Patience - First Deer Hunt
I did not begin my hunting career until I was 30 years old. I became a father that year and the hunter-gatherer instinct took hold. My first gun was a 10/.22; the only thing I had ever shot besides a BB gun. When it came time for big game hunting I borrowed a 7mm Rem. Mag. from my neighbor after promising to take his 15 year-old son with me. I did my homework over the summer scouting numerous times to commit the landscape and deer sign to memory.
Opening day dawned, barely, amid a cold fog and hazy overcast sky. After spending 2 1/2 hrs. glassing from a ridge the urge to evacuate my bladder overcame my ability to concentrate on finding animal shapes in the adjacent draw. I moved quietly to a tree some 100 yds away and took care of business. When I finished I decided to move up the ridge to a spot I had looked over in previous visits to the area. As I settled down on the rock I heard a barrage of gunfire from the next canyon. Shortly after I saw a line of four muley does filing down the adjacent ridge and into the draw just below me. As I looked to a spot in the dense brush where I thought they might hide I noticed a branch moving. Closer inspection revealed it to be not a branch, but a thick set of antlers! At the notion that I might fill my tag with a trophy buck on the very first day of big game hunting in my life I began to shake like I was having a seizure. I was conscious of the possibility of "Buck Fever", but I never thought it would happen to me. As I fumbled with my binoculars in the confusion I wasted precious time in bringing up the gun. By the time the gun made it to my shoulder I was shaking so badly that I couldn't have found that buck in the scope if he was 50 yds away, much less 150 yds away. In my clumsiness I allowed the deer to spot me and off they ran. I was fully disappointed, but also exhilarated and! completely hooked on the pursuit of big game.
Throughout the rest of the week we spotted many deer. One morning we took a stand on an out-cropping of rocks on a plateau covered with shallow, brush-choked draws. I was feeling particularly determined and very restless, so I motioned to the kid to stay put and watch for anything I might drive out. Within the first few steps in the meadow a 3x3 buck stood broadside to me at 30 yds. I immediately brought the gun to my shoulder and rested the cross-hairs on a fuzzy brown spot. I couldn't see anything at all, so I lowered the gun in time to see the buck bound off through the tangle of draws. The scope had been set at 9x when I was glassing from up high expecting a long shot. I immediately realized my mistake and took off running after the buck to try for an interception as he crossed the next meadow. When I caught a glimpse of his direction I settled the scope on the edge of the clearing and waited for him to appear. BOOM! One shot rang out and the deer went down and into the trees. A very startled 15 yr-old emerged to find me pumping my fist and explaining the shot. We quickly made for the edge of the forest where I had last seen the buck. As we approached the point where I had shot the deer another gunshot broke the silence. My heart sank. I knew that my deer was gone. We continued to track the buck to his final resting place only 300 yds further where he had been gut-shot by another hunter. As I congratulated him I wearily inspected the animal to find a single bullet hole through his neck from my shot. I told the hunter that it would have killed me to know that I had wounded an animal, so i was glad that someone got him. The hunter then struggled to concoct a story about how he had shot the buck twice, using two different bullets (you know, to save money). I was disappointed, but not about to argue over a ruined animal. As we made our way back to camp my companion told me that he, too heard only one shot besides mine.
The season ended without a successful harvest, but I learned a lot and I am glad that I have taken up the hunt. I saw many animals, from fox and coyote, to mule deer and bighorn sheep, and I was accompanied for an entire morning by a grey owl. These memories will be with me always.
The driveway makes a secure hangout to get through hunting season!