The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

First day of hunting season

Even though hunting season only started today, I've been hunting in my mind for two weeks.  After a serious bout of target practice at the beginning of the month, the gun has sat in front of the living room window.  At intervals, I would turn off the deer deterrents and let the deer into the yard, but every time I cracked a window, the deer were gone.

I learned that we have two sets of deer that visit our garden --- a doe with a relatively young fawn and a pair of adults.  I learned their paths, too, and the time of day they like to come to call.  Half a dozen times, I thought I might get a shot at them.  Three times, I took the safety off the gun and pumped a shell into the chamber.  But I wasn't going to shoot until I was sure I would kill the deer, not just wound it.

I turned off the deer deterrents last night, then woke at 5:51, dreaming of deer hunting.  At dawn, I opened the door --- and two deer fled up the hillside out of the yard.  Was that my one chance, gone?

Still, it was the perfect dusky morning, just the time when deer like to travel.  I leashed Lucy, made sure the safety was on the gun, and headed off for our morning walk.  In the powerline cut, I startled our other set of deer, but these two only ran a few feet and stopped.  I crept forward and the deer watched me but stayed put.  My second chance!

I silently ordered Lucy to sit, then crouched down myself and took the safety off the gun.  Lucy is a good dog, but she's not used to hunting --- she tried to crawl into my lap with the gun, and the ensuing scuffle sent the deer running again.  But again they stopped and waited.  Again I crept forward.  This time, Lucy sat, I crouched, the deer watched. 

I'd been practicing to hit the heart, just behind the front leg.  But the deer in my sights was only visible from the neck up.  I could try for a head shot and risk missing entirely,  or guess where its heart might be and fire blindly into the weeds.  I chose the latter, checked one last time to make sure my aim was accurate, then pulled the trigger.

I can't even remember the gun going off.  Suddenly, the second deer was fleeing in huge bounds, her white tail a brilliant flag against the brown woods.  The deer I'd shot at was invisible.  Did I hit it?  Wound it?  Kill it?

I beat a path through the brambles to the spot where the deer had stood.  Nothing.  But I faintly smelled a hint of gunpowder and blood so I let Lucy off the leash, hoping she'd track
Dead white-tailed deerdown the wounded deer.  She set off like a shot and I raced behind her until she crossed the creek to the neighbor's hay field.  Was my deer really gone?

I circled back around toward home and nearly stumbled upon my deer.  It had fled about twenty feet, then died just outside the powerline cut.  Upon further inspection, I saw that my shot had been about five inches off, hitting the lungs instead of the heart --- still a pretty good hit.

Carrying the deer home.I have to admit that at this point, my adrenaline was pumping so hard that I couldn't think what to do next.  So I made sure the safety was on the gun and ran home to my husband, waking him out of a sound sleep to come help me gut the deer, tie it to a board, and carry it home.

My very first deer!  I guess I shouldn't feel so special since the newspaper is always full of photos of six year olds and their first kill at this time of year.  But I'm oddly exhilarated, floating on air.  A deerslayer wannabe no longer, Mark has taken to calling me "Killer."

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Comment by roseanell Sat Nov 14 09:38:16 2009

Hey Anna, you go girl, you worked with that Gun!!!!!!! Now how do I get my deer roast!!! :>),

. . V . . . .


Comment by Darryl Cannady Sat Nov 14 10:14:52 2009
Thank you, thank you, thank you! :-) You're totally right --- learning to cook it is the next step!
Comment by anna Sat Nov 14 10:50:30 2009

I'd love to see a post on processing the deer, including the gutting done in the woods and what cuts you ended up with. What is the final weight of all the meat you can put up to eat?

And I'm also glad you shot it in the woods instead of out of your window. I know it's all about the food so there's no shame in doing what you have to do to eat (especially when they come and eat your garden every day) but I'm sure it felt better to kill your first deer in the wood than it would have from the comfort of your trailer.


Comment by Everett Sat Nov 14 16:00:32 2009
I'm glad you asked! I've got a good long post coming up on that topic tomorrow morning. :-)
Comment by anna Sat Nov 14 17:03:45 2009

Congratulations and well done!

Even though I know it was a pest, I'm sure you took a moment to recognize the deer's spirit?

Enjoy the feast!

Comment by Jerry Sun Nov 15 01:19:58 2009

Congratulations! I'm jealous. I haven't been able to make my first hunt yet this year. Something about working too much. Maybe over Thanksgiving when I go visit my friends in Arkansas.

When you cook the venison, keep in mind that deer is usually much leaner than what most people are used to cooking such as beef, etc. So, if you cook a roast it will dry out a bit easier than other meats.

Comment by Shannon Sun Nov 15 03:13:08 2009

Jerry --- actually, the deer's pestiness seemed to pale in comparison to its life once I started hunting. I almost forgot to honor its spirit after the kill, but only because of the adrenaline. Actually, it almost felt like the deer's spirit sat in my body for the rest of the day --- I felt twice as alive. Luckily, Mark did bring me back to reality immediately when I brought him to the deer. He said a few words over it and we both honored the life the deer had led.

Shannon --- very good point about the meat. I did some googling for info on cooking venison and will definitely add some oils and/or other liquids when cooking to keep it from drying out! Do you have any good recipes? (Good luck with your own hunting this year!)

Comment by anna Sun Nov 15 09:05:55 2009

Anna Very exciting! What kind of gun was it a deer rifle with slugs? What ammunition?

Comment by Jayne Sun Nov 15 10:02:30 2009
Jayne --- no, it was a 40 caliber, semi-automatic rifle. I know very little about ammunition, but on the box it says "40 S&W, 80 G. Full Metal Jacket." Dunno if that's relevant...
Comment by anna Sun Nov 15 12:49:07 2009
Congratulatioins! Jim Bell, one of our hunt club members, gave me a a recipe from his wife for a leg of deer. I have not tried it yet, but plan on doing so for my committee meeting the second Saturday of December. He says it is delicious.
Comment by Sheila Bach Sun Nov 15 19:14:03 2009
Sheila --- thanks! You'll have to give me the recipe if it's tasty. Grilling the meat was divine!
Comment by anna Mon Nov 16 07:37:54 2009

Congrats on the harvest of your first deer. It is a moment in time that you will always look back on and still have a little bit of that feeling you had when you first found your deer after the shot. Thats where I beleive the deers spirit is.

Sounds like a great clean kill. I would only suggest, that in the future, you use some kind of soft nose bullet or hollow point. Full metal jackets will enter and exit the deer with very little expansion. Therefore it can pass thru with less damage to the vitals and more chance of just wounding the animal. Not to mention that the bullet will still carry much of its momentum after exiting the deer, so you have to be concerned with what is down range much more. Hollow points will expand much more. Causing more of the momentum to be transfered to the vitals, insuring a better kill shot.

Sounds like all the target practice really paid off. Congrats again on a great clean hunt.

Comment by Erich Tue Nov 17 10:32:54 2009
Erich --- Thank you! That sounds like really good advice. Hollow bullets it is!
Comment by anna Tue Nov 17 13:00:31 2009

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