True File: A story about the first, and only time I ever went hunting with my dad.
-Deer Hunting With Dad-
When I was eleven years old I was fortunate enough to go deer hunting with my dad. It would be the first and subsequently the only time in my life I would ever go deer hunting with him. Up until that day I had never wanted to shoot any animals because I was a pretty laid-back child and killing animals never made much sense to me.
My older brothers on the other hand could often be found out in the woods behind our house shooting squirrels with 12 gauge shotguns. They seemed to live for the chance to hunt, kill, and eat animals. I just wanted to spend time with my dad, so for me the day was more about that than anything else.
I remember as a child seeing deer all of the time running around the fields by my dad house. From time to time I was fortunate enough to go up to visit him for a long weekend. My parents had long since split up and for the most part they really did not get along. My mother loved to deny my dad the privilege of seeing his kids and of course that is an entirely different story.
I remember that day as clear as if I was standing there right now in that large field in Southern Maine in which it all unfolded. Earlier that day my father showed me how to load and fire his powerful Winchester 30/30 rifle. I remember thinking that it looked just like the ones cowboys always had in western movies. It was a cool gun.
After practicing we walked around the fields for several hours, not seeing any deer. It was a calm, peaceful day. The last bits of hard snow had been melted away the day before. I don't remember exactly what time of the year it was but I do remember being able to see my breath in the cool air.
As we walked along we somehow became divided. In an instant, he was maybe seventy five yards away from me across an open field. We had walked along the field and we were both heading towards the woods at the far end. I made eye contact with him several times just to let him know that I was alright.
Then as we got closer to the end of the field, there before me in the tree line I could see the shape of a massive buck. He was a huge male. He had at least an eight -point rack. I say that now as I close my eyes and remember him. In truth he was probably a bit smaller, maybe a six-point buck at best.
I could see him quite clearly. He had his back to us and he was lowering his head like he was quite busy eating some wild berries or something. I did not want to yell to alert my dad so I looked over for him. At that very moment, my dad was turned away looking off in a direction opposite of me. I had no way to let him know the large buck was just there in the tree line.
As I think of it now, I really was quite afraid to kill that buck. Nonetheless, I raised the 30/30 and took my best aim. Maybe in a way part of me just wanted to scare that buck into running from the woods. Maybe I thought if I did that then it would run towards my dad and he could shoot it instead.
My nervousness grew as I aimed in the direction of the buck. I was certainly no marksmen, so I was quite certain that I would miss him by a mile. I was now at least fifty yards away from him. The buck never saw me, and neither did my dad. I took in a deep breath, steadied the rifle as best I could and then I fired one shot. The rifle kicked me like a mule. A wave of pain shot through my body, nearly knocking me to the ground.
The big buck instantly fell down to the ground. As I look back on it now, truthfully I was quite excited that I had actually hit him. I was sure that he was dead, and my dad a consummate hunter would certainly be proud of his little boy turned big game killer.
My dad was still across the large field, maybe fifty plus yards away. He turned to face me when he heard the rifle crack. In that moment of excitement, I forgot all of the instruction he had given me.
I had just fired my rifle and long before the sound faded away I was already running down the field towards the downed buck. I remember screaming, "I got one! I got one!" Over and over again I repeated it.
As I reached the tree line, their laying on the ground was the massive buck. He had a large wound to the side of his head, right near his large rack. I was sure that he was dead as dead could be. I stood there and watched as bright red blood poured from his head.
I waited for a few seconds and then I turned around to yell to my dad that I had just killed a buck and that I was certain it was as dead as could be.
Just as I turned to face my dad, I could see him running towards me in what appeared to be slow motion. He was screaming at the top of his lungs, “Noooooo!!!”
It was all so surreal of a moment and in an odd way the earth and all time seemed to just stand still. I stood there and watched my dad running towards as I myself was like a deer in headlights. I had no idea why he was running towards me with such fear on his face but I would quickly find out.
Then from behind me a series of loud snorting sounds snapped me from my daze of wonder. Quickly I turned back and there with just a few feet of me was the large buck I had thought for certain was quite dead. In fact he was not dead at all, the large buck was just knocked out for a few seconds by the powerful 30/30 round that had only grazed its head.
I still to this day can close my eyes and remember the odd look in large buck’s eyes. They glowed the brightest of red I have ever seen. Snort and steam came from his nose as blood poured from the wound. It stood there looking at me in utter rage like it as if was about to rip me limb from limb.
I fumbled with the rifle, not realizing that I had forgotten to chamber a round in all my foolish excitement. I raised it waist high and pulled the trigger. The rifle made a loud click noise, which only seemed to snap the buck further out of its haze.
I could hear my dad screaming bloody murder as he got closer to me. I was now of course frozen in fear. I could not have moved even if I had tried. I was sure the big buck was gonna jam his pointed antlers deep into my chest. At that time I maybe weighted in around seventy pounds and I’m sure that the buck weighed more than a few hundred. I would have stood no chance against him. I would have been crushed and or gored to death.
Just as the large buck lowered his head and prepared to drive at me, from behind I could hear a rapid concession of gunshots. Instantly, the large buck seemed to explode in pieces as the powerful 45 caliber rounds from my dad’s handgun found their mark. He fired at least six shots and all of them hit the big buck in the body and neck. The large buck fell to the ground at my feet and this time it was clearly dead.
As my dad reached me, he quickly holstered his pistol and without as much as a single word and with one swift motion he backhanded me across the face harder than I’ve ever been hit in my life both then and since. It hurt like hell, but I stood tall even though I’m not sure how I did. He then took the 30/30 rifle from my hands. I would never again touch one of his guns. I stood there knowing all too well that I had made a mistake and that he had just saved my life.
The buck was not far from my dad’s house so we walked me back, never saying a single word to each other. He retrieved his small tractor and left to head back out to fetch the large buck. I went to sit in his house and try to get my senses back together.
My dad would return sometime later with the buck. He carved it up and in no time that large deer was in sizes small enough to fit in his freezer. After he was done he took the remains and buried them out in the same field by his house.
We had deer steaks for dinner that night and I have to admit, they were quite good. He never so much as said boo to me about it and I would of course never again go hunting with him. He and I never did talk about the incident until years later as an adult on one of my trips back home to visit.
To this day my father acts like it never even happened. Maybe it’s his way of saying that I could have been killed or maybe he is just still mad at me or mad at himself in some way?
I don't know for sure, but regardless of all that it is a great story to tell and to have lived...
Deer Hunting With Dad
Written by Keaton Foster Copyright © 2013.