How stealthily we stole on! Here Copple said was a place for deer to graze. But the grass plots, golden with sunlight and white with frost and black-barred by shadows of pines, showed no game.
Copple sat down on a log, and I took a seat beside him to the left. R.C. stood just to my left. As I laid my rifle over my knees and opened my lips to whisper I was suddenly struck mute. I saw R.C. stiffen, then crouch a little. He leaned forward—his eyes had the look of a falcon. Then I distinctly heard the soft crack of hoofs on stone and breaking of tiny twigs. Quick as I whirled my head I still caught out of the tail of my eye the jerk of R.C. as he threw up his rifle. I looked—I strained my eyes—I flashed them along the rim of the ravine where R.C. had been gazing. A gray form seemed to move into the field of my vision. That instant it leaped, and R.C.’s rifle shocked me with its bursting crack. I seemed stunned, so near was the report. But I saw the gray form pitch headlong and I heard a solid thump.
“Buck, an’ he’s your meat!” called Copple, low and sharp. “Look for another one.”
No other deer appeared. R.C. ran toward the spot where the gray form had plunged in a heap, and Copple and I followed. It was far enough to make me pant for breath. We found R.C. beside a fine three-point buck that had been shot square in the back of the head between and below the roots of its antlers.
“Never knew what struck him!” exclaimed Copple, and he laid hold of the deer and hauled it out of the edge of the thicket. “Fine an’ fat. Venison for camp, boys. One of you go after the horses an’ the other help me hang him up.”
I had been riding eastward of Beaver Dam Canyon with Haught, and we had parted up on the ridge, he to go down a ravine leading to his camp, and I to linger a while longer up there in the Indian-summer woods, so full of gold and silence and fragrance on that October afternoon.
The trail gradually drew me onward and downward, and at length I came out into a narrow open park lined by spruce trees. Suddenly Don Carlos shot up his ears. I had not ridden him for days and he appeared more than usually spirited. He saw or heard something. I held him in, and after a moment I dismounted and drew my rifle. A crashing in brush somewhere near at hand excited me. Peering all around I tried to locate cause for the sound. Again my ear caught a violent swishing of brush accompanied by a snapping of twigs. This time I cocked my rifle. Don Carlos snorted. After another circling swift gaze it dawned upon me that the sound came from overhead.