My First Deer

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Most of us look back at our first big game kill fondly. It started a chain reaction of events that defined our lives and shaped our hopes and dreams giving us courage and helping us make new friends. Killing my first deer was exactly that for me. I started hunting at 12, as soon as legally possible. From my adult perspective, putting a shotgun in the hands of an unsupervised 12 year old is completely reckless, never would I consider allowing this to happen now, but they were different times. The very first year I hunted, I shot a doe and never found it, so my hopes were at record levels for season number 2. At the ripe age of 13 I was sure I could handle absolutely anything that came my way.

In Ohio, shotgun season was 7 days long and we were only allowed 2 deer in those days. My uncle Dick drove us down the highway toward our destination. The usual hunting cmap on National Forest ground in one of the most backwoods areas of the state. The long drive on gravel roads was more than worth it to get to the deer loaded woods of Ring's Mill.

I still look back on these old days at the deer camp. spending the week camping with my uncle, eating leftover turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving (always being the week before deer season) and spending time away from mom and dad becoming a man. Not only was deer camp where I drank my first beer, it was where I had many of my firsts as a young man. Part of my soul will always be with the hollows surrounding the tributaries of the Ohio river. It was almost a magical place to live.

On opening day of my second deer season, as you can imagine, I was already an old pro at deer camp! I chose my spot and consorted with other hunters at the camp ground to make sure we weren't hunting the same spots. Good news for me, nobody else was hunting that far from camp.

I walked in for what seemed like hours. And it may have been. When I chose a spot next to a tree, the sun was just coming up. Squirrels started their morning shuffle through the thick leaves and I leaned back to listen for deer hooves. It didn't take long and I heard that familiar sound of hooves falling into the dirt

When I looked to my right, I saw the rising sun gleam on the bucks small horns. I re-shouldered my shotgun on my left shoulder, aimed with my iron sights, and put a sizeable hole into the buck precisely too far back. I watched in surprise and shock, as the buck stumbled over to the edge of a small creek. He laid down and licked his wound. I was paralyzed thinking "he's supposed to die. Any second now." An hour later the buck laid down his head. I stood up and reloaded my shotgun. When I approached the buck, his head sprang up and he tried to crawl with his front legs. He crawled to the creek bank where he fell down the 4 foot tall bank into 1 foot of water.

The wounded buck was trapped, he was mortally wounded and I was not mature enough to know what to do to handle the situation appropriately. We were at a stand off. I pointed my shotgun at the buck to finally end his misery. The buck looked at me, and he grunted a deep, gutteral death grunt and expired before I took a second shot. Quite possibly it was a combination of the first shot and the broken leg it got when it fell into the creek, or maybe God saved me from myself.

I'm not proud of how the situation unfolded. I know better now. I tell the story, not to boast of my accomplishment, but to acnowledge my humanity and exercise my humility. These points I admit so that I can reflect on how far I've come as a hunter and as a man. We never took a good photograph of my buck, but I will remember the drag back to camp for the rest of my life. It took the rest of the day. In fact, my uncle already had the sheriff out looking for me. When I drug the deer up to the nearest road, only a few hundred yard from our camp, the sheriff was heading down the trail in my direction and he asked me if I had seen a lost kid. I replied "no sir, ain't seen another soul all day." He laughed, returned to his car and headed out to do whatever sheriffs do.

I returned to camp, dragging my trophy, as a man in my own eyes.

I'll never forget those moments, they've made me the man I am today. 


ManOfTheFall's picture

Great story. I did everything

Great story. I did everything on my own when it came to hunting. No one ever took me out, showed me the ins and outs it was all learned by trial and error. My first deer season was when I was 13. I finally shot my first deer at age 22. It dropped on the spot but it took me over an hour to gut it. Now, most deer i put a tag on are done in less than 10 minutes. My record is 6 minutes. Oh well, those were definitely the days and thankfully my children have not had to go through the same learning process I did. Thanks for sharing. It was a great read. 

deerhunter30's picture

Great times, ones you will

Great times, ones you will never forget. I can still remember every step my first buck took until it made it into shooting to every step it took till it fell.

hunter25's picture

great story and it's amazing

great story and it's amazing how similar the experiences we all had when we were young and inexperienced. My first deer fell to an arrow and took many hours of tracking to recover. It was only a button buck and I was only around thirteen years old at the time but the memory and the anguish of nearly losing him are still very fresh in my mind. Thankfully age and maturity has prevented any similar events from happening but I know the possibility is always there. Plus my own experiences have helped to prevent my kids from having anything similar from happening. Although my dad prepared me the best he could I still hunted alone back then, that is not a mistake I made with my kids and have been with them to talk them through nearly every shot they have ever made.

arrowflipper's picture

loved your story

I loved your story on so many levels.  I related to the feelings of a boy trying to become a man.  The desire; no the need; to do things by himself.  The incredible feeling of accomplishment when dragging that deer into camp.  The knowledge that he did it himself and on his own terms.

I felt the pain of the kid as he watched the deer suffering.  Your story was much like my own when I was 13.  I too shot my first buck that year.  He was a fine 5X5 but when I got to him, he was up on his front legs looking at me.  I had clipped his spine.  I had to put the second shot into him and I had huge mixed feelings.  The pride of doing what I had just done combined with the pain of killing an animal.  I find myself with that pain every so often even today.

I felt the reluctance to shoot the deer again.  Why didn't he just die from the first shot?  Why must he look at me that way?

Your story brought back so many memories and feelings.  Thanks for sharing and congratulations on a fine buck.  Time sure has a way of slipping by doesn't it?  I shot my first buck 53 years ago this October.  Wow!


groovy mike's picture

We learn from our mistakes and that too makes us who we are.

Ndemiter: we do in fact look back on our first deer fondly. I know that when I took my first deer, I was as proud of that fork horned white tail buck as if he had been an African bull elephant with hundred pound ivory tusks on each side! There is no doubt that taking our first game makes us who we are today. It is a part of our psyche. We either run from it after that first encounter with death, or embrace a life long passion as a big game hunter. At least I did. I didn’t start hunting until I was near twenty years old, but I went through feelings very similar to yours. There is a learning curve that every hunter goes through. We are all human. We all make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes and that too makes us who we are. One of the things that we learn as hunters is to take pictures. To take better pictures and more of them as the years go by. We can’t get back the pictures never taken but we can try to make better ones going forward. Thank you for sharing your story. You had better luck than I did. It took me until my fourth year of hunting to bag a deer. I’m looking forward to hearing more of your stories and seeing more of your photographs as time goes by – especially after the end of the month ! ;)

GooseHunter Jr's picture

Great story.  In so many ways

Great story.  In so many ways you will never forget you first big game kill.  Mine was on na cow elk and the one thing That sticks out in my mind is after I tracked down my dad who was only 50 yards away but on the other side of the hill....I still remeber the great big hug that he gave me as I went up to him and told him she was down.  Remeber it like it was yesterday and it was 20 years ago.  He still to this day gets more excited for me when I kill something that when he does for himself.....I am sutre I will be the same way for my in few years.  For me also it started a chain raction and I started to hunt more animals alot alot more often.

elkkill06's picture

Great story !


What a great story ! ;) We all start some where and that is truely how we begin learning. I remember my first deer like it was yesterday and that was 27 years ago. It did not go prerfectly either.