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.
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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
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
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 down 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.
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