As a person who thinks about deer and deer hunting pretty much 365 days a year it’s hard for me to think back to a time when I wasn’t all that into deer hunting. I started my hunting life by going out and sitting in on deer hunts with my dad and/or uncle when I was only 5 or 6 years old and continued to tag along for many years to follow.
Once I got old enough to hunt by myself I can remember my first solo bow hunt out on Grandpa’s 40 acre farm. I can also vividly remember my first ever deer kill which happened when I was 14 years old. It was the first year I was able to gun hunt and I was posted up in an opening in my uncles woods. We were doing a deer drive and they left me there hoping that they could push one too me. It worked and as a doe approached I lowered my uncles .44 rifle and entered the ranks of the successful hunters. While that was my first ever deer kill, I don’t think that was the moment that got me to where I am today though.
For that moment we have to fast forward a few years, to my high school graduation party to be exact. As a graduation present my dad had bought me a .356 lever action rifle from my uncle. I still remember him pulling me aside and giving it to me. I remember seeing it and thinking how cool it was to have my very own deer hunting rifle. There are certain rights of passage that boys go through on their way to becoming men and to someone who had grown up around deer hunting it sure felt like getting your own deer rifle was one of them.
That fall as opening day of rifle season neared I made arrangements with my uncle to come pick me up from college so I could go up and hunt with the family on opening day. I had shot my gun a few times before that but to say I was a refined marksman would be a drastic exaggeration. The rifle’s open sights combined with my lack of shooting experience made for a rather erratic grouping of shots. Needless to say, I was pretty excited when my uncle said we were going to town to buy a scope for my gun.
We went to the local sporting goods store and picked out a scope. I knew nothing about scopes so my uncle did the talking and I just tried to act like I knew what he was talking about. We took the scope home and my uncle mounted it and boresighted it. Unfortunately by this time it was too dark to do any shooting to test the accuracy of my uncles work. Looking back now I can’t believe I would take a gun afield that I hadn’t sighted in but at the time I didn’t know any better and I couldn’t wait for the morning to come.
November 15th, 1997 I took to the woods for the first time with my very own gun in my hands. I saw several deer that morning but no bucks so my gun remained quiet. That afternoon I headed back out with hopes harvesting my first buck. If I was going to consider myself a real hunter now that I had my own rifle I was going to need a buck to my credit to really solidify my status.
I got set up in a shanty blind along the edge of my uncles property. The blind sat on the south edge of a field facing north towards the edge of the woodlot. It was an area where the deer would often cross the field and I knew that I had to be ready and stay on my toes. It was snowing that afternoon and was one of those days where it’s just awesome to be out in the field. Great fall weather, snow in the air and the excitement of opening day of deer season. It’s hard to believe it can get much better.
As I watched the edge of the woods I saw a deer pop out right at a bit of an indent in the edge of the field. It was a doe and a few more does quickly popped out behind her. They paused for a second before starting to trot across the field and just as I got the binoculars up I saw not one, but two bucks come out behind them. I quickly ditched the binoculars and grabbed my gun instead. At this point in my hunting career I wasn’t going to be too selective or picky in terms of which buck I took so as soon as a deer with antlers was in my scope it was definitely the right buck.
When I had gotten to the blind earlier in the day the window facing the west had been frozen shut thanks to the snow that had fallen and I was unable to get it open. It didn’t occur to me that this may potentially be an issue until the buck in my scope was quickly crossing the field to my west.
I struggled a bit to get steady and as I swung the gun to follow the deer across the field I found myself jammed up against the window frame of the front window. I had to do something or the deer would get by before I was able to get a shot off. I stood up and stuck my head and shoulders out of the window so I could turn to my left and stay on the deer. I got the scope on him and, while hanging halfway out the window, pulled the trigger.
It may be hard to believe but somehow an inexperienced shooter, using a boresighted rifle, hanging halfway out the blind window with no rest managed to pinwheel his first ever buck on a steady trot from about 100yds and drop him right in his tracks. The deer never took another step when the bullet hit him and just about did a front summersault from his momentum. I probably couldn’t do it as well even today but on that day I did it perfectly, the deer hunting god’s were definitely with me.
I’m not sure if I stayed in the blind for more than about 30 seconds after that deer hit the ground but I did manage to call my uncle on the radio and mumble something about shooting a deer and having it drop right there. When I got to the buck I couldn’t contain myself. I was hooting and hollering and making all kinds of ruckus. I can’t remember exactly what I was saying but I’m sure some of it wouldn’t have gone over well in church.
As my uncle arrived to join in the celebration one of the neighbors came over as well. I would imagine that they probably heard all the yelling and assumed the new world record was laying out in the field. As they got to where we were I remember laughing when the neighbor looked at my uncle and said “with all that yelling you would have thought it was your first deer”.
My uncle pointed at me and said “he’s the one who shot and actually it is his first buck”. We all got a laugh out of that and the neighbor congratulated me before heading back over to his own property.
The feeling that came over me that day was something that I had never felt before. That sense of awe, the feeling of achievement and the swell of pride that I felt were overwhelming. I was happy, amazed and even a bit sad all at the same time. It was that moment, standing in that field and taking it all in, feeling all those emotions, all that excitement. It was that moment that I really became a hunter and really began to understand what it meant to hunt and be a hunter.
Ever since that day my love for the sport has continued to grow and as that love grows so does my involvement in hunting. I use to mainly be a gun hunter but the year after this hunt I began to bow hunt regularly. I use to just show up during hunting season and hunt but now we plant food plots, do habitat work and run trail camera’s all year round. Last year I started writing these blog’s as a way to share my love of the sport with others because I know there is someone else out there that wants to read about this stuff, even in mid February. Ever since that day, November 15th 1997, I have been “a deer hunter” and I couldn’t be prouder to say that.
As I sit and write this entry my 22 month old son is taking a nap in the room across the hall. He doesn’t know it yet but when he wakes up we are going to be going on his first ever shed hunt this afternoon. I doubt we’ll find anything and to be honest I really don’t care. I just hope that this is the first of many oppourtunities I have to share the sport of deer hunting with him and I hope that someday he will call himself a hunter as well.
Take care, and thanks for reading!!