On an entirely different note. This trip was special. Although I didn't get to shoot anything this year, I came back with a new job! So I will be moving to Nebraska in January to become NEBRASKAland Magazine's new Regional Editor. I tell people and they're like "what?!" I'm guessing you're doing the same thing, too. But more on that later.
After my interview with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, Rick and I continued on to cousin Tyler's 15 acres of woods for deer camp. This year was different from the last. Rick's cousins were invited to hunt in Ord, so we were going to be hunting and camping on our own for most of the week. I took this photo from Tyler's property.
At deer camp, Tyler and his kids Emily and Joe joined us. Cousins Pete and Colton also stopped by. That's Emily and me in the photo. Her mom Chrissy helped me get the job with NEBRASKAland. For a 10th grader, Emily is one busy girl! I was never that busy in high school.
It was fun just hanging out and enjoying the nice weather. But we heard that a storm was brewin' that weekend. We were due for high winds, rain, possible snow, hail and lots of cold weather. People were worried for the Nebraska game the next day. Me, I had no idea what to expect. I'm so used to mild California weather.
Brian, a family friend, brought his new dog. She was only 6 months old and a Chesapeake. She had the cutest, brightest eyes.
That night, we had deer brats. They were delicious! Really hit the spot.
Then Chris came by and asked about my interview. She was super anxious and excited for me, being the one who started this whole thing... sending me an application and all. We talked around the fire until Chris had to take Emily home.
The next morning, Rick, Joe, Tyler and I saddled up for opening day.
All was quiet when we got into our deer stand... and it stayed pretty quiet throughout the entire day. We only saw one buck that morning, which didn't do us any good since we bought antlerless tags. He came up so close, literally 5 feet away. I could've reached out and poked him with my rifle... but I thought better of it. Could you imagine the look on his face if I did? Poke!
Joe, Tyler's son, did get a doe that morning. Some guys were walking around on the adjacent property, scaring this doe right up to where Joe was sitting.
Then it got dark that Saturday night. The weatherman said the storm would blow through any time now. It started to sprinkle. Uh-oh... we thought. Tyler and Rick started putting everything away in the tent trailer. We got our trucks and vans prepared, in case if we had to bail.
That night, we ate pickled asparagus, cold sandwiches and beer. There's Tyler, having dinner from his shirt pocket.
As we finished our beers and climbed into our sleeping bags, the wind gave a moanful cry outside. The trees and leaves shook. Our tent trailer trembled with unease. Then we heard lightning and thunder. Rain poured from the skies. I curled up in my bag and listened to the sound of hard rain hitting canvas.
I was kind of scared, having heard the weathermen talk up this storm like they did--- the last thing I wanted to do was sleep in a cold, old van when Tyler's tent trailer gave out, then having to clean everything up the next day. I had no idea when I finally fell asleep.
We woke up the next morning to silence and cold frost shimmering on the ground. The tent trailer was still standing. We were still alive and well. Everything was in its place.
The weatherman lied! There was no hail and no snow. Apparently, the rain didn't even last that long. But, we were due for a very cold week, and I believed it.
Tyler also left us that afternoon. Joe had already gone. We wished Tyler good luck in Ord. Then it was just the two of us, me and Rick at deer camp. Rick has never been left alone by his cousins before. He's never field dressed a deer by himself. With my being a newbie, I wasn't much help. But Rick looked forward to it. It would be a learning experience for the both of us.
And we had fun! We're by no means new to camping or roughing it. Compared to what we usually do, this was the Hilton!
But it was cold. The lowest we experienced that week was 15 degrees. Our bottle of Hawaiian Punch froze solid almost every morning after that. So did our toes.
Mmmmm... deer burgers. But we didn't starve, that's for sure!
After lunch on Sunday, Rick and I went out for a walk on Tyler's property. We talked about where the deer might be bedding, where they might be going and where we should hunt that night. We decided to hunt where Joe shot his deer the day before. It gave a open wide view of much of Tyler's property. Tyler took his pop-up blind to Ord, but we thought we'd just sit on buckets and be as still and quiet as possible. (Sometimes, that's impossible for me.)
We went out that evening, to that very spot. After only 30 minutes, here came a little buck trotting up to us.
"Dang!" I thought. "Not another--"
Before I could finish my thought, I saw an an antler-less trotting right behind. I looked over at Rick, wild-eyed and excited. But we had to steady ourselves, because we couldn't shoot in certain directions where houses stood beyond. Rick and I whispered quietly, and decided that he would be the one to shoot. The second deer passed the buck, to eat grass in a little clearing. I anxiously watched Rick shoulder his rifle, praying that his shot be true. I waited for what felt like an eternity. "Shoot it! Shoot it!" I thought to myself. Unlike me, Rick is a very careful and thoughtful hunter. Then I heard it. The sound of his .30-06 rang throughout the forest. It was like the sound of utter silence suddenly being cracked.
Startled, the buck bolted out of there, leaving his friend behind. We watched the little deer stagger and crash upon the ground. It wasn't long before its heart gave out.
Wasting no daylight, Rick quickly whipped out his knives. We flipped the deer over and to both our surprise, what we thought was a doe had balls! Rick rubbed his forehead and felt little nubs underneath its skin.
Having never field dressed a deer by himself before, Tyler stayed on the phone with us the entire time to give Rick direction when he needed it. Certain parts were a little gross, but he got the job done quickly enough. After removing the organs, Rick dragged the deer back to camp where we hung it up a tree to age.
A few days later, we took the same deer back to Tyler and Chrissy's house to process. With our little Havalon knife, we got down to business and was able to get a ton of meat off of that little deer. I don't much like field dressing, but I do enjoy processing and butchering. It's so interesting to see how all the muscles, bones and tissues connect, then carefully dissecting it all. It's always an eye opening experience to see what food looks like before it becomes food.
That Wednesday night, I saw this sunset while sitting in Tyler and Chrissy's house. Wearing only a thin shirt, I ran outside to get this shot. I came back in feeling like a popsicle. Then my phone buzzed. It was Jeff Kurrus, the Associate Editor of NEBRASKAland Magazine. He told me that I got the job. I think I stopped breathing at that moment, but I thanked Jeff and told him that I'd get back to him as soon as possible. After I got off the phone, Rick came into the room. I told him the good news and he swooped me up and gave me a big hug. From that moment on, we knew that our lives were going to change. Then Chrissy walked in, after having come home from work. She let out a cry of excitement and jumped up and down from where she stood. Then I called my parents back in California to tell them what had happened. I told my west coast friends through Facebook. A million thoughts entered my mind. The moment passed by me like speeding subway cars in an underground station. All I had to do was jump on.
The next day, I met Jeff at his office in Lincoln. I told him that I'd take the job. At 22, I feel so thankful for the opportunity that has just fallen on my lap. I also have to give a special shout out to Chris Thody. Without her, none of this would've happened.
I think that was when Rick and I decided to call it quits at deer camp. After days of not seeing anything, we figured that we got as much out of the land as it would give us this year. The best thing to do was to be thankful. That morning, Rick and I drove back to Tyler's property to pack up camp. It was sad, but the extra time would also give us a chance to explore Lincoln like we never did before. Years past, it was all about hunting. This time, we get to enjoy being tourists, at least for a couple days before flying back to California.
Rick and Chrissy are huge Michael Forsberg fans, an nationally acclaimed photographer from Nebraska. Chrissy told us that Mike would be giving a talk in Lincoln about his new documentary Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild that Thursday. On his website, you'd see that he refers to his work as "conservation photography," and it's exactly that. Mike works with scientists, students, volunteers and conservationists from all over the state and beyond to help better understand and protect the animals of the Great American Plains. I'm proud to say that Mike used to be on the NEBRASKAland Magazine staff; he still contributes to it. Now, he spends most of his time chasing animals, carrying out his own conservation efforts and writing beautiful books. It was a pleasure meeting Mike. I hope to learn from him in the future. Two awesome books to buy:
BUY Great Plains: America's Lingering Wild on Amazon
Keith also took us out to Cracker Barrel, which was a must for me! I've been looking forward to Cracker Barrel all year, since we don't have them here in California. Of course, I had the same thing I did last year, because I'm "the usual" kind of person: Grilled Rainbow Trout, Turnip Greens, Fried Okra and Corn. Yum! I was in heaven. Now that I will be living in Nebraska, maybe I'll venture out and order something else in the future.
There's Keith, frying up some fish for tacos. Keith and Jo Ann always make the best food.
Keith showed me how to make this special sauce he loves to put on fish tacos. Simply mix together a third cup of mayo, a third cup of sour cream and a third cup of The Art of Chipotle: Sweet Heat Addiction Sauce.
Mmmmm.... the flavors were just right!
Before leaving Nebraska, Rick and I had to walk over to UNL's Dairy Store. They make all their own ice cream, cheeses and sausages-- many flavors only found there.
I had a scoop of their Meadowlark Medley. It was made with blue raspberry ice cream, white chocolate and caramel swirls. Different, but delicious!
Rick had their expresso ice cream, which was served with a whole shot of expresso.
After 10 days of spending time with family, great friends and good hunting, it was time to head home. Before driving us to the airport, Keith took us to Baker's Candies in Greenwood, Nebraska, where they make the best chocolates. Then he took us to Cabela's, because I've never been to one. Greg McCubbins of LTD Outdoors also came out to meet us. We've been corresponding with Greg over the past few months on Twitter and Facebook. It was a pleasure to finally talk face to face. It was a shame we did not get to catch up with Chris from Big Red Outdoors, but there will be time for that later.
Before I left, I told Keith's retired hunting dog Leia to stop getting so old. She's about 80- years-old in people years by now, but still loves to play catch. I love her!
At the airport, Rick and I said our farewells to Keith, but it won't be long until we meet again. Keith told me that he and Jo Ann would take good care of me when I come out in January. Rick and I look forward to seeing them both again! Nebraska, see you soon.