The author with his buck. “M
rs. J., I think I am going to be a little late.”
Lucky for me, my third-grade teacher is a hunter, too. Her response was positive when I called to tell her I might not make it to school on time on the Monday morning of Nov. 4.
Hunting is in my blood, as my papa (grandfather) says. By the age of 4, I was shooting birds with my Red Ryder BB gun. I spend as much time as I can in the woods and down at the creek behind my house looking for any sign of game, whether it’s birds, hogs, raccoons, squirrels, or deer. My family manages our deer lease most of the year, spending hours clearing shooting lanes, filling corn feeders, fixing fence, and observing deer growth. I have always loved helping in any way I can, especially when that means ridding the lease of wild hogs that damage the ground and compete with the deer for food. When I was 6-years-old, I got to shoot my first deer, a management spike. During my second year of hunting, my papa and I chose another management spike, and I was lucky to make a successful shot.
For my third hunting season, I was really happy that I was going to get a chance to shoot a bigger buck. On the opening morning of the 2013 whitetail season, I headed out with my papa after an older eight-point buck that we had seen before and felt would be a good management choice for our lease. My heart began to pound as I saw him walk out from the brush in the sendero right in front of the stand. I quietly raised my .243 to the window, flipped off the safety, held my breath, zeroed in on the deer, and squeezed the trigger—CLICK, went the gun and off ran the old eight-point. I was disappointed to figure out that I had not closed my bolt all the way and the bullet was not all the way into my gun chamber. The ride on the way home that evening was none too fun, as I kept replaying the scene in my head over and over.
The following day, I decided to go along with my Aunt Kacey who had seen a different, older, eight-point that we had also discussed being a good management option for me. To my disappointment, the old eight did not make his appearance during that hunt. All I could think about that night, as I packed for school the next morning, was getting back out in the woods as soon as I could. I thought to myself that it was going to be one long week of school.
Monday morning started out just like any other school day—get dressed, eat some breakfast, brush my teeth, and rush to get out the door to get to school on time. Except on the way out to the car that morning, my dad looked out into the pasture behind our house to see the head of a doe bedded down in an open field. He called me out to take a look, and through the binoculars, about 100 yards from my backyard fence lay the doe, and to my amazement, a beautiful buck laying just feet from the doe. I could not believe what I was seeing as I sized him up through the binoculars, counting his points and estimating his spread. We had seen a lot of game around our house in the past, but never had I seen a buck like this one, and I knew he was the buck for me. I ran in to grab my gun and was shocked to realize I had left it in my grandparent’s gun safe the evening before. Luckily, they live right down the road, and my nanny was able to quickly jump in her car with my gun and head over to my house.
This time, I was sure to load the gun all the way. As I rested my gun on the barbed wire of my backyard fence, I was amazed that the buck was still there. Luckily, he stood up and turned to give me the perfect broadside shot. Again, I took a breath, slowly took my gun off safety, and squeezed the trigger. I knew right away that my shot was successful as I watched my trophy fall instantly.
While waiting for my nanny to arrive with my gun, my dad had called my papa, who was making his way up the lane to my house as I took my shot. I was so excited that my family got to be a part of my experience, and I know that none of us will ever forget that morning. As we all ran out in the pasture to look at the buck up close for the first time, my dad asked me if I had been aiming for his neck. And my reply: “Of course, I wasn’t going to let this one get away.”
While measuring and helping my papa and Dad clean my deer, I could not help but think about how everything just fell into place—that deer stayed there through sun rise, my mom starting and loading the car, the feeding of our outside dogs and cats, my brother and I walking out to the car, my nanny driving to deliver my gun, my papa coming down the lane, the minutes spent studying him through the binoculars—I know that I plan to hunt many, many more hours in my life. But I don’t know that any kill will ever be as exciting and memorable as my backyard, before-school buck. By the way, my buck had nine points and a spread of 17 1/8 inches.