Let me tell you about the opening day of the 2013 deer hunting season.
Bow season had long passed, the snow had already begun to fly, clearly it was rifle season now. Despite the below-freezing temperatures and bitter wind chill, I put on my battery powered, heated socks and headed out into the wilderness. For the entire first half of the day I didn’t see anything but a fellow hunter. The only sounds I heard were the songs of birds accompanied by the cracking of the trees as the sun slowly warmed their frozen sap.
The birds must have decided that I was harmless, because next thing I knew, I was surrounded by chickadees. They hovered around me and even settled on my hat and shoulders. One of them even perched on Veronica’s stock! (Veronica is my husband’s gun, for those of you who don’t know.)
After I scared the birds off, I also accidentally scared away a fellow hunter. I saw him heading toward me, and decided to sit down and chat for a bit. Thing is, I had to grab my gun in order to sit down straight, and he must have thought I was crazy or something, because he immediately turned tail and headed away. Oops. My husband found me after that, however, and I shared some hot coffee with him. He was kind enough to keep watch for me while I squatted behind a tree to answer nature’s call. It takes a while to get out of all those layers.
After Hubby left, I suddenly got that feeling. It doesn’t come upon me often, but I have learned to always pay attention to it. Every time in my life that I have ever ignored it, I have come to regret it. I got a sense of which direction I should be paying attention to, so I turned to face that way and settled down to wait.
I didn’t have to wait long. Just twenty minutes after the feeling came over me, I sighted three deer not more than 60 yards away from me. I reached out for Veronica, carefully and easily, then pulled up my binoculars. They showed me that I was dealing with a buck fawn and two does. I watched them for a while, in order to get a sense of their behavior. I have a firm philosophy of “one shot, one kill,” and the best way to ensure that is if you have a good idea of what your target is going to do next.
The problem was, I was a little nervous about shooting Veronica. I found that I was thinking less about making a clean shot than I was worried the kickback would break my shoulder and pitch me right out my stand. I started to feel like I had maybe bitten off more than I could chew when I asked him for her. So I took the time to make sure the shot counted. The deer were creeping away, and still I waited, trying to still the shakes in my shoulders and arms. Then, once my breathing was settled and I no longer felt the cold or the fear, the deer suddenly turned back toward me and the shot just came together.
As her front shoulder came in line with my reticle; I flicked off the safety, took a deep breath, and slowly pulled the trigger. The doe dropped. No running, no tracking. Just one shot, one kill. It was the perfect shot. The type I had always envisioned and practiced for.
There was something special and satisfying about taking that deer on opening day; the way it all came together, the moment of truth, and the satisfaction of harvesting a beautiful animal. It is days like that remind me why I love hunting, and certainly one I’ll never forget!