The Wasatch Behind: Road hunting etiquette
Thank goodness deer season is upon us and we can take a short breather from the problems of the world. Deer season gives us an excuse to flee into the wilderness where we can get away from the TV, make loud noises with our big firearms, and vent our frustrations on Mother Nature. We can also run up a hefty gas bill on the old credit card and help to stimulate the local economy. I'm sure that George Bush and Nancy Pelosi would approve - at least the credit card part.
As most of you already know, the fall deer hunt in Utah is an official religious holiday. Brigham Young started it all in 1847 when he sent his band of hardy pioneers into the canyons to harvest venison for the coming winter and to make war on the "wasters and destroyers" of the land. In those days, the wasters and destroyers were wolves, bears, cougars, and coyotes; predators that took a hefty toll of pioneer livestock. Of course, today we are more enlightened and know that wolves are our friends. In our modern, wilderness challenged world, the wasters and destroyers are our congressmen and Wall Street executives; but that's another story.
In past columns I have explained how road hunting is an old and honored Utah tradition. Uncle Spud started the trend in the 1850s when he accidentally ran over a deer with his handcart somewhere in Wyoming. The custom has continued, and today most of my friends get their deer in drive-by shootings.
And, road hunting has its own set of special challenges. I personally think that road hunting should be covered extensively in today's hunter safety programs. For example, how are young hunters to know which pickup trucks are best for road hunting? Is it true that Ford power windows roll down faster than Dodge power windows? Can you really get a good dead-rest over a GM rearview mirror, and is it legal? Does windshield parallax distort the view through your binoculars? Do road kills count in big buck contests? Do you know that bugs on your windshield can cost you game? And, who should get the first shot when the deer is in the median?
And then, there are other practical things to know, too. Things like road hunting with your window down saves valuable time when that big buck presents itself. Avoid the rumble strips for a quieter, non-game-spooking stop. Wearing a seatbelt might cost you the trophy of a lifetime, so why take the chance? A good brush guard can save damage to your vehicle when a road sign, guardrail, or delineator gets in your way during a quick stop to scope out a deer. And the best way to scout the interstate is to look for signs that say, "warning - frequent deer crossing."
And, be sure you have a suitable four-wheel drive outfit for hunting on the highway. State law says you can't shoot from a vehicle, or from, upon, or across the highway, so you've got to have a high-profile outfit that will get you off the road in a hurry. Ditches, fences, culverts, steep road shoulders and railroad tracks shouldn't interfere with your ability to get the job done. A good 4x4 can make all the difference.
And, there are some things you should consider when attempting to shoot over the hood of that fancy new pickup truck. For instance, it's usually a good idea to set the parking brake before you get too involved in sizing up that buck. Don't use a bipod if you care about the paintjob. Always shoot uphill when you have a dead-rest over the hood. When shooting downhill you can't tell through the scope that your rifle is pointed into the hood and you might put a nasty hole in your fancy new hunting buggy. And then, never shoot over the hood with black powder; it causes an awful mess. And, it's usually a good idea to stay at least 18 inches away from a cold windshield when shooting a large magnum caliber. The concussion can spider web the best of windshields. And of course, in the interests of safety, be sure to get well off the asphalt so you don't leave your derriere hanging out over the freeway while gawking at that big buck through the spotting scope.
Have a good time, guys. And let's go get 'em.