An actual account of the first deer that I bagged many years ago.
|Several years ago, I was hunting towards the end of the season. As a fairly new hunter, I had relied heavily upon "free advice" from family and friends. Another source of valued hunting lore came from gleaning gems from the popular periodicals on hunting. One thing that I quickly discerned was that tactics and approaches to deer hunting vary considerably amongst both occasional and expert hunters. One major division was whether to hunt "on the ground" or "up a tree". Most of my family (stepfather and brothers) preferred the former approach. Another difference was whether to attempt to "drive" the deer with a group or to hunt in a solitary manner using stealth, cover, wind direction, etc.
On the day near the end of the season, it was past 4:00 PM when I decided to "still hunt" up the side of a low hill about 200 yards at an angle to my brother Mike's ground stand. This meant that I would take a step, slowly turn my head about 300 degrees, count to 20, and repeat. It takes a great deal of patience which I found in short supply. After about 20 minutes and advancing only about 30 yards, I had a big surprise! A huge doe was jumping down the hill above and to my left. It was an amazing sight. The deer was jumping in 20 - 35 foot bounds and was out of sight in about 10 to 15 seconds. So much for still hunting, I was mostly in shock and did not even bring my 12 gauge up to shoot. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. I was angry, frustrated, and thoroughly spent with emotion.
I literally stomped through the woods making as much noise as I could till I reached the small cluster of three trees that my brother claimed as his stand. I knew that any deer within 1/2 mile could hear me, and I just didn't care. As I gazed at the stand, I noticed that there was an old tree stand built in the three trees about 10 feet up. As a spur of the moment decision, I shimmed up one of the small trees (the steps had broken off years ago), and slung my Remington Light 12 over the stand support. I then slid down and caught my breath. A few minutes later, I shimmied back up and crawled onto the stand. I had not realized how small it was! The stand had no side rails for support and/or safety. I had to sit with my legs around a small tree and my back leaning on the 2 smaller trunks behind me. It was not real cold out, and after my stomping and shimming up the tree - I was warm and tired (did I say frustrated?). I rested my eyes for a few seconds (probably 5 - 20 minutes). I awoke when I heard a movement off to my left. I figured it was a squirrel, and did not turn. However, the noise got louder - so I turned to my left side.
I barely contained a gasp as I saw a large doe walking right towards my position. It was smelling the ground and pawing through the snow and leaves for something to eat. My heart was beating very fast and I slowly lowered the shotgun to the left of the tree in front of me. I carefully pushed the safety off - hoping that the deer would not hear the click.. or my breathing.. or my heartbeat. As I sighted down the barrel of my gun, I realized that I had no shot. I was looking at the tail of the deer that had walked past the left side of the front tree. I inwardly screamed at myself for miscalculating. I was sure when I repositioned my shotgun that the deer would hear, smell or see me move. I slowly raised the gun and brought it down on the right side of the tree. Amazing! - the creature was pawing again through the leaves again - but was behind a small thorn apple. My heart was beating faster as I sighted in to where the deer would appear. I slowly squeezed off a shot when I had the target in my view.
I missed! I could have hit this deer with a rock. I screamed inwardly at myself again. You blew it buddy - the deer will be gone! Again, I was completely surprised - the 12 gauge sounded like a cannon. The deer looked over in my general direction and casually started browsing again for acorns. I sighted in again just a tad lower this time and slowly pulled the trigger. BOOM and the deer dropped. I started to stand up so I could get down. Then I stopped. I remembered my older brother telling me about how deer could run for some distance after being shot. I sat in the tree and caught my breath. After about 10 minutes, with no movement at all from the deer, I got down.
As I approached the deer, I heard a sound from my right. It was my older brother Mike. "You son of a gun, you got one from my stand" he said. I looked down at my quarry and saw that it was a large buck. It was missing the right side antler. It appeared to have been shot off some time ago. My buck had a small spread to the rack, but the left side had three good tines. The deer was about 180 pounds. The backstrap was great, but the experience was priceless. Most of my family now hunt from tree stands.