So, Saturday was an unmitigated disaster for all intents and purposes. I was going to get some sleep, get up, and go home.
Then at dinner on Saturday night I heard how we were only going to hunt for three hours on Sunday before cleaning up and heading home. After a 5 1/2 hour drive down I figured I could stick it out for another three hours of suffering.
We were going to try another piece of property so maybe my luck would change.
Sunday morning rolled around darned early and we were getting dressed, making coffee, and packing all at the same time. We were out the door and on the way to the woods at 5am. We got to start a little later because we'd be on private property versus the public property we'd hunted on Saturday where spots are first come first served.
We parked and I got out in time to hear that I'd be in a tree stand some 200 yards from the parking lot. The tree stand, I would discover in just a few minutes, was some 2X4s nailed to the tree and a platform maybe 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep 18 feet above the ground.
Now, I'm not afraid of heights but I did fall asleep a couple of times sitting under a tree on Saturday and sleeping up 18 feet seemed to have some risks associated with it. I also worried about the cold air blowing up from under me and I brought my closed cell foam pad, my backpack, and a Nalgene full of hot coffee. I took some abuse for the load as I was crawling up the tree but, I thought, better to endure some chop-busting now than frozen feet, legs, and butt later. Hah! I'd show them. :)
Well, the first few nervous minutes on the platform kept me plenty warm and the thought of falling trumped the thought of freezing. The first thing I did was drop the foam pad to the ground. It took up precious real estate on the stand that I might need. Next I tied off my pack to the lift rope and hung it from the tree. That way I could reach it and pull it up if needed but it, too, stayed off of my platform. I kept the gun, loading tools, and my coffee and the rest had to go.
The early morning light in the woods can play tricks on your eyes and your mind while you're waiting for enough light to shoot. I can't count the number of "deer" I saw in range before sunup that turned into tree stumps, clumps of grass, or simply dancing shadows. Shooting with iron sights meant no magnification from a scope and I left my binoculars in the car. Then I saw something...
A little spike buck walked through my area about 40 yards out. He wasn't very big but he was the first animal I'd seen since the monster trophy on Saturday morning. My adrenaline spiked. I sort of danced around for a second trying to get a good, stable setup to shoot, and gently squeezed the trigger. The shot must have just
missed him as he jumped about three feet in the air before taking off like a greyhound at the races. NUTS!
Was that my only chance for today? Had I just blown it by shooting before I was calm? I was definitely perturbed about my inability to close the deal.
I thought about what I had just done wrong and vowed that I wouldn't make the same mistakes again if given an opportunity.
Ten minutes later I would get my chance.
I saw a good sized doe about 30 (maybe 40) yards away walking behind some trees and scrub. I remembered the previous shot and knelt down to give myself a very secure shooting position and lost her. She walked behind a branch I could see over while standing but in the kneeling position she was covered and I couldn't take the shot. COME ON! Again?!
Then the 8-point walked from my right 60 yards out. He must've been walking with the doe and I somehow missed him. I turned a bit to get comfortable, wrapped my right arm through the sling, and rested my shooting arm on my knee for support. I thought to myself, "shoot him when he gets to the stump." Five more steps...four more steps...he stops to eat something on the ground...three more steps...two more steps...one step...BANG!
He went down on the spot. The shot went through right in front of his front leg and through the lower neck. For a few minutes I thought I must've missed him too. I couldn't see him and hadn't seen him run. Then I spotted the white underside of his tail right behind the stump. He wasn't moving. My thoughts turned to thankfulness and the need to respect the deer for his sacrifice.
I waited another minute or two before getting out of the tree stand to make sure I had reloaded and then I walked over. He wasn't breathing and had a small hole in his neck with a tiny bit of blood (3-5 tablespoons maybe) on his neck and on the ground. I recalled those stories in Field and Stream and Outdoor Life where the hunter goes to tag the deer and the deer jumps up and either wounds the hunter or runs off with the hunter's rifle in his rack. So I put my body weight on his head while I slit the skin on his upper rear leg to run my tag through and he didn't flinch. Hmm...he must really
Up close I could determine that the shot had gone through both jugulars and the esophagus killing him instantly and, hopefully, painlessly.
Then I was struck with the sense that I was now fully a part of the food chain as I never had been before. I had killed my own food, was going to gut it, skin it, and butcher it prior to cooking and eating it.
Thanks for reading,