Indoctrinated Into the World of Hunting

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After two years of unsuccessful hunts, I finally became a tried and true big game hunter. It was my third year of hunting big game and I wasn’t ready for the flood of emotion that would flow over me after I took my first animal. We had decided to try a new area that I had never been to. It was an area that a couple guys in our group had hunted when they were greenhorns; about 30 years ago! The area is normally considered good mule deer habitat however and I was not worried about spending a couple preference points to get a shot at my first animal. About half our group would be blessed with the good deer hunting the area offered and the other half would try to get lucky and stumble onto one of the very few elk that inhabit the area.

I was a sophomore in high school at the time and would have to miss class to go hunting. Needless to say, I was happy. We left on Thursday afternoon after school and didn’t get into camp until well after dark. The next day would find us scouting areas that our pals had hunted decades prior. The weather was ridiculous. I wished I had a swim suit and tank top on because it was in the mid 80’s. I didn’t like the way things were looking. My spirits were lifted however when, after hiking over a strange, flat rock formation (a random patch of flat, bare rock covering nearly 3 or 4 acres), I jumped two decent bucks that were around 20-24 inches wide. This young hunter was PUMPED UP!

The next morning found me set up on top of a ridge overlooking a gully with pinyon and juniper sprinkled here and there. My brother-in-law was with me as I was still required by law to be within ear shot of an adult. He also had a deer tag but was allowing me to take the first shot. About a ¾ of a mile down the drainage was the highway, the river and some cropland that deer in this unit love to munch on. About a half mile up the drainage from our location the junipers get really thick and ponderosa pines start to become more frequent.

We were set up way before the first rays of light start to dance across the land but I could hear things moving in the bottom of the drainage. I was growing impatient. I was envisioning giant bucks moving around within range but I couldn’t see them because the sun didn’t want to cooperate. Matters only got worse when the sound of antlers crashing together reverberated up from the gully. 

Finally the land started to become visible in only tones of grey. I could still hear something moving around but couldn’t spot what was making the commotion. All of a sudden, four deer broke out of the gully running straight up the ridge across from us. I swung my rifle on the shooting sticks and got on the deer. It was too dark to see if any of them had antlers until they crested the ridge and silhouetted themselves.  The first three deer did not put any thought to stopping and barreled over the top and out of sight. The first two were does and the third a small buck. I prayed that the last deer would stop. And you know what… HE DID! For reasons unbeknownst to me the buck hit the top of the ridge and stopped and looked at us. I held the crosshairs behind his shoulder and fired. It was a long shot for my experience at that time. We would later rangefinder the shot at 287 yards. In my scope during recoil, I could see the deer jump straight up into the air and then take off on a dead run. My brother-in-law thought I had hit him but having not ever had this experience before, I had no idea.

We made our way over to the area the buck had been standing and I started looking for blood. The next 30 minutes were agonizing. I couldn’t find any blood, any hair or even any deer tracks. I was certain I was looking in the right spot and began to give up on the hope that I had hit him.

Then all of a sudden my bro-in-law, who had been looking for blood about 50 yards away from me, yelled that he had found blood. I jumped up and down in joy! I pulled out flagging tape and started flagging literally every drop of blood. This was my first time tracking an animal that I had shot and I was determined to not miss a clue. While I inch-wormed my way up the blood trail my bro-in-law walked the 15 yards to the top of the ridge, looked 20 yards down the other side and said, “There he is. He’s down!” My heart started pumping like a hamster’s. We got up to him and I was overwhelmed emotionally. I was overjoyed to have taken my first animal. I was sad for having taken a life. I vowed to use every piece of meat on him and to tan his hide and cherish this deer forever. I had hit him in the heart and both lungs. My first shot at a big game animal could not have been better and I was relieved to have killed cleanly.

As I have gotten older and my hunting pursuits have brought me more successes, the act of taking a life has become less overwhelming, but it is something I still take very seriously. I still say the same simple prayer that I said that morning; giving thanks to the animal that had allowed me the opportunity to use him and thanking my creator for giving me the opportunity to take part in the sacred hunt. I smeared a small amount of that deer’s blood on my face felt like I had really achieved something. I had finally been indoctrinated into the sacred art of hunting big game.

Comments

jim boyd's picture

great, great story

Hawkeye

Several things jump out at me about this story

First of all - great shot and I mean a long distance shot - at your first deer!!

That is a superior effort and one I have not topped in 30 + years of hunting

Secondly - thank you for sharing the emotions of the moment

As a young man - what 16 or 17 years old - that is a great achievement but to also allow us to peek into your heart (even though now it is several years gone) is a privilege indeed.

I wish other writers (including myself, although I frequently wonder if I qualify as a true writer) could and would open up and let their true feelings and emotions come out in a story like that.

This may well be the most inspiring story I have read on BGH yet.

Great work and great writing - well done!!

Jim

CVC's picture

Jim, I wonder if the posters

Jim, I wonder if the posters that post a reply about my story and enjoying it really enjoyed it or are they just trying to get points for commenting on it?

Isn't the display with the skull a great trophy?  Nice way to display and remember the deer and hunt. 

Ca_Vermonster's picture

As long as it's about

As long as it's about hunting, and it's a true story, I enjoy them all, so all of my posts are sincere.  Even the ones about you... Wink

Great story Hawkeye!  Nice buck for your first one.  I love the stories of first animals that are taken!!!

jim boyd's picture

CVC Good question but when

CVC

Good question but when you read a story like this one - you cannot help but be appreciative.

I have seen some folks on here "dig" for points but I do think that most are sincere.

Of course we want the points but I think if you are making cognitive remarks and are contributing to the overall good of the site - I think you earned any points you get.

If you take the time we spend trying to earn points and then compare the cost of the prizes we may earn (not that the prizes are inconsequential, they are not) we would be better off working somewhere and buying the same prize

You are a good example - you will win a kimber rifle but how many hours of typing did it take to do it?

Not that you are an exception - we all fall into the same category.

Jim

CVC's picture

Jim, you're right of course. 

Jim, you're right of course.  Most of the comments to me about my stories have been very short positive ones which are appreciated and not ones that will score a lot of points.  So I have to believe they meant what they said. 

And when I write a story there is the motivation to score point, but I want to write a story that will be enjoyed by its readers, that shares an insight into my world and perhaps has a lesson in it too.

I find your comment about the hours spent to be right on target as are most of your comments.  I thought to myself how many hours would I have to work at McDonalds to get enough cash to buy a rifle and how many hours have I spent typing?  Might be easier to work at Mickey D's.

But, one thing that i wouldn't have is an opportunity to learn about a lot of the members.  CaVermonster has been here for a long time, but I never knew who he was before the contest.  I have also learned all the nooks and crannies of this site and there is a lot of good information on it.

And, I wouldn't be able to sit here and enjoy your hunting trip in IL if it weren't for this contest so there are lots of perks to participating.

CVC's picture

The story is nice and takes

The story is nice and takes us deep inside the emotion you were feeling that day.  I can appreciate the way you feel about taking the life of the animal, but it is not an emotion I feel.  I wouldn't do something that made me sad.  i intentionally kill the animal so there is no sadness on my part for killing it.  It is, from my perspective, just the circle of life.

But, everyone is different and is affected by events differently so I can appreciate the deep emotion you experienced that day.  The one thing about the story that makes it special is the picture.  You have a real nice trophy there.  I like the way it details the hunt and commenurates the hunt and that special day for you.

Good job!

jaybe's picture

Great Story!

Hawkeye,

  That really is a great story, a was well-told.

  There is always something about that first head of game that we take that will live on in our mind for as long as we live.

  I can still remember the details of my first deer like it was yesterday, and it was over 40 years ago!

  Here in Michigan, it's usually (but not always) relatively easy to take note of the spot where the deer was when you shot it -

  - it was beside that pine tree, or right next to that bush, or whatever.

  I can only imagine how much more difficult it is when the deer is 200+ yards away.

  You'd have to pick out something and take good note of where it is so you can find it to look for signs of a hit.

  I laughed when you said you were flagging every drop of blood - how like a guy who just shot his first deer!

  Thanks for the story.

  That's a pretty neat way to mount the skull and antlers.