Reproduced here is my favourite photograph from my long-ago deer-hunting days. With neither gun nor deer in sight, the scene, dating from the mid-1950s, still captures the essence of why I once so enjoyed the pursuit.
Deer hunters enjoying a welcome lunch break at “Pike’s Peak” in the 1950s.
Photo by John Macfie
First, let me identify my hunting companions, fellows who I believe quite a few readers will know or remember.
Shovelling loose tea into the bubbling tea pail is the official joker of the group, Merle Salt, who today resides in Bracebridge. Criticizing Merle’s technique from the sidelines is Bill Pugsley, now the grand old man of Pointe au Baril.
On his knees wielding a skinning knife is John “Johnny” Sands, lifelong Dunchurch resident, farmer, lumberjack, trapper, and fount of rustic wisdom. Johnny’s trapping licence embraced the surrounding area of western Hagerman Township, so for him hunting and trapping went hand-in-hand. Pelting this beaver in the bush saves him from having to lug the heavy carcass around all afternoon, and leaves behind a welcome windfall for scavengers. Johnny narrowly missed seeing the century out, having passed on to the happy hunting ground in 1998, at age 84.
When I snapped the photograph, at noonday, we had already hiked a couple of hilly, swampy miles from home, out onto a fire-swept tract of high, rocky country known as “The Burn,” then split up to walk the ridges hoping to start a deer out of an intervening gully. Here, we’ve met at an agreed upon spot for some rest and refreshment before resuming the hunt and finally dragging our weary bones back out to the settlement as darkness closes in.
Today, a comparable group of deer hunters heading for the woods riding four-wheelers brings to mind nothing so much as a squadron of Sherman tanks girding for battle with the Wehrmacht.
Returning to the photograph, the nubbin of this parable is the grey dome of glacier-smoothed granitic rock jutting up just to Bill Pugsley’s left.
This feature, known to us as Pike’s Peak, was always worth scrambling up to experience something special. Being higher than virtually any other point between Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park, Pike’s Peak offers a rare viewing point where you can rotate in a 360-degree circle with the horizon always at your feet. The standing-on-top-of-the-world sensation made the climb worthwhile.
Nowadays, I’m told, snowmobiles and four-wheelers scoot right up and over the top of Pike’s Peak with impunity.
And that Mount Everest suffers from gridlock in the climbing season. Maybe I’m just envious, but everything seems to be getting too darn easy.
Global warming? I can get equally worked up about global shrinking.