900 square foot apartment since. We gave up our dog (thankfully a family member was able to take her so we are able to visit weekly). We gave up a back yard for the kids to play in, we don’t even have a dresser in our bedroom, since SOS has to have a place for paracord. We have made the best of our situation, and are thankful that we have made it through together and have a roof over our heads. But we were so looking forward to moving out and finding at least a rental house, since we are not able to buy yet. 
The sacrifices this family has given up for me to pursue being self-employed are huge. And we were starting to feel like our head was above water again and that we were paying things off; then Corey broke his leg. We are the typical family that cannot survive on one income alone. I’m working 25 hours a week as a secretary for Corey’s road construction company, and putting in another 30 working for SOS, and also being a mom and taking kids to gymnastics, church classes, skate lessons, baseball or whatever sport is going on. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I started drinking caffeine again, which in turn gave me headaches. Corey’s miserable watching me run around and him not being able to work. But, life goes on and I’m determined to not let this stop us.

I’ve managed my time better this last week, and have a better handle, and am able to try and relax a little bit since we have had such amazing support. I was very reluctant to let Lindsay post the Go Fund Me, I felt like we shouldn’t be asking for help, but we are beyond blessed and honestly can’t wrap our heads around the amount of support we have received. 

I felt like maybe I should explain why this was such a huge hit to us. Maybe I just needed to say thank you again. But from the bottom of our hearts, we are deeply grateful for every word of encouragement, prayer, order placed at SOS, and donation. We have been humbled and shown faith again in humanity.

Thank you.