Published by bowhunter on 14 May 2008 at 09:08 pm
CHALLENGE ON TANEUM RIDGE
A True Story by
by Dick Cress (bowhunter)
My life as a hunter began when I was ten years old, and bagged my first Indiana cottontail. Since 1963 I have been a devoted bow hunter. In the years since, there have been many exciting times hunting: In the Tarsus Mountains of Turkey for Russian Blue Boar; Texas for Rattlesnakes and Jack Rabbits; Mid Western U.S. for Whitetail; The Pacific Northwest for Blacktail, Mule Deer, Elk, and Black Bear; and Canada for Black Bear and Moose.
Many animals, large and small, have filled my larder. But the 1993 Deer and Elk Season in Washington was to be one of those years that I returned home empty handed. Although my freezer remained empty, that year like so many others was a memorable hunt, the highlight of many years afield.
My hunting then was concentrated on Taneum Ridge in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Nearly a half-mile from the forest service road, on the backside of this ridge is an abandoned logging road about three miles long. Midway down this old road, on the western edge, is a pile of old logs about five and a half feet high; I know because I’m five-five and just miss seeing over it. What makes this area so special is at the end of this pile [to the South] is a quarter acre area, that’s a frequent bedding site for both deer and elk.
As a bow hunter, I wear camouflage clothing, grease paint, and scent pads to mask my human smell. I always stillhunt this ridge, into the wind and it takes a whole day. Experience has taught me to approach this woodpile slower than normal and to be ready for anything.
However on this day, I wasn’t prepared for the startling event that would become the crowning experience of my many years of hunting.
With a gentle breeze in my face, I could hear the raven’s raspy crow overhead and the roar of mountain bikes on a ridge two miles west. My bow, out of its sling, had a broadhead tipped aluminum arrow knocked on the string and my fingers positioned for a quick shot.
My face was only eighteen inches from the log pile, as I moved slower than ever toward the shoulder of this old, decaying timber. I was as close as I could get, to turn the element of surprise to my advantage. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement on the log pile and slowly turned to check it out.
At that instant, growling and snarling reverberated in my ears. A studied hunter, I instantly identified the creature as a Badger of about twenty to thirty pounds and around twenty-four inches long. His broad, low-slung body was covered in a beautiful Blue
Dun Gray fur, with vibrant white stripes that met in a “V” on his head, just above his nose. He was as surprised at my presence as I was of his.
His snarling grew more vicious with each passing second. Frozen in the heat of the moment, is the memory of his vicious grin of razor sharp teeth, gnashing at me, while the long claws of his short forefeet, raked at the decaying bark of the old fir tree on which he stood.
Less than eighteen inches from my nose that short carnivore stood his ground. I was too close to shoot . . . I could have stabbed him with the arrow, but had no desire to take that risk. I could just imagine a writhing, twenty to thirty pound, ferocious Badger impaled on a twenty-eight-inch HAND HELD arrow. It would have been exciting and dangerous, but not near the fun of the next few minutes.
Unable and unwilling to shoot, a second or two passed as I considered my options. There were none . . . but knowledge and experience of other unexpected wildlife encounters. I was too close to back off, and if I tried, part of me would have been his afternoon lunch. On a hunch, I started snarling and growling back at him. When he snarled, I snarled, when he growled, I growled, he shook his head, I shook mine, he pawed, I pawed. He stood his ground and I stood mine. He couldn’t have known who or what I was.
That ole Badger and I exchanged mock charges, growls, snarls, bad breath, and general orneriness for fifteen minutes. It was so much fun . . . challenging one of God’s creatures on his terms . . . and enjoying every minute . . . of that standoff, on Taneum Ridge.
I couldn’t help but wonder what this creature was thinking of me as we postured around that old wood pile. Though I was enjoying the battle, I was uncertain of what its outcome would be. In time . . . this majestic, gorgeous animal . . . tired of the challenge, slowly turned, and waddled off that old timber pile and out of sight.
Strangely, I hoped he would return to continue challenging this strange aberration in his territory. I waited another ten minutes in contemplation. Every fiber in my body quivered with excitement, as I stood in the sunlight on that lonely ridge. The euphoria was greater than shooting a and Young record Elk. This encounter was greater than any kill I have ever made . . . and I’ve made my share.
Looking back on this encounter, it is the highlight of my hunting years. Nothing can ever surpass the excitement of that afternoon . . . with that Badger . . . on Taneum Ridge.
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